Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31st - Reflection

Matthew 12:22-32 (NRSV)
Jesus comes to cast out Satan
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons." He knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

These people were confused  if Jesus was from God or not. Jesus, looked like a man. How could Jesus be a God? But Jesus explained the Holy Spirit to them a bit here. If he casts out demons by the Spirit of God then God has come to them. Contrast the thought that if he cast out demons by Beelzebul, then Beelzebul has come to them.

Beelzebul deserves a little explanation. The name probably comes from ba'al zbul, meaning Lord of the house, or exalted Lord. The god of Ekron is called Baal-zebub meaning Lord of flies. This was given by the Hebrews to estimate his worth. Ending the name in 'l' may be derogatory in Hebrew if it were derived from zebel which means dung. So Beelzebul was not thought of as a god but as the prince of demons.

So the Pharisees are insulting Jesus by accusing him of casting demons out by the power of Beelzebul. Jesus clears up this confusion stating that he was doing this by the love, compassion, and caring of the Spirit of God. Jesus further tells the people that if you get confused about the person acting, look at the Spirit that is guiding the action. If that Spirit is from God, then the person is of God. If the action is from Beelzebul it is worthless. Jesus tells us that it will be confusing at times. But always look for the Spirit of God.

So Jesus is willing to forgive our confusion if we think of his actions incorrectly. But if we know that it is the Spirit of God acting and we choose to ignore and insult, that sin takes special care with God to be forgiven.

Lord, it's easy to be tricked in this world into believing all sorts of things. Bring my focus back to you as I look to you and see Father, Son and Spirit. All my Lord and my God. Teach me to discern your Spirit in the actions of myself and others, that your will may be done today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30th - Reflection

2 Samuel 11:27b-12:15 (NRSV)
Nathan rebukes David But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him." Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan said to David, "Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die." Then Nathan went to his house.

The Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became very ill.


There is forgiveness of sin, but that doesn't negate the consequences of our sin. Our sin spreads wider than just the sinner and one more. It spreads to hurt the lives of so many by-standers associated with the sinner. David's sin here is more than just representative of adultery however. David's sin in this case represents all situations where we have taken advantage of another person in a position open to our greed.

Whenever we take advantage of a person due to our position or power. When we take advantage of a person due to our use of money and their lack of money, we sin. David had concubines and many women, but felt the need for one more and followed through with adultery and murder. Perhaps Bathsheba was a victim or perhaps she saw this as an opportunity to move up in the world. It all gets messy and lives are hurt that are innocent.

As quickly as David repents, God forgives though. But repentance and forgiveness does not erase the harm done by the sin. We live with that sin and must look even more intently towards God for salvation. When we sin an exclamation mark with a cross in the middle stands boldly in our lives. In Jesus' act of salvation we cling  for dear life. Our priorities change and we are humbled before God and one another. In our sin we feel deeply that need for salvation and we appreciate that act of forgiveness to the gut of our being. Salvation becomes real, not just a sweet saying. Repentance is deep and love is everlasting.

This was a turning point for David. He faced it and God faced David. So too this could be for me or for you. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thank you for sending those wonderful people who boldly point out sin. Open my eyes to my sin and hear my repentance. Allow me to smell the stench of my sin and to know the damage I have done. I have a deep need for forgiveness and your salvation. You are my only hope and I humbly turn to you. Forgive me I pray and permit me to continue my walk with you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29th - Reflection

2 Samuel 11:2-26 (NRSV)
David sins
It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, "This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite." So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."

So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house, and wash your feet." Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?" Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing." Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die." As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting; and he instructed the messenger, "When you have finished telling the king all the news about the fighting, then, if the king's anger rises, and if he says to you, 'Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?' then you shall say, 'Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead too.'"

So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, "The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king's servants are dead; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also." David said to the messenger, "Thus you shall say to Joab, 'Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; press your attack on the city, and overthrow it.' And encourage him."

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him.
Did you ever wonder if Uriah had heard a rumor? A rumor that would be true? Or was Uriah just that faithful to an evident prohibition of sexual relations at such a time.

Uriah was a Hittite that probably worshipped Yahweh. Uriah's name means "Yahweh is my light." But it seems Uriah was just one of the people that were hurt by David's sin. And that's what happens with sin, good innocent people are hurt.

In sin not only the sinner is hurt. So many outside of the sinner are hurt also. I guess that explains so much of the pain and suffering in the world. We all sin. Our sin hurts not only the people we sin against, it hurts God and so many others that just are in the way of that sin. Stretch that across the world by every person on this earth and you quickly can see the impact and degradation and death that sin has on this fallen people and world.

There is no way humans could restore what we all have broken in this world due to sin. It wasn't just Adam that caused all of this. We all fall apart to sin. We all were destined to damnation and hell. But, God stepped in. The Father sent the Son in flesh and the Spirit to save humankind from the evil and sin that they had fallen to. Jesus came and walked with us and shows us a different way. Jesus is aware that we are sinners, but Jesus came to take that sin upon himself and offer us a way through faith to follow him into glorious life everlasting in heaven.

David as good a king as he was...David as close to God as he was...still sinned and fell short. But David would have a Son and the Father would send a Son to save David and all of us from our sin. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I go to bed each night I'm reminded of my sin for the day and seek your forgiveness. And as I arise in the morning, I see your face ready to start another day with me. Don't give up on me. Make me into what you would have me be. Make me more like Jesus and less like the sinner I am. Accept me as I look to be more like you, through your will and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28th - Reflection

11th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 16:21-28 (NRSV)

The rebuke to Peter
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
The good and the bad of Peter- After having just stating the revelation given to him by God that Jesus is the Messiah, Peter is referred to as Satan by Jesus. Jesus has just given Peter the authority to do God's work, now, Peter is falling back into human standards.

It's something we all bumble and stumble around with, one moment we got it, we know what God wants, the next moment we let our selfish, prideful, sinful selves get in the way of the work that God wishes to accomplish.

But the attitude of a disciple of Christ must be like the attitude of Christ. The attitude is to deny self and follow God's plan in spite of our self-seeking ways. In our faith in Christ, what we are becomes what we do. Our focus on Jesus and the mission and plan and way of God comes through faith. What we do comes from our belief in the grace of God and the command to take up the cross and follow in love for God and each other.

Lord, I believe. Forgive my selfishness in sin. Forgive my sin and build on the grace you have given to me through Jesus. Teach me to follow and to not get in the way of your plan for your kingdom. Make my attitude like the attitude of Jesus... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27th - Reflection

Psalm 26:1-8 (NRSV)
Your love is before my eyes
Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.

I do not sit with the worthless,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
and will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence,
and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
and the place where your glory abides.

We each have a decision to make. God has made the case. Created the world. Blessed us with daily bread. Sent Jesus to die for our sin to renew us and all creation. Blessed us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us along our way in life towards perfect union with the Trinity.

You are free to accept God's grace and walk with God, or turn and walk another way. You are free to join the company of evildoers and sit with the wicked. Or follow God.

God has placed steadfast love before your eyes. Now the decision is yours.

Following does not mean you will never suffer, or have to walk and sit in the midst of the wicked. Following does not promise any of this. But believing brings a trust, a hope, and a faith that, in the end is salvation and love everlasting. Myself...I choose to follow God. God help me along the way.

Lord, I see the life of Jesus and know that following you will not be easy. But through what Jesus has shown in his life, ministry, teachings, compassion, healing, love, suffering, death and resurrection; I choose to be your disciple. Teach me and help me learn your will all along that way that I may live a life pleasing and honorable to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26th - Reflection

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (NRSV)
Refusal to love the truth
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
Well, that was weird! The point I'm getting is, to not refuse to love the truth and to be saved. Otherwise it all goes pretty weird.

There's too many reason why we should believe in God sending Jesus as flesh into our world to save us. If you buy the evidence of the story throughout time, even if some of it was seen through the lenses of love and faith, in the least, you come forth with a book that people wrote throughout time, describing their struggle with faith and love of a God that comes to the rescue. Then if you open this book, the Bible, you will begin to repeatedly witness examples of how God saves his people even in their sin.

As you dig deeper through the Bible, sometimes perhaps on the third or fourth pass, you start to understand how some of what is written applies to your life and this book of faith becomes alive in the here and now in your life.

And then you listen to the Word spoken and this message of truth, faith, love and hope keeps coming. You look around and see this Word present in the Sacraments of Holy Communion. You see the Father, Son and Spirit spring to life in a new child of God in Baptism. God has chosen to be combined with earthly elements so that we can relate. All out of truth, faith, love and Word.

Maybe you ponder all of this and you decide to buy it. You declare your faith in the presence of the people and realize your salvation. You continue to grow and notice the gifts God is developing in you. You hear your call in your occupation or to and occupation to follow Jesus. You live this life of salvation, truth, hope and love in honor and praise to what Jesus has already done for you.

Why refuse salvation, truth, hope, love and the Word? Why? Anything else seems to get pretty weird, doesn't it? Thanks be to God!

Lord, open my eyes and the eyes of all, that we may see your truth, your hope, your salvation, your love and your Word and follow obediently and faithfully the path you have laid for us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25th - Reflection

Ephesians 5:1-6 (NRSV)
Do not be deceived by empty words
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.
Live in love for Christ and live in love for one another. We care for each other. Christ gave himself for us as we give ourselves back to Christ. We are a living sacrifice. Happy to be a living sacrifice because of what God has done for us through Jesus and carries on in our world in the Holy Spirit.

All things have changed due to this. Our lives are no longer lived in the kingdom of "Me" but are lived, here and now in the Kingdom of Christ. Our everlasting life has begun. What a change! And in this change is the shift of giving yourself. In giving life, we live life.

Our focus is now on Christ. Our actions follow in his ways. We learn trust, hope, faith and love. And we begin to live these truths. No longer do we live a life weighed down by a bundle of laws, but we live a life freed to live as Christ. No longer are we children of darkness, but we are children of light as children of God. Thanks be to God!
I give you thanks, Lord, for your gift of grace and love. As I give myself as a living sacrifice, freed from that bundle of sins, open my life to live the light of love you have shown, that I may do your will and walk in your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24th - Reflection

Matthew 26:6-13 (NRSV)
A woman anoints Jesus
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, "Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."

You might think like the disciples here. What a waste of oil. If we are called to love and care for the poor, why just throw it away on ourselves like this? But then again, this woman, had her eyes first fixated on Jesus. Her heart was concerned for her love for Jesus.

Now, it occurs to me that this woman is right on. We keep our eyes and our heart on Jesus and all of our other actions will follow. We please Jesus first, not ourselves or anything else, because we can have the trust, hope and faith that all else will fall into place.

We learn this task of giving devoted attention to Jesus, and surely we will know how to give our devoted attention to the poor, sick, hungry, or just the person in need. In that person we will see Jesus and lavish our love as ointment.

Just what would please Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God!

Lord, it's all about love for you. Love, trust, hope and faith in you. In this I gladly give my life as a living sacrifice to what is most In my response to your love, action flows forth freely to you and to all you give to me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23rd - Reflection

Deuteronomy 32:18-20, 28-39 (NRSV)
Praise the rock that is God
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.

The Lord saw it, and was jealous
he spurned his sons and daughters.
He said: I will hide my face from them,
I will see what their end will be;

for they are a perverse generation,
children in whom there is no faithfulness. ...

They are a nation void of sense;
there is no understanding in them.
If they were wise, they would understand this;
they would discern what the end would be.
How could one have routed a thousand,
and two put a myriad to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
the Lord had given them up?
Indeed their rock is not like our Rock;
our enemies are fools.
Their vine comes from the vinestock of Sodom,
from the vineyards of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison,
their clusters are bitter;
their wine is the poison of serpents,
the cruel venom of asps.

Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
because the day of their calamity is at hand,
their doom comes swiftly.

Indeed the Lord will vindicate his people,
have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone,
neither bond nor free remaining.
Then he will say: Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
who ate the fat of their sacrifices,
and drank the wine of their libations?
Let them rise up and help you,
let them be your protection!

See now that I, even I, am he;
there is no god besides me.
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and no one can deliver from my hand.

The Israelites are poised and ready to march into the Promised Land. Here we see the song of Moses. One of his last times with the Israelites, just before the final blessing. God's will going forth is constant victory. But we must place all our trust and hope and faith in God. God will keep us safe if we trust.

Trust has always been an issue. People tend to turn and try to do things in their own way. People tend to trust in something they have control of. Trust in themselves.

The battle with those that worship false god's and place their trust in things other than the One God the Rock is about to take place. Rock against rock. People of faith versus people of faith. But to whom do we place our trust and hope and faith? In the rock of our own effort or the Rock of God's mission and way?

Another choice to make. Another allegiance to declare. Rock or rock? I choose the Rock of my salvation! Thanks be to God!

You're the Rock of my salvation. Open my eyes to those times that I choose the rock. Forgive my foolishness and selfishness and pride. I choose the Rock and place my trust and hope and faith in you alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22nd - Reflection

1 Samuel 7:3-13 (NRSV)
Samuel raises the Ebenezer stone
Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, "Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you." So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord. They fasted that day, and said, "We have sinned against the Lord." And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. The people of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines." So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord; Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.

At some point you have to do it. You must set up that stone marker that declares that you know God has helped you. I've been stuck in so many situations where I don't know where to turn. I have tried to use all of the resources I had at hand and the solution was not present. And I muddled and muddled and just couldn't dig my way out of that hole.

How selfish could I have been. It's easy to be vague about this. Early in life and a few times since then it's easy to recreate a specific scene when I have tried to go it alone. Tried to carry the burden all on my own. Tried to be the Savior of my family, my life, my job... and then one day you realize.

It seems the Holy Spirit guides you back to catechism teachings, or in my case Pastor Klafter flat out told me to get my act together. And then the period of digging and study and going back to the Bible begins. The search to learn is on. The Spirit moves you to begin again and you do this time. You begin and grow in faith and start to learn that God was on your side that entire time. Waiting for you to return to the Father. Wanting so badly to step in but he had to wait for his son to learn.

I realized my selfish sin and confessed. Still confess every day. It's not about me anymore, it's about God and pleasing God and doing God's will in my life. Each day is a new day. Each day I arise from my sin to begin life anew. Anew as Pastor Sara mentioned Sunday as a living sacrifice. I give my life to God and get to live it. How great is that!

At some point you have to do it. Raise that stone of Ebenezer and declare your faith and hope and trust in God. One thing that old hymn would do for me was make me revisit this passage to see what the heck this whole "raise my Ebenezer" was about. Well it's time. God will take you through the battle! Raise that stone and declare a song of praise to God! "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive my selfish pride as I humbly turn to you. Only you can save. In you I place all my hope, faith and trust, for you are God. I praise you and loudly, boldly, clearly sing your praise... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21st - Reflection

10th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 16:13-20 (NRSV)
The profession of Peter's faith Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Who is Jesus? Who do you think he is? I'm sure the disciples had this conversation before Jesus asked the question. I can just see them sitting together and discussing who is this guy? Are we sure of what we are doing following him? Then the conversation would begin and this and that would be discussed with all sorts of points of view offered.

Now the question is directly from Jesus. Peter answers, "You are the Messiah..." This confession from Peter didn't occur with little thought. Peter had thought about this. And this confession was a turning point in Jesus ministry, because from this point on we head towards the cross.

Contrast Peter's brilliant confession with some of the other things he has said and done. The Peter declared to be the rock is the Peter that is the faithful, confessing and obedient Peter, not the bumbling, stumbling Peter.

And here is our role as well. In faithfulness, we come to God and confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior. Once we begin this walk our trust and faith build and grow and we are called to be obedient to God and his call and way in our lives.

It sounds all a little fuzzy to me. But when you look around at your life and in your life, you begin to see how God has been active. God gives all of us the here and now. We meet people, we go through situations, we live life. God has given to us the Bible, God's Word, it's there everywhere. Pick it up and begin to read it. Reflect on those words and see how they apply to your life. God gives you people and your place in life. Apply the lessons from his Word in the Bible to your life. Live your life in obedience to God through Word and Sacrament. You are to act in kindness to the poor and love one another. You don't have to be a Bible scholar to begin. Just begin and trust God to guide you through the Holy Spirit.

And so your confession grows and deepens and your actions begin to become responses. You spend time with God thinking throughout the day in all situations of what you may recall from the Bible, sermons, the Sacraments or conversations with other Christians. And you live your life on the rock of Peter, that first confession that Jesus is the Messiah. You live your life on the trust and hope that even when you stumble and sin, Jesus will pick you up, dust you off, maybe give you a kick in the pants, and start walking with you once again, teaching you from and about your mistakes.

The confession...the faithfulness... the obedience... the rock. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I'm a pretty big stumbling, bumbling fool at times. You are the Messiah. I need you. I need your teaching. I need your Word. I need the pages of the Bible, that wonderful gift you have given. I need the Sacraments that teach me heavenly ways through earthly elements. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me. I need you! Pick me up, dust me off, kick me in the pants, and teach me some more, today... tomorrow... and until I'm what you want me to be. --- Amen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20th - Reflection

Psalm 138 (NRSV)
Your love endures forever

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
above everything.
On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
God hears us when we cry out. God hears our songs of praise. God hears our words of thanksgiving. It's not just a cry out into the wind. When we pray, God hears. Prayer is so much more than thoughts. God hears. Prayer is our time to listen.

God speaks to kings and God speaks and more so regards the lowly. God not only hears, but God acts. When God's word is heard the force is so great that people act. People act and love and reach out in God's love to those in need. God hears and God acts.

God has a purpose for each one of us. As we walk through life, God has chosen to deliver us through Jesus. We will experience all the feelings and emotions of life, but that's not all there is. God has a purpose that he works in and through each one of us as God acts out Jesus' love in our lives.

God is with us here and now, in our prayers, in our joy and through the pain and God reaches out through us in lovely acts towards those God gives to us each day. Thanks be to God!

A Psalm that seems to be for kings to hear your word, reaches out and touches the lives of all. For your faithful love, lifts all your people up. Act through me this day that your love may shine through, showing your lovely act of deliverance always. --- Amen

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19th - Reflection

2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (NRSV)
Let those who boast, boast in the Lord
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense. We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you. For we were not overstepping our limits when we reached you; we were the first to come all the way to you with the good news of Christ. We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else's sphere of action. "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

When we live the life and follow the teaching and continue to learn the ways of Jesus, we will begin to grow in faith as we believe that Jesus is our Savior and the Savior of the world. We become convinced through faith and trust builds and we place all of our hope in Jesus. We study the Word and listen to preaching and search for the voice of God all over the place. We see and hear the Word spoken, lived, in the Sacraments and the Spirit moves us with gifts that draw us out of ourselves and into this world to proclaim the glorious grace of God through Christ Jesus.

All of this is nothing for us to boast about, unless we boast about what Jesus has done in our lives. We stop and reflect the path we have been taken and begin to realize that the Spirit is moving in and through us with a purpose and a call. Suddenly we see that our lives have been used by the Spirit in places we could never expect.

Through our growth in faith and belief and trust in God, God's sphere of love has grown in this world beyond the limits we thought we had imposed. All of this happens not to our credit but to the credit of God. We have been so occupied learning, growing in faith, acting in love, that we didn't even see God's sphere of love expand into the world through us. And that's a wonderful thing! Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I continue in faithful call to learn, listen, and act out on your love, expand that love through me into all those I meet and beyond to your glory... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18th - Reflection

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (NRSV)
When believers disagree
When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels -- to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer -- and before unbelievers at that?

In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud and believers at that.

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers -- none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

This passage always seems a little harsh to me. But I come from a society based around judicial systems making those decisions involving disputes between all sorts of people. Disputes handled in court seem to be the norm. But what if the dispute is between brothers and sisters of Christ within a small community of faith?

We do tend to attempt to handle those disputes within the group inside of the congregation or even within the congregation. Some disputes become larger in nature and involve several congregations or even a portion of the denomination.

These disputes seem best handled with open and honest conversation. By turning to the Word in it's various forms, but especially the Word given to us through the Bible. We listen to one another and wrangle with the issues and make a judgment on the call in faith. We trust that God will guide all parties and individuals through their own hearts to carry out the call of God through the teachings of the Spirit and the actions of God's plan in this world and his Church.

I think the shame comes when we don't turn to one another face to face with the issue at hand, but turn and walk, looking for someone else to judge the matter between us. We are all God's children and we will dispute. We dispute because we love one another and are looking out for each other.

Some day our arguments and disputes will vanish into our common love of Christ and we will clearly see that our differences were minuscule compared to what we have in common with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We will behold Love in Love's perfect form. Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me to see your love in those I meet today. Show me how to open my mind to one that thinks differently than myself. Give me the voice and the words I need to express my stand, but the heart and the compassion I need to listen to another Christian with a different viewpoint. May we see you as our source of life and not let our differences alienate us one from another, but work together in your gracious love, and with you as our sole source of love, to lift high your name in this fallen world... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17th - Reflection

Matthew 8:1-13 (NRSV)
Jesus heals many people

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress." And he said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you according to your faith." And the servant was healed in that hour.

Jesus wasn't opposed to the law. When the leper was made clean, by law it was necessary for the leper to go to the priest and be declared clean after examination and an offering be given. So Jesus command for the leper not to say anything and go do what was next falls in line with the law.

When the centurion approached Jesus on behalf of his servant, Jesus was impressed with the man's faith. To have the faith that Jesus Word was good for the healing was enough for the centurion. The centurion was a Gentile after all and he possessed more faith than many Israelites had in Jesus.

As we approach Jesus in prayer, we must take him at his Word and as the Word. Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word or Logos that existed from the beginning and will always exist. God is good for his Word. We can always believe that and rest assured in that Word.

Being human, doubt creeps into our words when we pray. And that's the opening for that slimy snake to take control. Even when this does occur, we can come back to passages such as these and see the faith of the centurion and the love of the Word from Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I come to you for the sick, the poor, and those in need, that you may help and aid them in this world. Grow all of our faith in you that we may praise you name in all the assembly, not because of the healing or the help, but because you are our God. Increase our faith ...tomorrow ...and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16th - Reflection

Isaiah 43:8-13 (NRSV)
Let all the nations gather
Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
Let all the nations gather together,
and let the peoples assemble.
Who among them declared this,
and foretold to us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to justify them,
and let them hear and say, "It is true."
You are my witnesses, says the Lord,
and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses, says the Lord.
I am God, and also henceforth I am He;
there is no one who can deliver from my hand;
I work and who can hinder it?
No one has shown a god that has been with his people. Not a god far away in the sky, or a sun, or rain, or clouds, but a God that is with his people.

God was with his chosen people all throughout history. God is involved with the lives of his people and present with them. God even became flesh to show himself to us in a way we can understand through Jesus. God gave his Son Jesus' life for our sin after we had fallen.

We are all witnesses to the God of our salvation. We know how God is with us. So why don't we proclaim his presence to all the world? Why don't we tell all of what God has done? We are God's witnesses. God has been and will always be with his people. It's time we proclaim God in our lives and all his wondrous deeds.

Day after day you come to me and walk with me. You are present through the bad and with me in the good. You are my blessing. You are my honor. You are my glory. I am your witness of your love to all you give to me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15th - Reflection

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NRSV)
The foreigner Naaman is healed
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, "Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel."

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy." When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me."

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, "Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean." But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, "I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?" He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
So Naaman thought that when he arrived with all the riches from his king that Elisha would come out and make some grand ceremony towards God and wave his hands and such and heal him. Elisha having great faith and trust in God knew that none of this was necessary. Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman to have him wash in the Jordan.

Naaman was so upset with such a simple answer. He came from a place with very clean rivers, so much better than that dirty old Jordan. And with all these gifts, surely Elisha would honor him with a personal visit!

Insulted but by the advice of Naaman's servants he went anyway to the Jordan, and Naaman was healed.

Elisha had faith and trusted God. Naaman, with a little push from the servants, was found to have a little faith. God grew that faith in Naaman that day.

Even if I have a little faith, and a little push, maybe God will grow my faith. Maybe if I come in community of a few people with a little faith and we begin to push one another, God will grow our faith. Maybe God intends for us to be this way when we gather together. As we gather, God is with us in Spirit and our faith grows, our learning grows, our trust grows and we begin to spread God's Word more effectively to those that are not with us. Just with little nudges of faithfulness. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I need a nudge send someone to nudge me, when I need to nudge another make me available, that faith may grow in me and another... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14th - Reflection

9th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28 (NRSV)
The Canaanite woman's daughter is healed
( Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?" He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to him, "Explain this parable to us." Then he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile." )

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.

Two different scenes here, both dealing with words/actions that come out of the mouth. The ceremonial laws of what is clean and what isn't clean seem to have no absolute moral validity. The mouth is not the opening of spiritual waste. The mouth is used for food that feeds the body. What comes out of the mouth in spiritual content comes from the thoughts of the heart. What defiles is not the food that the body has used for nourishment and the waste goes in the sewer. What defiles are the words that come out of my mouth that come from the evil intentions of my heart. That's the nasty stuff that I need to repent and replace with what God would have in my heart.

In the second scene we are in Gentile country. A woman approaches Jesus. Jesus must have been able to see her faith grow right before his eyes. Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs. Dogs like to sit under the table and eat the scraps that fall. Dogs weren't viewed as lovely pets then. Dogs were garbage eaters and a nuisance.

The loving mother comes in need for her daughter that is being tormented. She pleads to Jesus for help. The woman's reply to Jesus about the fairness of feeding the food to the dogs, shows her faith and strength and her love in taking this risk for her daughter. Jesus saw her faith grow before his eyes. The woman's daughter was healed from a distance by Jesus.

Isn't that somewhat similar to how we go in prayer for a loved one. We plead to God for help and comfort. We gladly sweep up the crumbs from the table and realize we have been given a banquet of blessings, small and large even in the midst of the pain and suffering. Sometimes we need to look at how our faith builds and how we learn to love God for all that we have.

Jesus love overflows to our sick relative and those in the hospital all around us. Jesus love overflows to those we meet throughout the day. The crumbs we have been fed become the very body of Christ in our day and overflows to all we meet. Thanks be to God! Our faith grows.

Lord, all I need are the crumbs. You are my life and salvation. Those crumbs of bread and those drops of wine are enough to go all around this world. Those crumbs and those drops are mighty. To me and to my family and to all people. --- Amen

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13th - Reflection

Psalm 67 (NRSV)
Let all the peoples praise God
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.
A blessing. What a wonderful way to begin a Word from God, in a blessing.

Then a corporate response to how good God is to us. To be followed by a double blessing.

Are you and I mirrors of God? Can people look to us and see our Creator, our King, our Savior, our Spirit? In this psalm we see that God sees us in his mirror. A loving God that looks and is happy to see himself in his children.

But as his children, we are always trying to be like God, but know that we can't be God. God is our Father, our Maker and the Spirit within us and the Savior that saves us. We can't do these things. But we can make sure that we belong to him, are known as his, and act in ways that would be pleasing to God.

Not to butter God up, but because we are so joyful for what God has done for us that our laughter, our joy, our love planted deep within us by our Father has no place to go but out.

Our God has blessed us! Let all the ends of the earth revere God! Thanks be to God!

Lord, you are my life. All the blessings you have given me, all the love, all the faith, all the hope, all the courage to step out in your name; overflows me and lovingly goes to those you give to me ... today ... tomorrow ... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12th - Reflection

Acts 14:19-28 (NRSV)
God opens the door to Gentiles
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, "It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God." And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
I'm sure sometimes Paul had to get down about things when people would come out and oppose the ministry God had given to him. But Paul kept at it. When someone spoke against his word, Paul continued to reach out to the Gentiles and offer the Word to them instead. Even to point of going back a few times.

In trouble, pain and hard work, we need to have perseverance. God will supply the hope we need, but in some instances it's necessary and needed for us to gut it up and go for God. God's Word will spread in spite of ourselves. God opens the doors! Thanks be to God!

Lord, give me the strength to continue even through discouragement and persecution for the sake of your Word... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11th - Reflection

Revelation 15:1-4 (NRSV)
All nations will worship God
Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
"Great and amazing are your deeds,
Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations!
Lord, who will not fear
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your judgments have been revealed."

Throughout history we receive examples of God's saving grace. God led the Israelites out of slavery through the Red Sea. Noah and his family were saved from the flood through God's grace for this family. Jonah was saved from certain death and given a second chance in his ministry through God's act of loving grace. Story after story continues where God shows that he saves his people.

Today in your life and mine, we have been guided by God through decisions, illness, deaths, and rescues and shown God's saving grace. We cling to our faith. A faith that brings hope and trust in God and his saving grace through Jesus life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and the Holy Spirit's descending to call and enlighten each one of us.

The sea reminds me of the large bowl of water in the front of the tabernacle that the priests would wash their hands in after killing the sacrifice to be offered to God. So many images come to mind of how we gather around the baptismal font and the center of attention is not ourselves, or the baby, or the one being baptized. The center of our attention is Jesus and his actions and saving grace. The center of attention is the Father, Son and Spirit and the gift of life given through the sacrifice of the Son.

And as we gather together to remember this saving grace around the wine and the bread, the body and the blood, we celebrate, as we will once again, around the glassy sea, united as one, that saving grace God has given to us through Jesus.

What rich blessings God has given to us as we gather around one with another to celebrate our real and true and faithful hope of salvation in the loving gift and freedom from sin and death that God has given to us through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you paint with broad strokes and fine detail, a vision of love and grace, as we gather together here on earth and in heaven to give thanks for the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, may we dream dreams and see visions of you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10th - Reflection

Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)
Jesus stills the storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"

Jesus demonstrates the power of the Creator in his rule over the wind and waves. Why should we be afraid when we can place all our trust in Jesus? Jesus is no ordinary man in this passage. Jesus is the one who brings and grants life and salvation.

In times of trouble, sometimes it seems hard to place our trust and faith in Jesus. We see, hear, feel and know of the fear and pain we witness in this world. Yet in these stormy times, we need to know that Jesus is in the boat and by our side. Take comfort and have faith, even what little faith we seem to have. Jesus is our source of life. Thanks be to God!

Lord, give me the faith I need to trust in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

August 9th - Reflection

Genesis 19:1-29 (NRSV)
God saves Lot
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, "Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the square." But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them." Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they replied, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city -- bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up, get out of this place; for the Lord is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city." But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, "Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed." And Lot said to them, "Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there -- is it not a little one? -- and my life will be saved!" He said to him, "Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there." Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.

Lot chose this land when he separated ways with Abraham. Lot thought that he had picked the better of the two choices, only to find  corruption within this city. Abraham was looking out for Lot and God was looking out for Lot through the gift of a couple of angels.

When I make bad choices, God watches out for me. Usually it comes down to a point where I have to decide to walk with God or walk away. Even when I'm in the midst of sin, God sends thoughts or perhaps angels to show me the decision I have to make. Will I run to the safe city or stay and burn in the fire of judgment? If I run from sin, I must be careful not to look back, but focus on running towards God and God's loving grace.

Sometimes this passage causes people to be the judge. However, I think rather it should cause us to look at ourselves as the judged and flee to God. Only God can save us. Only through Jesus. So run to his open arms. Even as we sink into the sea, run to Jesus, his arms are wide open to catch and save. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thank you for sending messengers to point out my sin and help me smell the stench of it all. Open you arms of grace and point me to that safe place to which I can run... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 08, 2011

August 8th - Reflection

Genesis 7:11-8:5 (NRSV)
God saves Noah from the flood
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind every bird, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.

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

It's so much about the water. Some even call it the ordeal by water. The water comes as was told. The waters rise until all life must be on the boat. The water covers the face of the earth. Each verse begins by increasing the intensity of the waters. Even after the first forty days of water the water swelled for one hundred and fifty days.

But God had saved a few. God had saved enough to begin the multiplication of life once again. And the waters subside. For about one half of a year this continued. And God remembered Noah. God made a wind blow over the earth. That same wind that blew over the earth before and the same wind that parted the sea and released the Israelites from Egypt.

Noah was captive and fully depended on God for Salvation. Noah needed desperately that wind of the Holy Spirit to blow over the earth to be released from this prison of a boat which had turned into a tomb of everlasting life. Noah needed that breath of life from the Holy Spirit so that the earth would calm and support life. Noah needed God and the breath of the Holy Spirit to release him from this tomb of a boat.

God saved Noah and those on the boat. New life was to begin. New life in God. Oh how our baptism and the waters of the floods releases us from our tombs of death and sin of our old self.

With that breath of the Holy Sprit, a new self arises day after day to love and serve the Lord in newness of life. What joy we live each day as we follow Jesus into the kingdom and work diligently and happily out of his love for us. We show God's love and love those God gives to us each day.

Blow you wind Lord, into my tomb and release me to new life in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen