Friday, September 30, 2011

September 30th - Reflection

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (NRSV)
Boast only in Jesus Christ

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you -- and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. ...

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh -- even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

It's not just about what we do, it's how we do it. What spirit do we have in the things that we do. Are we guided by the Spirit of God? Are we overjoyed to serve? Are we just itching at the chance to jump in to serve those in need?

That's the spirit of joy and wonder in all God has done for us. That's the spirit of life and love that Jesus has taught us. It's so much different from those who try to infiltrate the church and cause division and hatred between one another.

When we serve in the spirit of joy we take on a new type of understanding of life in Jesus. We no longer depend on our physical natures but serve in spirit and love. For it is no longer about our abilities and our pride but it's all about the Spirit of God that lives and grows in us to itch and jump at that chance to love God and one another.

Lord, the spirit that you grow in me brings great joy and satisfaction. Thanks! May I serve you in the spirit that you would have me serve... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29th - Reflection

Colossians 2:16-23 (NRSV)
Hold fast to Christ, the head

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self indulgence.

Don't you get a kick out of these people that have these fantastic visions of God or Jesus and then relate it all to some deed that needs to be accomplished or some amount of money that needs to be raised for God's good.

I can get enough visions of God right from the Words of the Bible that were left for me to look over and be confused about without someone else adding their own versions. And on top of all that, I've had enough of my own dreams and visions to occupy me for a life-time.

But aside from all the dreams and visions, we have someone in the flesh we can hold onto and worship and study. God came in flesh to all people in Jesus. God came in Spirit to all people through the gift of the Spirit. We have both physical and spiritual right here together. I don't need to add anything to that. That's enough for me for an eternity. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive me when I think I need something more than you. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28th - Reflection

Matthew 9:2-8 (NRSV)
Jesus' authority to forgive and heal

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he then said to the paralytic -- "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Spiritual healing before physical healing in this passage stands out. And not just spiritual healing for the paralytic, but healing for many... "Jesus saw their faith..."

When we come to Jesus with a friend or relative in prayer, we come in the faith that Jesus can heal not only physically but more so spiritually. For in the spiritual healing comes physical healing. Healing even to an extant that we may not understand as we exist in our physical world. We trust in the healing and look to that day when all will gather together in praise and thanksgiving to our God for the life we have been granted through and in others, in ourselves, and with our Savior Jesus.

Spiritual healing and physical healing and glorified bodies gathered together in that great Communion of life. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I come to you with friends and family in need of healing, I recall the event of the paralytic and those bringing him to you who were healed spiritually. Teach me that faith that leads me to look beyond the legalistic life to your awesome power and grace for all people. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27th - Reflection

Judges 16:1-22 (NRSV)
Samson asked about his strength
Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her. The Gazites were told, "Samson has come here." So they circled around and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night, thinking, "Let us wait until the light of the morning; then we will kill him." But Samson lay only until midnight. Then at midnight he rose up, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, "Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver." So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you." Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." Then the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not dried out, and she bound him with them. While men were lying in wait in an inner chamber, she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he snapped the bowstrings, as a strand of fiber snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

Then Delilah said to Samson, "You have mocked me and told me lies; please tell me how you could be bound." He said to her, "If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" (The men lying in wait were in an inner chamber.) But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

Then Delilah said to Samson, "Until now you have mocked me and told me lies; tell me how you could be bound." He said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and make it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web, and made them tight with the pin. Then she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me three times now and have not told me what makes your strength so great." Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him, he was tired to death. So he told her his whole secret, and said to her, "A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head were shaved, then my strength would leave me; I would become weak, and be like anyone else."

When Delilah realized that he had told her his whole secret, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "This time come up, for he has told his whole secret to me." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. She let him fall asleep on her lap; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. He began to weaken, and his strength left him. Then she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, "I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free." But he did not know that the Lord had left him. So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

Samson's strength was a gift from God. A promise from the Nazirite code of living for God that the child would obey particular laws and belong to God. We all belong to God and God calls each one of us. But it sure seems that Samson was called to some very interesting situations.

The guy seems to get nagged by the women. He is always keeping the source of his strength a secret. But, I guess when you are in enemy territory working for a God that these people don't believe in, that secret needs to be carefully revealed to bring the greatest impact of the message of the one and mighty God of the universe.

We see the life of Samson go through the good times and now the bad times. He is placed in hard labor at the mill. But there is this sense of hope in that God is always with Samson and his hair begins to grow.

It's much the same in my life. Good times when I'm strong and low times when I'm weak and waiting for strength

Lord as I run to you, draw close to me with open arms. As I jump into your arms for safety and protection, care for me, correct me and show me the way you want me to go... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26th - Reflection

Judges 14:1-20 (NRSV)
Samson's riddle explained
Once Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw a Philistine woman. Then he came up, and told his father and mother, "I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." But his father and mother said to him, "Is there not a woman among your kin, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, because she pleases me." His father and mother did not know that this was from the Lord; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When he came to the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion roared at him. The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she pleased Samson. After a while he returned to marry her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. He scraped it out into his hands, and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.

His father went down to the woman, and Samson made a feast there as the young men were accustomed to do. When the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. Samson said to them, "Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments. But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments." So they said to him, "Ask your riddle; let us hear it." He said to them, "Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet." But for three days they could not explain the riddle.

On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?" So Samson's wife wept before him, saying, "You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me." He said to her, "Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?" She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her. Then she explained the riddle to her people. The men of the town said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,
"What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?"

And he said to them,
"If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle."

Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father's house. And Samson's wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.

Samson was drawn in the direction of the Philistines by God's hand. God was about to act among the Philistines on behalf of Israel.

The wedding tradition was different from those of the Israelites and even old time for the Philistines. The bride did not come to live with Samson, rather here the bride remained with her own family and the husband visited.

On Samson's journey to his future bride he encountered and killed a lion. Returning later to marry his bride he saw the lion's carcass filled with honey. Samson violated his Nazirite code of no contact with a corpse when he scraped out the honey from the lion carcass. Therefore he didn't want his parents to know about this action.

Part of the wedding feast included bridegroom companions, possibly intended for bodyguards  for the bridegroom. The linen garments were large sheets that could be worn during the day and used to sleep on at night. So here we have all the components of the riddle that Samson gave to the Philistines.

No one would have ever figured out the answer to the riddle without some kind of inside information. Samson knew this. So when the riddle was answered, Samson knew that he had been betrayed by his wife, since only she had been told.

In anger Samson took revenge on the Philistines and supplied those who had answered the riddle with the garments and went back home.

Samson was willing to have God lead him into a strange land and a strange people to show the power of God. God picked Samson out of his usual place of living and used him to bring glory to the One God for all peoples. Sometimes, when calls, we must be willing to go along with God's call in our lives and go into unusual situations and unfamiliar traditions in order for God to work through us. It's a bold step to take and takes a faithful servant.

Lord, when you call me to move, help me to recognize your will and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25th - Reflection

15th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 21:23-32 (NRSV)

A parable of doing God's will
When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
John was called directly by God. Jesus was baptized and God spoke directly to the people about Jesus at his baptism. What more authority do we need? And if we believe, why question Jesus' authority? Only in our unbelief do we question Jesus authority.

And we all do this sometime or another. We wonder where was Jesus in this situation or another. Why wasn't he here to take action? Is he real? We have questions of faith sometime or another. But there is a difference for a believer with questions. When we question and have doubt, our doubt turns into doubt about ourselves rather than Jesus.

Jesus is quick to answer questions and doubts we may have. Quick enough that the answer may even seem harsh or evasive, but rather it is very to the point. Jesus is God and when we believe this, there will be action and work done in Jesus' name. You can't just profess to believe, if your have faith and believe you have actions that demonstrate that faith and belief. Our doubt is removed of ourselves and of Jesus. We are children of God and disciples of Jesus. Straight to the point. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I question you, answer quickly and straightforward that I understand quickly and have no doubt about it. Lead me this day to the actions you would have me take in love for you and others. --- Amen

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24th - Reflection

Psalm 25:1-9 (NRSV)
God's compassion and love
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness' sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
We pray to our God for deliverance and salvation based on a faith that rests on God's mercy, love, forgiveness and goodness. We see how God has come to save us and delivered Jesus to death on a cross, all for what we alone deserved.

So in faith we come to God. Jesus shows love, forgiveness and mercy. In faith we open prayer in our unique and our collective lives to see God and hear the direction God guides us to take. We know God instructs sinners like me and teaches me to be humble, yet filled with thanks and joy.

So I pray and we pray together... Thanks be to God!

Lord take me, your faithful sinner, and make me something for you to be proud of. I come to you in faith that only you can make me whole. --- Amen

Friday, September 23, 2011

september 23rd - Reflection

Acts 13:32-41 (NRSV)
Through Jesus forgiveness is proclaimed
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,
'You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.'
As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
'I will give you the holy promises made to David.'
Therefore he has also said in another psalm,
'You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.'

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:
'Look, you scoffers!

Be amazed and perish,
for in your days I am doing a work,
a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.'"

Being raised up. Jesus was raised up in his baptism. In his baptism, Jesus was recognized as the Son of God. Just as David was raised up as a man when he became king, Jesus at his baptism became our everlasting King.

Jesus, just as David and you and I are raised up in our baptism for a purpose. A purpose that God has planned for each of us. David, to be King of Israel and God's son. Jesus, raised to minister, teach, love, heal, suffer and die on the cross for our sin. And you or I with a purpose God has given us, unique to each, but still common in the love Jesus has shown us and the power and gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit.

Yet we look forward to that next raising up when the promise will be fulfilled and we will raise from the dead and unite with Jesus the forerunner and King. Not only will that cause us to be amazed then, but we can already be amazed now that we have been set free from sin and raised up ready to live and love God and our neighbor in the joy of active love. Thanks be to God!

Thank you for Jesus, for Baptism and Holy Communion, all reminders of how you have raised each one of us, here and now. May we all live your call each day... today... tomorrow... and into eternity. --- Amen

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22nd - Reflection

James 4:11-16 (NRSV)
We do not know what tomorrow will bring
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

A couple of items come to mind in this passage. The first is a hard one for me when you place it across the board of all people everywhere. I tend to judge another person. Look them over, see how they act and place a judgment. A judgment based on my value system. A value system that is fed by the Word of God but tainted by my own sin. A flawed value system.

If I were to raise my sights a little and view all people including me from a heavenly point of view; I would realize that I fall victim to my own judgment. And this may be where I need to be to see this. With this view it's so much easier to see that I fail too. I am in the same boat with the worst of sinners. I am completely dependent on Jesus to save me from my sin. My punishment, just as my friend or another is death.

Also from this view, it becomes clear that God intends for us to love one another, not to judge one another with some pious judgments. We are to emulate the love Jesus has shown for me to all people I meet. Why not just leave it like that? It's hard to not fall into the trap of judging another, but I'm going to try to change with God's help.

The second point seems to be about planning. Do we ever include God in our plans? Do we ever plan for God to step in and make the wonderful unexpected changes? Sure, we need to plan. We need to have a logical approach, but if God chooses to change those plans, we also need to stop and listen and not fight the change. Adapt God's plan and become part of that plan of God and rejoice in it rather than fight it.

Two tough thing for me to look at and to permit the change to take place. All in the trust of God that I too can change to be more like Jesus day by day. Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead me, guide me, show me how and when to love, change my plans and help me change into what you want me to be... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21st - Reflection

Matthew 18:1-5 (NRSV)
True greatness
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Can you be humble? Can you show respect to those you wouldn't expect? In a time when climbing the ladder and getting in the pecking order is important, Jesus wants us to know that forgiveness and humility are tops in attributes.

Move down and up and all around whatever position in life you have been given and grant full respect to all you meet. Each person has been chosen by God and is unique in gifts. Honor and love that person way above any perceived earthly pecking order. God's order is not your order or the earth's order. Each person is of great and awesome value to God.

So it should be with you and I in how we treat one another. We must treat the weakest person as a person to be respected and not as a person to be manipulated. In this love, we turn towards God as his children in respect of dependence and humility. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I look into the eyes of another may I see your eyes. May I show each person you give to me this day as a child of God, to be loved, and to give life for... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20th - Reflection

Genesis 28:10-17 (NRSV)
God blesses the runaway Jacob

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

God chooses to be with us. The ramp to earth is supported from heaven. God and the angels can move up and down this ramp to be with us. We are of the earth and God has given this earth to us so that the earth would be blessed through us. We are not alone. Look and see the access God has to you and me. "Surely the Lord is in this place -- and I did not know it!" This is the gate of heaven, to you and to me. God is with us! Thanks be to God!

Lord, you are here with me. Guide my steps and actions this day that what I do and what I say may please you always. --- Amen

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19th - Reflection

Genesis 27:1-29 (NRSV)
The younger son gets the blessing
When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, "My son"; and he answered, "Here I am." He said, "See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die."

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "I heard your father say to your brother Esau, 'Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.' Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies." But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, "Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing." His mother said to him, "Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me." So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

So he went in to his father, and said, "My father"; and he said, "Here I am; who are you, my son?" Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me." But Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" He answered, "Because the Lord your God granted me success." Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not." So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau." He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. He said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He answered, "I am." Then he said, "Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son's game and bless you." So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come near and kiss me, my son." So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
"Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother's sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!"

This whole deception seems to ring of an earlier deception in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Yet this one seems to be ordained by God for some reason. This deception seems to be OK? I search and think about it some and wonder if the Spirit is moving through Rebekah but then pause to consider how can you tell the differences in deception? What deception is good and what is bad?

Or is it that God uses deception? That seems to strike me in a wrong way. Why am I down to my feelings in this? It's not about how I feel that makes things right or wrong. It's about what God decides is right or least I think???

Or possibly is this an example of how God uses flawed deceptive people to tell the story of salvation through Jesus. Our sin is built in and we can't free ourselves. We need a savior. God sends that savior in flesh and blood. The Word becomes flesh and dwells with us. The Bread of life comes into this world through the House of Bread to feed us truth, love, hope and compassion in God and takes on this sin we have been saddled with throughout time to free us and give us new life in God.

God in an amazing way uses our own deception to save us from ourselves and bring us to new life in him. Thanks be to God!

Lord, use me as I am, flawed and deceptive in myself, but truthful and loving in you that I may serve you in your kingdom and love those you give to me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18th - Reflection

14th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)

The parable of the vineyard workers
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

This parable, or rather this situation, doesn't seem to fit into this world we live in. Sure the people would be mad who worked all day and didn't get paid more. Sure the landowner has the right to pay whatever she chooses. But this parable speaks to me more about payment in the kingdom of God.

Our work in God's Kingdom, in which we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Your Kingdom come."  praying that God's Kingdom would come to us and that we may have the privilege to work in that Kingdom. It's not a chore to work here. God has already given us all that we need and gifted us with talents and resources to use in working in the Kingdom of God. This is an honor and privilege. This is an opportunity to serve God! It's great to work all day rather that just a few minutes at the end of the day. It's even more wonderful because the payment to work all day is just as much as it is just to work a few minutes. You would think that the pay would go down for the amount of time you got to work! After all you had more time to serve God!

Rejoice in the opportunity to work in God's Kingdom. The longer the better. And give thanks for those brothers and sisters in Christ that finally join in at whatever time in life they can... before it's too late! Thanks be to God!

Be with me this day as I go into your Kingdom to work. Show me the steps to take, the words to use, and the opportunities you give for service to you and my neighbor. Thanks for a wonderful opportunity to work and serve you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 17th - Reflection

Psalm 145:1-8 (NRSV)
God is slow to anger

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Just can't help myself! I can't help it that I proclaim God's wondrous deeds from one generation to another. Just look around. Look up at the stars and try to imagine the maker. Look through a microscope and see life at a level that the normal eye can't even grasp. Look around at the variety of life. Now, I don't care what you say, someone loves life and gave it to us. I just can't help myself!

Then read the Bible. Go to church and learn abour a sacrament or two. Look and see the Spirit of God active in the lives of those who love and are compassionate. See God's Spirit moving across and through the waters, in the bread and wine. Grasp for the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection. And what about the Holy Spirit. Read through the story of the Old Testament and the temple, all the offerings, the rescue and salvation. See Jesus, birth and life ministry. And get just a little bit of the whole sin and salvation sacrifice of God sending Jesus in our stead on that cross.

Just can't help myself! I can't help it that I proclaim God's wondrous deeds from one generation to another. Thanks be to God!

God, you are simply amazing... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16th - Reflection

2 Corinthians 13:5-10 (NRSV)
Correction that builds up

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong -- not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
Build each other up. Don't tear each other down. It's too easy to point out the failures. Rather point out and build on the success and love we have one for another. Jesus Christ is in you, so look to the good that is in you or another and love each other for that. What more could you ever want. Thanks be to God!

Lord, show me the good in others and myself that I may build up another. --- Amen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15th - Reflection

2 Corinthians 13:1-4 (NRSV)
Dissent among believers

This is the third time I am coming to you. "Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses." I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
When you are concerned about someone else you need to be persistent. Don't give up. Say a prayer and see how God guides your steps. Be open to the word and be understanding, compassionate, loving and obedient to the will of God. If it takes some tough words so be it, if not, so be it. For God works through you in weakness and strength.

Lord, lead me and guide me in the situations that I am presented with in life that I may do your will... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14th - Reflection

Mark 11:20-25 (NRSV)
Forgiveness for those who forgive In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

It's not about what I want. It's not about what I want to take place. It's all about what God wants and what God wants to take place. I pray that I may be involved with what God wants and what God wants to take place.

I believe and trust God enough to sacrifice my will for God's will. I believe and trust God enough to be God's living sacrifice.

As far as I know, I feel no need to do anything about fig trees or mountains. But if this be God's will then God will provide me with the wherewithall to do something about it.

Reflect on Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham was giving up the promise of life through him to a command from God. Abraham came just that close to sacrificing his son for God. But God stopped him. God would do this through Jesus.

So as we stand in prayer, it's not about what I or you want, it's about what God wants to do through us. And one of those things God states that God wants in this passage is for each of us to forgive one another. That's just one of those things that God wants through us, God's living sacrifices. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, you became my sacrifice for my sin. May I be a living sacrifice to you today... tomorrow... and forever. All in what you want. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13th - Reflection

Genesis 49:29-50:14 (NRSV)
Honoring Jacob's burial wishes
Then he charged them, saying to them, "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors -- in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites." When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

Then Joseph threw himself on his father's face and wept over him and kissed him. Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, "If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: My father made me swear an oath; he said, 'I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.' Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return." Pharaoh answered, "Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do."

So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father seven days. When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, "This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians." Therefore the place was named Abel mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them. They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
Jacob came to Egypt and found life. He found life not only in the food that sustained his family during a tough time, but he also found the life of Joseph whom Jacob presumed dead for years. Now in death, Jacob leaves Egypt to be buried with his ancestors. All this a mini-series in the life of the birth of the Israelites. The Israelites would continue to live in Egypt and become slaves, eventually being led out of Egypt by Moses.

The ups and downs of life sometimes follow a pattern similar to this journey in and out of Egypt. We find life and later conclude that the life we found was not the life we thought it was. So we continue to follow God's leading and move closer to the Promised Land. There are ups and downs along the way. In each of those changes we learn lessons of life that God uses to shape us to form the ministry we will have or need.

Joseph came to Egypt and found life in prison and out of prison. Jacob came to Egypt and found the life of his beloved son. We come to Egypt and find what God has led us to find. All the ups and downs of life that God will lead us through, bringing us closer to the Promised Land and closer to what God intends for us to be. Thanks be to God!

Lord, help me to faithfully follow you wherever you lead that I may become that much closer to what you want me to be and do... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12th - Reflection

Genesis 48:8-22 (NRSV)
Jacob blesses Joseph's sons
When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, "Who are these?" Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." And he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them." Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, and he could not see well. So Joseph brought them near him; and he kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, "I did not expect to see your face; and here God has let me see your children also." Then Joseph removed them from his father's knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them near him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, for Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said,
"The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys;
and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac;
and let them grow into a multitude on the earth."

When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father! Since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head." But his father refused, and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." So he blessed them that day, saying,
"By you Israel will invoke blessings, saying,
'God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.'"
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, "I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your ancestors. I now give to you one portion more than to your brothers, the portion that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow."

An adoption here of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh by Israel. An adoption with the last to be first and the first to be last.

I have been adopted too. Adopted by God as a Child of God. And I, am not of the first. But adoption or position is not what God is seeking. God's blessing is not secured by nature or order. God's blessing is secured as a gift. I did not or could not do anything to receive this blessing from God. I couldn't. If God had chosen to not bless me than that would be God's choice, not mine.

And the same is true for all people. We all have been blessed by God with the birth, ministry, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. God came to all people in the flesh of Jesus. God became human to take on the sin of the world. God blessed us through our baptism not because of anything we could ever do but all because of what God has done.

So what do we do? We bow our heads and let God choose which hand to place on us and humbly and joyfully receive the blessing. And in this, we each move to life, we all begin to live, a new creation has begun. All because of God's adoption, blessing and love. Thanks be to God!

Lord, here I am, I bow my head to you and give you all thanks, praise and glory... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th - Reflection

13th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)

A parable of forgiveness
Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

That slave owed his lord a bunch of money. Some resources I researched went from thousands of dollars to millions. The point is he owed a bunch. And his lord forgave the debt because the slave pleaded with him. How much more should the slave have forgiven the debt of those who owed him. And here is our link to sin.

Just as God has forgiven our sins we are to forgive those who sin against us. I owe a bunch for my sin. I can't even come close to paying back what I owe. Just because God sent Jesus to take on my sin and die in my sin on that cross, this does not give me the right to even try to pay it back. Even if I could get some back from those who have sinned against me, that too, wouldn't even come close to paying back what I owe.

So instead of this whole paying God back for forgiveness, he encourages me, to forget about it! He encourages me to tell my friends who have sinned against me... forget about it! My sin, your sin and all sin was taken care of on that cross by Jesus. Don't live in concentration on sin. Live in concentration of the love and forgiveness that Jesus gave for me, you and all people on that cross. Remember that! Remember that and live that love forever in unison with Jesus, and one another. Thanks be to God!

Lord you gave your life for all of our sin. Help us to forget about that and live the love you have shown us one for another and remember that!... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10th - Reflection

Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 (NRSV)
God's compassion and mercy
( Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits --
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel. )

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

God makes us to know his steadfast love. We know God's love because God has dealt with our sins through Jesus. So now God no longer has to deal with us according to our sins. We are now free to live for God and in God because of God's wonderful compassion for his beloved people.

As we remember the journey of the Chosen people out of the bondage of Egypt and into the Promised Land, we see a God that is faithful to his covenant and promise. God has promised us a freedom and a land. And God has canceled out our sin and counters the disease and weakness of sin with new life.

New life and new creation in a land filled with milk and honey. We look to this new land through the eyes of all people, knowing that in this land we will see him face to face. A promised land where every knee shall bow and proclaim the glorious, wonderful, everlasting name of our God and Savior.

What a promise, what a covenant, what a Savior! Thanks be to God!

Lord, focus the eyes of all people on you and your wondrous deeds, that we may learn to live in love, one with another... today... tomorrow and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 9th - Reflection

Acts 7:9-16 (NRSV)
Joseph's family is fed in Egypt
"The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

"...but God was with him.." God was with Joseph. Joseph's brothers intended to do harm to him and sold him into Egypt. God made good out of it. The sin was turned around to good by God. The brothers were eventually reconciled and Joseph was able to see his father, Jacob, once again.

The evil of a famine was turned around for good. We suffer pain on so many levels. Pain not caused by God. Pain caused by a wounded and falling world due to our sin and the destruction it brings along with it. Our selfish actions for material goods leads to destruction of natural resources which lead to this then that and on until the chain is broken and damaged and we have famine. Not famine caused by God, but famine as a result of nature and nature as a result of our selfishness. But God makes good out of all this. A family and a race of people is saved. A people from which will come our Savior, Jesus, who comes to defeat sin and death and turn around the negative destructive events we are causing by our fall from sin.

The story continues in you and me. We can tell the gospel or we can continue in our destructive actions. Actually we will do both. But we will live with and within the people and world and place God has set us to point to the Savior Jesus who has an answer for all of this. Thanks be to God! Jesus is our Savior...just look around and see...just wait and see the glory to come.

Lord, curb my selfish desire to consume beyond control. Send me to build and restore creation with the love and passion you created it. Recreate and renew in me a new heart as I follow you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 08, 2011

September 8th - Reflection

1 John 3:11-16 (NRSV)
Love one another For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

I find it a little easier to work this passage backwards. As Christians, we know the Love of God because Jesus laid down his life to give us life free from the eternal damnation and death of sin. Jesus became our sin and died on the cross.

In this way we know Love which is Jesus. Accepting this work of Jesus and having faith in what Jesus has done we are now living life. We are living ever-lasting life, here and now. A life where we have been taught love.

Those separated from this love are living sin. They have not passed out of the death of sin into the love of Christ. As Christians we have this knowledge. This isn't to say that we don't sin. We will sin, but we won't be trapped in that sin. We know that Jesus gave his life for our sin so that we can be free. We acknowledge the sin, repent, and change our ways to follow Jesus.

A person living in the sin will hate the Christians. As Christians we too must give our lives out of love for those who do not know Christ. We seek nothing for ourselves in order to offer the priceless gift of the gospel to our neighbor of whom we love. Jesus has taught us how to do this.

The consequence may be at least two-fold. The person may receive the gift, or perhaps the person may resent the offering of the gift and retaliate. The story of Cain and Abel is used here as this example.

But in this passage we learn that life and love go together in our walk as Christians. And we have been shown this through the life and love of Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I step out into this world, may life and love meet. As I offer love, may the lives of others see the gospel and come to believe. Open my eyes however to the consequences and the possibilities that the gift may be turned away and teach me to trust you always... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

September 7th - Reflection

Matthew 21:18-22 (NRSV)
Jesus teaches about praying in faith
In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?" Jesus answered them, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive."
This fig tree at this time of year would only have had some small fruit on it. But it didn't have any fruit on it. Jesus was with the people of Israel. God was with them. And Jesus could not see any fruit from his presence developing on his people.

It's not any different with you or I. God is patient with us, but at some time there will be a judgment. Jesus love and desire is that when that judgment comes we will have fruit developing. Jesus wants us to grow in faith and understanding and love. But there are those who choose not to do this. There are those who would rather choose their own way or go a different way and bear no fruit. Sadly, at the judgment, they will wither and die.

So here we see Jesus praying with examples for all people to have faith and grow fruit pleasing to God. Sometimes we get hung up in the miracle and miss the message. And most times there are so many messages. Thanks be to God!

Lord, open my eyes to your presence in my life and build my faith so that I am fruitful to your liking. May I hear your teaching, see your teaching, and understand your teaching that I may act out on what you would have me do... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

September 6th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (NRSV)
Punishment for sin in community
If there is found among you, in one of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and transgresses his covenant by going to serve other gods and worshiping them -- whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden -- and if it is reported to you or you hear of it, and you make a thorough inquiry, and the charge is proved true that such an abhorrent thing has occurred in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has committed this crime and you shall stone the man or woman to death. On the evidence of two or three witnesses the death sentence shall be executed; a person must not be put to death on the evidence of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another -- any such matters of dispute in your towns -- then you shall immediately go up to the place that the Lord your God will choose, where you shall consult with the levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days; they shall announce to you the decision in the case. Carry out exactly the decision that they announce to you from the place that the Lord will choose, diligently observing everything they instruct you. You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left. As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the Lord your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.

It all sounds a little familiar. Sounds like some trumped up charges brought against Jesus. It was the duty of all the people who encountered idol worship. Was Jesus an idol? Was this so called Father of his an idol? Jesus wouldn't confess to the Father thing he kept speaking of as being an idol. Jesus and the Father were one. Jesus is Truth. Jesus and the Father is God. But we need two witnesses to bring him to trial. --- that person shall die --- purge the evil...

Let us love one another. Let us love God and one another. Jesus is life and truth and hope and salvation. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I jump in with the crowd, slow me down to look for your truth and your way so that harsh decisions are not made with life. For you are the author of life. Teach me to love and act justly in your will and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, September 05, 2011

September 5th - Reflection

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (NRSV)
Atoning for sin in the community
If anyone of the ordinary people among you sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord's commandments ought not to be done and incurs guilt, when the sin that you have committed is made known to you, you shall bring a female goat without blemish as your offering, for the sin that you have committed. You shall lay your hand on the head of the sin offering; and the sin offering shall be slaughtered at the place of the burnt offering. The priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and he shall pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. He shall remove all its fat, as the fat is removed from the offering of well-being, and the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar for a pleasing odor to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf, and you shall be forgiven. ...

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When any of you commit a trespass and sin unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, you shall bring, as your guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, convertible into silver by the sanctuary shekel; it is a guilt offering. And you shall make restitution for the holy thing in which you were remiss, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. The priest shall make atonement on your behalf with the ram of the guilt offering, and you shall be forgiven.

Here we have the sin offering and the guilt offering. Offerings made when the sin was a mistake. Many times the person or group did not even know that they had sinned until sometime later. Maybe they touched something unclean or accidentally came into contact with bodily fluids that they were unaware of at the time.

The sin offering is typically the more public of the two offerings and the guilt offering is more for the individual unknown sin.

The ram or goat or animal to be sacrificed is brought forward and you lay your hand on it's head. In this way you are indicating that in this beast you are offering yourself to God. The offering is killed, cut, blood placed on the horns of the altar and poured at the base, the fat removed and is burnt. In some instances the burning is a holocaust or complete consumption.

There is a pattern of recognizing your sin, confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness in offering yourself to God. Somewhere I latched on to the idea of smelling the stench of your sin. The closer we get to it, the stronger the odor. We recognize our sin and then approach the priest to confess our sin and repent. That's all a little more than just saying I'm sorry. You feel the gravity and seriousness of your sin and the impact your sin has had on others as well as yourself. What a mess you have made of things and you feel the deep, to the core, need for forgiveness. You know separation from God and feel this. And now you offer yourself to God. You can do nothing else but lay your life before God in total dependence on God for life.

Jesus lay his hands upon you and me. Jesus identified with you and me...yet he knew no sin. Jesus became our sin that we may have life. Thanks be to God!

Lord, there is no doubt I need forgiveness. Without you my life is eternal damnation. You are the only One who could rescue me from sin. I give my life to you this day and am deeply sorry for the mess I have made of it. Turn my life around and create a new and right spirit within me I pray. --- Amen

Sunday, September 04, 2011

September 4th - Reflection

12th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV)
Reconciliation in the community of faith
"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

This is about the community of the Church, each person being humble, and acceptance of Christ and one another. In the Church we live together with one another. Our love for one another is bound in the love of Christ.

Certainly, Christians will sin. They will sin against God, against the public, and they will sin against one another. In love, when we recognize sin, we go to each other. We confess our sin together. This confession and forgiveness is one of the most powerful aspects of Christ's activity in the church.

Sense sin is never individual, even in the forgiveness, pain will follow. Many innocent people are hurt in our sin. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that the pain of sin will not be present. There will be pain and decay from sin. Witness the society and world today. We are all in a state of decay. Sin has brought upon us a decay towards death.

So this act of calling out the sin of a sister or brother in Christ is an act of love. The Church desires that all may seek forgiveness and reconciliation. For we are all in this state of decay. Through this forgiveness and recognition of our state of decay, we humbly come together and walk hand-in-hand towards that cross of Christ where all the sin of the world died in Jesus.

And out of this death comes life and reconciliation, love and growth in the Kingdom. We look through the stain of our sin to the glory of Jesus coming again to us, through us, and to fulfill the community of all believers. We look through our sin to that day that sin will be no more and we will see the love of Jesus clearly. Thanks be to God!

Lord, open my ears to your voice when I sin. Help me to hear, understand and humble myself. As I confess my sin, I reach out for forgiveness and renewal... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, September 03, 2011

September 3rd - Reflection

Psalm 119:33-40 (NRSV)
The path of your commandments
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.

I long to learn and understand the whole Law of God with my whole heart. I know that I will never be able to do this, but this does not persuade me from the desire to understand all that I can or am able. It is a delight to study and be taught the Law of God and because of Jesus I desire to follow him and be taught God's Law all my life.

I fall short of that Law, but I know of a grace that far exceeds my attempts to keep that Law. I know of a grace in God's love through Jesus that teaches me to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and soul and love my neighbor as well.

In that act of love that Jesus granted to the entire world we can live under the Law and not fear the Law. We can learn and study the Law and not be afraid of our failures. We are free to sin boldly yet live in the understanding that through Jesus there is life after that sin. This isn't an excuse to sin, but rather a release to live in the grace and love of Christ that far exceeds the sin we could ever commit. Once we live in that grace we are also free to love boldly and serve boldly and follow Christ with a passion. Thanks be to God!

Lord, with my whole heart I will follow you with a single-mindedness of one who fears God yet rejoices in God's blessings... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 02, 2011

September 2nd - Reflection

Romans 10:15b-21 (NRSV)
God reaches out to erring Israel
As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for

"Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world."

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
"I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry."

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
"I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me."

But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people."

Years ago there was a bumper sticker that said something to the effect that I found him. Same type of thing happened to Israel when they suddenly found Jesus in their midst. And then again with a few of the disciples. They found Jesus, come and follow.

It may be that we find Jesus or in most cases Jesus finds us, but at some point we have to decide, are we going to follow him? Are we going to give up control of our life to follow Jesus and let God control our lives. And I don't mean follow like a zombie, I mean follow and use all of the gifts God has graciously given and cultivated in you to God's plan and God's glory.

It's time to get off the fence and decide! We have the Bible to read. Read it! We have faithful servants that preach and serve the bread and wine and offer wonderful ways to praise God. What are you waiting for? Go! Your faith will grow and you will begin to understand that awesome forgiveness God has in store for you. Get up and go! Make up your mind!

So if we decide to follow, we must listen carefully to the Word and obey the instruction that Word brings to us, following faithfully and cheerfully the God of all that gave his life in order that you may live now and forever in his name. Thanks be to God!

Lord, kick me in the pants to decide for you and go. I need that sometimes. We're not talking about a little things here. I want to follow you today... tomorrow... and forever. It's time for me to go! --- Amen

Thursday, September 01, 2011

September 1st - Reflection

2 Corinthians 12:11-21 (NRSV)
Sinners warned but unrepentant
I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.

We have ways to turn things around. The Corinthians turned it all around on Paul and made false accusations. Paul, instead of turning it around turned the Corinthians toward Christ. The Word of God does not take others in by deceit. It is the Spirit that convinces. Speak in Christ before God and others will be built up. In the church, Paul is consistent in the building up of faith. Some will fall spiritually dead. Mourn those fallen and continue in love. Thanks be to God!

Lord, build up your church. Direct your Word through each one of us that we can carefully and compassionately live in love towards you and one another... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen