Friday, May 31, 2013

trouble and child birth

Good afternoon friends,
One person noticed yesterday that the passage sounded very much like John, and today's passage is even more Johnanine in style. Jesus reminds the disciples that even though they will go through some hard times, there is a purpose and they are not alone. That's still true now.

God bless,

John 16:20-33
20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.23On that day you will ask nothing of me.

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. 25“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

28I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.” 29His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

good to go

Good afternoon friends,
As Jesus talks to his disciples about his "departure" from them, he faces their fear and sorrow head on. Then he says something surprising: It's going to be good for them for him to go away. When he goes, the Holy Spirit will come and be with the disciples forever. That will give them incredible power for good. We still have that spiritual power today, we just have to pray and reach out to God to use it.

God bless,

John 16:7-15
7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.  

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

family feud

Good morning friends,
In our reading today Jesus continues to warn his disciples that they will face challenges even from friends and the religious community they hold dear because of following Christ. Faithfulness isn't always easy. At our presbytery meeting yesterday one of our congregations, Bergen First Presbyterian Church, followed a calling they have long felt from God to leave the PC(USA). Sometimes following our call leads us away from what we have known. It was a sad moment, something like a divorce, because folks who have been linked by denomination for years are going a different way.

It was sad, and also joyful, because now both that congregation and the presbytery feel like they are following their call the right way. There is not always an obvious line that leads safely from here to our savior's call, but we are called and we can follow. We are not alone, and God is working with our church, our presbytery, our denomination and with the Bergen Presbyterian Church as they go their separate way, still serving God. Please keep our presbytery, denomination and the Bergen church in prayer for God's grace and guidance. Also, keep praying for you and for our congregation for that same guidance. God is doing something through each of us and through us together.

God bless,

John 16:1-6

”I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

loved and hated

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
It's been good to have a change of scene and it's good to be back home and back in the office. I hope all is well with you. Today's reading continues Jesus' words to his disciples on his last evening with them. He warns that as they continue in his ministry, they will face the same opposition from the world that he did. Likewise for us: if we're really doing God's work, that will sometimes lead us into conflict with the world around us.

That doesn't mean we're supposed to seek conflict, only that when you stand up for what's right in a society that is most interested in money and success, you're likely to be unpopular. No matter whether people love the message or hate the message, we are called to be faithful to Jesus. In that faithfulness we find freedom.

God bless,

John 15:18-27
18”If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.

20Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

abiding in Jesus

Good morning sisters and brothers,
I hope the long weekend is treating you well. It's good to remember the reason for the holiday, which is remembering the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Our passage for today comes from Jesus last lesson to his disciples before his arrest. He is telling them what is to come. He teaches about the Holy Spirit and about how they need to abide in him by resting in his love. He is the vine and we are the branches. We're all connected by love.

God bless,

John 14:25-15:8
25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spirit's power

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is from John's gospel and includes some of Jesus' important teaching on the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells the disciples that they will do even greater works than he has done through praying and his name and through the power of the Holy Spirit. With a promise like that, there's no reason we can't do great things for God's kingdom.

God bless,

John 14:12-17
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

telling the story

Good evening friends,
I hope you're doing well. I apologize for the gap in readings. We've been following the story of Pentecost, when God sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen the disciples for their ministry of witness to the world. When the Spirit first came it gave the disciples the ability to speak in other languages. When they started praising God, a crowd gathered because they heard the good news in their own language. Some mocked, but Peter told the story of Jesus and his death and resurrection. It's a simple sermon, but as we see in today's reading, it is effective. How can we tell the story today?

God bless,

Acts 2:37-47
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Friday, May 17, 2013

waiting in prayer

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're doing well. Today's reading gives us the next step in the disciples story after they watched Jesus ascend into heaven. He had told them that the Spirit would fill them for their mission to tell the good news to the world. Now their job is to wait and pray.

God bless,

Acts 1:12-14
12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

an end and a beginning

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We've been walking through the church season of Easter, which reflects on and celebrates Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The Gospels all tell the story of Jesus rising from the dead, and and most tell stories about the risen Jesus spending time with his disciples to get them ready for their ministry in the world. Luke's Gospel takes it a step further. It talks about the disciples spending time with Jesus and then closes as they watch him go into heaven. But then Luke's Gospel has a "Part 2," which is the Book of Acts. Acts starts with Jesus giving some closing words to his disciples and goes on to show their ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit as these men and women become the church.

Today's reading from Acts sets the stage for what is to come. It starts with an introduction Luke writes to "Theophilus." It's not clear if this is a particular person Luke knew or if it's really an introduction for all believers (Theophilus means, "Lover of God" in Greek.) From there we get last words from Jesus and his ascension into heaven. Here's where our story begins.

God bless,


Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

repentance and relief

Good afternoon friends,
I hope this beautiful day has been a good one for you. Today's reading starts with hope for God's forgiveness and ends with a promise for the conclusion of history. Even when God judges us and calls us to change our ways there is a future. God corrects us to bring us back to the right path. In the end there will be blessing. Notice too the last paragraph. God promises the Holy Spirit for everyone, not just for prophets. That's exactly what happens at Pentecost.

God bless,

Joel 2:12-16, 18-21, 28-32
12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? 15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

18Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. 19In response to his people the Lord said: I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations. 20I will remove the northern army far from you, and drive it into a parched and desolate land, its front into the eastern sea, and its rear into the western sea; its stench and foul smell will rise up. Surely he has done great things! 21Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!

28Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 30I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

an insect army

Good afternoon friends,
As I mentioned yesterday, Joel uses a plague of locusts as a symbol for God's judgment on Israel. He talks about the locusts as an invading army bringing God's wrath. The good news is that God's judgment brings forgiveness and redemption, even though it's scary. Love wins in the end.

God bless,

Joel 2:1-11
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

3Fire devours in front of them, and behind them a flame burns. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, but after them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4They have the appearance of horses, and like war-horses they charge. 5As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6Before them peoples are in anguish, all faces grow pale.

7Like warriors they charge, like soldiers they scale the wall. Each keeps to its own course, they do not swerve from their paths. 8They do not jostle one another, each keeps to its own track; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls; they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11The Lord utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command. Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it?

Monday, May 13, 2013


Good morning brothers and sisters,
This week we're getting ready for Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit came and Peter tried to explain what was happening he went back to a passage from the book of the Prophet Joel. So we're going to get ready first by getting to know Joel. Joel is a short book. We can't pin down Joel's setting exactly, but scholars guess the fifth century before Christ, which is after the return from exile.

Joel was sent to Israel to interpret a terrible plague of locusts that almost destroyed agricultural life. He interprets it as God's judgment and calls Israel to repent and return to the Lord. He talks a lot about temple sacrifice including grain and wine offerings to God. The locusts become apocalyptic and Joel see's the end of time. Let's take a look to see what we can learn about repentance and God's calling.

Blessings as you start your week,


Joel 1:1-13
The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel: 2Hear this, O elders, give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors? 3Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. 4What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. 5Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine-drinkers, over the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. 6For a nation has invaded my land, powerful and innumerable; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. 7It has laid waste my vines, and splintered my fig trees; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches have turned white.

8Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth for the husband of her youth. 9The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. 10The fields are devastated, the ground mourns; for the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil fails. 11Be dismayed, you farmers, wail, you vinedressers, over the wheat and the barley; for the crops of the field are ruined. 12The vine withers, the fig tree droops. Pomegranate, palm, and apple— all the trees of the field are dried up; surely, joy withers away among the people. 13Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar. Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God! Grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

into battle

Good morning friends,
As David's son Absolom's conspiracy gained strength, David and his court fled from Jerusalem along with many others. Today's reading leads us to the battle between David's troops and Absolom's troops. Like any civil war, there's heartbreak in the battle as people fight against those they have grown up with. David's heart is torn too; he must fight to preserve his rule, but he also feels the fear of a father as he sends men into battle against his son. I can't imagine how painful that must have been.


2 Samuel 18:1-8
Then David mustered the men who were with him, and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2And David divided the army into three groups: one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us; therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.”

4The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 5The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.

6So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

family trouble

Good evening brothers and sisters,
This week we're talking about how part of growing in a loving community is being able to tell each other the truth, even when we might not want to hear it. That's called holding each other accountable. Instead of starting with theological passages, we're going to start with a story that illustrates the point. King David's oldest son Amnon raped one of David's daughters, Tamar. Tamar's brother, Absalom, killed his brother Amnon in revenge and was exiled. 

David's closest advisor and general, Joab convinced David to allow Absalom to come back home. Soon after that, Absalom started dreaming of more power and plotted a revolt against his father. That's where we'll start our story today.

God bless,

2 Samuel 15:1-12
After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. 2Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, “From what city are you?” When the person said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3Absalom would say, “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” 4Absalom said moreover, “If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” 5Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. 6Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

7At the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron and pay the vow that I have made to the Lord. 8For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram: If the Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the Lord in Hebron.” 9The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up, and went to Hebron. 10But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!” 11Two hundred men from Jerusalem went with Absalom; they were invited guests, and they went in their innocence, knowing nothing of the matter. 12While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

growing in grace

Good evening friends,
I hope this beautiful Sabbath day has been a good one for you full of rest and community and joy. Tonight's reading comes from Paul's letter to the Colossians. Like in Ephesians, Paul lays the foundation for our life on our salvation through Christ and presents Christ as a goal for our growth. The way Paul outlines the Christian life is a good way to think about it. Christ was the agent of the world's creation. He reconciled us to God through the cross. As we come to faith we become one with God through Jesus and continue to grow as we follow him. We grow in faith not because we are afraid or because we want to earn forgiveness. Instead, we grow in faith because we recognize God's amazing love for us and respond with gratitude. That sounds like a good plan for me.

blessings on your evening and see you tomorrow,

Colossians 1:3-20
3In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Friday, May 3, 2013

a life worthy of our calling

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
This passage from Ephesians will be our main reading on Sunday, so you can think about this as a warm up. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter setting a theological foundation. Now he moves into discussing what that faith we share means in our life. He talks about our life in terms of a calling from God, a calling to discipleship, to love and to unity. Within that calling we also have opportunities to use our unique gifts to serve others and proclaim the good news. We'll talk more about that on Sunday.

God bless,

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift… 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

different but not divided

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're enjoying this beautiful afternoon. I'm very grateful for my window, through which I can feel the breeze and hear the birds chirping. God made such a beautiful world, and a day like this makes it easy to appreciate. In today's reading Paul talks about a division that used to be incredibly important, the division between Jews and gentiles. In Paul's time Jews didn't associate with gentiles because they were seen as impure. In turn, many gentiles looked down on Jews because they didn't worship the pagan gods and were seen as separate from society. 

Within the Christian movement things were a little different because Jews and gentiles were both part of the same community. Paul says that in the cross Jesus breaks down the wall that divides us and makes one people out of two groups. If Christ can bridge that divide, then surely we don't need to be divided by things like politics or economic situation or race. We are all God's children; we are made new in Christ. Nothing needs to separate us now.

God bless,

Ephesians 2:14-22
14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

justified by faith

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading gives us two really important and related theological points. Don't get intimidated by the word "theology;" all it means is knowledge or study about God. For Paul, especially, but for us too, theology is always personal. It's not abstract, academic thinking, but thinking about the God we trust and who loves us. The first point Paul makes here is the heart of the protestant reformation (though the difference between Catholics and Protestants on this has always been a difference of emphasis, not an actual disagreement.) Paul says we are justified by grace through faith, not by our works. What that means is that God saves us because he loves us, not because we have earned it. There's nothing we can do to earn salvation, and nothing we need to do. Jesus already did everything necessary for our salvation.

The second part is that once we know God through Jesus, we're normally filled with gratitude for what Jesus did for us. We're also often filled with love for others because we know how much God loves us. Those two things, gratitude and love, lead us to want to help others. Our faith leads us to do good works, and those good works usually strengthen our faith even more. God loves it when that happens, and God is always happy to provide us new opportunities to serve and grow in our faith.

God bless,

Ephesians 2:1-13
You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 

4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. 

11So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.