Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31st - Reflection

7th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)

Jesus feeds 5,000
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus had compassion on the people and saw a need for curing the sick and did so. The disciples saw a need for food and Jesus simply took what was available, blessed it, broke the bread and multiplied the food enough to fill all those present.

God has been doing this all along. God has always been multiplying bread and fish, so why not here? To us this seems amazing, but to Jesus, creation is normal. The breaking and distribution seems normal to Jesus as well. We give a piece of ourselves in relationship with God and God to us. That piece given is distributed to those we are with and spread about. As it spreads it feeds many others of whom we have no contact with. The Holy Spirit works in and through those other people to spread that piece, that Word to even others. A normal creation and multiplication of God's Word and way to Jesus.

It is amazing when we become part of this process through the distribution of the bread and fish. And it is an example of how we are to live our lives. We are to give pieces of ourselves back to God and to those God gives us so that God's Word and Way may be multiplied.

So what looks like division is multiplication. Just imagine what that Messianic banquet at the end of the age will be like. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks for your compassion. I give you thanks for your healing. I give you thanks that you show me how to give of myself and yet have an eternal supply of your grace still on hand. I give you thanks that you gave yourself to all people to save each individual who believes in you. I give you thanks for teaching me that giving is not subtracting or dividing the whole but adding and multiplication of the whole. Thanks! --- Amen

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 30th - Reflection

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (NRSV)
You open wide your hand
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made. ...

The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Notice how many times "all" and "him" were used in the passage? It seems to me that the psalmist is making a point that all y'alls are included in God's compassion. We call...God is there. We desire...God is there. We cry...God is there. We fall...God is there.

God is abounding in steadfast love. God puts up with it all and still loves. God has compassion over ALL he has made. It sounds like God loves his creation and desires more than anything to take care of it, nurture it, and watch it grow and mature.

And on top of that, it seems to me, that God will protect and defend all creation from wickedness. Sin, death, and the devil. They don't stand a chance against God's judgment and righteousness. Through God's grace he draws near and responds and hears and saves. In fact, God walks with us in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.

All y'alls can't help but to respond to that with the praise and blessing of God's holy forever! Thanks be to God!

Lord, just one glance around me, wherever I may be, brings forth a joy in all you have created, loved and saved. Be with all this day in the joys, the tears, the pains, the sadness, the worship, the praise, and the work and play that we will do in your kingdom. You are God and your love is forever. --- Amen

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29th - Reflection

Romans 9:6-13 (NRSV)
True descendants of Abraham
It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham's children are his true descendants; but "It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, "About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son." Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, "The elder shall serve the younger." As it is written,
"I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau."
You can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives. Well...maybe not all the time. God can call his relatives and God can pick his friends too. In God's promise to the children of God, we discover that to be a child of God is much more than just to be a relative. We are children of God by call.

At baptism, God claims us as his children. Promises are made to bring that child up and give that child the tools to make a decision on their own with God. As the child (and child doesn't mean by age), they are given the Word, taught the Ten Commandments, their eyes are opened to the creeds, and to the means of a relationship with Jesus through the sacraments, prayer and many other ways. This is a child of God by call. God has called this child to be his own. A child that can choose to become a disciple of Christ or deny and turn and run. A child of God by call.

The Word of God has not failed. The promise is not broken but is fulfilled. A real claim is made to the children of the flesh and the promise. It is faith not heritage that determines the heritage to God. God is free to select and develop and give the grace God gives to all people through the loving act of Jesus Christ in his life, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin and gift of eternal life.

God chooses you! What a wonderful gift of life! God chooses us and through faith and trust in God we grow in the Word and live to follow Jesus. Thanks be to God! I am a child of God! Not by chance but by the purpose of God's action in Christ. Wow!

I love being adopted! I love the fact that you came for me and for everyone near me. Open the eyes of all that they may see you and give you glory and follow you and grow in forever. --- Amen

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28th - Reflection

Philippians 4:10-15 (NRSV)
Being well fed and yet hungry
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.

Paul reflects on a gift from the church that comes from the heart. There is a time when we are able to give and those times when our gifts take on varying methods of giving due to low income. But at all times we give. And we give because we have been given to and joy overflows. It's a giving that is not a sense of payment but a giving that has the sense of the joy of presence.

When the Father gave Jesus to us, we couldn't do anything to re-pay the favor. But we can respond in joy and thanksgiving and give to one another and return thanks and praise and gifts to God. Not to make favor with God. How could we ever be more favored in the eyes of God? Jesus saved us! But we give out of a deep joy and thanksgiving and love that God has shown and taught us himself.

With our lives focused on Jesus our relationship with one another changes dramatically. We give out of love, one for another. We give out of joy and the united hope we all have in Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, open my heart today and expose the power of your love that I may give in whatever way is suitable, through your forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27th - Reflection

Mark 4:30-34 (NRSV)
Jesus' use of parables

He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

A couple of ways to take this at least. Traditionally one may consider that the kingdom of God grows from very small beginnings to the greatest of all kingdoms. Another way to take this would be to consider the greatness of the shrub and it's branches that evil birds can nest in that greatness.

It seems throughout much of the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah that when greatness is achieved and the power and rule of the king has expanded, a fall is soon to follow. That applies to our lives as well. There is a caution that we must consider when our lives in the kingdom expand; we are targets of the devil. The devil loves more than anything to see a fall of an expanded and mature child of God at the height of faith.

But isn't faith a little relative. Who of us, in comparison to all the faith there could be, ever is expanded and awesome. Sure we are gifted children of God, but our lives have so far to go that we can't even imagine the destination. Our lives need to be so rooted in the trust of Jesus that we follow, ask questions, are obedient, we learn and grow, but we trust in the direction of Jesus to the point that our hope lies in all that is about Jesus. We don't leave our hope in our own direction but in the direction of God.

When we fall into the trap, is when we think that we have done this or that and surely will get to heaven if we just pray and go to church, or do things to earn God's favor. It doesn't work that way at all. We could never do enough things, even the goody goody things, to get into heaven. Our only way into heaven is through Jesus. We are followers of Jesus into heaven, not by what we do, but by the faith we have that Jesus will lead us where we need to go. Heaven is not an earned place. Heaven is a gift from God that only God chooses to grant through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. I didn't do any of that...Jesus did that! So follow Jesus.

Don't you just love how God chooses to use earthly illustrations in parables and sacraments and salvation. God sent a man, in Jesus to save us. I understand a human. God uses water in baptism. God uses bread and wine to help with understanding communion and the great sacrifice he gave for our lives in Jesus. God uses a lamb and other animals to illustrate a sacrificial offering. God uses so many earthly elements to illustrate and point out his goodness and grace so that we may begin to understand just the tip of God's greatness and grace and love for us.

So few words in this passage, but such abundance of grace. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you lead and I'll follow and obey and learn some on the way. I trust in your direction, even when the going gets tough. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26th - Reflection

1 Kings 4:29-34 (NRSV)
God gave Solomon wisdom
God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol; his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

God gave Solomon wisdom, a broad wisdom, a largeness of mind. All people are showered with gifts from God. We are blessed with talents and abilities that God gives to each one of us. And God chooses for us to put these gifts and talents to use to bring glory to God. Sometimes this happens and God is glorified. At other times people become selfish with the gifts God gives and use them to their own advantage only thinking that they can glorify themselves. This may or may not happen. Sometimes this type of action ends in tragedy.

We can't depend on ourselves alone. We need God. If we selfishly use the gifts God gives us for ourselves alone we will soon find out that we need the help of another to survive.Solomon had the gift of wisdom which carried a wide swath of what is needed to live life with God, but it's not all that is needed. Solomon still depended on God for many other things.

If we view our gifts as an instrument in the orchestra, we see how we need to be there with our gifts, giving glory to God, combined with the gifts of other's to really offer a wonderful gift to God. We need the other members of the orchestra and they need us. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks for all your blessings. May I use your blessings to return praise to you. May I use your blessing to give joy to another. May I use your blessings and combine them with the blessings of your children that together you may be filled with joy as we return your gifts in praise and glory to forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25th - Reflection

1 Kings 3:16-28 (NRSV)
Solomon's wisdom in judgment
Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, "Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. Then this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne." But the other woman said, "No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours." The first said, "No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine." So they argued before the king.

Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; while the other says, 'Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'" So the king said, "Bring me a sword," and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, "Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other." But the woman whose son was alive said to the king -- because compassion for her son burned within her -- "Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!" The other said, "It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it." Then the king responded: "Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother." All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.
Solomon has asked for wisdom and God gave wisdom to Solomon. This wisdom from this passage is a practical wisdom, wisdom with immediate use in judging cases between people. Part of this wisdom must have been the ease of access that the prostitutes had to come to the king to obtain a judgment. The king must have decided that he would make wise judgments for any and all of his people, not just the rich and powerful.

An additional point that seems to come forth from this passage is that idea of compassion of the real mother willing to give up her son in order that he remain alive. This compassion is said to have come from her heart, or bowels or womb. According to Hebrew meaning this is the center of strong emotional feelings. A deeper meaning than just her heart or love from her heart but an emotion that centers in her very core of emotions.

I wonder if God the Father had this same feeling when he gave Jesus to die on a cross for our sin. There was no person that stood up and stopped it all. But God must have had this deep emotion of giving Jesus the life of God to all the world to die for our sin. It must have been a compassion and love so deep that it came from the core or very center of God.

Then taking this thought one step along the way. When we invite Jesus into our hearts; do you invite him into the core, the very center our your being? The center of all emotion and love and compassion is where Jesus comes to dwell. Jesus wants the very center of not only your being, but of your life and of your passion, and of your ministry, and of your work, and of your every waking moment of every day. That's huge! And when we crack that door...we live a life of Jesus in Spirit in action in our lives. Let the Spirit flow and experience life like you never have before...or you could choose to fight it and be miserable...or you could choose to run away and be lost. Choose to live! Thanks be to God!

Lord, you are my judge. Invade my bowels, my very center and give me life in abundance. Let your love and compassion flow through me to those you give to forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24th - Reflection

6th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (NRSV)
Parables of the reign of heaven He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." ...

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

When I think back on my walk of faith with God, I think of all the simple things that turned out to be the greatest. I think of my memories of Mom reading the Bible. I think of a dream of Jesus at my door. I think of Frank Menscik teaching me a Sunday School lesson when I was the only one there. I think of singing Beautiful Savior in Vacation Bible School. I think of fellowship on softball and bowling teams. I think of working together with others on IHN. I think of giving a sermon every now and then. I think of the first time I read as a deacon. I think of wine drops on the altar rail. I think of singing in choirs. I think of prayer partners. I think of book readings. I think of times sharing God in lives of one another. I think of serving, serving serving. I think of teaching High School Sunday School with a very dear friend. I think of Churchwide Assemblies. I think of helping lead Youth Trips. I think of CRHP. I think of Men's Group studies. I think of hospital visits. I think of baptisms. I think...

So many thoughts come to mind that seem to grow, build on another, but go on and on. I wonder if heaven is an explosion of all of this. Like the mustard seed exploding into a great plant. Like yeast exploding and growing in the Bread of Life. Or even like the value of a treasure found. Sometimes I think all of our faith walk with Jesus is just a small small taste of heaven. Just imagine what it would be like! What hope we have been given! Thanks be to God!

Lord, your love goes way beyond what I can imagine. But, I sure have fun forever. --- Amen

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 23rd - Reflection

Psalm 119:129-136 (NRSV)
Light and understanding
Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant,
because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your custom toward those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.

Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears
because your law is not kept.

God's Word just amazes me! I can't get enough of it! I can't ever understand it but I'm drawn to it every day. Simply put, God's Word is wonderful. God's Word illuminates something inside of me that brings a fire and a warmth and a glow from deep within. God's Word draws me out with a joy to obey and learn.

Lord, I'm back to listen, learn, see and feel your Word. I come to you in overwhelming joy. --- Amen

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22nd - Reflection

Acts 7:44-53 (NRSV)
Solomon's temple cannot contain God
"Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,
'Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?'

"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."

Stephen infuriated the religious leaders in his statement that God doesn't dwell in a house made with human hands. He was talking about the great temple after all! This was one of the most precious and special places for the Jewish people.

It wasn't unusual for people of the day to build a temple and a beautiful structure to contain the gods of the people. Stephen was trying to make the point that God could not be contained in a temple or a house or any structure that humans could create. Even the idea that humans could create something that could contain God is absurd.

Yet we still do this same thing today. Maybe not with temples or buildings, but certainly with our ideas and actions and thoughts. We try to contain God into something we can grasp, control, understand and even manipulate. I am certainly guilty of this in one form or another.

How foolish it is to try to contain God. If earth is God's footstool and heaven is God's throne just think of how wonderful eternal life in God is now and in the future. This gives a hope for something unseen. Through God's act of sending Jesus to earth and to your life and mine, we can believe and have an awesome hope and faith in a God that promises us something we can't even imagine. What joy this brings! Thanks be to God, that we can look forward to and live now, a most amazing life. If this is God's footstool that we live on just imagine what heaven will be like. What hope!

Lord, forgive me when I try to limit you. I can only imagine what it would be like. And oh what fun it is to imagine. And the joy you bring to my life knowing that you cared enough to come to me to save me and lead me to forever. --- Amen

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21st - Reflection

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (NRSV)
Reign of God depends not on talk but power

I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.

A guardian would take the student to school. There are many guides or guardians but few fathers. Maybe there were even too many guardians willing to take young Christians to school and teach their values. The father was closer to the student and the teaching. The father's actions exhibited the teachings.

As we learn and grow in God's Word our actions become more than just talk or conversation. Our faith deepens and our actions exhibit our belief through a joyful love towards God and one another. This is the power of God at work in and through us. Sometimes we know what to do but we need to wait on that power to fill us and action is taken. It's God's action in and through his children with the power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I study your Word and hear it spoken and as I see evidence of your activity in the sacraments; fill me with knowledge and the joyful power of the Spirit that I may go out into this world in love towards you and loving service towards forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20th - Reflection

Matthew 12:15-21 (NRSV)
God's chosen servant

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."
We hope in the name of Jesus. Jesus, as a Jew, reaches out to all people, not just the Chosen People. In that reaching out we too are chosen. Not chosen by anything that we could have ever done, but chosen because of what God has done for us through Jesus and the Spirit upon him.

Jesus approach was not one of a salesman or one that needed to make a big announcement. Jesus didn't need to do any of this. Jesus himself was God in flesh, no grand entrance needed. Jesus was the grand entrance and that alone was all that we need.

Now our response to what Jesus has done for us is a far different thing. Why wouldn't we shout it out in the streets? Why wouldn't we declare to our friends and family what God has done through Jesus? Why wouldn't we describe the hope we have in Jesus day after day? Jesus has come to save! What hope and joy that brings to all people of all nations. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, thanks for the hope you have given me and all forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19th - Reflection

Zephaniah 3:1-13 (NRSV)
The wicked convert to God
Ah, soiled, defiled,
oppressing city!
It has listened to no voice;
it has accepted no correction.
It has not trusted in the Lord;
it has not drawn near to its God.

The officials within it
are roaring lions;
its judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing until the morning.
Its prophets are reckless,
faithless persons;
its priests have profaned what is sacred,
they have done violence to the law.
The Lord within it is righteous;
he does no wrong.
Every morning he renders his judgment,
each dawn without fail;
but the unjust knows no shame.

I have cut off nations;
their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
so that no one walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
without people, without inhabitants.
I said, "Surely the city will fear me,
it will accept correction;
it will not lose sight
of all that I have brought upon it."
But they were the more eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.

Therefore wait for me, says the Lord,
for the day when I arise as a witness.
For my decision is to gather nations,
to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
all the heat of my anger;
for in the fire of my passion
all the earth shall be consumed.

At that time I will change the speech of the peoples
to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord
and serve him with one accord.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
my suppliants, my scattered ones,
shall bring my offering.

On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from
your midst your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.

For I will leave in the midst of you
a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord --
the remnant of Israel;
they shall do no wrong
and utter no lies,
nor shall a deceitful tongue
be found in their mouths.
Then they will pasture and lie down,
and no one shall make them afraid.

It's a city, probably Jerusalem, but it also speaks to us today. If I'm stubborn and don't listen and if I live in a place that doesn't pay attention to God's Word and will for the people and if I don't seek God as God is seeking me, then what position with God have I placed myself? I am hiding or maybe even running from God?

But, there are those in this city who are listening and are faithful and are putting up with the wayward government and religious people. These people continue to follow God even in the midst of all this. And there also are those who are not in this city that would love to be included in this city. They overlook the corruption and see the true God of the people and are drawn to this God.

Just like the wheat and the darnel, God chooses to wait and separate the darnel himself. The separating is God's act not ours. Perhaps what we think is darnel is actually wheat, so we leave it to God. And when God separates, the wheat will shine like the sun. The humble existence of the wheat shines forth in the glorious city that does listen and follow the Word of God. The wheat shines and glows and calls forth the praises of God to be heard far and wide. Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me to listen even when the noise is so loud that it seems to drown you out. Teach me to stay with it and show humble obedience to your Word and your Way. Teach me to follow forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18th - Reflection

Nahum 1:1-13 (NRSV)
The wrath and mercy of God
An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

A jealous and avenging God is the Lord,
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and rages against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.

His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry,
and he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither,
and the bloom of Lebanon fades.
The mountains quake before him,
and the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who live in it.

Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and by him the rocks are broken in pieces.
The Lord is good,
a stronghold in a day of trouble;
he protects those who take refuge in him,
even in a rushing flood.
He will make a full end of his adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
Why do you plot against the Lord?
He will make an end;
no adversary will rise up twice.
Like thorns they are entangled,
like drunkards they are drunk;
they are consumed like dry straw.
From you one has gone out
who plots evil against the Lord,
who counsels wickedness.

Thus says the Lord,

"Though they are at full strength and many,
they will be cut off and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
I will afflict you no more.
And now I will break off his yoke from you
and snap the bonds that bind you."

Extreme power to punish and extreme power to love and save. Just think about the forces of nature that God has created, the tornado, the thunderstorm, drought, extreme heat, hurricane, volcano, earthquake and so many more. How could a mere man like myself stand up against such power. That power is just nature that God created. Think of what power God possesses!

And then think of the love of God. A personal touch of sending Jesus, a man like you and I, into this world to live, teach, heal, suffer and die at our hands. It seems like such a display of weakness, yet in Jesus' resurrection becomes the most powerful act of life and salvation. We have a God of extreme love for the whole world and for each one of us.

It seems we have a God of extremes. The opposite ends make our God almighty and wonderful and awesome to be praised. Because we can rest in the hope and joy that God saves. God saves even in the midst of the heat, the tornado, the illness, the death...God saves! Thanks be to God!

Lord, who can fathom your power and glory? I can only catch a glimpse of what it looks like to me. Yet your love is just as far and wide as you are strong and powerful. May I live this day as a day to praise and honor your glory and majesty and power and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17th - Reflection

5th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (NRSV)

The parable of the weeds
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" ...

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Darnel is a weed that usually grows with wheat. Some refer to it as false wheat. Darnel looks so much like wheat that it is hard to tell the difference until the ear appears. The ears on wheat are so heavy that when they appear the wheat droops. The ears on darnel are lighter making the weed stand up tall. Wheat looks brown when ripe and darnel looks black when ripe. Darnel makes one feel drunk and can cause death.

Since the children of the kingdom and the children of the evil one can grow looking so much the same; it seems that we should refrain from making judgments ourselves and attempting to separate the weeds from the wheat as we grow.

The weeds in the end stand out above the wheat in height and color. They seem to wait and call attention to their selfish ways and claim a false superiority over the wheat. However, in the end, the differences show and permit their separation from the wheat. In the end the Truth is revealed and Jesus is revealed as the sower of the seeds of wheat. Through Jesus the wheat stands out as good and righteous.

This task of separation, however, is for God and his angels to collect the weeds and destroy them. The drunken effects of the weeds will no longer be present and the wheat will shine like the sun in the kingdom of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I live this life forgive my selfishness. Feed me with the waters of baptism, the Light of the Son, and grow in me a strong faith, that at the harvest I may joyfully shine like the sun in praise of you with all the other wheat. --- Amen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16th - Reflection

Psalm 86:11-17 (NRSV)
Teach me your ways
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

God's been doing his part all along. God loves us, teaches us, warns us, punishes us, delivers us, and gives us all we need for living. How frustrated God must get when we fail to stop and listen, or pause and look around and just learn his will for us in our lives. Yet God has been patient with us also.

You and I are not much different from the Israelites. God delivers us from some situation in life and we rejoice about it all and then return to complaining in our own selfishness. It's time to stop it. It's time to look at God's Word, listen to it spoken, see it when we read it, experience the Word active and alive in the sacraments and live that Word in our lives with God and with one another.

God richly blesses us in our lives. God gives us so many talents and teaches in so many ways how to create, repair, love, sustain, and even cure some things that God has given to our care. God works through each of us and yet, instead of taking the blessing of manufacturers, mechanics, pastors, counselors, doctors, nurses, and skilled workers; we try to do it all ourselves and selfishly think we know all of what's best for ourselves.

These all are gifts and skills freely given from God. We must rejoice in those that have been given and have chosen to grow the God given talents and use those talents to the glory of God. It's not about me or you. It's about God. And even with this little bit, just think of all that God has poured out upon us as his people.

Wow! How God saves and enriches our lives through his love and life and creation. How God pours upon us the love of one another and the skills and the talents of so many people! How richly blessed we really are. Stop, look, listen and learn all that God has done! Thanks be to God!

If only I but stop, look and listen, maybe I'll learn something. Lord, you richly bless through doctors, nurses, mechanics, laborers, counselors, pastors, friends, family... Teach me to listen and pay attention to your Word in their words. Help me to follow your advice in their advice. Teach me to discern when their words are not your Word and to turn the other way. Open my mind to your teaching that I may do your will this day and be a blessing with the talents and skills you lovingly gave to forever. --- Amen

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15th - Reflection

Hebrews 6:13-20 (NRSV)
The certainty of God's promises
When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

We have hope. We have a promise and an anchor of hope. God promised...God acted...God fulfills all. In God we have a firm hope in all that is promised. So, in this hope we can and will endure. This hope that God gives permits us to be firm and grounded to the core in hope. A hope that is fulfilled in that inner shrine, that holy place of God. We have a hope buried deep within that place in our hearts behind the curtain where God exists. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you have granted me a wondrous hope deep within and through every beat of my heart. You are the anchor of life and salvation. --- Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14th - Reflection

Hebrews 2:1-9 (NRSV)
Warning to pay attention
Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
"What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet."

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Listening is so important. Stop and listen. Look and see. Witness the miracles of God right before our eyes. We see them each and every day but walk right by. We see growth and life and development. We see death and resurrection. We see all these things in life and love and relationship with God and one another. God has blessed us richly. So today I think I need to stop, look and listen, see and gather in what God has set right in front of me.

Lord, I open my eyes and ears and mind and heart to all the miracles you perform daily. Thanks! --- Amen

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13th - Reflection

Matthew 13:10-17 (NRSV)
The purpose of parable
Then the disciples came and asked him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.' With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
'You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people's heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn
and I would heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Wouldn't it be great to have heard Jesus speak the parables in person? How much more could we understand if we had heard him speak? But if our minds are made up that we understand all the meaning, maybe we don't hear at all.

Parables, for me, seem to be one of those gems that you can turn from side to side and different understanding and light is produced. I never seem to understand all of it, but I love to hear and read each of the parables.

I think if I listen with an open mind and heart God will speak to me in the parables. But if I close my mind and heart I won't hear a thing. So, I choose to listen for what God is telling me each time I hear the parables. Surely God will reveal a reflection of his truth to me each time.

Lord, open my mind and heart to the meaning of the parables you forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (NRSV)
The blessings of obedience
If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.

Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.

Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns, and in all that you undertake; he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you. The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today, by diligently observing them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I am commanding you today, either to the right or to the left, following other gods to serve them.

If the Israelites would only obey the Lord when they entered the Promised Land, look what blessings were available to them. I'm sure many of these blessings did occur, however, there was also the temptation to fall in line with the false gods of the people of the land that the Israelites were going into.

In many ways I too am tempted by the allure of other gods even today. I'm sure many of us face this temptation. We are tempted be our own false needs and wants and fall victim to the life of following those wants.

The guidance of God shows us the blessings and love God has in store for us if we only worship and follow God. Sometimes we need to deny our wants and face the desires that God has for us in our life.

God certainly pours out the blessings on the faithful. Blessings in abundance. We tend to ignore the quantity and number of blessings we are given. So, I think for today, it would be a good exercise to pay attention to all the blessings God grants and give thanks and worship our God and King. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive me when I don't notice all that you have blessed me with and take it all for granted. I truly appreciate all you have done and given to forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11th - Reflection

Leviticus 26:3-20 (NRSV)
A rich and a poor harvest
If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will look with favor upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you. You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make way for the new. I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

But if you will not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and abhor my ordinances, so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break my covenant, I in turn will do this to you: I will bring terror on you; consumption and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down by your enemies; your foes shall rule over you, and you shall flee though no one pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. I will break your proud glory, and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper. Your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

So there you have it. You have the blessing and the punishment all together. But we choose to have God walk with us. We desire and long for that Garden of Eden walk with God at our side and talking to us. How many times did Jesus take the disciples to the garden for prayer and instruction. That's what we desire is this walk with God. But the walk with God must be contrasted with our foolish desire to run away. We must know and understand the consequences of our rebellious behavior.

Run to the Savior and walk by his side. Seek the walk and wonder of Jesus each day.

Lord, as I hear consequences of my rebellious nature, may I also hear the blessing of your walk with me. Save me and bring me into your forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10th - Reflection

4th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (NRSV)

The parable of the sower and the seed
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!" ...

"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
So much wasted seed here. So much waste yet a wonderful harvest. Sometimes we listen to the Word and take it in a casual sense. Other times we listen and we have a shallow understanding of what we have heard. Then again we listen to the message and can't separate the message from our worldly desires and wishes. But thanks be to God there are those precious moments when we listen to the Word and are responsive.

Lord, as the evil one pesters me and antagonizes, and as I feel the persecution and tribulation of life; grant me the gift that only you can provide in an open mind and an open heart that I may hear your Word and respond in the way you would have me forever. --- Amen 

Saturday, July 09, 2011

July 9th - Reflection

Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (NRSV)
Your paths overflow with plenty
( Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,

you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth's farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.)

You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

We look to a God who is forgiving, saving, ruling and providing. We have a God that forgives our trespasses and our foolishness in rebellion. A God that turns to us and runs to us to save us through Jesus. We have a God that rules all. A God that created all there is and all that there ever will be. And we have a God that provides for all our needs. A God that graciously gives us daily bread. We look to God and stand in awe offering all of our praise and thanksgiving.

Lord, forgive my trespasses. Teach me to forgive those that sin against me. For you provide all I need in your salvation. What a glorious and wonder is all your works day after day. --- Amen

Friday, July 08, 2011

July 8th - Reflection

Romans 15:14-21 (NRSV)
Sanctified by the Holy Spirit
I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written,
"Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand."

It's about the Holy Spirit working in and through us. When the Holy Spirit works through you or me, the gospel is spread and new life is given to those we meet day to day in our lives. We look at the love God has shown us. We see and feel the sacrifice Jesus made to give us life. We accept the gifts and the power that the Holy Spirit plants inside of us and we live for God.

Fully proclaim the good news of Christ. Make this your ambition in life. Proclaim, in word, deed and loving caring for all those God gives to you each day.

Lord, I give you thanks and praise for walking with me, up the hills, through the forrest, down the mountain, and through the valleys. Work in me this day as I walk with someone else that they too may see and feel and get a glimpse of the awesome good news of Chirst today. --- Amen

Thursday, July 07, 2011

July 7th - Reflection

Romans 2:12-16 (NRSV)
God judges the secret thoughts
All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
It's not just hearing the law, it's when the law becomes written on your heart. When you give yourself to God and seek God's control in your life, the law becomes written upon your heart. God becomes part of your conscience and a guide to the things that you do or don't do. You discover that just hearing the law doesn't allow the law to be active in you. With the law written on your heart you realize the need for God and God's grace through Jesus.

We all possess some type of moral consciousness, but when that conscience moves from centering upon yourself to centering on God, you have God written upon your heart. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I seek not only to hear and see your Word, but I seek to experience it. I seek to act out on your Word in the way you wish for me to act. Work in me today with those you give to me. --- Amen

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

July 6th - Reflection

John 13:1-17 (NRSV)
Jesus washes the disciples' feet
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord -- and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Through the washing of feet, the disciples were permitted to participate in humiliation. This may not seem like something you would want to do, but in this case, Jesus was about to experience a humiliation in his suffering and death on a cross. In this manner, to be able to participate in Jesus humiliation would be a great honor.

So as the disciples experienced the humiliation of permitting Jesus to wash their feet, Jesus set the example for the disciples to go and do likewise for others. We also should be willing and ready for the honor of humiliation in washing the feet of those God gives to us each day.

We are servants in love with Jesus. And in this love we love others to the point of washing their feet. What an honor to be humiliated. What a Savior we have! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I look forward to humbly serve all those you give to me this day in your name. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July 5th - Reflection

Jeremiah 28:10-17 (NRSV)
Hananiah breaks Jeremiah's yoke Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, "Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years." At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Go, tell Hananiah, Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them! For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him; I have even given him the wild animals. And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, "Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord."

In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

What an inspiration Hananiah must have been for the people that were against the Babylonian government. He broke the yoke and took it from Jeremiah, and the crowd must have gone wild. A sense of freedom. But a sesnse of false freedom. This freedom was from Hananiah, not God. But Jeremiah just went his way? What a wimp?

Not really. We keep getting hung up with the human ego. This isn't about Hananiah being in the right or Jeremiah being in the right. The focus once again must be on God. Hananiah was taking the focus off of God's power and placing it on the power of humans once again. For Jeremiah to have a quick come-back would do the same for him.

Jeremiah maintains focus on God and walks away until he hears from God what to respond. God will replace the wooden yoke with a yoke of iron. The nations and even the animals will serve the King of Babylonia, for now.

Lord, help me discern your voice from my voice and your way from my way that I may always walk in step with forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 04, 2011

July 4th - Reflection


Jeremiah 27:1-11, 16-22 (NRSV)
Jeremiah wears the evil yoke
In the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. Thus the Lord said to me: Make yourself a yoke of straps and bars, and put them on your neck. Send word to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to King Zedekiah of Judah. Give them this charge for their masters: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him even the wild animals of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.

But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, then I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, says the Lord, until I have completed its destruction by his hand. You, therefore, must not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon.' For they are prophesying a lie to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land; I will drive you out, and you will perish. But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, says the Lord, to till it and live there. ...

Then I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets who are prophesying to you, saying, "The vessels of the Lord's house will soon be brought back from Babylon," for they are prophesying a lie to you. Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live. Why should this city become a desolation? If indeed they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, then let them intercede with the Lord of hosts, that the vessels left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon. For thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did not take away when he took into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem -- thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall stay, until the day when I give attention to them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.

God gives power to anyone God chooses. There are times when it is necessary for us to listen to and heed the words spoken through prophets. There will be no more local gods, only Yahweh, the Creator and Ruler of the world.

There were so many false prophets of local gods and now also false prophets of God in this time that spoke for their local rulers to please them that God didn't want the voice of Jeremiah to be drowned out in the nonsense. Jeremiah spoke true prophecy from God.

So, Jeremiah's message to the priests was one in common. The sacred vessels will be carried into captivity. God was in this thing and behind this exile.

Sometimes today we need to search and listen for God's voice in the midst of so many confusing voices. We need to discern what is from God and what is not. We try to figure out who to follow and who may misguide us. And it gets confusing.

If we look at the life of Jeremiah we see someone with a focus on God. He followed what his spirit told him through the worshipping spirit inside of him. Jeremiah new about sin and saw the harm sin brought into this world and the penalty that would be paid for sin. So by maintaining focus on God with all of the noise of other gods and false prophets around him, Jeremiah was chosen to speak the true prophecy of God.

In this forms that personal relationship we develop with God. When we focus on God and come to God in a close personal walk through the wilderness and distortion of outside noises that tend to draw us away from God. This personal walk with God draws us out to declare the truth to our friends in a loving caring way that we wish for them also. Thanks be to God for the life and focused message of Jeremiah.

Lord, when I get lost in the noise and the darkness of this wilderness of life, let me hear the voice of your prophets and see the true Word you give in Jesus and the written Word handed down. Maintain my focus on you, even in the toughest of forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 03, 2011

July 3rd - Reflection

3rd Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (NRSV)

The yoke of discipleship

"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." ...

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

What a divine offer we have here. Take Jesus yoke upon you and learn from Jesus. Jesus is gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest. You will find Jesus' yoke easy and Jesus' burden light.

Doesn't seem to make sense. I would think Jesus' yoke was very difficult. I would think that it was very heavy carrying the weight of the sins of the world. But what was the yoke? The yoke, was the yoke of the law, which the Rabbis called it. The yoke wasn't sin, death and the devil. Jesus did take on the law and make it so much simpler.

The law had become a huge burden for all the Jewish people of that day. Take a stroll through the Pentateuch and you will see so many laws and regulations that your head will spin. God was very specific in each of the laws set down. God issued laws with specific meanings and deep spiritual value. But God has the vantage point and wisdom and truth and discipline that no man but Jesus could possess. The Law points us to God and helps us realize that we need God to help and guide us through.

And this is where God saw the faults of sin in the children and sent Jesus. Sent Jesus to fulfill the law and be the specific sacrifice, the perfect Lamb, the awesome blood that would save all people from sin, death and the devil. Through Jesus the Law still teaches and guides us but the Law is fulfilled in our trust, faith, hope, and relationship with God through Jesus and his Holy Spirit.

A Spirit that calls, gathers, unites, and teaches us the faith that we need. That other part of us that is not flesh and blood but is spirit is now united with God. Father-Son-Holy Spirit all together as One come to form a relationship with us, each and all individually. Such is the awesome wonder and mystery of the divine offer.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Now let's open our infant eyes and see God! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I want your yoke. Declare me your disciple. I desire a close relationship with you. Teach me Lord and lead me and give me that humble heart of love that I may act in the way you would have me act to those you give to me this day and this week. --- Amen