Offertory Prayer

Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the World Service Fund, your church supports a network of dedicated, faithful missionaries. Working with the support of our General Board of Global Ministries, servants like Clara Biswas do ministry in our name. Clara’s work with the children of Cambodia, who live in deepest poverty, has changed lives. In partnership with UM Women, her work has led to the building of a school near the garbage dump where these children scavenge to help their families. This ministry happens thanks to the generous support of United Methodists like you. I invite you once again to give generously as we worship God through the sharing of our gifts, tithes, and offerings.

Learn more about the work of our General Board of Global Ministries Missionaries at:www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service/Missionary-Landing

October 19, 2014 -- Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide
Holy God, as we prepare to present to you our offering and gifts, we can’t help but think of all we have held back. When Jesus told the Pharisees to render to the Emperor what was due the Emperor, and to God what was due God, we know he was speaking to us. We know we have been much more ready to give what is due to the powers of this world, and far more tight-fisted with what is due God: justice, mercy, compassion, and trust. All that we are is due our God, and we offer that now with gratitude for all we have received from your goodness, and with trust in your faithfulness. We pray in the name of Christ our Savior. Amen. (Matthew 22:15-22)


Prayers by Ken Sloan. Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 24

But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
(Psalm 94:22)

Jeremiah 44:24-47:7
Jeremiah told the Judeans who had escaped to Egypt, "False gods make look good to you now, but eventually, you will come to know who is the true God."

2 Timothy 2:22-3:17
These instructions to Timothy could be titled "How to be a minister," as long as we remember that ministry is not restricted to those who have been ordained.

1. Read the Bible. He is told to remember his own formation including specifically the sacred writings that had been instructive. As Christians, we need to remember that Timothy would not yet have had access to what we call the New Testament since it wouldn't have yet been canonized--or, even completed at the time of Timothy. The scripture that is this passage is designated as inspired by God and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness, is what we call the Old Testament.

2. Proclaim the message. And keep proclaiming it. Convince, rebuke, and encourage, but always with patience.

3. Be prepared for people preferring teaching that seems easier on them or harder on others.

4. Be the kind of messenger that doesn't harm the message.

Psalm 94:1-23

Proverbs 26:6-8
...

Prayer for Today: God, direct our conduct, our words, our attitudes, toward lives that demonstrate your word. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 23

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Jeremiah 42:1-44:23
After the fall of Jerusalem,  the survivors want to go to Egypt. Egypt! Remember what happened to Joseph's descendants who had settled in Egypt (Read Exodus) Jeremiah counsels them not to do that but to stay and  that the Lord will take care of them.  They didn't believe him. Moreover, Jeremiah is taken to Egypt also.

Where do we go when we are faced with hardship, with life-changing events?

2 Timothy 2:1-21
The author of this letter (who scholars now was writing some time later than Paul) addresses Timothy as his beloved child. He writes that he is grateful to God when he remembers Timothy in his prayers night and day. Remembering Timothy's sincere faith (as a sideline, please note that he gives a lot of credit to Timothy's grandmother and mother so perhaps we shouldn't be too adamant in asserting misogyny in the letters attributed to Paul), anyway, remembering his faith, he reminds him to use that faith.

He also reminds Timothy that God has provided us with a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline--and that all those are needed because discipleship may entail suffering.

He also gives credit to his ancestors by saying that he worships as they did. he did not believe that Christians worship a different God from the One worshiped by Jews. Further, he asserts that the grace given to them was given long before it was revealed through the appearance of Christ, Allen &Williamson, in Preaching the Letters, explain it this way:
What Paul exactly meant, we do not know, but the gracious disposition of God to God's creatures seem always to have been the case; our good fortune is that because of God's self-disclosure we know this.
Although Paul is undergoing suffering because of work, he is confident of God's protection. He tells Timothy to hold on to what he has been taught, "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you," and that he will also be aided, "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."
Jouette Bassler, in her commentary on 1Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus in the Abington New Testament Series, writes about Paul's view of suffering:
He presents suffering as inevitable for any Christian and essential for any church leader. Through suffering, a church leader identifies himself with Paul and manifests his confidence in the fundamental Christian promise of life. Failure to endure sufering suggest shame--not shame in the cross of Christ of Christ, but a lack of confidence in God's power to save."
"Followers of Jesus suffer," the author of this letter reminded Timothy. "I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained."

Not many modern day Christians face imprisonment for their attempts to live a Christian life and to announce that they are doing so. But, imprisonment isn't the only cost. We may find ourselves slipping in faithfulness just because of our concern to maintain our own comfort or security.

We might say "Get over yourself."

But not totally over. The letter promises that the short-term sacrifices are, in fact, short term. "If we have died with him, we will also live with him. And if we endure, we will also reign with him."

The letter follows these reassurances with a caution, "If we deny him, he will also deny us."

Yet even that caution is modified with the next assurance, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful."

Although I might prefer just to hold on to that assurance, I am going to offer the explanation made by Allen & Williamson in their Preaching the Letters:
....Affirming or denying Jesus seems to be a quid pro quo--God will treat us precisely as we deserve. But verse 13 counters with "If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself." What he cannot deny is "the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" and that makes him who he is.
Boring & Craddock in their People's New Testament Commentary also deal with this tension between denial and faithfulness, "God's faithfulness is not dependent on ours; God's acceptance of us is based on who God is, not on who we are or what we have done." They assert that "this paradox permeates the whole New Testament" and offer the examples of Philippians 2:12-13 and Revelation 20:11-15. I would add that there's also a lot of undeserved acceptance in the Old Testament as well.

People who professed themselves to be Christians do not always get along with or agree with other people also professing to be Christians. That can happen between denominations and between congregations, and also even within a congregation.

And that's the way it used to be, too. In verse 14, we read, "Avoid wrangling over words."

"After all," he concludes, "those arguments don't convince anybody and cause hard feelings."

"Rather than wrangle," Timothy is told, "rightfully explain." The writers of the New Interpreter's Study Bible, who have studied Greek better than I have, comment "Rightly explaining," literally "cutting straight," implies the delivery of the word without resort to "wrangling."

Psalm 92:1-93:5
How often does a typical Christian offer thanks and recognition to the Lord--every day or twice a day or  at meals or not on some predetermined schedule? Why do we give thanks? Do we, like the psalmist here, get something good out of praising the Lord? Do we notice what God has done? Does our joy about what God has done impel us to praise?

Look at verses 12-15. The metaphor of crops is used to describe the righteous. As visible as trees, they stand and flourish. Even in old age, they continue to produce fruit. Like old trees, old worshipers continue to be growing and productive. These righteous people don't plant themselves.

Proverbs 26:3-5
....
Do not answer fools acording to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.
....

Prayer for Today: O Lord, keep us strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and what we heard from many faithful witnesses. Help us to turn away from our errors and to turn instead to righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Remind us to respond to our opponents with gentleness and patience. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reflections on the readings for October 22

Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy in the morning with
your steadfast love,
ao that we my rejoice
and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90:13-14)

Jeremiah 39:1-41:18
Babylon invades Jerusalem, takes the king and much of the population into exile. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was being held under guard, "I am going to destroy this city, but I will save you." After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylon took much of the population into exile, leaving only the poorest people. The captain of the Babylonian guard released Jeremiah and told him he could go to Babylon or to anywhere else he thought it good and right to go.

2 Timothy 1:1-18
Paul addresses Timothy as his beloved child. He writes that he is grateful to God when he remembers Timothy in his prayers night and day. Remembering Timothy's sincere faith (as a sideline, please note that Paul gives a lot of credit to Timothy's grandmother and mother so perhaps we shouldn't be too adamant in asserting misogyny in Paul), anyway, remembering his faith, Paul reminds him to use that faith.

Paul reminds Timothy that God has provided us with a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline--and that all those are needed because discipleship may entail suffering.

Paul also gives credit to his ancestors by saying that he worships as they did. Paul did not believe that Christians worship a different God from the One worshiped by Jews. Further, Paul asserts that the grace given to them was given long before it was revealed through the appearance of Christ, Allen & Williamson, in Preaching the Letters, explain it this way:
What Paul exactly meant, we do not know, but the gracious disposition of God to God's creatures seem always to have been the case; our good fortune is that because of God's self-disclosure we know this.
Although Paul is undergoing suffering because of work, he is confident of God's protection. He tells Timothy to hold on to what he has been taught, "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you," and that he will also be aided, "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

Jouette Bassler, in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus in the Abington New Testament Series, writes about Paul's view of suffering:
He presents suffering as inevitable for any Christian and essential for any church leader. Through suffering, a church leader identifies himself with Paul and manifests his confidence in the fundamental Christian promise of life. Failure to endure sufering suggest shame--not shame in the cross of Christ of Christ, but a lack of confidence in God's power to save."
Psalm 90:1-91:16
Psalm 90 is a prayer that confesses human frailty, our iniquities and our secret sins. "We deserve your wrath," the psalmist admits.

But, enclosing this admission is a greater recognition: God cares for us, and has cared for us, and will care for us. God was here before we knew we needed God. We realize that our lives here will come to an end, and we need God's help.

The prayer continues, "Satisfy us at daybreak with Your steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days. I'm reading "daybreak" both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because for me, early morning is when I usually have my daily devotional--partly because then I have the rest of the day to reflect on what I've read or prayed. Metaphorically, because it's not only at literal sunup that the light can come on for us. Other events can illuminate things for us--wise words from wise people as well as sudden realizations that hit us.

I love the last prayer of this psalm "O prosper the work of our hands!" because it serves as a reminder to me that I am part of God's work on earth.

In Psalm 91, I am troubled by verses 9 through 13 because I have seen good people suffer, have evil befall them, dash their feet against a stone (actual as well as metaphorically.) So what do I do with these assurances?. The promise in the last verses, "I will deliver those who love me, protect those who know me," should not be read to mean that "Those who aren't delivered and protected deserve not to be." Yet, I can pray quite honestly the opening verses. I do experience God as a refuge and a fortress. I do trust God.

Here's my compromise (I don't like that word, but I can't come up with the term that better expresses my thoughts): Verse 15 is an assertion that I can agree with. I can depend on God to be present with me whenever I am in trouble. That presence is in itself rescue--I am not suffering alone, and I am not suffering without possibility of salvation.

Proverbs 26:1-2
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
an undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Prayer for Today: Pray the last five verses of Psalm 90.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 21

Blessed be the Lord forever.
Amen and Amen.
(Psalm 89:52)

Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
When it looks like Egypt is going to stop the Babylonian advance, King Zedekiah doesn't listen to Jeremiah's warning that the Lord has cautioned him that the delay is only temporary. When Jeremiah attempts to leave the city, he is arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.

Then the king brings him secretly to his house to ask him if he has heard any word from the Lord. Jeremiah says, "Yes I have. You are going to be taken captive by the Babylonians. Your prophets have just been telling you what you want to hear. Why have you arrested me?"

As the word spread that Jeremiah had been saying that Babylon was going to take over Jerusalem, the people in power were so upset with him, that they threw him into a cistern. He sank in the mud. Although the most powerful had tried to shut him up, one of the king's servants, a foreigner, talked the king into releasing Jeremiah.

The king asks Jeremiah to speak the truth to him. Jeremiah did. The king did not like what he heard. He ordered Jeremiah not to tell anybody what he had said.

1 Timothy 6:1-21
Slavery was still okay with Christians. How does our acceptance of the change in this attitude affect our  attitude about other matters of injustice that were okay with them in their time, in their place?

This letter to Timothy then describes the characteristics that false teachers portray: envy, dissension, slander, suspicions, and wrangling. They think that being godliness is the means for gain. Do we still suffer from this assumption?

He adds that of course there is a great gain in godliness combined with contentment. If only I could somehow be content with food and clothing..... That's not even realistic for me because I can so easily imagine better tasting or more appealing looking food and even more easily imagine newer clothes. I'm trying to understand Paul's comment in context of my life and I'm afraid that I do understand it quite well.

Loving money, striving for riches, takes my focus away from what should be attracting my attention and effort. And it can be even worse than that, Paul reminds us. We may be willing to do many unkind or wrong things to ensure that we can accumulate some financial security.

Paul lists for Timothy what goals a Christian should be striving for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Striving for these goals is done publicly not privately. The evidence of righteousness, godliness, and love will be noticeable -- as would be their absence. We have promised to pursue these qualities always but gently. And we have promised publicly to do so by joining the church.

This advice to Timothy is not only to him as an individual Christian but also to him as a leader of a Christian community.  "Live it and teach it. In your congregation are those that are rich. Tell them not to be so proud of their achievements. After all, none of us have any guarantee that our wealth will last. What we can be sure of is that God is eternal and that God will continue to provide us with what we really need. Rather than spending your effort building up your personal wealth, instead be generous with your time and money."

Timothy is reminded that we bring nothing into the world and take nothing out of it, and that what we do between that coming in and that going out of the world matters: Doing good, being rich in good works, will provide us with a treasure surpassing what money could have bought for us. This treasure will be "a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life."

Psalm 89:38-52

Proverbs 25:28
Like a city breached, without walls,
is one who lacks self-control.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, guide us away from our temptations to focus on striving for more money. Focus us on what we should be trying to achieve-- righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 20

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance
(Psalm 89:14-15)

Jeremiah 35:1-36:32
Some people listen to God's commands and obey. Some don't. People in power sometimes resist hearing advice from prophets. Some prophets keep trying.

1 Timothy 5:1-25
I can see the wisdom in many of the directives is this chapter; e.g., Be respectful to old people; Contribute to the support of people who need it; Drink some wine.

However, I'm not sure that the condemnation of gossip and idleness should have been restricted to women who are unmarried and under 60.

Psalm 89:14-37
Psalm 89 is an assertion of the covenant God has made with David, and a reminder that this covenant is unconditional, "Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm" (23).

Reading this psalm after the exile, the Jews could adopt God's promise to David as king to themselves as descendants of the people in David's kingdom. Christians have also appropriated this promise since we recognize Jesus as a direct descendant of David.

We might discuss who is included and if anyone is not.

And we need to think about what this unconditional covenant means.

Verses 30-33 remind us that sin has consequences. We may suffer because of wrong choices we have made. We may suffer because of wrong choices someone else has made.

Sin has consequences.

Yet, God doesn't give up on us so easily.

We need to remember both of those things.

Proverbs 25:25-27
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
Like a muddied stream or a polluted fountain
are the righteous who give way before the wicked.
It is not good to eat much honey
or to seek honor on top of honor.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, direct us to exhibit righteousness and justice to everyone. Remind us of your steadfast love and your faithfulness. You are our strength. Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 19

I will sing of your steadfast love,
O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim 
your faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 89:1-2)

Jeremiah 33:1-34:22
Jeremiah is writing to a people in exile. Jeremiah promised them that God would sustain them and provide them with a new life. Remember, Jeremiah knows and they know that they have not always been loyal to God's wishes.

Many congregations and communities today feel as if they are in a kind of exile.

Can you think of a time when you faced lost dreams?

How do Jeremiah's promises speak to you where you are now? What justice and righteousness is needed in your life? in the life of your congregation? of your community?

Where do you see significant signs of the promises? What are you still waiting to see?

1 Timothy 4:1-16
According to this letter, some hypocrites are going to have rules forbidding marriage and abstaining from some food. We are then reminded that everything created by God is to be received with thanksgiving. We moderns may still debate whether something is created by God or not. And, we may or may not have difficulty with the assertion that we should be listening to younger people.

Psalm 89:1-13
Psalm 89 begins with a promise to the Lord, "I'll sing of your steadfast love forever. I'll tell everybody. I'll tell them, old and young, that what you've been doing for us, you'll keep doing for them."

When do we need to hear this reminder? What prompts us to remember to give it?

Do we have to be living in bad times to be able to appreciate good ones?

Whom do we trust enough to receive comfort from what they tell us?

Proverbs 25:23-24
The north wind produces rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
....

Prayer for Today: O Lord, our God, direct us to making the correct distinctions between the allowed and the forbidden. Remind us that you love us all. Remind us to love others. Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 18

Let my cry come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
(Psalm 88:2)

Jeremiah 31:27-32:44
They knew from their own experiences what life is like under disruption, loss, and exile. Now,  Jeremiah is giving them words of restoration. The Lord who had overseen their destruction will watch over their renewal.

Jeremiah then tells how people are going to react, "They will no longer say, 'The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.'"

According to the commentary by John M Bracke, Jeremiah means that they are going to stop complaining about the perceived unfairness of the exile but rather will recognize that they had deserved to be punished (also see Jeremiah 18:1-32).

In his commentary on Jeremiah, R.E. Clements interprets this not as an expression of a doctrine or a defense of the principle of shared family responsibility but rather to give voice to despair:
It is equivalent to "What is the use of trying--our ancestors have done wrong and we are paying the price!"

The Lord tells Jeremiah "I'm sending you a rescuer. Things will change. No longer will people have to suffer because of the sins of their ancestors (They'll still have to pay for their own sins). I will make a new covenant with these people, and all of them will know me."

Their punishment had been real and they and their descendants had recognized it as deserved. But, new life is possible.

The Lord says to a troubled people who had over and over neglected to what they had promised, "I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more" and "They broke the covenant I made with their ancestors. I'm going to make a new covenant." Try to look past our supercessionist interpretation of the phrase "new covenant" all the way back to how Jeremiah's listeners would have understood it. "This covenant will be written on your hearts."

Jeremiah is writing to people who were really in need of repentance. People whose lives were in ashes. "You have been unfaithful to me," the Lord told them, "and I'm taking you back." God made covenant with them. God had given them a home and they moved to Egypt. God brought them back home. They neglected God. They disobeyed God. They misused their gifts. They neglected neighbors in need. They were overrun by powerful enemies and taken into exile in Babylon. God renews the covenant and brings them back.

The Lord is promising not new content but new contact--or, renewed contact.

John H. Hayes In Preaching through the Christian Year B:
The newness is a special gift, the capacity to be faithful and obedient. In the Old Testament, the heart is the seat of the will (see Jeremiah 29:13; 32:39; Ezekiel 1:19; 36:26); consequently, the special gift here is a will with the capacity to be faithful. God thus promises to change the people from the inside out, to give them a center. This covenant will overcome the conflict between knowing or wanting one thing and doing another...

1 Timothy 3:1-16
The qualifications that church administrators were to have were very much like the usual catalogue of virtues common in Greco-Roman ethical teaching (Jouette Bassler in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus). I suppose that we moderns still evaluate the talents and abilities of the leadership and organization of our churches and denominations on the basis of what we see and expect from other organizations.

Bassler points out the requirement that church leaders had to be the head of their household excluded slaves and women was a significant departure from Paul's own churches, where women played various leadership roles. She further refers to the scriptural references "where 'slave' was an honorable epithet both for Christ (Phil 2:7) and for church leaders (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1)." [The NRSV sometimes translates the Greek word as slave and sometimes as servant.]

Psalm 88:1-18
A psalm for when we can hear no comfort.

Proverbs 25:20-22
Like vinegar on a wound 
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,
sorrow gnaws at the human heart.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, open us to know your presence. Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 17

On the holy mount stands the city.
Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.
(from Psalm 87:1,3)

Jeremiah 30:1-31:26
The Lord tells Jeremiah to give this message to the exiles, "I will send a rescuer. I have heard your pleas of help. I will turn your mourning to joy."

1 Timothy 2:1-15
Pray. Pray for everyone. Yes, everyone. Even political leaders.Yesterday in Jeremiah, we read "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (29:7).

Pray for everyone so that everyone will have a peaceful, dignified life.

Then the instructions modify this everyone concept. Women were supposed to dress and behave in worship the same way that the society of the time thought they were to dress and behave outside of worship. This wasn't and isn't the last time that societal norms are allowed to modify the demands of the  gospel.

Psalm 87:1-7

Proverbs 25:18-19
Like a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow
is one who bears false witness against a neighbor.
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot
is trust in a faithless person in time of trouble.

Prayer for Today: O God, we thank you for the many times that you have heard our prayers and rescued us from our difficulties. We pray now that our lives will be peaceful and that we will somehow learn to extend that peace to others. Help us to discern your will in all matters. Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 16

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God;
be gracious to me, O Lord.
for to you I cry all day long.
(Psalm 86:1-3)

Jeremiah 28:1-29:32
A man claiming to be a prophet of God announced that Babylon was soon to be defeated. The Lord informed Jeremiah that not everyone who claims to be speaking the word of God is.

The exiles aren't where they want to be. They have lost their home. They are surrounded by strangers. And they are going to be there a lot longer than they had hoped.

The prophet Jeremiah sent them a message, "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce." In time of loss and despair, they are told to take care of themselves--to find shelter and food, what's needed for refuge and sustenance.

And, they need to recognize that this isn't going to be like a camping trip or even a long journey. He also tells them to get married, and that they will still be in this foreign land when it's time for the children born from these marriages to get married themselves.

Shelter, food, and family. Not hopeless yearning for what was but isn't. Not exactly acceptance but a way to continue under unwanted circumstances.

Then Jeremiah adds another directive, "Seek the welfare of that foreign city and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare will be your welfare."

We can apply this prophecy to our own lives in different ways depending on whether our current situation is more like that of the exiles or more like that of the Babylonians.

1 Timothy 1:1-20
As I read this passage this morning, I thought about the willingness to admit sins and the awareness and gratitude expressed for the ability to overcome them.

When we pray, how much effort do we put into admitting our sins as compared to, say, asking for something?

Which is more obvious to us anyway, the sins of other people or our own?

Then I looked back at Psalm 14, "The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after Go. They have all gone astray...."

As part of the all who have gone astray, we can rest our hope on the assurance from this letter to Timothy that  "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

And for the then what, we can keep reading, "But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe...."

Paul is grateful for being forgiven, and he is grateful because as a forgiven person, he can be a servant to Christ Jesus.

Psalm 86:1-17
Psalm 86 begins with a plea to the Lord for help, a plea not based on anything done to deserve help but rather on the nature of the Lord--good, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. The psalmist continues by  recording the unique greatness of the Lord, and how everybody--all nations--recognize this greatness.

In verse 11, we have two more requests: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. The psalmist wants to know more about God so as to live the kind of life that God would want. Moreover, to live that kind of life, the psalmist is going to have to give up other distractions.

After the requests come expression of gratitude including a reassertion of God's love and care.

But, even with the knowledge that God is powerful and loving, the psalmist recognizes that life can be far from perfect, "O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they don't care about you at all."

In this time of difficulty, the psalmist asks God, "Turn to me and be gracious to me; give me strength; save me."

When we are in our own times of difficulty, we can pray this psalm, we can ask for Lord's favor, because we also can remember the times that the Lord has helped us and comforted us.

Proverbs 25:20-22
Like vinegar on a wound
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,
sorrow gnaws at the human heart.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 86.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 15

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.
God, you will speak peace to your people,
to your faithful, to those who turn to you in our hearts.
Surely your salvation is at hand for those who fear you.
that your glory may dwell in our land.
(Psalm 85:8-9)

Jeremiah 26:1-27:22
People in power didn't always appreciate prophets. Some prophets were not conveying God's intentions correctly.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
We need to think about the then-and-now setting for this passage directing them to make a not-to-do list. Then, Christians were expecting the imminent return of Christ to issue in the final days. Why work, why do anything tedious when the whole world was going to undergo great transformation soon? Why not just sit back and do nothing while waiting for Christ to come handle stuff for us? Well, Paul said, "Don't be idle and don't associate with idlers."

Our expectation of the eschaton has changed over the millenia. How does Paul's advice fit our modern lives?

One school of thought is to think about what behavior and beliefs aid the work and continuity of the congregation. What are the minimum entrance requirements? What actions would lead to a person's being ejected from church membership? What actions not taken would? Does each member have to do some of the church work? What portion of income or wealth is a person required to contribute? And so on with questions that I'm supposing that very few church congregations consider.

Paul was concerned with how the church appeared to pagans. Are we worried about a modern-day equivalent to that? Paul criticized busybodies--what should today's church do to change the behavior and attitude of our busybodies?

Warning from Carl R. Halladay in Preaching through the Christian Year C:
In the wrong hands, this text can easily become a club used to beat those who are out of work, especially the long-term unemployed. Clearly, if we are idle and remain idle, for no good reason, we come under the censure of this text. Paul's example also serves as a worthwhile corrective to the 9-to-5 ministry. As we know, genuine ministry often involves us in round-the-clock work. People in need do not punch a clock. But perhaps one of the most important dimensions of this text is its insistence that we best prepare for the end time not by being idle but by working and earning our own living.
Psalm 85:1-13
I'm looking at this psalm today as a primer on a kind of prayer--a prayer when we want our lives to be different and we admit that we may have had some responsibility in their not being what we would have been, what we want them to be.

1. Remind the Lord, "You have been favorable to us." List some specifics. Of course, the Lord already is quite aware of this. The reminder is really for you.

2. State plainly what you want, "Restore us, Of God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us." Probably implicit is that God's indignation will no longer be needed because you intend in the future to act like a person worthy of that salvation you're asking for.

3. State just as plainly how bad things are when you are not right with God. "Will you be angry with us forever?"

4. Now, that you have listed your wants, be ready to hear what God wants, "Let me hear what the Lord will speak." But, do we want to hear what God says?

In this psalm, God's message is to live in peace with each other--not just grudgingly, but really peacefully.

What this world would be like if we did listen: Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will greet each other. .

5. Affirm God's gifts and your own promise to be worthy of receiving them "Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps."

Proverbs 25:18-19
Like a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow
is one who bears false witness against a neighbor.
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot
is trust in a faithless person in time of trouble.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, open us to your words, aid us in discerning your true message. Amen.