Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30th - Reflection

Andrew, Apostle
John 1:35-42 (NRSV)

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

And they followed Jesus. I have heard other explanations of these words refer to the action of pursued Jesus. Pursue seems to denote more action than to follow. When I am excited and persistent about finding something, I pursue it. After I have found it and studied it and agree with the goodness of it, I follow.

The actions of pursuit and follow, indicate that the disciples found something that is unique. Jesus is one of a kind. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one we have been waiting for. Why not be excited? "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"

And Jesus questions the disciples. "What are you looking for?" We need Jesus to teach us and show us the way to go. We need a Savior to guide us through life. We need Jesus to help in the decisions of life. We need God in our daily life. We need God to live! --- "Where are you staying?" --- "Come and see."

Jesus is staying with us, in us and all around us. Jesus is also coming again, in glory. But for now, in this season of Advent, we put our trust in that coming of Jesus. Jesus is coming again, prepare yourself.

Stop and reflect on the action of God coming in flesh to his creation. Stop and reflect on Jesus coming again and all that means to your life. Stop and reflect, not on the shopping lists, or the December 25th deadline,  but on the depth of the meaning of Jesus coming again. Jesus may come again in the next moment or days or years from now.

Stop and reflect on Jesus coming again. How will you welcome that coming? "Come and see...

Come Lord Jesus come... --- Amen

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29th - Reflection

Genesis 8:1- 19 (NRSV)
The flood waters subside

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.

In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, "Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth." So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

This passage makes me reflect on a combination of baptism and the second coming. As we leave our old life behind and step towards God in repentance for our sins, we enter into the ark. We are protected by the promise of salvation in the ark and are covered with life giving waters for a period of time. And then as the waters subside, having been given the promise and covenant of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we arise to a new life.

At first we see the peak of one mountain. Then as the waters subside even further we begin to see the peaks of others mountains. As the  waters recede we view valleys and rivers and finally the plains. The earth comes to life once again with vegetation, animals, work and activity all about. God reveals life in him. We are living a new life through the promise of God. Our old life is a memory to us, but is forgotten to God, since God is working on this new life in us.

Families flourish and life begins anew. All in this sudden second coming of God into our lives. All in this second coming of the salvation of Christ we are born again out of the womb of the ark, having been covered in the life-giving waters of salvation. A new life is born...all in the second coming of Christ...all in baptism...Thanks be to God!

Lord, each day I awake to your coming. Renew my baptism and come to me again; that I may live this life renewed and still wet behind the ears. --- Amen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28th - Reflection

First Sunday of Advent
Matthew 24:36 44 (NRSV)
The sudden coming of salvation

"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

It's going to be quick and unexpected. The second coming will be quick and unexpected. Prepare yourself for Jesus' second coming. Look forward to Jesus' second coming. Get excited about Jesus' second coming. Tell all of your friends and neighbors to be ready. This is a big deal!

But we seem to take it for granted. We seem to pretend it won't happen in our life-time. We seem to figure, since it hasn't happened in thousands of years, what's the chance it will happen in our lifetime. So, we go about our business as if it won't happen to us. What kind of preparation is this? What if Jesus were to come in the next hour? What would Jesus find us doing? Do we act like he is coming again?

Jesus will come again! In one way or another Jesus will come to you. It's about time we get to know him, so that when he does come, we know him as friend, Lord, and Savior. Thanks be to God for the promise of Jesus coming!

Lord, I look to your coming...however...whenever...I want to be part of it. --- Amen

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 27th - Reflection

Psalm 122 (NRSV)
Gladness in God's house

I was glad when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord!"
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

As you look out into the distance and on the horizon to the destination you are walking towards, sometimes you can see your goal. And then in that moment, after all of the hard work of the journey; the moment you arrive, it is hard to contain your joy. I think the Psalmist here is experiencing that joy. The joy of arrival.

Each week we gather together at the joy of arrival. Some of us gather in churches, others in prayer, and others in assembly. We gather together with one thing in common. We are saved children of God. We gather together in the name of Christ. It happens all over this world. We may gather at different times of the day, but we still indeed gather together in common. We gather in the great and awesome joy of Jesus our Savior. We gather in the hope of things unseen. We gather in the witness of things seen. We gather in faith given that connects us through space and time. We gather in joy and become that one catholic church. We gather and become that one apostolic church. We gather and become that one church of Christ.

And as we gather we find the unity of God's people in prayer, love and peace, through the peace of atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin. Thanks be to God!

Each moment of the day that I gather with you or your children, I can't help but think of all who are gathered with me throughout space and time. I give you thanks! --- Amen

Friday, November 26, 2010

November 26th - Reflection

Hebrews 11:1-7 (NRSV)
Noah acts in faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and "he was not found, because God had taken him." For it was attested before he was taken away that "he had pleased God." And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

Faith deals with two things...things hoped for...and things not seen. It is by faith that when we hear God's call we take that step towards God in response. We can't really see or know towards what or whom we are taking that step.

Old Testament priests took a step towards the altar, sacrifice in hand. But what or to whom do we take our step forward towards? We need faith to take that step. We take that step towards God for things hoped for and things not seen. We step towards God because we believe God exists and we believe that God brings hope to our lives. We take our first step towards God in faith.

Through God's Word, all the universe was created. We can see, hear, touch, taste, smell and even measure things present. But all things present that we know of were created through God's Word. Faith is the basis of things seen and not seen. Faith is that one condition of which all endures and lasts. Faith brings together the world we live in and the spiritual world, making them one.

Through faith we hear God's Word through the prophets, through the Bible, through pastors and preachers and through one another. God's Word became flesh in Jesus and God's Word takes flesh in us. In the gift of Jesus the seen and the not seen were united. Through Jesus, the gift of faith brings us the hope of a future and the hope of all things we cannot see at this time.

So through faith we believe God exists and we are called and set apart to draw near to God, because God never fails us. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I reflect on the faith of so many people past, present and yet to come; may faith grow in me that my first step towards you may have that hope for things not seen and the fulfillment of your presence in my life. --- Amen

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 25th - Reflection

James 4:1 10 (NRSV)
A plea for God's grace and human humility

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble."

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Draw near to God...but how? Listen to the call of God. The first step in your salvation comes from God. God calls each one of us to salvation. As we hear the call, we step towards God. But the first step towards salvation came from God's call to us.

Just as the priests in the Old Testament came to the tabernacle to offer sacrifice to God, God gave instructions on the sacrifice. God took the first step then with the call of the priest. So in response to the call of God, the priest would draw near to God. The priest would draw near to God with a sacrifice that was not of his own, but a sacrifice set apart, that came from God in the first place.

So today, God has provided the sacrifice that came from him in the first place. God sent his Son, Jesus, as the sacrifice for your sin and for mine. Through this sacrifice and this first step to salvation from God, we respond to this loving act of grace and draw near to God.
And as we draw near to God in response to love and grace, God draws near to us. A relationship of love is formed. The spirit that God has made that dwells within us becomes one with God. We fall in love with God and God gives all his love to us. Through Jesus, we become one with God and a new life begins.

Hear the call and see the gift and offer the sacrifice God freely gives. Draw near to God as God draws near to you in salvation. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I'm listening and hearing---I'm drawing near to you! I'm finding you are already near to me! --- Amen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24th - Reflection

Psalm 24 (NRSV)
The King of glory comes

The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.

Just as David processed with the Ark of the Covenant to the gates of Jerusalem; we process with Jesus to the gates of our hearts. David was victorious in many battles; and we are victorious in many struggles with the help of God. But the gates to Jerusalem and also the gate to our hearts will not open on our victories alone. The gate to our heart opens only to the glory and honor of God our Savior.

So open wide the gate of your heart that the King of glory may come in. Open wide the gate of your heart that the Lord of hosts may come in. Open wide the gate of your heart that the Lord, mighty in battle may come in. Seek the Lord and he will come into your heart with grace, power and love. Thanks be to God!

Lord, King of all creation, I open wide my heart to you. You are the one I have hunted for. You are my King! --- Amen

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23rd - Reflection

Isaiah 33:17-22 (NRSV)
Our God rules

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;
they will behold a land that stretches far away.
Your mind will muse on the terror:
"Where is the one who counted?
Where is the one who weighed the tribute?
Where is the one who counted the towers?"
No longer will you see the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a language that you cannot understand.
Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!
Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be pulled up,
and none of whose ropes will be broken.
But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
nor stately ship can pass.
For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler,
the Lord is our king; he will save us.

As you walk through the wilderness of life; look forward to the horizon. If you follow too closely the path that your feet trod, your gaze will become focused on the pain, terror, and troubles of the current time. Look forward to the horizon and see off in the distance, the king in his beauty. Look forward to the horizon and you will see Christ.

Pause for a moment and reflect on the past and the current. Reflect on the blessings you have received along the way. Pause and reflect on the journey. Reflect on the terror and pain. Reflect, and realize your presence. Then look side to side, and you will see Jesus. Jesus, that beautiful King, on the horizon and in the present. Jesus, that beautiful King, trod this same path, past and present and future. Jesus, the King, leading and coaching, and guiding you to that place on the horizon with the broad rivers and streams that are safe from all harm.

Our Lord is our King and he will save us. Thanks be to God!

Lord, in this moment, I give you thanks for your presence, your guidance, your majesty and your glory. You are my King, today, tomorrow and forever. Only you can save me. --- Amen

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22nd - Reflection

Jeremiah 46:18-28 (NRSV)
God will save Israel

As I live, says the King,
whose name is the Lord of hosts,
one is coming
like Tabor among the mountains,
and like Carmel by the sea.
Pack your bags for exile,
sheltered daughter Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
a ruin, without inhabitant.

A beautiful heifer is Egypt -
a gadfly from the north lights upon her.
Even her mercenaries in her midst
are like fatted calves;
they too have turned and fled together,
they did not stand;
for the day of their calamity has come upon them,
the time of their punishment.

She makes a sound like a snake gliding away;
for her enemies march in force,
and come against her with axes,
like those who fell trees.
They shall cut down her forest,

says the Lord,
though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous
than locusts;
they are without number.
Daughter Egypt shall be put to shame;
she shall be handed over to a people from the north.

The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: See, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh, and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. I will hand them over to those who seek their life, to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old, says the Lord.

But as for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob,
and do not be dismayed, O Israel;
for I am going to save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and no one shall make him afraid.
As for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob,

says the Lord,
for I am with you.
I will make an end of all the nations
among which I have banished you,
but I will not make an end of you!
I will chastise you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

Make peace with God! For God is the creator, redeemer and the One who sanctifies all people. Make peace with God! As prophets of old cry out to the leaders of the day. Make peace with God!

Now hear the words of comfort. In peace with God, God will not make an end of you. Sure, I can expect to suffer the consequence of the pain my sin causes those I love, but God will not make an end of me. As I turn to God in repentance and love, God welcomes me and guides me and forgives me and gifts me to continue life.

Make peace with God! Hear it for yourself. Hear it all nations.

Lord, as I reflect on the words of the prophet Jeremiah, show me my sin. Permit me to smell the stench of my sin that I may turn back to you and make peace. --- Amen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21st - Reflection

Christ the King
Luke 23:33-43 (NRSV)
Jesus crucified with two thieves

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

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

Here is Jesus taking on the humiliation and suffering that we all deserve for our sin. Jesus, the sinless one, taking on our sin. Jesus, putting up with the arrogance of the very people he came to save. Jesus, mocked by those he is saving. All in contrast with each one of us as criminals to the law.

And the criminal, serving the sentence deserved. You and I can be placed in that place of the criminal. Yet Jesus talk is of Paradise. Paradise, the resting place of the very saved people Jesus is dying for. The resting place of the redeemed before the final judgment. Jesus, opening Paradise to the criminal.

You and I are the criminals. Jesus, remember be, when you come into your kingdom. Recognize Jesus, with the kingly power he is and will demonstrate upon his return. Recognize, and open your heart to Jesus, and rest assured in Paradise that Jesus is the Redeemer. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. --- Amen

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20th - Reflection

Luke 18:15-17 (NRSV)
Receiving the kingdom of God

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

How do I prepare to receive the kingdom of God? Jesus tells me I am to receive it like a child,  humble and receptive. How could I be any more than an infant in the kingdom of God anyway. Or even Peter, Paul or the religious leaders? We are all but mere infants in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is so vast and so huge and so wide that all are invited to come. All infant children of God are invited into the kingdom of God the creator of all that exists. All infants from hours to centuries in age are invited into the kingdom of God. And together, as God increases our knowledge, faith, hope and love we will live in the kingdom of God. Thanks be to God!

Thank you Lord, for opening your kingdom even to me. --- Amen

Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19th - Reflection

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NRSV)
An imperishable inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith - being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The connection between heaven and earth comes through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Grace that is timeless and eternal. Grace given to us in new birth, day by day, and resulting in a faith for a salvation revealed. Faith and grace are now linked as we live through the testing and trials of this life, knowing of the coming perfection to come revealed in Jesus Christ.

The connection between heaven and earth that becomes visible even though we haven't seen him. Visible and real in faith and grace we come to intimately know Jesus Christ. We come to know a friend and Savior. We come to know God in and through Jesus. And in this we cry out all glory and honor and praise to the connection between heaven and earth. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for your presence in my life. Even though I can't see you with my eyes...I know you. --- Amen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 18th - Reflection

Hebrews 9:23-28 (NRSV)
Christ has appeared once for all

Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

It's interesting to contrast the Old Testament account with what Jesus did for us as sacrifice. The high priest would enter the sanctuary's holiest place once a year and bring the blood of offering. This was blood not his own but of the sacrifice offered for the sins of the people.

Jesus enters not a replica of the sanctuary, but heaven itself, with his own blood offered for the sins of the people. Since it is God's own blood and not the blood of another sacrifice, the blood only need be offered once. We are saved through the blood of Christ and this once for all. Jesus opens up the holy of holies to us and we are, through Jesus, in the presence of God. Wow! In the presence of God through Jesus. Jesus is God and we have been saved from sin. Just as Jesus died once, he now lives eternally. He died once for our sin, not year after year as in the Old Testament. Died once because it was his own blood that was sacrificed, not the blood of another.

And we come to Chirst with our very lives once. Once with all we have, we offer ourselves to Jesus in response to the WOW! that Jesus did once for us. We come to Jesus once and Jesus offers freely the grace of salvation. Our life is taken and changed. Changed into what God would have. Changed forever into a new person.

While even on this earth we struggle with the old person, God is making all things new. Our struggle is the struggle of letting go of the old. Like a baby struggles with letting go of the womb through the birth canal, we struggle to pass through to new life. And as we struggle towards that new life, we find the joy of Jesus in that light, helping us along the way and cheering us on to new life in the new Light of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, as I struggle towards you Light, help me along the way and gently guide me to new birth in You. --- Amen

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17th - Reflection

Psalm 141 (NRSV)
God is my refuge

I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with those who work iniquity;
do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Let the righteous strike me;
let the faithful correct me.
Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head,
for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.
When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
then they shall learn that my words were pleasant.
Like a rock that one breaks apart and shatters on the land,
so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.

But my eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless.
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me,
and from the snares of evildoers.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I alone escape.

Sometimes they are snares laid out for you to fall into the nets. Words can strike anger within you. You leap to reply, only to have words of defensive hate and anger spew forth from your mouth. We need to wait on God during these times before we open our mouths and leap into the snare. The sense of urgency to answer draws us away from our focus on God to a focus on defending ourselves. That's not what we want. We want our reaction and response to focus on the Truth of God.

That's all easier said than done. How many times have I opened my big mouth too quickly only to defend myself and lost all track of God or others. Lost track of the impact my words would have on God and other people. The wicked speech that provoked your response does not deserve a wicked reply. It's precisely at this point that we need godly separation from the ungodly. If only I could cease my selfish thoughts and think with my heart for a moment. Let God cease control of my heart and then my mouth that gracious and kindly words from God be spoken. Words meant to soothe and heal. That is the word of God in those times.

Lord, stop me when attacked with words of others, not to respond, but to pause and keep my focus on you and the words you would have me speak. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 16th - Reflection

Ezekiel 39:21-40:4 (NRSV)
Mercy on the house of Israel

I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt treacherously with me. So I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me there. He brought me, in visions of God, to the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. When he brought me there, a man was there, whose appearance shone like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. The man said to me, "Mortal, look closely and listen attentively, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you; declare all that you see to the house of Israel."

We fall captive to sin. The sinful choices we make snatch us in and capture us. This is our own doing. God desires for no one to sin. But we do sin and fall captive. When we sin against God and turn our backs on God we are exiled from God. Exiled and captive, we begin to learn how much we need God in our lives. We begin to see that God is our creator and Father and Brother and very Spirit within us. We are in exile, captive to sin, longing for the presence of God.

But God was always there. We just weren't there for a while. God was waiting for us to call out of our exile and captivity to him. We need God. We need God to live and breath. As we return to God, we find that God welcomes us with open arms. We find that God has always loved us, even when we were in exile captive to sin. We find a gracious loving God that was there all the time. We just needed to get over ourselves and get God.

As we return to God; see the visions of what God intends. Listen to the prophets and the Word. Reach out in love to God and neighbor and see that vision of people no longer in exile and captive to sin. See that vision of the people returning from all directions, slowing walking hand-in-hand towards the foot of the cross. See the vision of all kneeling at the cross and slowing looking up at the life given in our Savior Jesus Christ. Then see the vision of that Life alive and the celebration at the table of all people who return to God in Christ together in praise and thanksgiving and bread and wine. See the celebration of the return! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I need you to live. I need you to lead and guide my every action. I want to please you. I look towards the vision of that table. I give thanks for the little peeks of that vision you give to me in my lifetime here and now. You are my God. You are my Savior. --- Amen

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15th - Reflection

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (NRSV)
Judgment and promised restoration

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, your kinsfolk, your own kin, your fellow exiles, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, "They have gone far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession." Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone. Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. When they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord God.

Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. And the glory of the Lord ascended from the middle of the city, and stopped on the mountain east of the city. The spirit lifted me up and brought me in a vision by the spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles. Then the vision that I had seen left me. And I told the exiles all the things that the Lord had shown me.

The Israelites had been scattered. Scattered due to their stubborn hearts. Scattered due to their will to worship foreign gods. Scattered due to turning away from God. God has promised to turn their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. God will unite them and make them of one heart.

The heart was meant to be the center of the being. So the expression being made of one heart gives increased meaning. Priorities will be set straight through that One heart. One focus, one will, one way, One God.

We are called likewise to One heart. One heart to turn our stone cold hearts of hate, and selfish ambition, to One heart with love, humility, mutuality, and diversity. We are called to be at table, with One heart drawn by the love of Christ. From scattered to gathered, lifted up by the Spirit of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, lift me by your Spirit to gather with my heart to the One heart of Jesus Christ in the one catholic Church. --- Amen

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 14th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 33
Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV)
Suffering for Jesus' sake

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

At a distance of a mile or so up the mountain, we had clear sight of the wrecked red plane that our son was in at the time. It seemed as if my vision of that airplane were so clear, that I could peek inside the window and see all. But in reality, the airplane was a mile up a steep slope, covered in vegetation. So, off on my trek went my friend and I.

Always keeping that airplane in sight, we battled through streams, trees, hills and valleys. The path was not easy. But, beyond that, I can't even remember what the path was like. My focus was on getting to that airplane. My mission was clear in my mind. But I had no idea what I would see, do, or say when tough situations on the way presented themselves. Somehow we just battled through and the ideas flowed when problems arose and we overcame it all. Not a hair on our heads was lost on the journey.

And then we arrived at the site of the red airplane. Inside was life! Life abundant! Life so worth the journey. Life so worth the struggle on the journey. The journey faded into memory and we celebrated the joy of life!

Looking back, I realized that all the struggle, pain, fight and injury, was nothing at all in comparison to the life at the end of our trek.

I wonder if the things of this world, the decisions, the fights, the materials, the buildings, the budgets, and all those things that exist in our momentary life, will fade away likewise, if I would only keep my focus on Jesus and the cross. Keep my focus on Jesus and his life. Keep my focus on Jesus and the resurrection. Keep my focus on Jesus. Will all the rest fade? Will it? Especially when we see the life at the end of the journey. Or will that just be the beginning of an entire new journey?

But for now, I'll battle through the jungle, knowing to always keep my focus on Jesus. And the journey will take care of itself, because something so much more is awaiting. Something amazing beyond anything I could ever fathom.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, keep my focus off of the temporal things of this world and my focus on you. I know that you will help me solve all of the temporal things on my journey. And I will do my part in that journey. I will struggle in pain. I will pay attention to detail. I will live the life you have given me in the midst of the jungle, knowing that with you in my sight, all will be well...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13th - Reflection

Luke 17:20-37 (NRSV)
The judgment coming

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."

Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them - it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left."

Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

On that day that Jesus comes, I want to be caught doing what Jesus would have me do. I want to be caught active in the Word. I don't want to be caught wasting time in selfish ambitions, but I want to be caught in the arms of Jesus. On the day Jesus comes may I see the presence of Jesus in the Kingdom with me day by day throughout my life. On that day that Jesus comes, I want to be caught with Jesus.

Lord, lead me in the path you wish for me to take in your Kingdom. Lead me in that path this day. --- Amen

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 12th - Reflection

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (NRSV)
God's judgment

We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith grows and love increases. Even as both grow we may endure suffering and persecution. But know that the suffering and persecution are not because of the faith or the love. But even in the suffering and persecution, faith grows and love increases.

This growth and increase bring about an endurance and a resolve that the love first shown to us through Jesus Christ goes above and beyond this world and above and beyond ourselves. A love that draws us in to God and permits God to take place within us, resulting in growth in faith and love increasing.

So as faith grows and love increases in you and me, may we boldly proclaim the source of love and life in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Lord, as your love for me gives life, may my love for neighbor, show you. --- Amen

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th - Reflection

Romans 1:18-25 (NRSV)
The revealing of God's wrath

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Once we believe we know all about God, we have sinned. We can't know all about God. We are the created and God is the Creator. God has created you and me and all that exists. Through creation we begin to get a peek at God. But God saw that our weakness was ourselves. God saw that we sinned in our understanding. God saw that we would always be lost.

So God revealed himself in the created. God became like us in Jesus and came to us in a way we could begin to understand. God showed us the Creator and the love that was poured out in our creation was once again poured out into our world. God, in and through Jesus took on our sin; died for our sin, and saved you and me from our sinful selfish selves.

The arrogant are led to believe that God and his Church serves themselves. The arrogant begin to believe that the Church is their right to God. But as the Creator became the created, we begin to see that the Church is formed through the power of the Holy Spirit active in the lives of God's people. The children of God through the gifts of the Spirit and the loving action of the Savior, unite into one body which become the Church of God, the holy catholic Church, the one Church. A Church not ruled by any individual creature, but a Church founded in the love of the Father, through the Son, with the Holy Spirit for the children of God.

So, we become united in our personal relationships with our Savior, Jesus Christ, with each other, in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through the love of the Father for all creation. Relationships both very personal, yet corporate as well. A Church united as one! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks that you have revealed your righteousness through faith. Not faith in the action of myself or my neighbor, or anyone claiming your wisdom, but faith that comes through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word. Forgive me when I stray and lose sight of the unity only you can bring to your Church and teach me to always focus on the way of faith that comes through Christ alone. --- Amen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10th - Reflection

Psalm 123 (NRSV)
Our eyes look to God

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn
of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

Our personal needs, our feelings, our emotions all come in to play with our cries to God. We fix our eyes exactly where they need to be fixed, not on the person or group of which we desire revenge, but on the God of love and mercy. We fix our eyes on God, the one source of power and leave the decision to God. And our God is moved by our personal needs. We have a brother in Christ, and a Spirit proceeding, that comes to comfort us when our feelings hurt. We have a God that reaches out to heal and bring to unity his Church. We are united in the one purpose that makes all the difference, Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior.

Have mercy on us Lord, show us how to love one another. Keep us united in you always. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

November 9th - Reflection

Job 21:1, 17-34 (NRSV)
Poor and rich lie down in the dust

Then Job answered: ...

"How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?
How often does calamity come upon them?
How often does God distribute pains in his anger?
How often are they like straw before the wind,
and like chaff that the storm carries away?
You say, 'God stores up their iniquity for their children.'
Let it be paid back to them, so that they may know it.
Let their own eyes see their destruction,
and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what do they care for their household after them,
when the number of their months is cut off?
Will any teach God knowledge,
seeing that he judges those that are on high?
One dies in full prosperity,
being wholly at ease and secure,
his loins full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist.
Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted of good.
They lie down alike in the dust,
and the worms cover them.

"Oh, I know your thoughts,
and your schemes to wrong me.
For you say, 'Where is the house of the prince?
Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?'
Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony,
that the wicked are spared in the day of calamity,
and are rescued in the day of wrath?
Who declares their way to their face,
and who repays them for what they have done?
When they are carried to the grave,
a watch is kept over their tomb.
The clods of the valley are sweet to them;
everyone will follow after,
and those who went before are innumerable.
How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood."

If you observe simply on the level of the flesh, then we do all go to the same place. If I am good or bad, if I believe or don't believe in God, if I am a disciple or not, the result is dust. But there is a difference not in us but in what Christ has already done. Our curse was to return to dust. And to dust we shall return. But the blessing of Jesus gave new life. Through the resurrection and death to sin, Jesus, as human, brings us to everlasting life in God. Sure, the body to dust, but the spirit lives in Christ. And then that hope of the resurrection, when the body will be made new again. What a day that will be. What comfort for Job and you and me.

Lord, your answer for the pain and suffering of the flesh is restoration. But first we must live this part of eternal life. First there is this journey and purpose and calling that you graciously send us on. Send us so that others may see the pain and see the hope, send us so that others may see the struggle and see the freedom. Send us so that others may see us yet see you, and see the eternal joy only you can give...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 08, 2010

November 8th - Reflection

Job 20:1-11 (NRSV)
Mortals fly away like a dream

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered:
"Pay attention! My thoughts urge me to answer,
because of the agitation within me.
I hear censure that insults me,
and a spirit beyond my understanding answers me.
Do you not know this from of old,
ever since mortals were placed on earth,
that the exulting of the wicked is short,
and the joy of the godless is but for a moment?
Even though they mount up high as the heavens,
and their head reaches to the clouds,
they will perish forever like their own dung;
those who have seen them will say, 'Where are they?'
They will fly away like a dream, and not be found;
they will be chased away like a vision of the night.
The eye that saw them will see them no more,
nor will their place behold them any longer.
Their children will seek the favor of the poor,
and their hands will give back their wealth.
Their bodies, once full of youth,
will lie down in the dust with them.

Zophar, agitated and impatient, speaks to Job and incorrectly observes that Job's suffering is bases upon Job's sin. That's not the only case for suffering. The saints suffering may or may not be a result of sin. This opinion creates a twisted vision of God.

God is so much more than a judge just waiting to dole out punishment for sin. So much more and shows this through his love for all people. God, in love, sent his son to live, move, teach, heal, and talk to his people. Jesus came to not only talk, but to take on the sin of the world. Jesus came and took on that sin on that cross. Then, powerfully, Jesus rose again. New life was granted to all who believe and are baptized. New life freely given. God is not an impatient judge, but a loving Father that is willing to wait for his children to grow, learn, and come to him. God the Father, is willing to let us live our lives, yet be with us to guide us. God the Father, loves you and I so much that we have relationhship of flesh and blood with him through Jesus. God the Father, loves you and I so much that he sends the Holy Spirit into our lives to gift, call and guide us through this live.

An impatient God? I think not...just wait and see. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive my sin. Teach me, lead me, heal me and save me. For my life is your life...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, November 07, 2010

November 7th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 32
Luke 20:27-38 (NRSV)
Jesus speaks of the resurrection

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

As children of God, there is death, yet there is no death. There is a death to the "old man" yet there is no death to the new life graciously given through Christ.

In some sense then, there is no need for marriage and procreation. All is life and all is relationship in perfection. Our relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior, our relationship with husband and wife, and our relationship with one another will finally be perfected. So, in this, Jesus brings hope and life here to our relationships on earth and hope and life to our future relationships in heaven. For the Lord is not God of the dead, but the living and we are alive in him.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, grow all of my relationships into the perfection that you desire for them to be...especially my relationship with you. --- Amen

Saturday, November 06, 2010

November 6th - Reflection

Luke 20:1-8 (NRSV)
Jesus' teaching authority

One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, "Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?" He answered them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" They discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet." So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

What a bunch of politicians! Sorry politicians! But instead of taking a stand, the chief priests, scribes and elders backed off of their question. I think God calls us to take stands. A stand causes conversation, correction, in some cases, and unification in other cases.

Jesus took a stand. Jesus had a clear purpose and mission in mind. God has given us, through the Word, a purpose and mission. Go! Spread the news. Make disciples. Live the life God freely gives. Believe and be baptized. We are children of God. Take a stand! Our Father will support or correct, and both in love.

Lord, guide me in the "stand" I need to take. --- Amen

Friday, November 05, 2010

November 5th - Reflection

Acts 24:10-23 (NRSV)
Paul testifies to the resurrection

When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:

"I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. I have a hope in God - a hope that they themselves also accept - that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia - they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, 'It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'"

But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case." Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.

Paul stood up for his faith and beliefs. I think that Felix has some respect for this act of Paul. Felix listened to Paul and wanted the accusers to be present. There just doesn't seem to be enough information to decide on anything here. It all seems to be a religious matter.

But Felix was in this for much more than a decision. Felix wanted to wait, not just to make a good decision, but to wait for a bribe from Lysias. If the tribune wants Paul, then they would be willing to pay for Paul. So, let Paul stay in prison for a while. Paul is worth money.

And so it goes. Take the message and make it something else. Take the message of grace and twist it into a way to make some money. Human selfish greed jumps forth once again. The very message of salvation from sin through Jesus resurrection, becomes twisted by evil into a way to gain money.

And for this small, temporary gain of wealth, Paul's message of grace will spread. Even in the midst of prisons, trials, persecutions and death, the gospel of Christ will spread throughout the world. Paul takes this message with him wherever he goes in life.

You and I likewise take the message of the gospel out each day. We take this life, granted through Christ, with us every moment of the day. The spread continues in this sinful world. The gospel lives in each child of God to be lived, taught and given to those we meet day after day. The gospel spread to the workplace, the hospital, the factory, the school, the office and throughout. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I leave this place, you go with me. Teach me how to live the gospel and freely spread the news to all you give to me. --- Amen

Thursday, November 04, 2010

November 4th - Reflection

Acts 22:22-23:11 (NRSV)
Paul confronts religious leaders

Up to this point they listened to him, but then they shouted, "Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live." And while they were shouting, throwing off their cloaks, and tossing dust into the air, the tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?" When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, "What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen." The tribune came and asked Paul, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" And he said, "Yes." The tribune answered, "It cost me a large sum of money to get my citizenship." Paul said, "But I was born a citizen." Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.

While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, "Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God." Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. At this Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?" Those standing nearby said, "Do you dare to insult God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.'"

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead." When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees' group stood up and contended, "We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.

That night the Lord stood near him and said, "Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome."

So here we are, so mad and judgmental about Paul that we are going to whip it out of him! But Paul, stops this crowd. They don't know that Paul is a Roman citizen. This entire thing is a no-no. So the assumption goes that Paul must have gotten his citizenship on sale at Walmart. But no, Paul was born a citizen. Do you suppose Paul is from an influential family? Now what? What happened to the bullies? They pulled back, afraid. Ha!

So Paul moves on to the council. What's the deal? Paul begins and knows that a Pharisee can be a Christian but a Sadducee doesn't believe in resurrection. So all Paul needs to do is get the two groups arguing. The two groups have already lost focus on Paul's original message. Nothing gets done. So the tribune has Paul taken back to the barracks.

How pitiful we can be. First, when we think we are "right" and we think justice is in making another "wrong" we proceed to change the person by beating it out of him. But then we find out that this person is of "higher" status than we are ourselves, so we back off. Then, gathered again, we break out into argument over principals of religion and miss the whole point of why we came together in the first place.

The point of Paul was to bring the message of the grace of Jesus Christ to the people. Instead of listening to the wonderful gift that was laid before them. The people lost focus of the point --- Jesus Christ. They lost focus of Jesus and focused on themselves and their own sense of false power. And it all degraded to physical violence and argument.

Sounds like what happens in the church today. We lose the focus on Jesus Christ and degrade into arguments on differences of opinion and petty fighting compared to the real focus of the mission before the church of Jesus Christ and our call to make disciples.

It's time we focus on the cross and Christ and listen to the call and direction God chooses. Celebrate our life together in Christ and GO! Go! and make disciples. Go! and spread the gospel. Go! and stand before the crowds, keeping focus on Christ always.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

November 3rd - Reflection

Psalm 50 (NRSV)
A sacrifice of thanksgiving

The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
"Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"
The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.

"Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

"If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

But to the wicked God says:
"What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.

"You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother's child.
These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

"Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God."

We bring offering out of thanksgiving for what God has already done for us. God provides daily bread. God gives us, in the daily bread, all that we need to live day by day. God provides food, shelter, income, work, family, friends and fellowship. Thus, we bring offerings of thanksgiving.

Some fall in the trap of thinking that offering is a giving to God for what God needs. But this turns it all upside-down. Every thing we have comes from God. God doesn't need anything to survive. But what we can offer God is our offering with thanksgiving. We go to the Father with thankful hearts and joyful praise. We don't deliver God with our offering, God has delivered us.

Through the life, death, suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus; we have been delivered and given a new breath of life. Life in and through God, with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Given an offering of love so that we may love one another in service and compassion. God offered his Son for us.

In response we bring an offering of thanksgiving, praise, honor and love to the God of the Universe. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive those times that I bring my offering all topsy-turvey and think you need it. Receive my offering of life and possessions as signs of thanksgiving for what you have already done. You are God, you alone are my Savior, you are my life...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

November 2nd - Reflection

Zechariah 7:1-14 (NRSV)
Fasting versus justice and mercy

In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men, to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to ask the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, "Should I mourn and practice abstinence in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: Say to all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink only for yourselves? Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, along with the towns around it, and when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited?

The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear. They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Just as, when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts, and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and a pleasant land was made desolate.

When fasting becomes empty of any meaning to God and just a ceremony, then it is just a diet.

If fasting is a true response to what God wants then it is fasting.

In this passage fasting had become meaningless. Rather than fasting, God would rather the people show kindness and mercy to one another, especially the widow, the orphan, the alien and the poor. God would rather we not devise evil against one another. Fasting would only become an outward and selfish expression of religious arrogance to those who were already hungry and in need.

When we observe ritual, let us not forget the purpose God intended. Let us fast in order to hear the Word and observe the call and follow the direction.

Lord teach me to love truth and live the love you direct us to live and honor those in need. --- Amen

Monday, November 01, 2010

November 1st - Reflection

All Saints Day
Ephesians 1:11-23 (NRSV)

In 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, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In 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; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I 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, so 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, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God 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, far 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. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Set your hope on Christ. We hear the word of truth. We listen to the gospel and proclaim the gospel. We believe in Jesus and all that he has done and will do. And at baptism we were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. We are called children of God.

Called children of God that joins with those past, present and yet to be born. Called children of God under the dominion of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior who is the head over all things for the Church. And in this Church we are called to unite in one hope, one faith and one God.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, this day I give thanks that you have included me in that great community of saints, past, present and future. Take my life this day and use it to your glory. I want to serve you, the head of the Church. --- Amen