Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31st - Reflection

John 8:12-19 (NRSV)
I am the light
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Then the Pharisees said to him, "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf." Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."
This whole light and life wording from this passage brings back memories of a dream I once had. Sometimes I wonder if dreams don't come and go some for the silliness of events past that combine in strange ways or events that bring some meaning to thoughts.

This dream was of many people in my life past, present and I guess future, because I didn't know them. We all were in a dark place together carrying our baptismal candles. We had the light of our candle to lead us in the darkness, yet the true light was not complete. We would walk and bump into one another, greet a while and go on our way. Then, I remember Pastor Klafter, who had passed away at some time recently, saw a greater light. It was as if a huge light opened up in the darkness of the world the rest of us were in and Pastor Klafter ran towards that Light motioning the rest of us to follow him. Pastor Klafter was pointing towards the Light with one hand as his other hand carried his baptismal candle. He entered the great Light and disappeared. The rest of us walked toward that great Light but couldn't quite get there. In amazement we continued to follow the light of our baptismal candles.

I think somehow each of us will some day be lead by our baptismal candles and the Light in this dark place will lead us to that great Light. We too, one day will point the way and others will follow. Thanks be to God!

Lord, let your Light lead me this day that I may point to your way and your glory... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30th - Reflection

2 Peter 3:8-13 (NRSV)
A thousand years as one day
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

God doesn't need to hurry. Maybe I need to hurry or you need to hurry but God doesn't need to hurry. God is outside and beyond time. God came into time in Jesus but in the spiritual sense God is outside of time.

Here we learn of God's patience with us, but we shouldn't take that for granted. The time for repentance is now. It's not intended to give us the opportunity to let sin go and wait. We need to repent here and now. We all sin. I have sinned and will sin again, but it's not about waiting until we see Jesus to repent. It's about repenting now.

Lord, as I sit in the silence of day I come to you and repent of my sins. I look to you for forgiveness and the strength to carry on in the manner that would please you. I look to your coming again and wait. Come, Lord Jesus, come. --- Amen

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 29th - Reflection

Matthew 12:46-50 (NRSV)
Jesus' true family
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

We have a relationship to Jesus that counts. We are related in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. Born of flesh and of God we come into relationship with Jesus as disciples who seek to learn our calling and use the gifts God has given us. We follow Jesus, our Savior and God to learn the will of the Father. True family. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, teach me my call, teach me your will, show me the way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 28th - Reflection

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Matthew 2:13-18 (NRSV)

Death of innocent children
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

Herod had a pretty good shot at getting Jesus here. There were probably only twenty or so children two years or under in the area at the time. This makes the angels warning even more significant. This number is much smaller than I had always imagined, but it doesn't take away the significance of the pain that families felt. In fact, it seems to make the entire event so much more personal. To be singled out, rather easily, because your children were young.

The death of a child is a significant event. One that can never be lived down. I have witnessed the loss it brings to the lives of parents and my empathy is far from the reality of living through the event itself.

Power is evil when we go to lengths of killing babies. But even against such evil and the death of innocent babies, Jesus life lay ahead. I wonder if at the death of each baby, their spiritual eyes were opened to a Savior. If beyond time each one of these innocents, including the innocents today, see Jesus face and their place in salvation's story. I wonder if they see how lives cut short, play in the role of saving all people. If only we could see the story from another side, would it bring comfort?

I can't imagine any comfort for the present. But maybe in eternity there is an eye opening moment of understanding. I can't imagine any answers here that would suffice any parent. I can only see a Savior in the making with the awesome help of some innocent children.

Lord, there is so much beyond my understanding. Be with all parents that suffer the death of a child, comfort them and give them hope... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 27th - Reflection

John, Apostle and Evangelist
1 John 1:1-2:2 (NRSV)

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us -- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.


The Gospel was no afterthought:
Salvation wasn't an afterthought. This was ready at the formation of the world. God was ready for anything we may do with our freewill. Part of creation was the Word and the Light that would be needed in this world as flesh and blood to save us from sin and death. God wants a relationship with his children. God wants the love of the child and gives love to the child. So...the Gospel was no afterthought.

Jesus is real:
And Jesus is real. Heaven and Earth meet and Jesus becomes flesh. Jesus comes as humankind to save us from sin, death, the devil and our selfishness. Jesus comes as Light and Life to show us the way and the take us back into relationship with God.

We see the Light and Life of Jesus:
As we open our eyes we can't help but to immediately see the Light of Jesus. I have always maintained that it wasn't the star that shone the light on Jesus, it was Jesus that illuminated the star that was pointed straight to Jesus all the time. That's why as the people moved towards Jesus the star continued to point to Jesus. It was Jesus Light that shone in the darkness that lead the people to Jesus as an infant through the start.

We have fellowship with God:
Likewise today, as we believe, Jesus shines his light on and through us and others see us pointing to Jesus. They don't come to us, they go to Jesus of whom we are pointing. It's not about us... it's about Jesus. By pointing to Jesus we aren't attracting followers, we are just telling them where to see Jesus.

As the people arrive to Jesus, their sin stands out in boldness before him. They fall humble and repent and Jesus shows each and every one what he has done to save them from sin, death and the devil. And... a star is born. Another person to follow Jesus as disciple, student, and star to point to him.

We are blessed in our relationship with Jesus, the Light and Life of all creation. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I follow the Light and find the Life in you, may I go forth with your Light shining brightly my way that as I point to you all those who see will see you and the Life you have to give. Your Light reflects back to your glory and grace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26th - Reflection

Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60 (NRSV)

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, "This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us." And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Then the high priest asked him, "Are these things so?" And Stephen replied:

"You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it."

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.

I can move and run and dodge God quite a bit. I do this all the time. I rebel against God and don't do God's will many times. I can be as stubborn and stiff necked as anyone else. It's no wonder that the people were mad at Stephen when he told the truth about them and me. I'm guilty of the death of Jesus and in some way or another many others are guilty of Jesus' death also.

But don't take the bitterness of your own sin out against the messenger who is trying to lead you to true life. There is a better way. We all fall short. Stephen, with his witness, was showing the way to Light and Life and the Word made flesh.

Stop... listen... hear the Good News and repent. God is here for you, not against you. And then... take on the bold task of Stephen and profess that Gospel to all the world. You never know who may be turned to the Light.

Lord I give you thanks for speaking through your servant Stephen. May we all speak with the boldness you have given Stephen, the life giving Gospel you have given to each one of us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25th - Reflection

Nativity of Our Lord
John 1:1-14 (NRSV)

The Word became flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

The Word...the Word through which all was created. The Word becomes flesh. Look! It is Jesus our Savior!

God created through the Word.

This is unique!

Look at Genesis and John. The creation of Genesis. Then ponder the thought John puts forth that the Word already existed. John refers to the Word in the past tense. The Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word is a noun! The Word is the source of life. Life through the Word that I and you may receive.

How life depends on light. This Light comes from the Word. A Light which I need to live. Not to live just in human form on this earth, but a Light that permits me to live spiritually. This Light overcomes the darkness that exists in and around me.

John the Baptist was sent to testify to the Light. John witnessed the Light and told all about this Light. We are all called to testify to the Light which is Jesus. We are all called to by lead by faith and to lead to faith those God gives to us each day and those we may not know that God gave to others.

All light comes through the One True Light being Jesus. This Light, being Jesus comes to all and each of us. The Light of Jesus shines on all people. If we receive this Light we become children of God. This Light that has come from God and in Jesus comes into each who receive the Light.

A Light that is beyond what we can imagine in the natural world has come into our being.

And the Word became flesh! The Word that shed it's Light is Jesus! God has become flesh and is with us! The Word...the flesh and obvious for all of humankind to see! We have beheld the Light!

Thanks be to God!

Lord, you are so mysterious, so profound, so close and so near that you come to me this day. Come as Word... come as Light... come as flesh... come to dwell with me and with all. I have seen the Light and behold... you are glorious... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24th - Reflection

Psalm 96 (NRSV)
Let the earth be glad

Name of God:
We can sing endless praises to God. Just take a peek at the smallest of creation and the largest of it all and I am amazed at what God can and has created.

False gods:
But for some reason, I and so many others feel this need to create our own gods. Gods of safety and comfort and well being. Gods of education and money and selfishness. All false gods, none of which can create from nothing anything.

Come praise God:
Once I contrast the true God of all with the false god of the universe and once I try to depend on my own false gods, I come to realize that only God can save me. I fall in praise and honor to the God of my salvation.

The LORD is King:
I realize that the LORD is King not only of the universe but of me and my life. I only have life through the LORD.

God will save all creation:
This One True God will save all creation from itself with himself in Jesus. God and human became one and God came to earth and took on flesh in Jesus to save all.

God will rule and judge:The One True God, Father, Son, and Spirit rules all and judges all. No other opinion counts but that of God. So I humbly love, serve, praise and obey the God I love and the God that loves me.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, You have brought endless joy to me this night, when you saw my need, loved me and came in flesh to save me from myself and all I have created. --- Amen
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, "The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity."
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.


Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23rd - Reflection

Romans 13:11-14 (NRSV)
Salvation is near
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

He will come again. Jesus will come again. You know that and so do I. Jesus will come again. Wake up to what time it is. Live the salvation you have received. Put away all those evil desires and selfish adventures. Jesus is coming!

Awake and love one another as we have been commanded. Love and live the life Jesus has called you to live. Help the needy, the sick, the poor. Stop hoarding possessions and live. Jesus is coming. Thanks be to God!

God, you come to us in so many ways. You draw near to my heart. I know that Jesus will come again, but today I rejoice that Jesus has come to me and chosen me and called me to live for and in him as he has lived for and in me. Send me forth today, tomorrow and forever to love all those you give to me. --- Amen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 22nd - Reflection

Romans 10:5-13 (NRSV)
The word is near you
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that "the person who does these things will live by them." But the righteousness that comes from faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

"The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart"

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

How easy could God have made it for everyone. Believe and be baptized. God comes near to us and draws upon us so closely that his Word is on our lips and in our hearts. God sets it all up so that we really don't have to put any effort into salvation at all. Jesus has done all of the salvation we will ever need. Do you believe that? Let the Word flow from your lips and out of your heart. It's already there after all, God made sure to put it there. Let it flow and let the Spirit of God flow through all your actions in life.

Believe and be's all that simple for you and me. But what a price Jesus paid for this! Call on Jesus and see for yourself. Thanks be to God!

Lord, bless the thousands that will come to baptism this season that all my believe. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21st - Reflection

Mark 1:1-11 (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,' "

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

"The beginning of the good news..."  And then we read a passage from the Old Testament book of Isaiah proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. The beginning of the good news...

How well we know our need for a Savior. How well we know that we need a beginning of the good news. At some point in our life we start to realize a beginning of the good news but this good news has always been present, even from the beginning. What a thought. It's a thought beyond me. I can only think in terms of beginnings, but God seems to be able to think in terms outside of time. The beginning of the good news was already set and in place for me and you before we even knew about it. But for now let's deal with a beginning we may have a chance at understanding.

The beginning of the good news here started through a man named John. We commonly call him John the Baptist. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah and prepared the people of the day through repentance and baptism. He announced the coming of Jesus.

People had expected a Davidic like Messiah to come again. A King to rule and take over the governments of the day and rule the world. But Jesus came in the midst of a religious revival. This is not what was expected of the coming Messiah.

This is a change of mind about the Messiah. It was a difficult change of mind for the people of the day. A Messiah that comes from such humble beginnings to rule the world in a way that was unexpected to all. A Messiah that would save all people through his actions of love and grace. A Messiah, not with weapons and forceful rule, but a Messiah that would draw near to us more closely than we could ever imagine.

The beginning of the good news was of Jesus who would come close to all of us and each of us. Close to our hearts and soul to show us how to love one another and radically change the world. A Messiah that would lead us beyond this life to a resurrected life with our God. Now that's the beginning of the good news! Thanks be to God!

Come Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20th - Reflection

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (NRSV)
Hannah presents Samuel to God
They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I have asked him of the Lord."

The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, "As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time." Her husband Elkanah said to her, "Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only may the Lord establish his word." So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three year old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, "Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord."

She left him there for the Lord.

A sacrifice of a life is made here. A life given to God. It takes a mother to give her only son to God. Hannah exhibits the traits of God the Father in giving her only son. Jesus was given for me and for you. Jesus life was dedicated to me and you to save us from what was to kill us. Samuel was given in service to God to lead God's people and guide them. Jesus was given to us to lead and guide us to new life in him.

Both point to God. Both show the path to the Father. Then we discover that in Jesus we have life and love. We love because God first loved us, just as Hannah loved enough to permit her to give her son Samuel to God, we live to give our sons and daughters and even ourselves to God.

Lord, may my sons, daughters, wife and myself always point to you in word, service and love for you and all you give to us day after day. --- Amen

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19th - Reflection

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (NRSV)
Hannah is promised a child
There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: "O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head."

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, "How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine." But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time." Then Eli answered, "Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him." And she said, "Let your servant find favor in your sight." Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

Oh to have a son in those times. How much this meant. Even to have a girl would be nice, but to have a son would be grand, even one. Hannah was probably jealous and her desire was even greater when Elkanah went to offer sacrifice. Most of the sacrifice went towards Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, and her children. Elkanah even tried to make Hannah feel somewhat better by offering a double portion.

Hannah wept before Eli the priest to the point that Eli thought her to be drunk. Hannah was in deep prayer for a son. But Hannah did not ask this son for herself only. She asked for this son to serve God. She would only have her son for a little while when the son was young.

Do you see Jesus? God gave his Son to us to live, teach, heal, suffer, die and to rise again. God offered up his Son for you and me. Just as Hannah offered her son to God, we too can offer ourselves, our sons, our daughters, and all people up to God to fulfill the work God has in store for each one of us. Important work that brings life to all the world. As we follow Jesus, we love him by loving others. We serve God by loving others, even and especially the least who are the greatest. What an honor and joy to share with Hannah that gift! Thanks be to God!

Lord, Hannah wasn't drunk, she was filled with your Spirit. Fill the lives of all that we may reach out in a service of love to those you give to us today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18th - Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)

The angel appears to Mary
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
I wonder if Mary thought she was going to be raped? Did she know about the Holy Spirit? She basically asked  the angel how she was going to get pregnant since she was a virgin. If she didn't know this "Holy Spirit" maybe she wished him to be hansom. And then she would be overpowered. Will there be two guys? One to hold Mary down and the other to do the act?

All pretty ridiculous thinking, but in some worlds I think it would be possible for one to think these thoughts. I'm sure there are those that know nothing of the Holy Spirit even in Christian countries. I'm sure that some walks of life would lead to this thinking. I'm sure God calls these people to miraculous changes in life that would lead and guide the people of the world.

But this is not the way with Mary. Mary was a child of Jewish parents and born in or around Jerusalem. Her cousin Elizabeth was the wife of Zechariah the priest from a line of priests associated the Abijah. Just with this background alone, I think Mary would know about the Holy Spirit. In fact I would think Mary to be faithful to Jewish customs and culture. So Mary would be surprised and cognizant of what was going on with the angel, but extremely shocked by the message.

So what about this whole idea of the power of the Most High will overshadow Mary? Think back to Exodus and the Tabernacle. Then God appeared to the people in the form of a cloud that would overshadow the Tabernacle. The Israelites always knew God was present with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. So here God would descend upon Mary and overshadow Mary. Mary is called by God for this wonderful purpose of giving birth to the Savior of the world Jesus Christ.

People today are likewise called and overshadowed by the Power of God. God does wondrous things through his people, even those that may not know God. Even those that may think the Holy Spirit is some hansom man coming their way. God has a ways to make the least the greatest and a way to make the lost found.

As God's children we should be joyful, willing and ready to fulfill that call and look forward to that moment, no matter how scary it may be, when God overshadows us and uses us in his kingdom. What joy Mary must have felt when she recovered or maybe recovered enough to praise God for all that has been done.

A Savior is to be born. Born in human flesh. God is coming as flesh and blood to save the world! Thanks be to God!

May your power overshadow me this day that I may be a vehicle for all the world to see your saving grace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 17th - Reflection

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (NRSV)
I sing of your love
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
'I will establish your descendants forever,
and build your throne for all generations.' "
Selah ...

Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said:
"I have set the crown on one who is mighty,
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found my servant David;
with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall always remain with him;

my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him,
the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;
and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, 'You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation!'

I heard it just this morning in a closing prayer at our Men's Group meeting. It wasn't sung but it could have been. A prayer of fascination for what God has done for us through the gift of Jesus. Born in this world in humble nature to save all children of God. I could hear a melody in that prayer by our group leader expressing much the same that this psalmist expressed.

God keeps promises throughout all time. God promised that something would develop with the kingship of David forward and into eternity. And then we were given a King. One final King for all time. A King humble in his coming, a King humble in his departure, a King glorious in his resurrection, defeating sin, death and the devil. A King, a Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation! Thanks be to God!

Hear our song this day of praise and thanksgiving for all you give and do. May we be a blessing to one given to us this day through Jesus Christ, our King, and Rock of salvation. --- Amen

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16th - Reflection

Hebrews 1:5-14 (NRSV)
The advent of one higher than angels
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son;
today I have begotten you"?
Or again,
"I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son"?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."
Of the angels he says,
"He makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire."
But of the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
"In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end."
But to which of the angels has he ever said,
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?
Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Makes you think Paul is picking on angels. But in another way the angels have the glorious work that humans long for; they are servants and messengers of the gospel. It doesn't appear to me that angels are in need of salvation. But humans have Jesus.

I'm not convinced the ranking of humans and angels matters or is the point. The point is that God became man in Jesus to save humans from their sinful nature and bring humans back into the fold of the physical and spiritual realm as one with God.

Sure Jesus is superior to angels and humans, and maybe both need salvation to one degree or another, and both of us are blessed. It's not about any act of rank that we may have. It's about the One who leads us, guides us, lives and dies for us that makes all the difference. It's about the love that God has for creation. It's about how we treat that beloved creation, visible and invisible, that spreads the will of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, my pecking order is the order you desire for me. It can't be about what I want and how I can gain. You sent your Son to set the example and Jesus leads and guides us along with way. You show us the ones we are to love and respect and serve, day by day. Give me your words and your actions as I meet each person or situation that I encounter this day that I may do your will and serve you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15th - Reflection

Hebrews 1:1-4 (NRSV)
In the last days God speaks by a son
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus brings God to humankind and humankind to God. God speaks through a man to all of us! What more could we want than for God to become one of us. We can fully understand that can't we? I'm not so sure. But I can definitely relate to Jesus and have faith in all that he has done for me. I can definitely be willing to follow Jesus, since Jesus is God and if Jesus chooses to take me to God in glory, I will gladly go and be obedient to his command.

Now at my level things begin to make some sense. God is creator, redeemer, sustainer of all that can be seen and all that is unseen. And all is sustained by the Word. And the Word comes to life in many ways, through Jesus and the Light and Salvation. God's Word is true and can be trusted. So have faith and believe! Thanks be to God!

Jesus, as we prepare this Advent season for your coming; come to us in so many ways. Come to us in Word. Come to us in Light. Come to us in the flesh of a child. Come to us in our friend at work, our neighbor, the homeless, the plays, the celebrations and the wonderful worship services. Come, Lord Jesus, come! --- Amen

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14th - Reflection

Mark 9:9-13 (NRSV)
Questions about Elijah
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said to them, "Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him."

I remember one of Luther's thoughts about reading the Old Testament or the entire Bible after all; read Christ into the Bible. You can find the gospel story all over the place in the Bible, Old and New. This passage is after a few of the disciples had witnessed the Transfiguration and were coming down from the mountain with eyes wide open and the voice of God fresh in their ears and on their brains.

How did Elijah get there? Moses for that matter too? There was no communication from them. They were just with Jesus. Then they hear about the crucifixion of Jesus, in so many words, and that Elijah had after all come as it was written.

Elijah had come in the person of John the Baptist and was rejected and killed and Jesus was going towards that same fate as John. So the story recreates itself with a Savior this time in Jesus... John found his in Ahab and Herod found Jezebel and Herodias.

The Gospel story throughout scripture!All with and only with salvation through Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, may my life be an extension of the love and grace you offered through the Gospel Story. All about you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13th - Reflection

2 Kings 2:9-22 (NRSV)
Elisha receives Elijah's spirit
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. They said to him, "See now, we have fifty strong men among your servants; please let them go and seek your master; it may be that the spirit of the Lord has caught him up and thrown him down on some mountain or into some valley." He responded, "No, do not send them." But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, "Send them." So they sent fifty men who searched for three days but did not find him. When they came back to him (he had remained at Jericho), he said to them, "Did I not say to you, Do not go?"

Now the people of the city said to Elisha, "The location of this city is good, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful." He said, "Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it." So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw the salt into it, and said, "Thus says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it." So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

I like how Elijah asks Elisha what he can do for him. Did Elijah know that soon he would be taken away by a whirlwind? I have always made this passage a little bit heroic of sorts. As if Elijah rode off on a Chariot of Fire. But Elijah really was taken in a whirlwind and the chariot of fire and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha. No wonder they wanted the men to go see if they could locate Elijah. Perhaps he was swept away by a tornado.

I have to think it was the power of the wind of the Holy Spirit that swept Elijah away. I don't have any proof of this and this may be wrong, but it seems sometimes when a very gifted person of God is swept away from us, we quickly learn how to depend on God to lead and guide us. Sometimes we put too much behind following a person that is dynamic and spiritually gifted and become deceived into thinking that we are following God by following this person.

In this case Elisha didn't wish to have all of the characteristics of Elijah, he wanted Elijah's mantle. In the day the mantle or covering was a kind of dress or coat, but it was more than this. A man came to be identified with this covering. It was Elijah's hallmark that possessed power of sorts. Elijah's mantle reminds us of the unfinished business of Elijah and Elisha will now carry on God's call.

Isn't that how the Church seems to work too. The mantle is passed from person to person and God's call and mission continues on. When one servant leaves to be with God another servant steps in to carry the mantle and the Spirit moves forward in power and grace. What a way of life! Thanks be to God!

Lord, as the mantle is passed may I take it up when called to take it up and serve you boldly and confidently that the Spirit may move and your plan for all creation may proceed... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12th - Reflection

1 Kings 18:1-18 (NRSV)
Elijah condemns King Ahab

After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, "Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth." So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals." So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, "Is it you, my lord Elijah?" He answered him, "It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here." And he said, "How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, 'He is not here,' he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. But now you say, 'Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.' As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord's prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? Yet now you say, 'Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here'; he will surely kill me." Elijah said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today." So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?" He answered, "I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father's house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.

Ahab, Obadiah, Elijah and a bunch of horses. There was a drought in the land. Ahab, who was king at the time reached out to Obadiah for help. We had to save the horses. These weren't just a few out back, these were maybe a couple of thousand horses furnished by Shalmaneser III to Ahab. Horses that would tax the land for water and food.

Now Obadiah was favorable to God's prophets. When Jezebel was trying to kill all of the prophets, Obadiah hid them in the Mt. Carmel area most likely, which accounts for thousands of caves and Obadiah furnished the prophets with bread and water.

Ahab and Obadiah split up to find springs of water for the horses. Along the way Obadiah ran into Elijah the great prophet. Elijah wanted Obadiah to tell Ahab that he was here. But Obadiah wanted to protect Elijah from Ahab. Obadiah finally concedes to go and tell Ahab about Elijah. And Ahab and Elijah meet.

Sometimes God's plan moves us to face people we would rather not meet. Sometimes God's plan goes to the people that seem to be the most wicked and perhaps are. But sometimes our meeting with these people changes them. They see God active and change. Sometimes they don't. But our call isn't to make this decision. Our call is to go where we are called to go. I'm sure we would, could and will sometimes come up with a million excuses of why we wish not to meet the person we would rather not meet. But in these times we need to reach deep into our hope and faith that God calls us to important tasks. So we go...

Elijah meets Ahab and we meet someone too... maybe it's not someone but rather something... maybe we meet an addiction... maybe we meet a conflict... maybe we meet a broken relationship... Whatever we meet must be deep in our call from God, not just a meeting to further our own agenda. This is God's agenda and God's plan. Think about it.

Lord, when you call me to go into difficult situations or to meet someone that is difficult for me to meet, help me follow your plan and not mine. Teach me to listen to your will and your way and obey. For it is you I trust and it is you I obey, it is you I love and all my hope is in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 11th - Reflection

Third Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:46b-55 (NRSV)

The Mighty One raises the lowly
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

I wonder when Mary sat down to write this passage? Was she alone? Perhaps she was still with Elizabeth. What about the research into Jewish scripture for references? Did Mary contemplate the meaning of Scripture and slowly begin to realize the depth of her pregnancy? Or did the full meaning of giving birth to Jesus set in all at once?

I wonder if the words just flowed, as if Mary was guided by the Holy Spirit? How many times did she ponder the written Word and then take out her own humanity from the words so that this became God's Word. A reference to that very Word becoming flesh and growing and developing right inside of Mary.

What a wonderful feeling this must have been. Not only for Mary but for Elizabeth also. Elizabeth had an important life growing within her also. It's as if both unborn babies had already communicated and were laying out the plan for the salvation of all the world.

I wonder when Mary sat down to write this passage? Was she alone? Perhaps she was still with Elizabeth. I'm sure the Triune God was present then. And all of humanity throughout all time somehow too. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you always manage to pull off the unexpected. You come to humble creatures and use us willingly to advance your will and your way. What an honor you bestow on your humble, lowly servants. What an event you have in store for us when we come in relationship with you. You are God and greatly to be praised! You have rescued us from our selfish sinful ways and brought us the hope of life. As we go out into the world this day, may your Light shine brightly in the darkness, and if you would shine it right through me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10th - Reflection

Psalm 126 (NRSV)
God does great things for us
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

Life is full of emotions. We can go all over the place with our emotions over various spans of time. One of the best emotions and release of stress for me is laughter. Laughter at the situation, laughter at the release from tears, laughter in the midst of stress and even laughter brought on by laughter of others. But the top laughter is one in which I see the humor of God. Especially when it involves a good laugh at myself. When you see the comedy in your own foolish actions or just the simplicity of thinking that you are more than you really are. God can bring forth some laughter, when we realize that we don't know as much as we thought and that we are humble creatures of God's creation, there is laughter.

One of the most loved pictures in my home is a picture of Jesus having a good belly laugh. I love this depiction of Jesus. I'm sure he found laughter in life as joyous as you or I do. Some day I just want to see Jesus face to face and have a good laugh. What was I thinking! For that matter, Jesus, what were you thinking! Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for that release that laughter brings to life. Our friendship goes way beyond laughter into spiritual joy. Thanks! May I laugh with you and someone you give to me this day. --- Amen

Friday, December 09, 2011

December 9th - Reflection

Philippians 3:12-16 (NRSV)
The prize of God's call in Christ

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

This passage reminds me of a scene in life years ago. My sister Becky was playing co-ed softball with the church team. We were all a little too far out of shape and maybe a little too old for softball to begin with, especially Becky.

Becky hit the ball somewhere and was running towards first base. You would definitely say she was "straining to what lies ahead." As Becky was pressing on toward the goal of first base for the prize of being called safe, her head poked out in front of the rest of her body. Becky's neck stretched forward and with her head on top of her neck, her body was being left behind to the degree that she became top heavy not only because of her head but also due to other physical aspects as well. Becky went down! Becky's head skipped along the first base line as the rest of her body followed and crumpled to the dirt behind.

Of course all of the fans rushed to Becky's rescue, while her family looked on and laughed.

But this did demonstrate the point Paul is making in these verses. Even in our imperfect state, we are determined to make to towards that goal. We just can't do it alone. We need Christ, but that does not deter us from straining towards that wonderful and eternal sight God has set for us and the prize that is waiting there. As we fall, we get up and keep towards that goal. I'm not so sure that Becky didn't finish her run to first base after getting up. Way to go! Thanks be to God!

Lord, may Billy follow Becky and strain towards that goal you have set for all of us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 08, 2011

December 8th - Reflection

Philippians 3:7-11 (NRSV)
The righteousness that comes through faith

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
In our baptism we die to sin. And daily we relive our baptism. We die to sin and arise a new person through our baptism. In the waters we go through a burial of sorts. The best example of this is through immersion. We go under the water one way and die under that water. As we come forth we are reborn a new person in Chirst and live a new life. This not only happens at our baptism but it happens daily as we live our lives. We die to sin and arise a new person. We believe in Jesus and our faith grows and our lives change. It's wonderful.

No wonder this passage demonstrates a willingness to let it all go for Christ. What great gain we have as we rise from those waters, leaving the old behind, and rejoicing in the new life. All that matters now is what life Christ has in store for us as we live towards the resurrection and the coming of Jesus once again.

Thus Paul can state, and you and I can state too..."I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

Thanks be to God!

Lord, each day I relive my baptism with you. As I die to myself in repentance and sorrow, bring me to new life in you that I may serve and love you and those you give to me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

December 7th - Reflection

Luke 1:5-17 (NRSV)
The messenger in the temple
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

The choice of the priest that was given the opportunity to offer incense was chosen by lot. It was by chance. The tribe of Levi had twenty-four divisions. Each division has priestly duties at the Temple for two weeks in the year. The incense was offered twice daily. This opportunity was an honor that may only happen once in a lifetime.

When Zechariah witnessed the angel and the message, a name was given for his new baby. Naming babies was normally the responsibility of the father of the baby. But God took this task, for this baby, John, would be God's responsibility.

We all are given names by our earthly parents. But we are also called and named by God. God calls each one of us to a duty in his kingdom of love and grace. How we respond to this call is of the greatest importance to God. God has taken responsibility for you and me and cares and loves us so much that through the Holy Spirit we are given all we need to fulfill the call God gives.

So go forth called and named by God in bold service of love for God and one another. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I come to you and work in this temple you have provided, I listen for you call and your request. You are my Father after all, and I love you. Show me the temple service you would have me to perform that I may show all the world the love you have to give... today... tomorrow... and forever. Come, Lord Jesus, come. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

December 6th - Reflection

Isaiah 4:2-6 (NRSV)
God will wash Israel clean
On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
I still have this whole wilderness theme going on in my head from the previous days passages. It's as there is a message here about some new growth taking place and rebirth has taken place in this new branch which has come through the wilderness. This new branch exhibits the beauty of God leading one through the wilderness to a new life, enveloped in that wonderful cloud of God's presence. This place will be for those personally holy and personally saved. A church gathered and covered in God's glory. Thanks be to God!

Lord, for those in the wilderness and those who have passed through, we all look to that day when we will all be gathered together and covered with the glory of your Light and be infused with the Fire of your love to live in glory. --- Amen

Monday, December 05, 2011

December 5th - Reflection

Isaiah 26:7-15 (NRSV)
The way of the righteous is level
The way of the righteous is level;
O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous.
In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and your renown
are the soul's desire.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
If favor is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness they deal perversely
and do not see the majesty of the Lord.
O Lord, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
O Lord, you will ordain peace for us,
for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us.
O Lord our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but we acknowledge your name alone.
The dead do not live;
shades do not rise
because you have punished and destroyed them,
and wiped out all memory of them.
But you have increased the nation, O Lord,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.

When you are in the midst of the wilderness and people are all around you who do not believe in God, if fact they may think that God has put them in this place to punish and insult them and are now angry with God; you cry out to God to come quickly and show you to that place that is straight and even when you know you are on the path God wishes for you to take.

But wait! Maybe God does want me on this mountainous path to suffer with these very same people. Maybe God has set me in this wilderness to proclaim the gospel from within the pain and suffering and anguish and sin. Maybe God wants me to be that voice of hope telling about the salvation of Jesus and how we do have hope to make it to that land where the valleys are low and the plain is level. Maybe... maybe???

Lord, bring me the calm and the focus I need in those situations when I am afraid of my surroundings. Make me brave and bold enough to proclaim the gospel in the wilderness to those you give to me each day. --- Amen

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December 4th - Reflection

Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)

John appears from the wilderness
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,' "
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Just take a few verses from Mark and it seems like there is the story of salvation for all people. Almost like the entire story of faith in eight verses.

We start with the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus always was. I'm amazed at the thought that God had planned our salvation before we were created and Jesus was present. So many thoughts and images of the Bible can float through one's mind at this point I become baffled by my ignorance.

Here we have this Good News starting in the wilderness with a man name John. A sinful man called by God to announce Jesus. How great is that! A man in the wilderness takes me back to the Old Testament and a sinful murderer named Moses in the wilderness called by God to announce to one of the most powerful governments in the world at that time, that God's people desired to go to the wilderness to worship their God.

It seems we meet and form relationships in the wilderness. That's certainly true for me too. When I'm lost in the wilderness of life, I look for God. I discover I can't save myself no matter how hard I try. I need God! That's all there is to it. In all of these wilderness examples, people are in a setting where they draw near to God.

Now weave in the thoughts of baptism. Young, old or whatever age you may be, in your spiritual life, you are in the wilderness. Infant, adult, youth or aged; right before baptism you are in the wilderness of the world, you are in the wilderness of sin, you are in the wilderness of wild living, your are in the wilderness of past and present transgressions. Spiritually you are in the wilderness of being lost in sin to the point that you could never get out of this wilderness without God.

The Greek word for repentance is "metanoia" which originally means a change of mind. But in the New Testament, repentance, takes on a deeper meaning of a deliberate coming to one's senses, resulting in a change of conduct.

In baptism, through repentance, the result is a change of conduct. It's a new beginning. It's another wilderness experience. In the wilderness of sin that we all wander in, through baptism, our conduct changes. We are baptized and become Children of God. Our conduct changes. We live in the wilderness yet we are not permanent residents of the wilderness. There is a Promised Land in sight. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we grow in faith and begin that deep relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hear the announcement of John the Baptist and know of the coming of Jesus. Jesus and the Holy Spirit with God the Father will lead us out of the wilderness as we begin mini new Gospel announcements on our own journey in the wilderness with John the Baptist, announcing to all those God gives to us..."The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." All in the wilderness...all leading to the Promised Land. Thanks be to God!

Lord, how deep and awesome are Your Words to me this day. Gospel---Repentance---Wilderness---Baptism---Promised Land---Jesus---Holy Spirit---Father. Increase my faith day to day. Complete my wilderness cry to all you give to me that, in the wilderness, they too may repent and be baptized and take on a change of conduct and deep relationship with you. Come, Lord Jesus, come! --- Amen

Saturday, December 03, 2011

December 3rd - Reflection

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (NRSV)
Righteousness and peace
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin.
Selah ...

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.

It sounds more like the reformation of the Garden of Eden. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet. We won't feel the need to know the mind of God but will trust God's guidance and steadfast love to lead us and guide us.

Righteousness and peace will kiss. There will be harmony of all that there is about God with man. Sin will be no more. No more war or disease or death. God is all about the fullness of life and vitality and harmony in our lives together and with God.

And God will look down and say... "It is good!" ... and we will respond, "It is really Good!" Thanks be to God!

Lord, I look to that day when we will slowly approach that cross, hand-in-hand, with those we love and kneel before you. All around us will be multitudes of your people present and past and some yet to come gathering around that spot that you saved us and brought forth new life out of our sinfulness. Perfect life out of our failures and from our knees we slowly raise our heads and see that awesome Light of your glory shining ever brightly in the face of Jesus. All creation will be new, steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss and your Word will proclaim as it did in the beginning... "It is good!" ... and we will respond with a shout... "It is really Good!" And the feast will begin. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. --- Amen

Friday, December 02, 2011

December 2nd - Reflection

Acts 11:19-26 (NRSV)
The new community called ƒÏChristianƒÏ
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians."

After Stephen's death those Jews that followed Jesus dispersed from Jerusalem and many fled to Antioch. Now living among Gentiles the Hellenists preached Jesus to the Gentile Greeks.  The Gentiles believed and faith grew into Gentile disciples of Jesus.The Church grew quickly and those in Jerusalem wanted to see what was going on in Antioch.

Barnabus was sent to check it out and found the Church alive and on fire. Disciples of Jesus among the Gentiles had formed the second  church. Here the disciples became Christians or Christ's people.

God does amazing things in places we would never expect. We can't claim God for ourselves and expect God to be our own. God will, if chosen, go to and where he wants whenever he wants and the Spirit will spread the Word to save all people. God created an inclusive Church rather than an exclusive Church. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I pray for your kingdom to come, I pray that it may come to me and that I may take part in your kingdom day by day. A kingdom that spreads farther and wider than anything I could ever imagine. Use me this day in your kingdom that I may do your will today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen