Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31st Reflection by Bill Lynch

Numbers 22:22-28 (NRSV)
An angel speaks God's word to Balaam
God's anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam's foot against the wall; so he struck it again. Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?"

The donkey was faithful to God and Balaam was not. Balaam was not to go on this journey but did anyway.

There are times I wish that God would have stopped me with a donkey. Times when I went right into something I had no business doing. Times when I rationalized the activity I was about to do. But maybe if I had just looked around and did a little more listening than talking and thinking, I would have seen the angel standing before me as well.

As we go through life, look and listen for God to guide and then follow.

Lord, may I see what you have set before me that I may do your will.. today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Numbers 22:1-21 (NRSV)
King Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel
The Israelites set out, and camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were so numerous; Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw, to summon him, saying, "A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth, and they have settled next to me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed."

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and gave him Balak's message. He said to them, "Stay here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, just as the Lord speaks to me"; so the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam. God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" Balaam said to God, "King Balak son of Zippor of Moab, has sent me this message: 'A people has come out of Egypt and has spread over the face of the earth; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.'" God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." So Balaam rose in the morning, and said to the officials of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you." So the officials of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

Once again Balak sent officials, more numerous and more distinguished than these. They came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak son of Zippor: 'Do not let anything hinder you from coming to me; for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do; come, curse this people for me.'" But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, "Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God, to do less or more. You remain here, as the others did, so that I may learn what more the Lord may say to me." That night God came to Balaam and said to him, "If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you to do." So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.
King Balak feared Israel and wanted Balaam to send a curse upon Israel. Balaam was unable to curse Israel since God had blessed these people.

Sometimes I fear things and situations and people. The sin in me would love to see what I fear come across a cursed situation. I think this would inwardly make me happier and safer in my own world of living. It's like a silent revenge on someone else that I presume would bring some satisfaction. If the "bad" thing does occur, it only brings guilt for hoping for such a thing to occur. But in cases where I have no heart at all for the other person, party or thing, it does bring some satisfaction.

This judgmental attitude, on my part, is not what God wants for me. I need not fear what God has blessed or even what does not threaten me. Many threats are only threats that I create against myself and are unfounded. I have failed to even contact the person or situation that I fear.

If I live in the hope of God, I can trust that God will care for me and bless me as I confront situations that need to be confronted. I may still feel the pain, but I will know that God is always with me and on my side. God will always be with me in the midst of my fears, in the midst of my sin, and in the midst of my life to comfort me, forgive me and to lead and guide me. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive me when I'm judgmental or seek revenge. Lead me and guide me as I trust in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)

The healing of one with an unclean spirit
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

I noticed how Jesus cast out this unclean spirit without a touch being made. It wasn't the body of the poor guy afflicted with this spirit; it was that the spirit had assumed it's presence in this person. Jesus' love for the man was so great that he stopped an important portion of the Jewish sabbath in the reading of the Word. Jesus paused what he was doing to take care of the needs of a man afflicted with something he did not deserve. Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, Spirit to spirit with his Word. Jesus is Word. The Word Jesus was reading is Word. The Word Jesus cast was his very self. In some sense Jesus' Spirit took over the place of the unclean spirit within this poor man. That's authority!

And a few years later, Jesus would do this very same thing for all of us. He would take our place on that cross and become our sin to die and rise again. Cast out the unclean spirit and place in us a clean Spirit. No wonder all the people were amazed. Who would have thought of that? Thanks be to God!

Lord, your love is beyond anything I can imagine. Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 111 (NRSV)
The beginning of wisdom
Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever.

How do you see God? Each morning don't we wish to see God that day? We want to meet up and be with God someway or somehow.

God comes to us through grace. God comes through Jesus and gives us life from death. We see God when we recognize an act of grace anywhere and anytime.

God comes to us in the Law. In the Word we see God. The Word becomes flesh and dwells with us. We read and reflect on the Word and see how God comes to us. The Word speaks to us and is easily applied to our everyday lives. Once again we see God.

As we see God what is our response? Most of the time, for me, it's an "Oh WOW!" moment. I didn't realize God was that close to me! And then when I realize how close God is, I want to know what he wants from me. I'm excited to respond out of the love I saw coming from God to me to respond with love for God. I gladly take out the trash or do any of the chores God chooses to give to me. God is my awesome Daddy who can do it all! I love my Daddy and think he is the best of all. So I praise God and live in such joy and happiness and knowledge that I am protected and loved.

How to you see God?

Lord, you make my life. You come to me each day and knock at that door and invite Billy out to play. I love you God! May I love all those you give to me this day with such enthusiasm... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Revelation 2:12-17 (NRSV)
Idolatrous behavior is condemned

"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two edged sword:

"I know where you are living, where Satan's throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Doesn't the expression "where Satan's throne is." put some mystery to this? This passage is the letter to the church in Pergamum. The city was prone to idolatry in the first place. Behind the city was a one-thousand foot high hill that was speckled with heathen temples and an altar to Zeus cut out of the rock. This wall of rock heathen temples and Zeus stood over the city as if ruling over it. This is where the expression of Satan's throne originates.

Next question is what's the deal with the Nocolaitans? This comes from Acts when Nicolaus was appointed to administer the food to the poor and windows. There came a dispute as to eating food which had been offered to idols. The people of Pergamum were scolded for eating such food, which ended up being only a problem if you caused another Christian to have issues with this and weaken their faith.

Finally what's all this about Balaam and Balak? In the Old Testament, Balak was to put a stumbling block in front of the Israelites by having a curse placed on the Israelites. So Balak gets the help of Balaam a non-Israelite prophet. But Balaam having sold his skills for less than he would have liked, would only offer the words God gave, which turned out to be a blessing of the Israelite armies.

Then take the notion that the people believed God would come to them again as manna that would descend from heaven and bring life. This was a Jewish notion that came out of their rich past experience with manna in the desert. It turned out to be Jesus that came in flesh to all people

The church at Pergamum was surrounded by all this thinking and it was difficult to hold on to true teachings and not fall to idolatry. This church had a huge stumbling block in front of it. Here, Jesus exhorts this church to repent and turn to God.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a mess and are being pulled in many different directions by many different ways of thinking. But what I get here is that we need to stop, look at the situation, repent and redirect ourselves towards what God has in store for our lives, not what our environment is pulling us towards. It's all easier said than done for humans, but with God, our lives and actions will be pulled towards the source of life in Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, sometimes my environment pulls me in all sorts of ways. I turn to you and repent of my failed actions to stay the course with you. Show me your Light and pull me always towards you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Romans 9:6-18 (NRSV)
God's mercy cannot be controlled
It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham's children are his true descendants; but "It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, "About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son." Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, "The elder shall serve the younger." As it is written,

"I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau."

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses,

"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.
With no fear, Paul opens this can of worms. If I say that I'm a child of God, how can this be, since I'm not a blood descendant (that I know of) from the Jewish race of God's Chosen People? Paul argues that God did not choose children of a race or children of a flesh, rather God chooses his children of the promise.

You see God made a promise and it happened. God's promises are all through the Bible. And God upholds all promises. Sometimes we like to think of how special we are. In God's eyes we are special. But when we see ourselves as special due to something we have done, we fall to sin. It's not about our works and our accomplishments that make us special. It's about what God has done through us and for us that makes us special.

God's promise and call comes before we even are aware of it. Perhaps this call comes before we are even born. As we live God gives us faith. We live and grow in God's care and our faith in God is developed. This faith is what distinguishes us as God's children. We could grow and choose to leave God behind. Sure we may think we left God behind, but in most cases God stays with us waiting patiently for our return. But if we grow in faith and follow God, this is the distinction of being God's child, not our race or flesh or anything we may have done ourselves to earn God's favor.

When God's promises are fulfilled, it is God who started it all. We were actors in the promise through our call. I can see the worms in this can oozing.

So, does this mean that we are just puppets for God if we are God's children? God can pick and choose as God wishes to pick and choose. Here we have no solid human answer. But we do know that God is a patient God. God loves us so much that Jesus was sent to die for our sin. To take that sin upon himself and become our sin that our sin may die on that cross. Through Jesus active love we are no longer separated from God but in relationship with God. Death was defeated at Jesus resurrection and we await Jesus' return to judge the living and the dead.

Puppets for God? I think not. I think we act out what God has given us to act out from our relationship with God. We respond to the call and in that response is a recognition of our relationship with God out of our belief that God has saved us from sin, death and the devil. God has saved us! We did not save ourselves by acting. The promise came first. The action came later. But in that action, especially the actions of Jesus, we are saved. Thanks be to God! And the can still oozes... for human understanding.

Lord, your actions and your promises are beyond my understanding. I'll continue to probe and question and try to understand, but I'm not going to get all wrapped around the wheel about it. I love you and trust you and have seen your action to the promises you have made. I'm convinced in you. I love you and you are all I need... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Conversion of Paul
Acts 9:1-22 (NRSV)

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

Two callings with one conversion. Two people called at least. More than likely more callings to a particular task. Fearful calls at that. Calls that I'm sure several parties involved were very intimidated by. Would the trust, hope and faith show up and carry out the actions of the calls.

So you may be called, even if you seem to be on the opposite side of God. I don't think God sees differences as exaggerated as we do ourselves. I think God sees potential and we see political at times. Even though Saul was persecuting the Christians at the time, God chose to call Saul.
Even though Saul would be the last person Ananias would want to meet in this world, God called Ananias to meet Saul.

And then you have this confused party of people going along with this entire act. God must have been speaking to them too. Or they were in such shock of the events they didn't know what was going on. I suspect God's touch was involved however.

And for three days Saul was without sight. Reminds me of being in the tomb for three days. Reminds me of baptism and being buried under the water. Reminds me of three days of tasting death. Reminds me of the resurrection and new life. Saul's life was about to make a dramatic change. Saul was being resurrected to a new life as one of the most influential disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ of whom Saul was just persecuting. Why did you persecute Jesus, Saul? Things are about to change. Get ready, Saul, for the time of your life.

And the same for you and for me. Since baptism when we felt that water bury our old life and those scales fall from our human eyes; it was time to get ready. Get ready for the time of our lives. Things are about to change. The journey will be wild, frightening, daring and fun beyond belief. Thanks be to God! Now that's living!

Lord, I rejoice in the variety of people you call and surprise me with. I'm so glad to learn of the wonderful people who are lead to you by paths I would never expect. You continually surprise me with how you resurrect lives. I'm amazed... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (NRSV)
God calls Jacob to go to Egypt
So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, "Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt." He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, "Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die."

When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's own hand shall close your eyes."

Then Jacob set out from Beer sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Once again another calling. This time for Jacob to leave the land of his grandfather's calling and stray to another county, Egypt. Jacob was called to trust in, what seemed to him, a resurrected life of his son Joseph. Was this true? Was this a cruel trick? Only the assurance of God's call could give the hope of a new life. A resurrected meeting of father and son and family and son. A new resurrected meeting of safety from hunger. A new life in a new place. What would this bring? But, this was God's call. A call that wasn't meant to leave it all behind, but a call to take it all with you to another land.

So Jacob picked up and moved into Egypt, "all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt."

You and I too are called. Out of our life story, God calls us to go, to come, to stay, to whatever. God calls us and give us the resurrected hope of a Savior's assurance that all will be for the good of a plan much larger than we could ever begin to fathom. God calls us and gives us the strength to take on the call, no matter what age or what our physical well being may be. We are called to action. We may be called to pray, to visit, to serve a meal, to go to another country or even to have that conversation with a hurting co-worker. We may be called to share our relationship with God with one another. We are called in so many and various ways, my examples would never cease. I am called and you are called. Thanks be to God!

Lord, it sure is a journey. I look back on life and can't believe where you have taken me. In the ups and downs I realize and now see your presence. So, I'm excited to look forward, knowing that your call will lead through even more excitement and joy. Not a cake walk at times but other times we rested in pastures together. It's time to go. I hear that knock at my door. Time to go out today... tomorrow... time to take your call forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23rd Reflection by Bill Lynch

Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV)
God calls Abram to go to Canaan
Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

The very act of what Abram did here recalls the acts of the disciples when they left all behind to follow Jesus. Abram had such faith and trust in God that he packed it all up and left for another land as God wished for him. Oddly, the disciples even left behind their possessions and family to follow Jesus.

People seem to be called in various times and in various ways. Some are called to stay where they are and in the occupation they know, and follow Jesus into the world of where they live. Others are called to leave a place and start new with a different group, such as a pastor's call to another congregation. Then, again, on a first call, the pastor may be called to pack up and move or even perhaps leave the possessions behind and move to a mission field call. But, it's not only clergy that experience the call. Lay are called to all types of actions to follow Jesus as clerks, nurses, factory workers, doctors, skilled maintenance, electricians, accountants, scientists, teachers, and on and on. God's call is the most meaningful way we have to touch the lives of others in relationship to what God has done for us.

So, rejoice and build an altar to God and worship God in your call today... tomorrow... and forever.

Lord, may I listen and heed your call to action in everything I do. May I get up and go when you wish and stay when you desire. Lead me this day to do your will. --- Amen

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22 Reflection by Bill Lynch

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Mark 1:14-20 (NRSV)

The calling of the disciples at the sea
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

God's Kingdom has come to this earth and the beginning message made it very personal. Repent and believe. John the Baptist had proclaimed this and now Jesus is proclaiming this same message. John is now in jail. Jesus is prepared to take the second step in the journey of the Kingdom. What "we" don't understand fully is that the Kingdom IS Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom that has come. Not a kingdom of ruling power in some political environment that will determine how we live and are taxed and the government is run. Not a kingdom to conquer with human power and rule the world through battles and weapons. Jesus is the Kingdom in this case and it is a different kind of Kingdom that what "we" would expect.

Jesus is a Kingdom that has come in the present to these people, yet will come again. As we consider the Kingdom of God today we think of a Kingdom that has already come in Jesus, a Kingdom that is with us today in Word and faith and a Kingdom that will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again.

The two pair of brothers; Simon and Andrew, James and John, had all met Jesus before and saw that Jesus was the Messiah. Now Jesus calls them to take the next step with him. What a joy in not knowing what the future would bring. The Messiah has called. We didn't expect this. Let's go now!

Likewise, things happen to each one of us that we don't expect. Sometimes it's illness, death in the family, or any twist and turn in life. We don't know and can't predict the future. It may be a call from God or a new walk in life that we take after we meet the unknown, good or bad. And the new path we follow will surely not be a rosy road forever. We will stumble and fall on the way and perhaps lose our life.

We however meet the future knowing the repentance, belief, faith, and hope God has provided through Word and Sacrament and the teachings of Jesus, to be confident that our future will be taken care of always by our loving Father. Thanks be to God!

So, lay your nets down. It's time to go!

Lord, as I come to you and relive my baptism this morning, I repent of my sin. Drown them in your holy water and bring me to new life in your Kingdom. I lay down my nets and look forward to following Jesus today. Billy can come out to play along with you, Moses, Elijah and your special friend... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, January 21, 2012

December 21st Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 62:5-12 (NRSV)
In God is my safety and my honor

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
and set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
according to their work.

So, what does the future look like? What's the outcome of life? We really don't know. We may think we have our future planned and carefully played out before us, but we really don't know. Did David know he was going to be a king when he was a shepherd? I don't think so. Can anyone predict illness that may overcome them? How do you predict an accident in a car? Do you really know if you will be involved in a tornado?

The future of life is uncertain. The events of life vary for the rich and the poor, the healthy and the ill. We can't rely on the money we have set aside, we can't trust in our houses, cars, or whatever else we have accumulated. All could be here today and gone tomorrow for any one of us. Depending on the situation all things can become disappointing. But one thing holds true.

As this psalm looks forward, we find that one thing we can trust in is the salvation of God provided for each one of us. With faith in God we have a stability that is steadfast and constant. With God, we all have a future that brings hope. With God we rest assured that God has the power, and the steadfast love to hold us safe in God's hands even as we navigate this fearful life we live. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I look to you with faith, knowing that Jesus died for all. I look to you to guide me in the purpose you have for me as I live in this unknown of life here and now. I know that you hold all the power and love I and all people ever need. Be with those whose lives are uncertain and fill them with your presence and peace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

2 Peter 3:1-7 (NRSV)
Scoffers doubt God's message
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.

Some people live to argue and other's argue to learn and understand. It's important to be able to designate the needs of each. When we speak of God's coming in Jesus Christ in the past, present and future, it seems to pull up disputes in faith. Depending on the reference point of the individual you are speaking with, you may have someone who desires to learn, someone who is curious or you may have someone who scoffs at what you say. But what you have to say is the same message. A bit of persuastion may help but too much sometimes just leads to an arguement which usually doesn't help.

In this try to "arouse sincere intention" and move on. We believe in Christ's coming and stand by this belief in faith, hope and love. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when you and I are scoffed at or ridiculed for our beliefs, teach me how to say the words that need to be said and walk away in love... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

Revelation 18:11-20 (NRSV)
Lament over a fallen city
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves -- and human lives.

"The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your dainties and your splendor
are lost to you,
never to be found again!"

The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
"Alas, alas, the great city,
clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!"

And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
"What city was like the great city?"

And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out,
"Alas, alas, the great city,
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in one hour she has been laid waste.
Rejoice over her, O heaven,
you saints and apostles and prophets!
For God has given judgment for you against her."

The city of Babylon falls with all her riches and imports. The falling has an impact on all countries who have depended on this city to export their goods and services. Now all of this is gone. Cities of power come and go, especially those cities and countries that live off of the fat of their riches. These centers of population become the focus of influence and power. The fall of such cities causes widespread pain throughout the world. Cities come and go, Jerusalem, Babylon, Rome and on and on.

But our focus must be on God and the formation of God's city. When we lose our focus on God we fall to our own greed and hunger for power and self-destruct. God's city isn't built on greed or power but on God's awesome love that recreates and creates life. The richness of God's city is Christ and his followers. Thanks be to God!

Lord, help me keep my greed and selfish ambitions in check. Show me how to give life and love. Show me how to follow you. Show me and teach me your love that I may love you as you wish. Maintain my focus on you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

Confession of Peter
Matthew 16:13-19 (NRSV)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Our recognition of Jesus as the Messiah is our focus in the Church. We don't look to Jesus as one who is leading to another greater person, we look to Jesus as the Savior of all the world. We must be bold enough to say this out loud and in front of other people. This statement is the basis for our creeds. I believe in God... We believe in God... "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Our vision, our focus, our very being must be focused on this personal and corporate statement of faith. I/we believe in Jesus Christ, Savior, Messiah, Son of God. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, I believe in you as my Lord and Savior. Take my life and lead me, guide me, teach me, and may I live my life pleasing to the call you give to me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (NRSV)
Samuel rebukes King Saul
The word of the Lord came to Samuel: "I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands." Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, and Samuel was told, "Saul went to Carmel, where he set up a monument for himself, and on returning he passed on down to Gilgal." When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, "May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord." But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?" Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed." Then Samuel said to Saul, "Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night." He replied, "Speak."

Samuel said, "Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?" Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." And Samuel said,

"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

he has also rejected you from being king."

Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord." Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel." As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind." Then Saul said, "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God." So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the Lord.

I attended a Jewish service this past Saturday for my first time. I was deeply impressed upon how they honor the Word in the scrolls carefully removed from the Ark and carefully read before the people. The Word was God I could tell. And as a Christian it drove home the meaning of Jesus and the thought of Logos. The Word made flesh and lived among us. The Word was loved and kissed and as a group it was read carefully and with such honor. The Word in the scroll was carefully rolled up and adorned before returning to the Ark.

But just as important in the handling of the Word is the hearing of the Word. It seems Saul didn't listen carefully and fully understand the command that God had given him. Samuel was sent to point this out. Saul's excuses didn't go very far in helping his reason for failing to follow the command explicitly.

When we sin, we own that sin. It's our sin to repent and no rationalization or pointing of fingers can ever make that sin go away. We have sinned. We repent of the sin that we committed fully on our own, naked before the Lord. We plead for forgiveness and new life.

How important it is to stop and listen to the Lord. We receive the call but it is God who gave it. Listen and assure your actions are the actions you have been directed to take. But don't be frozen in the fear of sin. For we know, that Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth and lived, taught, suffered and died to free us from that bondage to sin. Take your call, listen carefully and boldly go forth daily with Jesus at your side to live for and in him. Thanks be to God!

Lord, slow me down to listen to your Word. Slow me down to question your Word. Slow me down to absorb your Word. May your Word become a part of me that I may live it, love it, and make it my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16th Reflections - by Bill Lynch

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (NRSV)
Samuel anoints Saul king
As they were going down to the outskirts of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the boy to go on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God."

Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, "The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage: When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, 'The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: What shall I do about my son?' Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them. After that you shall come to Gibeath elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well being. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do."

Anointing as king seems to take place twice. At least with Saul and David. The first anointing is a private anointing. There isn't nearly as many people involved and the first anointing seems to leave the candidate to ponder the call. The first anointing in Saul's case was also at a half-way point. Saul was about half-way in his travels at the time. So, here we have a private gathering for Saul's anointing to mark Saul and set Saul apart for a new duty. Public anointing will take place later.

In our own anointing, it may be public or private. For many who have been called, the call comes at a private moment, when only a few are gathered. It's about half-way to the acceptance or the rejection of the call. It may be either. Then there is a response. Sometimes immediate, and sometimes a pause for prayerful consideration. For so many there is some resistance to the call. And for others there is time for debate. This is all at the half-way point.

Then the response. Yes or No, if you have given careful determination and prayer to the call, you are open to the Spirit's guidance and direction.

Some of us have life-time calls, to professions and other's have situational calls. Calls that come daily, even moment by moment. Some have both. You will be called, however as a Child of God. It's a wonderful, frightening and joyful experience. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I try but I can't imagine all the calls that will be made this day. May each candidate carefully listen to your call, pray and respond. May each candidate listen for the guidance you have in store for them. Argue when needed and research hearts as appropriate. I give you thanks for calling me daily and to so many tasks of wide variety. Many times to the unknown. --- Amen

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

Second Sunday After Epiphany
John 1:43-51 (NRSV)

The calling of the first disciples
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

It's humorous to me that God knows each one of us so well, that when we finally see Jesus, we think that we found him! We didn't find Jesus! Jesus knew us before we even began. God knows us and loves us and reaches out to us even from the heavenly world to this earthly place. Jesus comes to me and you in our own here and now in the love that only the Savior can do.

"Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." Thanks be to God!

Lord, daily I hear your call. I hear your knock at the door. "Can Billy come out to play?" I will follow you. Follow you and grab a couple of friends to come and see... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 14th Reflection - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (NRSV)
You have searched me out
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,

O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it. ...

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them they are more than the sand;
I come to the end I am still with you.

How much more can God know you or me? God knows us down to every detail. What an awesome love! The Creator, the Savior, the Spirit over all, knows us! Look up into the sky at night as see how great and vast the universe is, then look into a microscope and be amazed at life beyond normal sight. Next realize that we have a God that knows our every detail. A God that is with us before we began and after we end. A God that graciously give life and love. How much more can God know you or me? Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me and show me the way to express my love for those you give to me in such detail... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13th - Reflection by Bill Lynch

Acts 13:16-25 (NRSV)
Leaders prior to Christ's coming
So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:

"You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.' Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.'

"My brothers, you descendants of Abraham's family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.

Here Paul begins to tell his story and our story of how Jesus has come into the lives of all in this world. Some will accept his coming and some will reject that Jesus is Savior. But this message is given to all people. This message is for all throughout all time. It's a message not only for the descendants of Abraham but for all who fear God. It's a message of salvation. Thanks be to God!

Lord, write upon our hearts and move our tongues to graciously and lovingly declare you as our Savior and as Savior of all your people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12th - Reflection by Bill Lynch

2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (NRSV)
Corinthian behavior during Paul's absence
I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away! I ask that when I am present I need not show boldness by daring to oppose those who think we are acting according to human standards. Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.

Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we. Now, even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem as though I am trying to frighten you with my letters. For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present.

Paul changes things up a little here. Previously he was writing "we" now he writes "I." Paul is making his testimony personal.

As Christians we need the "we" or the corporate aspect of our faith. We need one another. There is no way we can live in this world without the "we" in life and in our Church to sustain us. We need Christ and we need one another in order to live our faith.

But we also need to come from the "I" of our faith. I need to be able and willing to stand up with Christ, my faith and my God. I need to be able and willing to take a stand for the "we" of this world. So as we look at what is happening around us each and every day; may we, the "I's" stand up for our friends and neighbors in need through the love Jesus has taught us.

Lord, be with me and all your children as we live out the love you have shown us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 11th - Reflection

John 1:29-34 (NRSV)
John's account of Jesus' baptism
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

John saw it! John saw the Spirit descend like a dove on Jesus. John had the wonderful privilege of baptizing Jesus. And when he did, John knew this was the Son of God.

As we arise day by day, we too have been granted new life in and through our baptism. We receive the opportunity to live another day with the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. Does anyone see this? It's a privilege for you and me to have another day, here in this place, to live out the love that God has given to us. It's a privilege for you and me to have another day, to show our friends and neighbors what we have seen in the Son of God.

Our baptism is a gift and a privilege to live life.

Lord, show me how to live my baptism... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10th - Reflection

Exodus 30:22-38 (NRSV)
Anointing a sign of holiness
The Lord spoke to Moses: Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred fifty, and two hundred fifty of aromatic cane, and five hundred of cassia measured by the sanctuary shekel and a hin of olive oil; and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the covenant, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand; you shall consecrate them, so that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy. You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, in order that they may serve me as priests. You shall say to the Israelites, "This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be used in any ordinary anointing of the body, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an unqualified person shall be cut off from the people."

The Lord said to Moses: Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (an equal part of each), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy; and you shall beat some of it into powder, and put part of it before the covenant in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy. When you make incense according to this composition, you shall not make it for yourselves; it shall be regarded by you as holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from the people.

Ah the anointing oil, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Spread throughout the tabernacle. The signs of the Holy Spirit are everywhere. Signs that are pleasing to the senses. Signs that are spread on all that is holy. Oil given to the priests of the day.

Today the oil is a sign given in our baptism. We are marked with the cross of Christ and receive the oil of the Spirit on our foreheads. A wonderful sign of God in our lives. God in flesh, God in spirit, God in love. We become children of God. This is a special oil of anointing and a wonderful unique gift to a unique child of God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I remember my baptism this day and relive that eternal moment, I think of the oil mark and the love you express in that mark. It's a special unique gift just for me. May I live out that spirit you have filled in me ... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 09, 2012

January 9th - Reflection

Genesis 17:1-13 (NRSV)
Circumcision a covenant sign
When Abram was ninety nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous." Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God."

God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

Some pretty moving scenes in this passage. First the Lord appears. God makes a covenant including a promise and an action to be taken. If Abraham and his people obey they will become numerous and be given a land. It's no wonder that land is such a big deal even today.

And the covenant is that every male be circumcised at eight days old. The covenant is in the flesh. God gives flesh and God takes away flesh. Abraham and his descendants will witness God's flesh torn from heaven come and enter this world to save us from our sin. Our covenant with God is formed not only in spirit but in flesh and blood. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you graciously meet us in terms that we can understand. Terms of flesh and blood and pain. We receive a tiny bit of pain compared to the separation you feel in sending Jesus to this world to save us. We are deeply grateful and offer all thanks and praise to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, January 08, 2012

January 8th - Reflection

Baptism of Our Lord
Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)

Jesus revealed as God's servant
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Jesus came to be with us, sinners of all sorts, though he himself was without sin. Jesus came to be with us and to be baptized with us. And as Jesus came up from the waters, the heavens opened and a dove appears, the Holy Spirit, in bodily form. A dove above the waters of chaos and sin for most of us. Those baptismal waters in which we come out of death into life. A dove that flew above the waters of sin years ago in the great flood and returned to Noah proclaiming new life on this earth and a new creation with God. A dove that brings a promise of life and newness. Wow! Jesus baptism, what a site. The Holy Spirit, what a site. Each baptism we witness is a huge WOW! --- Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I rise from sleep this day, remind me of the WOW! of baptism... yours and mine... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, January 07, 2012

January 7th - Reflection

Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV)
Jesus calls Simon, James, and John
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

We've seen Jesus call some of his disciples while still a stranger to them and they got up and followed him. Here Jesus calls some other disciples, yet Jesus seems to have made a friendship of trust with them. Jesus takes them away from the crowd into deep waters and shows them his power. When Jesus power is shown to them some are afraid. But this relationship is based on trust and hope and faith, not fear.

Much the same for us today. Jesus calls us not out of fear, but out of trust and hope and faith. We follow Jesus and leave everything. We know that he is our Lord and Savior. Jesus has convinced us and amazed us. But this may not be the same calling each person receives. Some are called out of a miraculous change of life and others are called in the deep waters of friendship with Jesus.

God knows each one of us to know how to call us, teach us, and bring us to him. What a personal yet in a wider sense a corporate and understanding Savior we have! Thanks be to God!

Lord, reach out this day and call your people, by the shore or in the deep waters, which ever you choose. --- Amen

Friday, January 06, 2012

January 6th - Reflection

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (NRSV)
Gift of prophecy with laying on of hands
These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

You have to grow up! You have to tell another person what you have seen and heard. You can't just keep it all a secret. Pay close attention to what the Word tells you. Put that Word into action. When you stumble and fall into sin, get up, repent and grow up.

Lord, keep me focused on you. Don't let me slide into judgment of other's actions. Don't let me slide into some self-serving service that appears good to other's but not to you. Don't let me curl inward upon myself. Let my life open up to you and your will and your way. Let me open up to action to those you give to me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, January 05, 2012

January 5th- Reflection

Acts 9:10-19a (NRSV)
Saul is baptized

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Jesus uses those you would least expect. Ananias, a humble man and a private Christian gives the message to Saul that he is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And Saul a persecutor of Christians was chosen to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

Those you would least expect, God brings forward as disciples of Christ. Such is the way with the world today. Those you would least expect, God appoints. Baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit a great cloud of witnesses go forth into this world to testify what God has done in and for and through them. God is wonderful! Thanks be to God!

Lord, open my mind to those you send that I may hear your Word and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

January 4th - Reflection

James 4:11-17 (NRSV)
Our plans for our time are in God's hands
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. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
I tend to speak evil of others at times. I tend to judge others at times. Other times I don't obey the law. Who do I think I am? It's all true. I can witness many times that I have been guilty of the above sins. There are difficult sins to obey.

So I repent and try to do better with God's help. If my time were all in my own hands, I would fall into the trap and continue in my sinful ways, not wishing to be forgiven. Not even caring. I read an article in the USA Today just yesterday about how many people in the United States have reached that level of just not caring about religion, spirituality, God or anything else. It was this same attitude of "who cares?"

We must care. I'm not the judge of other's. Speaking evil is wrong and hurtful. I must learn to be kind and patient and understanding. I am here to love my neighbor. My time on this earth does matter. God does have a plan for me and for you.

I repent and then follow the change God has prepared in my life. I stumble along the way but out of love I seek the patience and kindness and love that God wishes. I am watchful that the judgmental attitude and the boasting and the evil speak do not sneak back in. It's all part of going to God daily, looking at your sins, rejoicing in the forgiveness and blessing and seeking the change and plan and way God has for you. It's a daily meeting with God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I come to you this morning to listen to what you have to say. You are my life. You are my way of being. You are my guide and my way. Teach me, show me and lead and guide me to be what you would have me to be... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

January 3rd - Reflection

Proverbs 1:20-33 (NRSV)
Give heed to Wisdom, live without dread
Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel,
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
and be sated with their own devices.
For waywardness kills the simple,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure
and will live at ease, without dread of disaster."

Wisdom springs to life here. Wisdom is personified. Wisdom cries out words of warning to all the people. It seems that most of the people ignore the pleas of Wisdom. The people fall into a few groups.

One group is the Simple. The Simple are easily persuaded by those that would lead away from the advice of Wisdom. Wisdom's advice to turn from evil and obey the Lord.
The second group is the Scoffers. They shout arrogance and defiance towards Wisdom. They are the type that put Wisdom down.

Finally we have the Fools. This comes from the word nabal. Recall the story of Nabal, married to Abigail. David requested food from Nabal. David had done no harm to Nabal, but Nabal responded with insults. Luckily his wife Abigail was smart enough to act for Nabal's good. Nabal died and Abigail became David's wife.

This proverb teaches us to listen and learn from Wisdom - source of God. Don't be simple, a heckler or a fool about Wisdom. Listen and heed the word Wisdom has to give.

Lord, your Wisdom is something I need to pause and listen to. Be easy with me and help me to understand the deep meanings and the profound actions you wish for me to take this day, following the Wisdom you have to offer. Send now your Holy Spirit to lead me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, January 02, 2012

January 2nd - Reflection

Jeremiah 31:7-14 (NRSV)
Joy as God's scattered flock gathers
For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
"Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel."
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock."
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,

says the Lord.

The joy of the return home. But these people were all of those who would be most likely unable to weather the journey of returning home. I am like these people. So many things that hold me back from the journey are physical and some are spiritual, but God helps me along anyway. God brings joy from the struggles and permits me to dance and sing and shout for joy. God brings forth all the joy anyone ever needs. Thanks be to God!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow-- 
Praise him all creatures here below--
Praise him above all heavenly host--
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!