Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30th - Reflection

Andrew, Apostle
John 1:35-42 (NRSV)

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

Previous verses to this passage are an introduction of Jesus by John the Baptist. Here John calls Jesus the "Lamb of God" and two disciples begin to follow Jesus. Not follow in the sense of what we think of as a disciple following Jesus, but more in the sense of walking with Jesus.

As I follow Jesus and look to where he is staying. I find Jesus to spend most of his time with me. I find Jesus staying with me. Not because I'm such a wonderful host. But Jesus stays with me and each of us because of his love for us. I remain with Jesus as Jesus remains with me.

It seems that in this way disciples are formed that follow Jesus' teachings. Disciples discover and tell others to "Come and See!" It turns out that we didn't discover Jesus as much as Jesus decided to be with us, to work with us and to teach us his will and his way.

Jesus decides to show us where he stays. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I'm glad you took this tag along in to show you where you stay... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29th - Reflection

Micah 4:6-13 (NRSV)
A promise of restoration after exile
In that day, says the Lord,
I will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away,
and those whom I have afflicted.
The lame I will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
now and forevermore.

And you, O tower of the flock,
hill of daughter Zion,
to you it shall come,
the former dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.
Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor?
Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labor; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the Lord will redeem you from the hands of your enemies.
Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, "Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion."
But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.
Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples, and shall devote their gain to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

People driven from the land they love to another land. All because of their stubborn separation from God. Only a few will be left and of those, they will be lame. But God has a plan of suffering, exile and then restoration.

When I have stepped away from God this was a choice I have made. God didn't want me to step away. God always wanted me with him. In my stepping away I feel the suffering and exile of my separation from God. I did this to myself. God did not do this to me. In my pride I was too proud to come back to God. It reminds me of the prodigal son. But God is always ready for me to return from a foreign land with open, loving, and so inviting arms of love and joy. And then come that wonderful party of restoration. God the Father is so happy for my return from exile. Once again we are united in the love the Father always had for me. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I long for a steadfast and faithful walk with you. When I wander may I never stray away... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28th - Reflection

Micah 4:1-5 (NRSV)
A promise of peace
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord's house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,

and many nations shall come and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines
and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.

It's so wonderful to have an open invitation for all people to something so wonderful that a few people have witnessed. God is like this. We witness our relationship with God and it's so wonderful we can't help but to invite other's into the same relationship.

When the movement catches on, people flow towards that relationship with God, not one by one, but like a river of water, bubbling over the rocks and tumbling down the falls. We would go through anything to climb that mountain to see the house of God. We would do anything to be with all the people who have discovered the walk with God and one another in their life.

The focus of society would change. Our focus would now be on new life and growth in relationship of love with God and one another. No more reason for fussing and fighting with each other. Our focus would be laser beam on the love of God in and through Jesus our Savior. War is gone and all our efforts would be towards peace and love and helping those in need.

It's so wonderful to have an open invitation that results in dramatic change. Thanks be to God!

Lord, we hear people speak of change on this earth, yet they speak of small incremental change which in the end sometimes appears to be no change at all. But the change you propose is open to all and the focus is all around the love your have shown us in Christ Jesus. That's change that will change the world. Change that makes so many people excited that they flow like a river to be involved and understand how to emulate that love to you and to all others. Change that brings peace and joy and love. We look to Jesus to see that change and follow him in love ... today ... tomorrow ... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27th - Reflection

First Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:24-37 (NRSV)

The coming of the Son of Man
"But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

One thing for sure out of these passages is Jesus will come again. The time he will come is uncertain but Jesus will come again. The signs of the nearness of his coming don't lead me to think of any particular time other than anytime. I suppose he will make it clear to me if stars fall and the sun darkens and the moon doesn't shine. But I really don't want to get all caught up in watching and waiting for Jesus coming.

I would rather spend my time walking with Jesus, learning his will and his way and applying that to those Jesus came to save. I would rather not waste time on trying to figure out the day of Jesus return. I would rather not waste time trying to watch everything moment of history on the earth or in the sky in an attempt to figure out the day Jesus will be coming.

I feel as if when Jesus, Moses, Elijah and that other friend come to my door each day and Jesus wants to know if Billy can come out to play...Jesus has come to me. So why worry about what he is going to do with the day. If Jesus decides today is the day for playing in the clouds then let's do it.

I guess my point is this. Just get yourself with Jesus. Do the simple things first. Hear, listen, see and believe in Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit will gift you with all you need and your faith will grow. You will know your call in this life and what steps to take. You won't be the burning success that the world has painted as successful, but you will be a humble servant of God doing the best you can with the gifts you have given that is in need of forgiveness. Your desires will change and you will be content to follow Jesus day after day. Even if Jesus says today it's time we meet in the clouds.

So why try to calculate the day this will happen. You're just going to sound like that Garman in the car when you are lost and so is the Garman... "recalculating"... "recalculating"... "recalculating."

I look forward with joy and thanksgiving to this day in the clouds when I can proclaim all glory and honor to Jesus. But that day is a gift to receive in the future few second, minutes, hours, years or decades. I'll leave that up to God. For now I will praise, honor, and glorify my Savior as he comes to my door each day... "Can Billy come out to play?" Sure! See you later Mom, I'm going outside! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I look forward to your arrival each and every day. I look forward to reliving my baptism with those rich waters flowing and cleansing me in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. I look forward to that sign of the cross on my forehead as I am marked as yours forever. As I remember my baptism and see how through my hearing and listening and believing in Jesus that my faith has grown each day, I look forward to going out to play with you and all you bring along each day, as you teach us how to put hands and feet into the love your have given to all the world. This thing is forever and I give you all the thanks, honor, glory and praise... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 26th - Reflection

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (NRSV)
We shall be saved
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. ...

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

I am focused on the phrase about the Shepherd leader who is "enthroned upon the cherubim" and what thoughts have come to my mind.

When I see the word cherubim and enthroned together I can't help but think of the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. The place where God sits above the two cherubim guards in the presence of the people. So he sits "enthroned upon the cherubim."

As the psalmist cries out from darkness of separation from God, the psalmist cries for the light of salvation from God. A Light from the mercy seat of God depicted as the Shepherd. Then I'm reminded of the passages in the New Testament, especially in John, where Jesus is referred to as the "Light of the world" there are so many various images of light associated with God that it seems to emphasize my fascination with this psalm.

And finally the image of the Shepherd, I'm reminded of the Good Shepherd and Jesus. I think of God's promise that a Shepherd would rise up from the lineage of David from which we now have our Savior Jesus. But the irony of my whole fascination with this one phrase seems to be my realization that in salvation the Shepherd and the Sheep became one, slaughtered upon the cross for the sins of the people. Slaughtered on the mercy seat itself.

I read in a source that one item of the cross commonly used was a little platform placed of the vertical of the cross that was something like a seat which permitted the person being executed to barely sit to allow them to get a breath while hanging from the cross. One of the issues of hanging from a cross was that with arms extended the person would basically suffocate. This small platform would give short relief but was not positioned in such a way that you could just sit there upon it for any length of time. This platform was termed the "mercy seat."

When I take this small phrase from the psalm I am reminded of how Jesus was the Light of the world. I'm reminded of how Jesus light shown brightly from that cross as he gave us life being the Shepherd and the sheep from the mercy seat of the cross that Friday. I'm reminded of Jesus, "enthroned upon the cherubim"  and how when I look upon the cross I see Jesus and humbly plead to Jesus... "let your face shine, that we may be saved." Thanks be to God!

Lord, I'm astounded at the rich meaning that your Word brings to my life. Lead me and guide me that I may see your face shine in all glory, for you graciously came to save me from my sin as you sat enthroned upon the cherubim of that mercy seat. As I see your face shine, may your Light shine in and through me this day to all the world. --- Amen

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25th - Reflection

1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 (NRSV)
A life pleasing God to the end
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Wow! What a passage! A lesson on living, minding your own business, loving, compassion, working, and waiting for Jesus. God has called us not to live the life of a sinner but to live the life God has planned for us. I'm surely still a sinner, but I'm a forgiven sinner. I can live without the worrying about the ultimate punishment for my sin and walk boldly with Jesus, doing his will and following in his teachings. I don't have the fear and the total focus of my life on attempting to be free of sin because Jesus freed me. So now I can live for Jesus and love others as Jesus loved me. Well isn't that just peachy keen and all Christian like!

For sure it sounds all good, but for me, it's more than words, it's a way to live. It's not a way to be like the Church Lady and put on a show. It's the dirty, down to earth, living with the poor and sinful and sick and needy that makes Jesus real. The bells and smells are fine and needed for worship, but at some time you have to leave worship and walk in the kingdom with God.

Worship is for our falling before God in praise, honor and thanksgiving. Worship is where we meet God in Word and Sacrament. Worship is most vital, but Church is that union with the saints and that union with Christ when we go out into our separate worlds to live the calling God has given to us and use the gifts the Spirit has provided for the love of all people.

And then there is that great day... when we are united with our bodies... and Jesus comes to do the most awesome. When we are reunited in the clouds with all... body and spirit. That rapienur or rapture. The cloud reminds me of God's presence with the Israelites in the wilderness. They were led by a cloud by day and fire by night. The cloud reminds me of the transfiguration when God reunited our faithful Fathers of all times with Jesus. The cloud reminds me of the presence of God.

But until that day I'll wait and serve the Lord, knowing that one day Jesus will be escorted to the earth by His people and all will be reunited in the cloud. Those who died long ago and those still alive. Thanks be to God!

Lord, hear my praise, honor and glory for all you have done. I worship you as you lead me and guide me and call me day by day and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24th - Reflection

Revelation 14:6-13 (NRSV)
Hold fast to the faith
Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."

Then another angel, a second, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, "Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, they will also drink the wine of God's wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name."

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them."
The eternal gospel... the last warning given to all people. I can be stubborn at times like all people, but at some time or another you have to repent. You have to admit your sin and repent. You have to seek forgiveness.

And God through Jesus has granted that forgiveness. So, in the eternal gospel, also comes eternal blessings for those who repent. "Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord." Thanks be to God!

Lord, what better time than now to listen and believe. What better time than now to repent. What better time than now for faith and love and hope. What better time than now to move from death to life in you. What better time than now! --- Amen

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23rd - Reflection

John 5:19-40 (NRSV)
The judgment of the Son
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

"Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

"I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

"Very truly, I tell you..." Jesus is telling me something in which I need to listen carefully and ponder deeply. These are lifetime statements. These are statements directly to my spirit. What unifies the Father and the Son is love. In this love is a full sharing of plans. The Father and Son are together fully on this act that Jesus is about to take. Love for me and all the world. Love that will save all from sin, death and the devil. Love through Jesus from the Father. Love that unifies the Father and the Son with me and all people.

"Very truly, I tell you..." We hear the Word and believe. The hearing and believing lead us through the Son to eternal life in the Son who is in the Father. In the hearing and believing I have a faith that comes to life because I recognize Jesus actions as saving actions. This isn't something I have done. This is faith given to me by God through my hearing and believing. And faith begins to pass from one to another, throughout all the world.

We pass from death to life. The death could be the death of our spirit in the hearing and believing we pass to life in the love of the Father through the Son. In this passing from death to life the Holy Spirit gives us all that we need to act out the love shown to us by Jesus from the Father.

Very truly... hear and believe... see faith grow... see action come through the Spirit in love through you to all the world. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I hear it... I see it... I believe it... I don't understand it... but I feel the faith... I see the gifts... I hear your call each day for Billy to come out and play... use me to show your love to all the world... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22nd - Reflection

Esther 8:3-17 (NRSV)
Queen Esther saves her people

Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet, weeping and pleading with him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. The king held out the golden scepter to Esther, and Esther rose and stood before the king. She said, "If it pleases the king, and if I have won his favor, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I have his approval, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote giving orders to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming on my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?" Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai, "See, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews. You may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked."

The king's secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred twenty-seven provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. He wrote letters in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed them with the king's ring, and sent them by mounted couriers riding on fast steeds bred from the royal herd. By these letters the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of the writ was to be issued as a decree in every province and published to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal steeds, hurried out, urged by the king's command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.

Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king, wearing royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple, while the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor. In every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday. Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

The bravery of Esther to go before the king with her life is rewarded by the King's decision to allow Mordecai to write a new edict for the kingdom. Esther becomes the savior of the Jews. The new edict permits the Jews to defend themselves against those who may decide to enforce the previous edict of Haman to destroy the Jews.

I can see Jesus in these passages. I can see the Father sending his Son into the world to save us from our evil, selfish, sinful selves with a new edict. A new edict of love and life. But this is love and life at the expense of the humiliation, suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus died and rose again and stamped with eternal approval new life in God for all the world.

Like Jesus and Esther, I can step out into the kingdom day after day, as Jesus calls Billy out to play and serve in this new life by feeding others in need, standing with the sick, and visiting the imprisoned and daily taking the love of Jesus to all that God gives to me day after day. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks that you visit every day. You visit in the face of the most unexpected. May you visit through me this day as Your love is shared throughout all the world by all your people ... today ... tomorrow ... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21st - Reflection

Esther 2:1-18 (NRSV)
Lowly Esther becomes queen
After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's servants who attended him said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa under custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. And let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This pleased the king, and he did so.

Now there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite. Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried away. Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter. So when the king's order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food, and with seven chosen maids from the king's palace, and advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell. Every day Mordecai would walk around in front of the court of the harem, to learn how Esther was and how she fared.

The turn came for each girl to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their cosmetic treatment, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics for women. When the girl went in to the king she was given whatever she asked for to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she went in; then in the morning she came back to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines; she did not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.

When the turn came for Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was admired by all who saw her. When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers "Esther's banquet." He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

I've always tended toward reading these passages as a fairy tale. But on second thought, maybe deeper thought; I feel for the women being hoarded in and taken from family, most likely not willingly, to be paraded in front of the king because of their beauty. Beauty, instead of being an asset has become a reason for humiliation. Sure, if you won you may be queen, but how can you trust this king? Maybe he just wanted to see all the most beautiful women in his kingdom? Just look at the passages preceding and you will discover see his attitude and respect towards women.

But Esther, as a Jew in exile, was lead to see this as an opportunity by Mordecai. If successful, Esther could be a key leader in the rescue of the Jews from exile in Babylon. Esther, with great bravery takes the chance and follows Mordecai's advice.

We all have opportunities that come and go from time to time that enable us to help the larger community. Sometimes we need to be brave and take that step. Sometimes we have been given an asset that God would like for us to apply to the greater good of all instead of keeping that asset to ourselves. Sometimes we need to be that person, like Mordecai, that points out that asset to the person that has it and give a little push. In either case, I think, we are called to use the gifts God has given us to help the greater community in the love of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give thanks for all the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given the church and all it's people. Be with us and lead us and guide us as we use those gifts to further your will and your way in your kingdom ... today ... tomorrow ... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 20th - Reflection

Christ the King
Matthew 25:31-46 (NRSV)

The separation of sheep and goats
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

All those needy people! Not just Christians it seems but all of them. The strangers, thirsty, sick, prisoners, hungry or naked, it seems all people in need. And I'm one of them as well as all those around me, near or far. All people fall in need. This image points me back to the summary of commandments where we are to love God and one another. We are to live and act out the love God freely gave.

The Father sent the Son to save all people from their sin. Jesus took on our sin and died on the cross for our sin and rose in victory over that sin, that death, and the devil. He did this for all people and all walks of faith and life. And then we were filled with the Holy Spirit, taught and given the gifts needed to carry on this love in a world which is not perfect and filled with sin. We are to live and love others as Jesus lived and loved and died for us. Those actions need to be evident in our lives, not just in word but more importantly in deed.

You can't just stand on the corner and thump your Bible. You can't just ring and sing. You can't just sit and hear. At some point, if you really got the message from the Bible, or heard the Word in the song, or was visited by the Spirit in the pew; you will get up and GO. Go and put feet and hands and heart into the grace you have been given by God. You will GO and act out your faith. And that's where great joy takes place. Thanks be to God!

Lord, your resources are rich and plenteous. As I hear and understand your Word, may my feet and hands and heart itch for action. The action to show the love you have shown to me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 19th - Reflection

Psalm 95:1-7a (NRSV)
We are the people of God's pasture
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

"I just want to be a sheep. Baa baa baa baa."

There is only one God. People tend to worship others things and objects as gods, but there is only one God who saves. God has saved us and is the one God. Look at the world and all that God has created. Peer out into space and see just the beginning of the universe and all that God has created. Stare into a microscope and see life that is smaller than the naked eye and all that God has created. Our God who saved us is a powerful God.

This is only the beginning of the nature of God. Knowing this we should fall to our knees in praise and thanksgiving that this One God would choose to save us! We are truly the "sheep of his pasture" and "the sheep of his hand." Thanks be to God!

Lord I give you thanks and praise and all glory for all you do. You are my God and my salvation. That's awesome! --- Amen

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18th - Reflection

Revelation 22:1-9 (NRSV)
Worship God alone
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place."

"See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

There in God's Garden stands a tree that heals. Can't you just see Jesus and that crystal clear water flowing? Can't you just imagine that water being the very water you were baptized with? Fresh clear water and your beginning walk with God. Learning all of the Bible stories. Seeing Sunday School Teachers love you and care enough that they would witness their faith to you. Hearing sermons, singing in choirs, plays and growth in catechism. The learning and abundance of healing through this Tree that pours itself out to the point that even it's leaves heal the nations.

And then listen to the sounds of the tree and it's leaves blowing in the wind. Hear the babble of the water flowing. And smell that wonderful smell of new life and listen to the excitement of the people who realize that they are in a place free of pain and only need to worship this awesome Lord and Savior who brought this symbol of a tree of death and recreated it into a Tree of Life and Love. Thanks be to God!

"See, I am coming soon..." Come Lord Jesus, come. Come to me this day yet even more gloriously I pray that you would come to this world. You reign eternal. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17th - Reflection

Revelation 14:1-11 (NRSV)
Fear God and give God glory
Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth -- to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."

Then another angel, a second, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, "Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, they will also drink the wine of God's wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name."

What a song we will sing on this day. An eternal song of our salvation through Jesus. The gospel lives on into eternity. The news is forever good. The Word will reign supreme and all the redeemed will sing a new song.

Even today as children are saved they begin a new song of the redeemed. A new life is given and begins. A new creation begins to grow. We follow Jesus as disciples and are renewed day by day, moment by moment, lesson by lesson, in the love of Jesus. The Spirit is poured down upon us in rivers of waters to enrich our lives. Poured greater than the waters of the Niagara Falls with all the mist, the awesome sounds and the beautiful sights. God richly blesses us.

What a song we will sing on this day! Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you pour out those living waters upon me and create new life within my soul; may you be pleased to hear my song of thanks and praise... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16th - Reflection

Matthew 24:45-51 (NRSV)
Parable of the unfaithful slave
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It's a great time in the service of the Lord to be awarded further responsibility when you have been blessed by the Spirit to complete a great job. God gives us all the tools and talents we need to do the job. We need to make the effort to put those tools and talents freely given by God to use to the best ability we can.

It's an honor and a joy to be a servant in the kingdom of God. It's a blast of fun when Jesus shows up at your door each day with a few or a host of saints and invites you out to play in his kingdom. What an honor and joy this is. And just like a bunch of kids we get to laugh and play and giggle and tease and roll around in this world having fun while serving God. It's a great time in the service of the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Lord, may I use all that you have given to me to go in your love to love my neighbor... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15th - Reflection

Zechariah 2:1-5; 5:1-4 (NRSV)
Visions of mercy and judgment

I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length." Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it." ...

Again I looked up and saw a flying scroll. And he said to me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land; for everyone who steals shall be cut off according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cut off according to the writing on the other side. I have sent it out, says the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name; and it shall abide in that house and consume it, both timber and stones."
This new Jerusalem being rebuilt at the time was perhaps, in this vision, even another Jerusalem. A city that God would inhabit that had no boundaries and that all in it would have to appeal to the law to inhabit. A new city opened to you and me that we could only enter through the blood of Jesus. Jesus shed his blood and gave his life that we too may have life and inhabit this wonderful city without bounds. God will rebuild the city destroyed by mankind and make it a city to be inhabited by all his people who trust, hope, worship, believe and serve him. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive me for the destruction I have caused. Open wide your city that I too may enter through the blood of Jesus. Your love is amazing. Permit me to joyful union with you and all the saints... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14th - Reflection

Zechariah 1:7-17 (NRSV)
God's judgment and mercy

On the twenty fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo; and Zechariah said, In the night I saw a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, "What are these, my lord?" The angel who talked with me said to me, "I will show you what they are." So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, "They are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth." Then they spoke to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, "We have patrolled the earth, and lo, the whole earth remains at peace." Then the angel of the Lord said, "O Lord of hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you have been angry these seventy years?" Then the Lord replied with gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, Proclaim this message: Thus says the Lord of hosts; I am very jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am extremely angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they made the disaster worse. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Proclaim further: Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.

A night vision of some colored horses. People coming to protect God's people. Perhaps they were angels. Red of battles and bloodshed, white of victory and peace, and reddish brown of confusion in the aftermath. But a promise of prosperity from God. It's going to get better. It gets better when we trust in the Lord. Endure the battle, it will get better. Thanks be to God!

Lord, sometimes life is a battle. We all deal with pain and illness and suffering. But as your children, we also live in the hope and joy that it will all get better. Stay the course and know that the battle has been won by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I will gladly endure the battle, it will get better, and you have great plans for me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13th - Reflection

22nd Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 25:14-30 (NRSV)

Slaves entrusted with talents
"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

When God gives us spiritual opportunities we need to take advantage of those opportunities and use them to the fullest creating an abundance of grace. What God has given each one of us does not really belong to us. I deserve nothing and likewise for yourself. But God has given us a chance at life. Through Jesus we have been saved from death. And as we live this life and the Spirit gives us gifts we should surely make the effort to love, praise, and serve out God with all of our might. Thanks be to God!

As I go out this day with the gifts you have graciously provided, teach me and show me how to put these gifts to the best use in your kingdom... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12th - Reflection

Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12 (NRSV)
Number your days
Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust,
and say, "Turn back, you mortals."
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are consumed by your anger;
by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

( For all our days pass away under your wrath;
our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Who considers the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. _

So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.

My days are numbered and so are yours. Just look at it, we live a few years and return to dust. We live and we love and we make our attempt at life and die. Only God lasts forever. God seems to go on and on and on. Yet this is the very gift Jesus gave to us through his gracious and loving act on the cross and his resurrection. Jesus gave us some sort of eternal life. We don't fully understand it yet, so we have to accept this gift in faith and hope that God's love overcomes all evil and pain and death. Maybe our days are numbered, but God gets to number them however God chooses. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I count my days, I give every one to you. Count as you please and use my days as you see fit. May I be faithful and obedient to your call.... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11 Reflection

Revelation 16:8-21 (NRSV)
The judged curse God
The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch them with fire; they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory.

The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. ("See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.") And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.

The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth, so violent was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.

Wicked rise up to challenge God. It's hard for me to fathom why this would occur. But for some reason, some people tend to challenge God's authority and power and rule. I realize we all do this in one degree or another, but this seems to point towards a day of no return for this people. They are taking a stand against God and really sticking with it.

I'm just thankful for my walk with God. I run away at times in my sin but have always returned. Or I have noticed that God returned to me and welcomed me into his arms.

Lord, be with those who seem to be stuck in this "no return" place. Open their minds to see your saving grace that we may welcome them as your children in grace once more. --- Amen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 10th - Reflection

Revelation 16:1-7 (NRSV)
God's judgments are true and just
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."

So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped its image.

The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say,
"You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,
for you have judged these things;
because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!"

And I heard the altar respond,
"Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,
your judgments are true and just!"

A generation of people who have been inspired by the devil are sent plagues. I can't help but think back on the plagues of Egypt when the Pharaoh wouldn't let the Israelites go to worship God. But here the people are worshipping the devil and don't want to return to God. So God's punishment and judgment is dealt.

Here is the sad result of those who choose to run from God. Choose to run from the Savior. Choose to remain entrenched in sin. It doesn't need to be this way. But this is a result of choice that God has given all. Some will choose just for the sake of choice. Some will choose out of a stubborn heart. Some will fall prey to the empty promises of the devil.

How it saddens my heart to see these stray. If only I could do something! But something has been done. God gave his only son in Jesus to these very people to have eternal life. God gave all.

Rejoice in Jesus. Rejoice in the wonderful acts of the Father. Rejoice in the gifts and movement of the Holy Spirit. And pray for those deep in this choice. Reach out in love and understanding, but don't fall in the trap. It's all about God's salvation alone. Thanks be to God!

Lord, may I hear and heed the warnings that you give. Lead me in the way you would want me to go so that I may never mislead another. You are the way and the only way to salvation. As we look forward to the unfolding of your kingdom make me a part of that joy and work day after day. --- Amen

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November 9th - Reflection

Matthew 24:29-35 (NRSV)
My words will not pass away
"Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from heaven,
and the powers of heaven will be shaken.

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven' with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Pretty confusing language and message. I take it to mean that we should be ready for Jesus to return at any moment. In fact, I like to pray for his return. I know that when Jesus returns all will be well. For those who believe have no fear of any of the things said here. Instead we have a joy in knowing that we will continue to serve God. So if I serve God here on earth and proclaim his awesome message of salvation or serve God in another situation, I take comfort that I will continue to serve God.

So, hey, as this one guy used to say, let's go plant a tree today. We could even serve God this day as we wait for his return, watching, waiting, and always prepared. Thanks be to God!

Seasons come and go, governments come and go, the world continues on and people live and die, but you alone and your promise of salvation through Jesus brings life to all the world. Teach me, show me, lead me, and let me try out all you would have me do in this world as I live life eternal with you. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

November 8th - Reflection

Joel 1:1-14 (NRSV)
Call to repentance

The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel:

Hear this, O elders,
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children another generation.

What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep;
and wail, all you wine-drinkers,
over the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
For a nation has invaded my land,
powerful and innumerable;
its teeth are lions' teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
It has laid waste my vines,
and splintered my fig trees;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches have turned white.

Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth
for the husband of her youth.
The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
from the house of the Lord.
The priests mourn,
the ministers of the Lord.
The fields are devastated,
the ground mourns;
for the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up,
the oil fails.

Be dismayed, you farmers,
wail, you vinedressers,
over the wheat and the barley;
for the crops of the field are ruined.
The vine withers,
the fig tree droops.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple --
all the trees of the field are dried up;
surely, joy withers away
among the people.

Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;
wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come, pass the night in sackcloth,
you ministers of my God!
Grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.

Sanctify a fast,
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.

Listen to the Word of God. Don't just lay around in sin and have a pity party for yourself. Listen to the Word when you have been stripped bare and are open for all to see. Stop, pause and listen.

Then do something. cry out to God for the help that you need. Get together and come to God with others. Sanctify a fast and cry out to God for help.

Sometimes we have to realize the situation we are in and seek the help that we need. First turn to God for help then use those God has given you, family, friends, church. Listen for the Word spoken from God in the Bible and through the sacraments and through those gifted with the Word. Seek the Lord for Jesus alone is your salvation. Then follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit guides you to those with godly gifts that will help in time of need. Listen to the Word of God.

Lord, when the locusts come, show me what to do and where to go. Lead me back to you on the path you would have me take ... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 07, 2011

November 7th - Reflection

Amos 8:7-14 (NRSV)
A famine of hearing God's word

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.
In that day the beautiful young women and the young men
shall faint for thirst.
Those who swear by Ashimah of Samaria,
and say, "As your god lives, O Dan,"
and, "As the way of Beer sheba lives" --
they shall fall, and never rise again.

Sometimes we have it so nice that we think we don't need anything else. Sometimes we make the mistake that we don't need God. After all, we earned all that we have and we can make it on our own. So we stray away. But something comes along and brings us back. It could be almost anything. Something comes along that we find out we can't solve on our own. Our pride is burst and we fall to despair. Past rescues from God come back to visit and in our selfishness we learn the lesson of the Israelites. We can't do this on our own. We can't live on without God. So we run to God to find God was always there, waiting in love, waiting with open arms of welcome. Thanks be to God!

Lord, may I always stay by your side. May I learn the lessons you teach and understand your love a little better each day that I may go out and love those you give to me each day. --- Amen

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November 6th - Reflection

21st Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)

Wise and foolish bridesmaids
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
In some ways we wait for Christ with our lamps lit. We long to meet him and walk by his side. We worship Christ professing his awesome glory and power. We become spiritually prepared through our devotion of hope, faith and love for God.

The source of preparedness isn't something we can pass from person to person. We certainly can tell about how God has given us faith. We certainly can tell the world about what Jesus means to the world and to each one of us. We certainly can tell those we see how God has impacted our lives and how God has saved us. But we can't pass that personal touch God has for us individually from person to person.

No doubt God reaches out to us in a corporate manner. God reaches out to all the world. We confess to God not only our corporate sins but also our personal sins unique to each one of us. But this passage seems to reflect to me something different.

When spiritual crisis occurs in our life, when we have all fallen asleep, when the crisis strikes for those spiritually prepared the source of faith, hope, and love sustains us. This preparation is not something we can share with another that doesn't have this source at hand. How do people handle a crisis of death, pain, suffering and disease without God? No, doubt, at least for me, this would be something I couldn't fathom. Their oil wasn't there after the flame went out. There wasn't any belief or even preparation that Christ would come.

For sure Christ will come. He will come to you in a personal and a corporate way. Tell the news to all so that they can believe and make preparations. Thanks be to God!

Lord, prepare me for your coming. You come to me each day and knock on my door. "Can Billy come out to play." And you will come to all of us some day to judge the living and the dead. You will come and take us to that great feast. Prepare me for this day. Each day as I walk, run and play with you teach me your will and your way for my life, that I may be prepared. And show me how to reach out to all you give to me with the message of your faith, hope, and love for their lives, so that we all may be prepared for that feast to come. --- Amen

Saturday, November 05, 2011

November 5th - Reflection

Psalm 70 (NRSV)
You are my helper and deliverer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion
who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who desire to hurt me.
Let those who say, "Aha, Aha!"
turn back because of their shame.

Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.

Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, "God is great!"
But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!


Sometimes you reach the end of your rope. You don't know what to do next. A note of urgency. Seems like at those times you are most vulnerable in many ways. Frustration sets in and words and fur fly. Things are said that are mean, inappropriate, and hurtful. And then...

The great and awesome pause. I think it might be the Holy Spirit that leads you to the pause and the prayer and the opening of your eyes. You realize that this situation is beyond yourself. You realize that the solution is outside of yourself. You realize that you are not the savior with a small "s" and that you can't fix everything.

So you pause and you pray. You appeal to God. You confess your sin. You confess your pride and fall humble before God and seek help. Help in any form, any time, any place. You seek help from God as God sees fit to help.

You turn it over to God and ask God to show you that next step you need to take. The great pause...the great prayer. That peace in the midst of the turmoil. You listen and you wait...

And you realize that salvation belongs to God. That God is great and God is your help and deliverer. You realize that in this seeking of God you can finally rejoice and be glad...even in the midst of the storm of confusion, anger, pain, and life...with God you can rejoice.

You listen and you wait...

Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead me through those times I need the great pause, to listen and wait and rejoice in your salvation. --- Amen

Friday, November 04, 2011

November 4th - Reflection

Revelation 9:13-21 (NRSV)
Unrepentant humankind persists in sin
Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number. And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur; the heads of the horses were like lions' heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm.

The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.

God doesn't give up even with the evil left. Wanting them to repent of their murders, sorceries, fornication's or thefts. People were still worshipping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood.

We try so hard to be our own god. I can do this myself! No you can't! You can't save yourself. You need God! You need help! God is ready and willing to help.

Let us children of God reach out in mighty ways to those in need of help. Let us reach out with the hand of God and offer help in many and various ways. We can reach out with a helping working hand, a voice or ear of compassion and love, a hand that gives of the gold and silver, we can reach out in so many ways to show how God has helped us in our need and gave us new life from sin. Demonstrate the love of God in Jesus so that many can see how simple it is to give yourself away.

Shake me up to see the times when I'm stubborn and try to do it all on my own. Break down my pride that I'm willing to reach out for your help. Only you can save me, Lord. I offer myself to you to be an instrument of your love that reaches out to those in need... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, November 03, 2011

November 3rd - Reflection

Revelation 8:6-9:12 (NRSV)
The trumpet of God's judgment
Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.
The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night.
Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew in midheaven, "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!"

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.
In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women's hair, and their teeth like lions' teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
The first woe has passed. There are still two woes to come.

A vision of some horrible things happening to people who do not believe. But also a vision that isn't so far fetched from the Egyptian plagues. The first four trumpets blasts bring about these plague like warnings. Then the fifth trumpet brings the demon locust.

God is so loving that he goes to extremes in trying to convince all peoples to believe in him and to permit all of us to worship and honor only him. God wants us badly. God wants our love.

The proof is in this world and the beauty of all that God has created. The proof is in the body, blood, life, ministry, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus for all our sin. The proof is in the gifts freely given by the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to the love of God through Christ Jesus and the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all saints.

God has lovingly proved good. But we have a response to make. We can run from the horrors of the plague and believe in God or we can continue to believe that we can save ourselves and try to defeat these demonic looking plagues. If we run to God we will see life as it is to be. If we attempt to endure we will be swallowed up in the very evil we are trying to defeat on our own without God.

There is a choice here. I choose God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you have shown endless love and mercy. I treasure all the grace you have shown me through life. But most of all I have fallen in love with you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen