Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31st - Reflection

Ruth 1:1-18 (NRSV)
Ruth, one of the poor

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Then she started to return with her daughters in law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters in law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters in law, "Go back each of you to your mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband." Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, "No, we will return with you to your people." But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me." Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother in law, but Ruth clung to her.

So she said, "See, your sister in law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister in law." But Ruth said,
"Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!"

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Here we can see the gospel story wrapped in an Old Testament package. Naomi had left her own country and went east to Moab due to famine in Israel. As she was in the country of Moab her husband and two married sons died. Moab was a country that worshipped the god Chemosh. Naomi's two sons had married women of Moab.

Since all was now lost for Naomi, it was time for her to leave the land that worshipped Chemosh and return to Israel, the land that worships the one true God. Naomi's daughter-in-laws at first wanted to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem meaning House of Bread. Orpah was convinced to stay in Moab, but Ruth chose to leave Moab and their god Chemosh and follow Naomi to Bethlehem where the one true God is worshipped.

This is a choice we all have to make. Follow a false god or follow  the one true God. Return to Moab or follow a disciple to Bethlehem, the House of Bread.

If you think about it this is the gospel story. John the baptist crying in the wilderness, repent and return to the Lord your God. Return from the false gods of selfishness, greed, lust and sin to the one true God who will be born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread.

And so many repent and return to God. Jesus is born in Bethlehen, the House of Bread. Jesus lives, heals, teaches, calls, then suffers and dies for the sins of all people. And in three days, Jesus rises victorious over sin and death to give new life in him.

Jesus, from Bethlehem, the House of Bread, brings eternal life to all who turn and leave the false gods and follow him the one true God. This Jesus descended from Ruth. Ruth who chose to follow Naomi and leave the false god Chemosh of Moab to walk to the one true God of Bethlehem, the House of Bread.

Ruth, a distant relative of Jesus. Ruth a distant disciple of Jesus, at the same time a distant mother in Jesus lineage, leading us away from false gods to Jesus. All from, Bethlehem, the House of Bread.

On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and said, "Take, eat, for this is my body given for you. Again after supper he took the cup and said take, drink, this is my blood shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

The gospel story in the Old Testament. Turn from you old gods and go to that House of Bread, where the one true God, Jesus, graciously gives life in the bread and wine, the body and blood, that all may be saved. Repent and follow Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, day after day I must turn from all of the temptations of the false gods and turn and run to you. The House of Bread. Lead me as I follow you. Teach me, heal me, call me and send me to lead those you give to me to lead to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30th - Reflection

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
The teaching of Christ: Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus gets away to a mountain with his disciples and sits down to teach. Sits at the same level as the disciples. Sits in the temple that God created at the beginning of this world. Jesus sits with his close friends and disciples to teach. Jesus teaches blessings...Jesus integrates Old Testament parallels with Christian qualities and character.

Here we have a capsule of Christianity values. We see the people we are to serve and love and the qualities we are to emulate, love and qualities to emulate in joy. Rejoice and be glad.

Here we see the Kingdom on earth united with the Kingdom of heaven. In this passage we witness a joy not meant for selfish satisfaction, but a joy that causes fervent love to serve God.

This passage is the Christian call to action, given by Jesus as he sat and taught his disciples under the temple of heaven and on the temple of earth. Here we are introduced to the Kingdom. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you come and deal with my inward self. You come and teach me my spiritual side. You come and show me how to work all of this out through your power of love. I see and hear your teachings and by your grace I follow in service to you and your church. Take me forward into this new life of discipleship day by day. --- Amen

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 29th - Reflection

Psalm 15 (NRSV)
Abiding on God's holy hill

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honor those who fear the Lord;
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

These are the highest hopes we could ever have. Our highest hope is freedom to be in the presence of God. For some it would be God's tent, church, temple, or even the sanctuary of this world. But we hope to be able to come into the presence of God whenever and wherever we need.

How should we act in God's presence? This psalm gives us some guidance on personal and social conduct. But to me, the most amazing aspect of this psalm is that there is this hope that we can be in God's presence.

And look how this took place. I know that I could never achieve the "goodness" either socially or personally to permit myself in the presence of God. But God in his "goodness" and his grace, sent Jesus to come into our presence instead. God's love is so vast that he moved his tent into the flesh of Jesus and came amongst us to be in our presence.

Our highest hope is freedom to be in the presence of God. God solved it for us. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I begin each day; as my eyes open; I know of your presence. You are with me each step of the way. With me not because of the "goodness" in me, but with me because of the "goodness" in you. Guide my steps this day and lead me in the path you wish for me to forever. --- Amen

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28th - Reflection

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (NRSV)
Good works are conspicuous

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves to be paid." Never accept any accusation against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, I warn you to keep these instructions without prejudice, doing nothing on the basis of partiality. Do not ordain anyone hastily, and do not participate in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgment, while the sins of others follow them there.

How do we honor our leaders of the church? With respect, thanksgiving and prayer we go to our Father. We seek the welfare of our church leaders in all they do. In cases where instruction and correction is needed, we move slowly with the mind of Christ towards forgiveness and growth.

Lord, show me how to cast a caring heart on those who lead the church. Teach me your love and your way. Show me when to act through word and deed. --- Amen

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27th - Reflection

1 Peter 3:8-12 (NRSV)
Repay evil with a blessing

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called that you might inherit a blessing. For
"Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

God blesses us and unites us so that we gather together with tender hearts that are courageous in humble mind, to share the mind of Christ. This further enables us to experience Christ's love of others and fellow Christians.

Feasting on the mind of Christ we turn to the Word written in the Bible. We turn the Word of the Bible this way and that and examine it by what we know in the Light of Christ. The Old Testament and the New Testament take on active, passionate and life-changing meaning when examined in the Light of Christ.

The Spirit moves us in love for one another to reach out and use the gifts we have been given. And acts of love begin and grow for others. With humble lives we live for Jesus. With open hearts we pray for the weak, the hungry, the sick, and the least, who are the greatest. We live the love of God in joy and thanksgiving.

All at the feast of the mind of Christ that we share in this endless meal of compassion and eternal love. Thanks be to God!

As I examine your Word in the Light of Christ and feast on the mind of the Savior; move me to your compassionate, loving act you have in store for me today. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26th - Reflection

Luke 1:67-79 (NRSV)
Christ, the light dawning

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Jesus comes to save us in a moral and spiritual, yet physical sense too. Jesus doesn't come to save us in a political sense. The political powers of this world are, after all, created creatures of God. There is so much more to salvation that gaining the political power of the world.

This can be one sin we fall into. We can put too much emphasis on the world power that we lose focus of the real power. Power found only in God. God who sent Jesus into this world to save us. To save us individually and as a group. God comes to save his people. God breaks through the darkness of sin and death and guides us in the way of peace. Real peace. Peace with God and one another in the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sin. This is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. This is the power! Thanks be to God!

Lord guide my feet in your true path and way. Teach me when I want to stray into my own selfishness and lust for the wrong kind of power in this world. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25th - Reflection

Judges 7:12-22 (NRSV)
God leads Gideon to victory

The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the east lay along the valley as thick as locusts; and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, "I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed." And his comrade answered, "This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army."

When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, "Get up; for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand." After he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put trumpets into the hands of all of them, and empty jars, with torches inside the jars, he said to them, "Look at me, and do the same; when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, 'For the Lord and for Gideon!'"

So Gideon and the hundred who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled. When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel meholah, by Tabbath.

Gideon heard the words of a dream. The dream seemed to be the word of God to begin the battle. But first...Gideon worshipped. Gideon went to worship and prayer with God for guidance and direction, for clarification and priority. Then to battle with three companies of one-hundred men. What a peculiar battle this was. Trumpets, jars and torches for weapons. This was a war that God would fight.

We draw into battle sometimes each day and at other times once in a while. In prayer and worship we can go to God to seek guidance and counsel. Don't expect the answer to be anything like what you had imagined or planned. But take the guidance of God and faithfully follow it. Even when that guidance seems odd, follow it. For the point is that God wants you to follow in faith and trust the outcome to Him. That faith and trust establishes a wonderful relationship with God that leads you back to him in more worship and prayer. It's a beautiful cycle of faith! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I come to you and worship you. I hear your Word spoken. I read your Word in the Bible. I see your Word each day in the action you take in the world and through others. You are God and can do anything. May I take your Word and faithfully follow your plan for my life. I place my trust and faith in you. Today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24th - Reflection

Judges 6:11-24 (NRSV)
God calls Gideon to lead the people

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon answered him, "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you." He responded, "But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them." Then he said to him, "If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you." And he said, "I will stay until you return."

So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, "Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face." But the Lord said to him, "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die." Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

God brings proof and peace and a call to action through a sacrifice. Right before Gideon's eyes he witnesses the salvation gospel unfold.

Jesus comes to us. Jesus comes to us if we ask for him or not. Jesus comes to us. Jesus is with us. Just as the angel declared to Gideon, the Lord is with you. God calls us to action and gives us what we need in order to take that action. But how many times do we doubt this call? How many times do we say we are not qualified? How many times do we declare we need help? How many times do we bring up the too busy plea? This is God's call! If it is truly a call from God, why not test it? Test it...pray about it..take the call seriously.

So Gideon did just this. More of the gospel is revealed to Gideon. Take your offering and place it on the altar. Just as Jesus the Lamb of God was offered for us once and for all, Gideon places the offering on the stone. Fire consumed the offering and the angel was gone. There's your proof Gideon. God has come to you, provided the offering, took on the heavenly fire.

For us Jesus was the offering, he took on sin, death and the devil and was gone for a few days. Resurrected, he led his disciple to take action and proclaim the glory of the salvation they had seen to all the world.

And we have seen Jesus face to face. Seen him in the eyes of those we serve, seen him in the hearts of those we serve beside, and heard his gospel proclaimed in Word and deed.

I think Gideon too saw Jesus this day. Gideon saw Jesus and the peace only Jesus can bring, even in the midst of battle. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you teach me to trust in you even in the midst of the battle. Lead me this day in your path through your presence. --- Amen

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23rd - Reflection

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 4:12-23 (NRSV)
Christ revealed as a prophet

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Jesus begins his ministry in the northern regions of Israel. The northern regions around the Sea of Galilee. Taken over by the Assyrians. The same people that seemed to produce all of those "bad" kings of the Old Testament. The same people that always seemed to be the outcast and stench to the people of Judah. Jesus begins his ministry in this place and calls his disciples from this dark place. These people who have been walking in darkness for so many years.

Why not begin the ministry in Jerusalem. Wasn't that the "capital" of the real Jews? Why not begin and call the disciples from the religious elite? Instead, Jesus starts in the dark places. Calls those from humble occupations to be his disciples. Jesus takes what seemingly would never work and those who have the least qualifications and recreates life through himself and through his disciples.

These people who have sat in the region of darkness and the shadow of death have seen a great Light. They are part of the beginnings of Jesus' ministry. To these very people Jesus called disciples and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and sickness among the people.

Not much different in the way Jesus comes to you and to me. Not much difference at all. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks that you come to the poor, the hungry, the humble and the needy. I give you thanks that you have graciously chosen to come to me, to call me, to enlighten me and to lead me into new life through you. Lord, I give you thanks for your Light. --- Amen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 22nd - Reflection

Psalm 27:1-6 (NRSV)
God is light and salvation

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh
my adversaries and foes
they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

The first three verses of this Psalm are my confirmation verses. It is God who is my Light. God shows me the way and the path to take. God directs my steps. When I wander off, I lose the Light and wander into darkness. In darkness, I turn around and search for the Light. I need the Light for direction and safety. I need the Light to follow. Without the Light, I will fall or stumble in my path.

With the guidance of the Light and the darkness all around; I have God with me. God is with me in the Light. It is only in this Light that I can trust. As long as I am in the Light, I have nothing to fear. Sure, I will be surprised by something out of the darkness. I will be surprised by the unknown reaching to pull me into the darkness, but I can always come back to the Light.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light." - Genesis 1:1-3

"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 cane 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. - John 1:1-5

God is light and salvation. Thanks be to God!

Lord, shine you light through me, in me, around me, above me, below me, in front of me, behind me and beside me that all may see your Light and give glory to You. --- Amen

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21st - Reflection

Galatians 2:1-10 (NRSV)
Paul's authority in the growing church

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

We recognize one another as Christians by seeing grace active in our lives. It's the freedom in Christ, not the law that springs forth children of God. If the law were in control division would continue until we were all lined up one by one. But by the grace of Jesus acts here on this earth we are brought together as one. Brought together as One Church not because of any of the laws we were able to correct and abide by, but brought together as One Church because of what Jesus has acted upon and lived and died for in those sins that would separate us.

United, we are not individuals of unique accomplishments over sin, but we are saved children of God united in the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit calls, unites and gifts us so that our unique gifts now combine together into the one Body of Christ and the catholic church is formed. The one universal, true, catholic church under God is alive and active.

Greet one another with the grace that has been given to you and remember the poor. Live in unity and love.

Paul took the controversy of separation in the church and put it on it's head with the message of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

Lord, make your Church One in your grace. --- Amen

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20th - Reflection

Galatians 1:11-24 (NRSV)
The divine origin of Paul's gospel

For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me.

God has set each of us apart and calls us by his grace to do the work he has set out for each one of us. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can care for you? Do you think God pays this much attention to detail?

Here we see God's call to Paul and how Paul's life is turned around. When we are filled with the Spirit and the grace of God descends upon our lives we turn and take notice. We see and hear, taste and touch and God becomes real within us and around us. And we are set on fire with the passion of the Holy Spirit to testify what God has done in our lives.

The moment will come. Prepare yourself and look to the message that has been given for ages. Jesus is Lord and has come to save all. They will see this in you and glorify God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, send your Holy Spirit this day. Descend upon my life and set it on fire that all my glorify you. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19th - Reflection

Matthew 9:14-17 (NRSV)
Christ, the bridegroom, the new wine

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."

Jesus brought radical news in his message. Patching up the misguided teachings of the day would not do. Jesus brought something completely new and strange to the people. God wasn't the God removed from his people. God wasn't the God that worked only through the clergy of the day. God came to the humble, the sick, the poor and became one of them.

Jesus brought the message of salvation the hard way. Jesus would be our salvation. Salvation would not come through our effort or obedience to the law. The law pointed out our own stench of sin and failure. However, Jesus pointed out God's plan to save us through his redeeming power.

Jesus brought radical news in his message. It's not about us! It's all about Jesus! Thanks be to God!

Lord, humbly I stop to listen and learn. Teach me I pray. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18th - Reflection

Isaiah 53:1 -12 (NRSV)
The one like a lamb

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

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors

These verses will bring you to your knees. These verses will humble you. This is that exchange. Jesus took on our sin and took on the punishment we deserved and became the sacrifice. Jesus carries our wounds and illnesses. We ran away from our sin and left them all on Jesus. He was left to take the brunt of all that we did. Only Jesus stayed to take our sin upon himself.

And he took it! He took it all for us. He took the punishment for our sins. Here is the perfect lamb blemished by the sin of others. The perfect One in our stead. No violence comes from him. He takes the punishment for the sin we deserved. He knew that it had to be done; not for him...but for you and me. Jesus didn't have to do this...but he did! His love for us is so deep that he poured out himself to death, bearing the sin of many. Jesus became our sin and died!

But in this death...oh in this this anguish...Jesus will see light! The light of resurrection. Jesus is Light and that Light brings life to all the world! Stay on your knees but a moment...for in his Light you are called to be disciples of a new life for you and all. Off your knees to follow Jesus and run and tell of this great Light! Thanks be to God!

Thanks! --- Amen

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17th - Reflection

Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28 (NRSV)
The passover lamb

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. .

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, 'What do you mean by this observance?' you shall say, 'It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.'" And the people bowed down and worshiped.

The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

It's a new beginning. God is marking a first here. The old has passed and this is a new beginning. A new beginning marked by the blood of sacrifice. A new beginning with a feast. A feast held in a hurry. We are about to go. To go somewhere led by God. Where, we are not sure. We are going led by a promise that God will take care of us and lead us to a promised land. But tonight, it's about a new beginning.

The door we will pass through has been marked by the blood of the Lamb. We will be leaving and following God through this door. A door marked by this sacrificial Lamb's blood. In a hurry and well fed we move and are led by God.

As we follow Jesus this day, we cross through a door marked by his blood. Jesus gave his blood for our sin. As we pass through this door marked by Jesus' blood we enter the kingdom. A kingdom that Jesus has conquered, yet a kingdom in which Jesus will return in final glory. We enter a kingdom with a message to give. Jesus gave his blood for our sin. Jesus walks with us through the wildernesses of this kingdom, leading us to the promised land of resurrection and eternal life. But first we walk with Jesus. Walk with Jesus knowing that his blood was shed on that door. We feast with Jesus, knowing that he has paid the price. We walk in this kingdom towards that promised land, connecting one disciple at a time to Jesus.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, you have provided all that I need for this journey. Be with me as we walk through this world. As I cross that threshold and see the blood on the lintel, may I be reminded of your sacrifice for my sin. May I walk humbly yet boldly with you as we meet the people and the circumstances in store for us this day. Lead me in my actions and my words. --- Amen

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16th - Reflection

Second Sunday After Epiphany
John 1:29-42 (NRSV)
Christ revealed as the Lamb of God

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

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).

You will know him. will know him. He's the one on whom the Spirit descends upon and it stays. That's him!

Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in following someone else. It's easy to follow other humans who are not Jesus. We see people full of the Spirit of God, professing God's glory and honor, but they are sinful. We all fall into the trap of sin. We all sin. That's why we need the Messiah or Jesus. The Spirit stays with Jesus. Jesus lived this life without sin. But in the end, on the cross, Jesus became our sin. Rejected by the Father, Jesus died in our sin. But what he brought to life three days later, released all of us from the bondage of sin.

Death was to be the final punishment for sin. Jesus died that death. Died that death for you and me. You will know him. He is the one on whom the Spirit descends. Jesus, the only one to live life without sin, full of the Spirit, in love with his creation and his people, became that sacrificial Lamb for all sin.

What an amazing act! You will know him. Go and spend time with him. Follow Jesus. Sure, listen to those who speak the Word in truth, but know that they are not the One. They are servants of Jesus. We sin even though God uses us to proclaim the glory of Jesus. We sin, but are not in bondage to sin. We sin and turn from that sin to face a loving Father who corrects us, forgives us and frees us to walk home with Jesus.

So go tell your buddies! Look, here is the Lamb of God! We know him! The Spirit is with him. Hurry it up!!

Lord, take me to that place where we sit down together and learn how to live that love you lived. Teach me, correct me, forgive me and lead me in the way you wish for me to go. --- Amen

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15th - Reflection

Psalm 40:1-11 (NRSV)
Doing the will of God

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, "Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.

We are called to obedience. We are called to wait upon the Lord. God will draw us from the pit we have created. The pit of sin that we can't escape. We face the consequences of our sin for sure but the result of death has been forgiven when we turn and wait upon the Lord in repentance.

And God sets our feet in the place he chooses for us. In our obedience God fills our minds and hearts with his wondrous Word and drives us forward in his plan with deeds only God has prepared for us. Obedient to the call of God we fulfill his plan in the unique way that only God can direct for our individual lives.

In our obedience it's not about the offerings we bring of what God has already provided and blessed us with  in earthly goods. God desires the offering of our lives in obedience to his call. Upon our offering a song of praise rises from our lips and we shout in jubilation all of what God has done for us. This is a BIG thing here! God has brought us from certain death to life in him.

It is God's love and faithful obedience to our care that has kept us safe forever. What a love! What a faithfulness! What a wonderful call to obedience God has given you and me! Thanks be to God!

Lord, you pull me out of the mud that I have gotten fixed in time after time. Take my life and make it as your would have it be. For you are my salvation always. --- Amen

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14th - Reflection

Acts 1:1-5 (NRSV)
The promise of the Holy Spirit

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

Jesus stayed with them. And Jesus stays with us also. Jesus continues on showing proofs. Do we see those proofs though. I think in many of the rich nations of this world, we take the proofs of Jesus' presence for granted and miss those proofs. If you look around daily you can see seeds of love that have been planted within people, communities, churches, businesses, nature, and even our pets. Love that comes to fruition.

The faithful dog, the caring words from a friend, a helping hand at the grocery store, a nod in traffic, serving at a food line, giving money to a cause, those prayers and e-mails sent, a visit to the hospital for someone, a snowflake falling, and even a bird feeding. These are all miracles of the seeds of love God has freely given and blessed us with that we miss and take for granted. We need to slow down. There is no panic or hurry in eternity.

Live and love the life God has given you. After all you and I are living in the grace of God. What more could we be thankful for. Live for Jesus, love one another and wait. Something better is coming. Wait for the promise of the Father. The Father has always kept his promises and always will. You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit! Thanks be to God!

Lord, blow you Spirit of love and compassion and fire into my life as I wait for you. Lead me in proclaiming boldly your gospel story that all may turn to believe, love and live in forever. --- Amen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13th - Reflection

Galatians 1:6-12 (NRSV)
Paul's calling through a revelation of Christ

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

It's not Paul's gospel, your gospel, or my gospel. It's about the grace of Jesus Christ. We can't desert the grace of Christ for the law. In doing so we desert God. The gospel of Jesus is about the grace of Jesus. Jesus' act to free us from sin, death, the devil and the law.

We can't free ourselves from the nets of the law by our actions. Jesus action has freed us from the law. And this freedom is acted out in Paul's conversion. Paul went from persecuting Christians for the law, to being freed from the law, to act in obedience to the call of Christ.

It's easy to twist around. It's easy to proclaim a gospel of origin from within myself. A gospel that frees me from my sin. But it's not about human gospel, it's about God's gospel. God's gospel that comes from God and convicts each one of us of sin. God's gospel that says that even though we are sinners, Jesus was sent into our world to take on our sin, to suffer for our sin, and to die for our sin. All so that we may live. It's not for me to pick and choose the sin that Jesus died for, it's God's choice.

Remain in the grace of God and refrain from running from the grace of God back to the law. We have free grace and faith. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I'm tempted to cheapen your grace with new rules and regulations, forgive me. When I'm tempted to cheapen your grace by ignoring my sin, forgive me. Lead me into the full glory of your grace. May I hear your call and be true to the nature of the salvation you paid such a high price for and come into the light of free grace and faith. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12th - Reflection

Matthew 12:15-21 (NRSV)
The words of Isaiah applied to Jesus

When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
"Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.

And in his name the Gentiles will hope."

Jesus did not wrangle or cry aloud. Jesus did not look for controversy. Jesus didn't have to look for controversy. Jesus' way is good and right. We are the ones that become misguided, confused, upset and controversial. We get ourselves all wrapped around the wheel when it's the wrong wheel were wrapped around. It's easy to do. In fact, real easy to do.

But the wonderful part of all this wrangling, is that Jesus comes to us in the midst of our confusion, our hurt and our pain. Jesus speaks to us justice. Speaks to us even though we are the very ones who have made Jesus himself unclean with our sin and selfishness. Jesus brings forth justice and puts it before our face. Out of the controversy, the confusion, and our misguided efforts; Jesus heals, comforts, guides, cures, and draws all of us back to him.

And in this coming to us with compassion, Jesus brings hope. What a wonderful Savior. A Savior who enters our chaos in love and acts that love out. All for you...all for me. Thanks be to God!

Lord, in my confusion, in my pain, in my discomfort, in my sinfulness; enter in and bring your guidance and love and hope. Forgive my selfish acts. Forgive my hurtfulness. Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 11th - Reflection

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)
God calls Jeremiah

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." But the Lord said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a boy';
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord."

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
"Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."

The Word of the Lord is in control in this passage. The Word comes to Jeremiah and eliminates all excuse. Jeremiah was appointed for a task and God gave him what he needed to complete that task. God would protect and guide Jeremiah throughout.

It's much the same with you and I. The Word made flesh has come to us in Jesus. Just open the Bible and read. Read it, Old Testament and New Testament through the lens of Jesus revelation of which we know Truth. The Word comes to you and me in this Bible, through the words spoken by pastors and through one another. We need to stop and listen and discern those words that are Word and those words that are just word.

In the Word is direction and instruction and guidance and comfort and healing and so much more than any one of us could imagine. But when this Word comes to you, there is a call to action. A call to love. A call to stand for truth. A call to move in some way. Along with this call are are the gifts and skills needed to carry out the call.

One thing comes from you. You must believe. You believe and faith builds and action occurs. And God's will is done. So today listen and take the appointment. This action is the beginning of life in Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I pause this day to listen. I listen to your Word and believe. --- Amen

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10th - Reflection

Genesis 35:1-15 (NRSV)
God calls and blesses Jacob

God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau." So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your clothes; then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone." So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak that was near Shechem.

As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them. Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. And Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon bacuth.

God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan aram, and he blessed him. God said to him, "Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name." So he was called Israel. God said to him, "I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you." Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him. Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

It's time to put away selfishness and false gods and beliefs. It's time to change clothes and journey forward. God protected Jacob in his return journey. Those nations through which Jacob needed to travel left Jacob alone. And as Jacob arrived to the point that God intended for him to be, God reiterated the promise he has made with Abraham. A nation and a company of nations will come from you. A land is given to you.

As we put away our selfishness and our false idols and as we journey through life to the point that God directs us, we can have faith that God will journey by our side. As we turn to God day by day, we seek direction and instruction. Faith builds and we come to see the land that God is directing our steps towards. A land filled with blessing.

And along the way as we pause and turn to God. Let us never forget the blessings we have received. Let us give thanks and praise to God. For God is with us! Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for directing my steps. Thanks for the correction, for the instruction, for the healing, and for the blessings of all I have ever needed along the way. You are God! --- Amen

Sunday, January 09, 2011

January 9th - Reflection

Baptism of Our Lord
Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
Christ revealed as God's servant

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus came to John to be baptized. Jesus had no need to repent, but Jesus still came to John to be baptized. Jesus did not need to repent or turn back to God. Jesus was God. But baptism is of such importance that Jesus came to John to be baptized. When Jesus came up out of the water, Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove. Body and Spirit of God now together to begin a wonderful mission and plan of salvation. Jesus, Son of man and now also Son of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit unite in baptism.

So as you recall baptism, recall the coming together of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Recall the waters of baptism, the earthly element, bathed on you and the descent of God onto you as you begin your ministry as well. God has come. God has come to you in flesh and spirit. God is with you and in you and beside you and all around you surrounding you in the waters of salvation. God wraps you in the waters of life to protect and guard you and to lead and guide you. Under that water your old self died and came up new and are now alive in God. Alive to do great works on heaven and on earth. Alive in those living waters. Alive in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!

Lord, just as so many of your people passed through waters to new life, I rejoice in the day I passed through the waters. I rejoice in the day that my old flesh died and came up out of the water to new life. Send now your Holy Spirit to descend on me and your Church, that all may be renewed in the water of life that you provide. You are God! You are with forever. --- Amen

Saturday, January 08, 2011

January 8th - Reflection

Ephesians 4:7, 11-16 (NRSV)
Gifts according to Christ

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. ...

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

Each of us was given grace. One grace that results in many gifts. We have each been given Jesus individually. The Church has been given Jesus too. Jesus IS the church. Through Jesus the Church is made up of many. Our focus is always the same. We are united in our faith and knowledge of Jesus.

In our unification we maintain Jesus as our head. We must be joined to Jesus. Then when our childish nature, attempts to lead us astray, cause us to pick and fight, bring about hurtful competition and argument, and deceitful scheming; we must return to Jesus. Listen to Jesus' truth and love and grow into him who is the head of the Church.

We listen and begin again to speak of the truth and love of Jesus. We redirect our actions away from one another in childish acts and back toward one another in the love of Christ that ties us all back together in the Body to grow up while building love for Christ and one another.

Each of us was give grace through Jesus. Each of us was given a gift through the Spirit. We are called to come together in Christ. Disciples of Christ together in love and action. Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead your Church. As we foolish children act in our foolish ways, forgive us and show us the direction we are to take in love and truth to glorify you alone and to make your Church what you would have it forever. --- Amen

Friday, January 07, 2011

January 7th - Reflection

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSV)
Knowing the love of Christ

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

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

God has made himself known by coming to this earth in the form of flesh and spirit. Jesus is God incarnate. But even more so God in flesh has come not only to this world in a corporate sense in that he comes to everyone as one. God has come into this world in a personal sense. A very personal sense. God has come into your heart in Jesus. Your heart being the very center of your being, perhaps even the bowels, could be said. The bowels, where you digest and take in and make your own the elements of this world. Jesus comes into your heart and forms a close relationship with you. God has come! God has come to you and is active in you and is filling you with his fullness. All so that you may begin to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

God has come into this world and God has come into you. Thanks be to God!

Lord, fill me with you love. Fill me from the inside out that you love may flow through me to all you give to me this day. Fill this world with your love so that groups of people have the compassion that only you can give. Bring us together as one in your unique and special way. --- Amen

Thursday, January 06, 2011

January 6th - Reflection

Epiphany of Our Lord
Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)
Christ revealed to the nations

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Go to the top with a question. The wise men go to the King to find out where this King of the Jews is located. To Herod he was the king. There wasn't another king. Whom are you magi speaking of? Go and find out for me and tell me about this new king.

Selfishly we fall into the trap of thinking more of ourselves than we should. Get over yourself. You may think that you are the king of your life, but there is another that should be king. This other king is humble and real. Real and his action is decisive. This King of the Jews will give his very life for all people. This is the real King that deserves honor and worship. Get over yourself, you are not the king.

So we go to follow this King. And we greet him and give him our riches. We give him what he created in the first place. But we give away what we thought was riches only to receive the richness of true life and love. As we give Jesus our life and get over ourselves, we become his disciples and walk and follow his path.

The Son of God revealed to the humble Mary, Joseph and Shepherds is now revealed to those who "need to get over themselves" --- those who think more highly of themselves than they should, and God is revealed to both. Both people become awestruck followers and disciples of Jesus. All will see the Light. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you have led us to a deep meaning. A deep meaning for the gentiles and all people. You have led us to Christ. May we follow in your Light and your will and your way. Create in us good and faithful disciples. For now we see and understand that you are God in flesh. God is with us! Thanks be to God! --- Amen

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

January 5th - Reflection

Joshua 1:1-9 (NRSV)
Be strong

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying, "My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

We are servants of God. We have been called and gifted through the Holy Spirit. We have been baptized and sent out on this journey together under God's leadership. As we approach the river, the sea, the wall or whatever is our struggle in this life, we need to pause and look to God. Seek God's vision and voice. Pause and pray for God's plan of action. We are servants of God. We need to know our direction..

God brings promise into our lives in ways that are mysterious. Some will cross first, some in the middle and some last. Some of us will be sent out as spies. But all in all we must know that each of us is a servant of God, in need of God's direction. The plan that each one of us embarks on is uniquely divine when we follow God's plan. That doesn't say that each of us will be doing the same thing, God has chosen you and given you unique gifts to be used in his Kingdom.

Be strong, be courageous and be obedient. Success belongs to God. We are servants of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you call and gift all your people, give them that passion and compassion to be strong and be your servant following as disciples in your living plan. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

January 4th - Reflection

Exodus 3:1-5 (NRSV)
The burning bush

Moses was keeping the flock of his father in law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

It seems to me that even when we stumble into the wilderness by chance or maybe on purpose as Moses had done leading his flock, that this is the very time that God makes himself known to us. In the wilderness of the issues of life or even when we are lost, God comes to us. God comes and shows the miracle of his Light.

Moses saw the Light of the fire of a burning bush in the wilderness. We see the Light of Christ in the midst of pain and suffering or want. Jesus is closer than you think. We struggle and wrestle with many issues. Sometimes the Light leads us in unique ways that only God has planned. We must be faithful and trust in that Light and follow that Light. And respect the place and time that God appears. This place and moment just may be holy ground. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I'm troubled and can't seem to find my way. When I just seem to stumble into the your Light that I may come to my senses and follow that Light. For you alone are the Way the Truth and the Light. --- Amen

Monday, January 03, 2011

January 3rd - Reflection

Genesis 28:10-22 (NRSV)
Jacob's ladder

Jacob left Beer sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you."

Jacob had left Canaan and that place had reverted to idolatry. God calls us and comes to us through messengers. As these messengers went up and down the ladder to heaven, guidance is given to Jacob. Jacob knew that what had happened in this dream was special. And Jacob knew that this place on earth and in his life was a unique place that God had reached out to touch Jacob.

In the morning Jacob knew that God would direct his steps in the direction that God wanted him to go. Jacob also knew that God would provide for all that Jacob would need.

As we go through life, let us pause to listen to the messengers that God sends to us. Let us pause to consider our past and those we have left behind. Let us pause and listen to God for the direction of the steps forward. We can be sure that God will provide for our needs along the way. But what we want is to take the steps in the direction that God would have us step. As God is with us and keeps us and guides us we will come to God's house in peace. Thanks be to God!

Lord, this day may I clearly hear your message. May I follow in the steps you guide me to take. May I look back in love towards those I have left and look forward in love towards those I will meet. Lead me to your house I pray. --- Amen

Sunday, January 02, 2011

January 2nd - Reflection

Second Sunday of Christmas
John 1:1-18 (NRSV)
God with us

( 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. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

As we wander through this dark world, with our baptismal candles lit by the Light of Christ, we follow in his way. The Author of this world has come to us in Light. The Author of life gives us life. This life is not from flesh and blood but is of the grace Jesus has provided for us. Grace upon grace permits us the chance to believe in Jesus and be children of God. So now we are God's children not by blood alone but also by his love for us and our love for God.

Open up your life to the Light of God. Receive Jesus as he comes to you. And the Lord of Light and the Author of Life will become your all. Thanks be to God!

Lord, shine your Light on me, in me and through me that I may love as you have loved. Use me as your messenger in this world. May your Light bring life to me and to all. --- Amen