Sunday, March 30, 2014

the good shepherd

Good evening friends,
Despite the snow, it was really good to be with you in worship this morning. Today's reading digs into the metaphor of Jesus as the good shepherd, a familiar image for many of us. Jesus compares the good shepherd with a paid servant. I imagine Jesus has in mind the religious leaders when he talks about a hired hand, but he might even be thinking about some of the religious leaders as wolves that scatter the sheep. This is a beautiful image for Jesus and his endless care for us.

God bless,

John 10:11-21
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 

14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

19Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” 21Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

shepherd and gate?

Good evening friends,
Today's reading starts a meditation from Jesus on who he is. We'll see that one metaphor isn't enough to understand Jesus. Jesus helps his listeners understand who he is by comparing himself not only to a shepherd, but also to a gate that protects the sheep. The reality of Jesus is bigger than anything we can imagine. Jesus comes to protect, guide, nurture and bless us. 

God bless,

John 10:1-10
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Friday, March 28, 2014

kicked out and welcomed

Good evening friends,
Today's reading wraps up our story of the man born blind. The religious leaders have thrown the man out of the synagogue, but Jesus welcomes him as a disciple. We see too that Jesus turns the world upside down. Those who are used to having all the answers can't see anything, while those on the outside see the kingdom. Jesus is still turning things upside down today.

God bless,

John 9:35-41
35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

healing blindness, part 3

Good evening friends,
We've seen the man born blind telling his story and the religious leaders unable to reconcile the situation to their beliefs. Here the story turns truly compelling. The religious leaders turn to fear and threats, while the man becomes more and more sure of the magnitude of what Jesus has done. I love his testimony because he doesn't claim to know everything, or even much about Jesus, but he is willing to follow the truth. He sticks by that truth even though it's going to cost him.

In our times this is a great example. We don't have to understand everything about our faith or the Bible. We don't have to have all the answers. All we need to do is tell our stories of what God means to us. Those stories are powerful, even though it can be scary to tell them.

God bless,

John 9:24-34

24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

healing blindness, part 2

Good evening friends,
In today's section we see the religious leaders struggling to understand Jesus. On one hand, they see a powerful miracle, but on the other hand, they see him breaking the rules about the Sabbath that they hold so dear. They can't quite figure out how to balance it all out. At the same time, they try to control the conversation with fear. Religion shouldn't be about fear and control, but about faithfulness, community and love.

God bless,

John 9:13-23
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 1

7So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

healing blindness, part 1

Good evening friends,
We skip forward in John's Gospel to one of my favorite stories. Jesus and his disciples are walking into a town when they meet a man who was born blind. As you can see, in those times people often associated sin with physical illness. Other than that, I'll let the story speak for itself.
God bless,

John 9:1-12
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

testimony without certainty

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Christianity is sometimes associated with aggressive certainty, so one of the things I love about John is that people give testimony without knowing everything. Faith is important, but we don't need to know everything. Here, the Samaritan woman Jesus has been talking to shares her excitement about Jesus, even while she's still not sure what to make of him. We'll see today that her testimony is still powerful, even though it's not certain. We don't have to have it all figured out; we just need the courage and honesty to follow where we're led.

God bless,

John 4:28-42
28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,  29“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him. 

31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 

39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

correct worship

Good afternoon friends,
Jesus and the Samaritan woman talk about worship, and Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah. He hasn't been that staightforward with anyone else before this point. It's remarkable that Jesus choses someone out Israel for this revelation. God is full of surprises, and the human categories that divide us don't mean anything to God. The passage is also a good reminder that worship is not about how or what we do, but about our spiritual connection with God.


John 4:19-27
19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”   21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 

22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

a woman at the well

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading picks up where we left off. Jesus is in a Samaritan village and he asks a woman he meets at the well to give him a drink as she's getting water. Since Jews and Samaritans had a troubled history with little contact and a lot of resentment on both sides, she's surprised. This unusual conversation has far reaching results, as we'll see today and tomorrow. 

This is an especially good passage for today, since today is world water day, a day to think about how we use our water resources. There's an emerging conversation in our area about the way our water consumption, especially bottled water, relates to issues of water and sustainability world wide. Talk with Allison Clarke at Calvary St. Andrews if you'd like to learn more.

God bless,

John 4:9-18
9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 

Friday, March 21, 2014

welcome and challenge

Good morning friends,
I've often been troubled by this part of John's Gospel. The idea that those who don't believe in Jesus has always been hard for me to swallow. The more time I've spent with John, the more I love his message, because John's Gospel means most in longer sections than sound bites. It's easy to focus on words like "condemned," but the invitation is to look at the whole passage. Jesus was lifted up on the cross to welcome us to new life. God never forces us to turn to the light of love, but the invitation is open to everyone. 

The second part of this passage leads into the passage of the woman at the well, which Neil will preach on this Sunday. Jesus saw his calling to the lost sheep of Israel, but in reality it went further than that. In Samaria Jesus has boundary breaking conversations starting with a woman he had never met. What boundaries is God calling you to cross? Who might God be nudging you to invite to a relationship with Jesus?

God bless,

John 3:13-21, 4:1-8
13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

born again

Good morning friends,

For Lent we'll be spending some time with John's Gospel. Today we pick up with the story of Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Susan preached on this passage last Sunday. Jesus talks about being born again, which reminds us that the transformation God invites us to be part of is truly radical, like a new beginning.

God bless,

John 3:1-12
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Monday, March 17, 2014

justified by grace through faith

Hi friends,

Paul talks here about justification by faith. When Paul says we’re justified by faith, it means even though we are sinners, God declares us innocent because of Christ’s faithfulness. Since we have been declared innocent, we can be free from our guilt and shame to live fearless lives of faith and love.

God bless,

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

heavenly parent

Good morning friends,
Not everyone has good memories of their family, but for many of us thinking of our parents reminds us of safety and care. Paul reminds his readers that God is like a parent for us in all the good ways. God cares for us and wants to build us up. The passage closes by reminding us that God’s ability to work through us is bigger than anything we can imagine. No matter what challenges we face, God is full of surprises.

God bless,

Ephesians 3:14-21
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.    

Friday, March 7, 2014

using our gifts

Good evening friends,
I'd like to remind you to set your clocks ahead an hour before you go to bed on Saturday, so you'll be on time to hear Karen's sermon debut. I know she's going to do a great job and will appreciate your support. It takes a lot of courage to preach for the first time.

In our reading for tonight Paul uses himself as an example. He remembers his call and how, even though he made mistakes, God has worked powerfully through him to welcome the gentiles into the family of faith. From there he argues they shouldn't get discouraged that he's in prison, since that too will end up being a blessing for them. God truly can turn trouble into opportunity.

God bless,

Ephesians 3:1-13
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

 7Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 

11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One in Christ

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a powerful statement of what God does in Christ. Paul thinks about how he as a Pharisee saw the world before Jesus: humans were fundamentally divided into Jews and everyone else. That meant Jews were (and are) connected to God through a special and unbreakable promise. Everyone else was far away from God. In Christ, everyone now has access to God. And we who try to follow Jesus are one body, no matter what differences we might have. That's a strong statement about what we share; we have plenty of work to make that unity more obvious in everyday life.

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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

by grace through faith

Good afternoon friends,
First, I'd like to remind you of an Ash Wednesday worship opportunity tonight. We'll gather at 6:40 for a simple service of scripture and reflection. Lent and Ash Wednesday especially remind us that we are mortal. It's a great chance to pause and reflect. So come on over and have supper and scripture at 5:30 and stay for a short worship service at 6:40. 

Today's reading isn't an Ash Wednesday reading, but it is takes us back to the core of our faith: we are all sinners, but God saves us. We don't earn our salvation, but we can respond to God's love by loving others. Lent is a great time to evaluate our lives and make some changes to come in line with that love.

God bless,

Ephesians 2:1-10
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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

pancakes and power

Good afternoon friends,
First, a reminder that tonight from 6-7:30 Laurelton is going to get ready for Lent with a Fat Tuesday Pancake supper. We'll serve pancakes, sausage, decaf coffee and juice, so bring your appetite and enjoy a chance to visit with neighbors. The event is free, but you're certainly welcome to make a free will offering.

Our reading for today continues the letter to the church at Ephesus. The passage reminds us that God put all God's power to work in Christ. That sounds basic on the surface, but it's pretty amazing when we remember that Christ died for us. That's a reminder that God thinks about power differently than we do. Now the power of Christ is working through the church, through each of us. So how can we follow our calling and live for God's glory today?

God bless,

Ephesians 1:11-23
11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 

20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Monday, March 3, 2014

opening Ephesians

Good morning friends,
Today we're starting a short tour through the Letter to the Ephesians. It's a great exploration of what it means that God saves us through grace alone. In our opening section Paul praises God for salvation and for the community to which he is writing. Note that as part of salvation, God also gives us gifts for life and ministry through Jesus Christ. 

God bless,

Ephesians 1:1-10

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

a vision of the kingdom

Good afternoon and happy March,
Today's reading will also be one of our passages for worship tomorrow (remember, worship at Laurelton starts at 9 with refreshments to follow; worship at Calvary starts at 11 with coffee hour before). This familiar vision from Isaiah about the redemption of the earth is so hopeful that I keep going back to it. God shows us a vision for the peaceful kingdom that will one day be reality. If we keep that vision in front of us, not only as comfort but also as direction, we will be faithful to our calling.

God bless,

Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 

6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.