Wednesday, October 30, 2013

on honesty in church

Good afternoon friends,
As a reminder, we have our church chili supper and Halloween party tomorrow evening. We'll start serving chili at 4:30 so you can get home for tricker treaters, but you can also stick around and enjoy costumes and fun. The chili supper is $5 for adults and $3 for children under 12. If cost is a concern, please feel free to talk to me about tickets and I can help with that. These are great events to bring friends and neighbors!

Our reading for today wraps up the story of Job. We see Job recognizing how small he is compared to God. Even more important, we see God telling Job's friends that Job is right, not them. It turns out our questions and our doubts are welcome; God wants our real, honest selves, not a dressed up, fake cheerful picture.

God bless,

Job 42:1-9
Then Job answered the Lord: 2“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

7After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.” 9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

an answer, sort of

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In today's reading God responds to Job's questions, but not how we expect. God's point seems to be that his knowledge if beyond what we can understand. It's lovely poetry, but as an answer to Job, it's a bit disappointing. Fortunately, this is not the end.

God bless,

Job 38:1-10
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

8“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?— 9when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

Monday, October 28, 2013

biblical satire

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading shows us Job voicing his complaint to God. Job is a great book both for the raw emotion and for the poetry and even satire it uses to express that emotion. In this passage we see Job turning several Biblical images upside down.

For instance, Job says, "What are human beings that you make so much of them," which echoes Psalm 8: "What are human beings that you are mindful of them..." In the Psalm, the writer is amazed and grateful that God bothers with people even though we are insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. Job turns that around to ask why God bothers to torment someone so insignificant. Job also calls God a "watcher," meaning in this case that God looks out for ways to accuse him. We see that same idea of God watching over us in places like Psalm 121, where it is a powerful image of hope and comfort. Biblical images are rich and the more we read them and let them sink into us, the greater our ability to feel and express God's love and the breadth of human emotion.

God bless,

Job 7:1-21
“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? 2Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, 3so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. 5My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out again. 6My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope.

7“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. 8The eye that beholds me will see me no more; while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone. 9As the cloud fades and vanishes, so those who go down to Sheol do not come up; 10they return no more to their houses, nor do their places know them any more. 11“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. 12Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me?

13When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ 14then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. 16I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.

17What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, 18visit them every morning, test them every moment? 19Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? 20If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you? 21Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”

Sunday, October 27, 2013

gentle correction

Good afternoon friends,
First a gentle reminder, if you haven't had a chance to fill out a pledge form, there's still time, but the sooner the better. Every little bit helps, whether you can give a dollar a month or $100 each week. Together we can reach our goal of a balanced budget.

Our reading today gives us Job's friend Eliphaz's first response to Job's complaint. He argues, gently that Job can trust God because God takes care of the righteous. As we'll see, this gentle correction becomes a fierce argument about how suffering and righteousness really relate.

God bless,

Job 4:1-11
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: 2“If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking? 3See, you have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands. 4Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. 5But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. 6Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?

7“Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? 8As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. 9By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. 10The roar of the lion, the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions are broken. 11The strong lion perishes for lack of prey, and the whelps of the lioness are scattered.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

letting our pain out

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Job has suffered. So far he's given the "right" responses; the acceptable religious answers about accepting bad from God as well as good. Now, after seven days of silent mourning with his friends, Job truly lets out the pain of his heart. This raw, honest, angry grief opens up the rest of the book for us. No matter how we feel or how we express it, God loves us and can take our most unfiltered feelings.

God bless,

Job 3:1-10
After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2Job said: 3“Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’ 4Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, or light shine on it. 5Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.

6That night—let thick darkness seize it! let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. 7Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it. 8Let those curse it who curse the Sea, those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan. 9Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning— 10because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, and hide trouble from my eyes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Satan's second move

Hi friends,
Today's reading we see Satan make his next move. Job's friends come to comfort him as well. Once thing that's fun about Job is that there are lots of suggestions and plays on words. Here, for instance, notice the narrator says, "Job did not sin with his lips," but leaves open the possibility that Job sinned in his heart.

God bless,

Job 2:7-13
7So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. 9Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

11Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

round 2

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
We read earlier this week how Satan challenged Job to a bet. In round one, God allowed Satan to wipe out Job's property and family. Despite that, Job continued to worship God. Satan isn't discouraged, but challenges God again. He says property doesn't matter much in the end, but if God attacks Job's health, Job will curse him. Satan never gives up.
God bless,

Job 2:1-6
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.”

4Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. 5But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Satan's first move

Good evening friends,
Our story picks up steam here. In yesterday's reading we saw Satan basically challenge God to a bet. Satan alleged that Job worshiped God only because God had been so good to Job. Satan says if God "stretches out his hand" meaning taking Job's prosperity away, Job will curse God. God then allows Satan to attack Job's possessions, but not to hurt Job himself. It's interesting that in this case, children count as possessions. The whole scenario is quite troubling, but it does set up a good story.

For the record, I don't think God actually acts like this.

God bless,

Job 1: 13-22
13One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

16While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

18While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong-doing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

intro to Job

Good evening friends,
Today's reading we start looking at the Book of Job, our sermon focus for last week and this week. It's a fascinating, troubling and beautiful book, so I'll just let the story speak for itself.

God bless,

Job 1:1-12
There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

4His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.

6One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”

9Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Monday, October 21, 2013

repentance and chance

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is John's call to repentance and specifically, how repentance is supposed to play out in our real lives. Always a challenge.

God bless,

Luke 3:7-20
7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

prepare the way

Good morning friends,
One last reminder, a group of folks from UPT are going to hold a short worship service in front of the Rochester City School District office this morning at 8. The office is at 131 W. Broad downtown; that's just west of Broad and Plymouth on the south side of Broad St. There will be plenty of parking nearby. We're worshiping there as an opening to our observance of the Children's Sabbath, a day set apart for lifting up the needs of children in our community. So come, sing, raise your voice for children and for justice.

Today's reading introduces us to John the Baptist, one of the most powerful voices for justice in the New Testament. John came to call people to repentance and prepare the way for Christ. May we hear his word for our generation as well.

God bless,

Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Saturday, October 19, 2013

judgment day

Good evening friends,
This passage is not the only thing the Bible says about the judgment day, but it is a clear and compelling reminder that how we treat our neighbors really matters to God. This passage always pulls me up short because I know there are times I care for those in need and other times I ignore them. How is God calling you to make a difference?

God bless,

Matthew 25:31-46
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

a futre with hope, even in exile

Good evening friends,
First, I'd like to remind or let you know about an opportunity to say goodbye to a beloved member of our church, Betty Dennis. Betty died in Florida last month and her memorial service will be at Laurelton tomorrow, October 19 at noon. I'm sure her family would love the support of seeing folks from Laurelton; your prayers are welcome as well whether or not you can be there.

Our reading for today is a reminder that even when God's path is tough, we are not alone. The people of Judah were conquered and exiled from their home because they had turned away from God. God has the Prophet Jeremiah write to them that God is still watching out for them and that God is calling them to make a life full of blessing even in Babylon. Even if we're not where we feel like we should be, even if we are facing detours or tough times, God has not left us alone. There are always opportunities to seek the welfare of the city and be a vessel for God's blessing.

God bless,

Jeremiah 29:1-14
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. 3The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said: 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. 10For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

doing justice

Good evening friends,
I just came home from a truly energizing and challenging evening about educating traumatized children and youth. Truly the challenges of caring for our kids and families, especially in a city like ours with high rates of poverty and violence are serious. The good news is that we are not alone. There are great folks in the schools, churches and other community organizations who are making a difference. Whatever you love doing, God can use you to help our community. We'll talk more about that Sunday. In the meantime, I'd invite you to pray for our kids, parents, teachers and school staff.

Our reading fits right in. God isn't most concerned about our worship or our offering; God is most concerned with our attitude and our action. It doesn't get much more simple than the way Micah puts it. May we take the next step in love and humility.
God bless,

Micah 6:6-8
6“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

when clean teath isn't a good thing

Good afternoon friends,
In today's reading Amos attacks the people of Israel for having a mismatch between their worship and their lives. When he talks about tithes and offerings, he suggests that people value their worship highly, but for selfish reasons. The truth is, if our faith and worship don't change our lives to lead us to treat our neighbors with justice, we aren't doing it right.

He also shows God using suffering to call the people back to God. Suffering is a challenge for our faith. The classic question is: "If God is all powerful and loving, why is there so much suffering?" I don't have an answer for that question, but we are going to spend the next several weeks in worship exploring faith and suffering. If suffering is a challenge for your faith, I'd encourage you to be in worship for the series. Since many people have questions about suffering, it would be a great series to invite a friend to. I can't promise answers, but I can promise thoughtful, biblical, honest engagement.

God bless,

Amos 4:1-13
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!” 2The Lord God has sworn by his holiness: The time is surely coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. 3Through breaches in the wall you shall leave, each one straight ahead; and you shall be flung out into Harmon, says the Lord. 4Come to Bethel—and transgress; to Gilgal—and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; 5bring a thank-offering of leavened bread, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! says the Lord God.

6I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, says the Lord. 7And I also withheld the rain from you when there were still three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered; 8so two or three towns wandered to one town to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you did not return to me, says the Lord. 9I struck you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; the locust devoured your fig trees and your olive trees; yet you did not return to me, says the Lord. 10I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword; I carried away your horses; and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, says the Lord. 11I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a brand snatched from the fire; yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.

12Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel! 13For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

justice and repentance

Good evening sisters and brothers,
Amos is a real favorite of mine because he is scorching in his preaching against the injustice he saw in his home country. In 8th century (700-800 BC) the southern kingdom of Judah was doing well economically. The religious and political elite felt favored by God, so they figured they were doing things right. Amos tells them that they are wrong. A society's righteousness is not defined by how wealthy or successful it is, but by how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable. Israel's law (which instructs, but doesn't bind Christians) holds up values of protection and care for the poor and rejects profiting on other people's vulnerability. Amos calls Judah to account for how they treat the poor in powerful language. For Judah then and for us now, this is a call to repentance. I pray that each of us individually and our nation as a whole would hear God's call to repent and invitation to justice.

God bless,

Amos 2:4-13
4Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but they have been led astray by the same lies after which their ancestors walked. 5So I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. 6Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— 7they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; 8they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed.

9Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of cedars, and who was as strong as oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. 10Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11And I raised up some of your children to be prophets and some of your youths to be nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel? says the Lord. 12But you made the nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, “You shall not prophesy.” 13So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grace and equality

Good evening friends,
This week our daily readings turn to one of the key concerns of the Bible: justice. To set the stage today, we get a great passage from Galatians. In this passage Paul is making the point that belonging to God through Jesus Christ isn't about who our parents are or any other human characteristic. Everyone in Christ belongs to God, which makes us equal. There's no room for any kind of discrimination in the church because we are all one in Christ. Many scholars believe that Paul is quoting from words that were already a part of the first baptismal liturgy in this passage.

God bless,

Galatians 3:25-29
25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

forgive: that means you too

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is a good followup on yesterday's reading. God forgives us, and that means we are called to forgive others. The harshness at the end of the passage is a bit disturbing. At the same time, when we have been forgiven it is hypocritical if we aren't willing to forgive.

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.”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

forgiveness and gratitude

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is a real favorite of mine because in some ways it boils faith and life down to its essential elements. God forgives us just because he loves us. We are invited to respond with lives of gratitude and love. We can't earn our forgiveness and we don't have to, but we can show our thankfulness in how we live. If each of us did that consistently, the church and the world would look a lot different.

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.”

Friday, October 11, 2013

welcome for all

Good morning sisters and brothers,
I'd like to remind everyone of our movie night at Laurelton tonight. We'll be showing a kid friendly movie at 7 and a more adult movie starting about 8:30. We'll have some refreshments and you can count on a good time.

Today's reading is a great reminder that Jesus didn't come for people who have it all together. Sometimes we think church or religion are for people who have it figured out. The truth is that Jesus came especially for sinners. One of the main points of the church is to provide support for all of us to figure it out and grow in faith together. That means we need to welcome each other and stay open to Christ's transforming love.

God bless,

Matthew 9:9-13
9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

all we like sheep have gone astray

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's reading continues Tuesday's theme of God's suffering servant bearing the sins of the whole community. One really insightful comment that came in on Tuesday's reading through facebook wondered how it would change our sense of compassion if we thought of people who suffer in terms of the whole community's sin rather than the sin of the person who suffers. Interesting thought.

God bless,

Isaiah 53:6-12
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

suffering for our sin

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a favorite of mine. Isaiah reflects on the suffering servant of God in words we know fit perfectly with Jesus. Isaiah's word's describe being unimpressed by the servants humble appearance, even repelled by his suffering. Often we think of those who suffer as marked by wrong. But Isaiah discovers that the truth in this case is that the suffering isn't punishment for the servant's sins but for the sins of the community. In this case, we know Christ's suffering pays for all our sin. It's a lot to take in and an amazing gift of love. Jesus seeks and suffers for sinners.

God bless,

Isaiah 53:1-5
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

lost sheep like us

Good evening friends,
Welcome home to our mission trip folks: Carl, Karen, Karen, Allison, Charlie and Linn! This Sunday we'll be talking about another image of the church: the church as a hospital for sinners. Carl will be preaching since I'll be visiting my grandmother in Atlanta. In preparation for Sunday, this week we'll be reading some reminders about Jesus' special love for the lost. We in the church can always learn from Jesus and his welcome for those whom others rejected.

God bless,

Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Good evening friends,
Today's reading reinforces the theme from worship today, which is that we are supposed to follow Christ how we treat others. In particular today's reading reminds us to forgive each other, since God has forgiven us. Always something good to remember when the challenges of community get us down.

God bless,

Colossians 3:9-17
9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

being the body of Christ together

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Yesterday's reading gave us a hint to Paul's concern with the church's behavior: they were allowing human divisions to divide the church. In this part of the reading Paul puts the problem in theological terms. When we talk about communion we're talking about the body of Jesus Christ, and when we talk about the church we're also talking about the body of Christ.

When we allow our prejudices or differences to get in the the way of true, loving community, we are tearing apart the body of our Lord. That's a really big deal. That means we need to do whatever we can to put community first. The church isn't just an organization we take part in, it is a divine body of which we are a part. That's a reality to grow into and a calling for all of us.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 11:23-34
23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.

Friday, October 4, 2013

it's only a sacrament with unity

Good morning friends,
Today and tomorrow's readings give the most direct treatment of communion in the Bible as a tradition observed from the beginning of the church. It seems in the early church communion/Lord's Supper was more a communal meal then the small taste of bread and juice we're used to today, even though the message is the same. In Corinth it seems that some folks in the community were economically comfortable while others were struggling. That sounds like many faith communities now too. Paul argues that if they don't bridge the divisions by truly sharing their meal with one another instead of looking out for themselves, they are not really eating the Lord's Supper. The sacrament is only a sacrament if we overcome our divisions.

God's blessings as we grow together,

1 Corinthians 11:17-22
17Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.

20When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. 21For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

one kingdom under the Lamb

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This Sunday we celebrate World Communion Sunday, which reminds us that the church is one body throughout the world. Related to that, our passage for today shows us the Apostle John's vision of God's throne room. Surrounding God's throne are four living creatures with four faces, several wings and eyes. There are also 24 elders surrounding the throne. John has just wept because an angel presented a sealed scroll that John knew was important, but no one was worthy to open. We'll see in the passage that Jesus, the Lamb of God is worthy. In him people from every nation and language become one body.

May it be so for us too,

Revelation 5:6-14
6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne.

8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

one from two

Good evening friends,
Please join me in praying for our nation's leaders that we can move forward for the good of the country. We all need wisdom in these times, and God loves to give wisdom to those who ask. Our reading for today is about how God can take the most difficult differences and make one body out of them. No matter how different we are, in the church we belong to God through Jesus Christ, so we are one.

God bless,

Ephesians 2:11-22
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.

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. 17So 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.