Offertory Prayer

Each month's Offertory Prayers includes an "Invitation to the Offering" (see below) along with a digital image for those who might want to use it. We hope you will find this a helpful way to remind the people in your pews that their offering travels to many places to make a powerful difference in the lives of people they may never meet. You can find great stories of the difference our giving makes at http://umcgiving.org.

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 our connectional giving, we are playing a key role in the fight against Ebola in West Africa on many fronts. United Methodist Communications formed its Information and Communications Technologies for Development team (ICT4D), whose work includes bringing technology solutions to the fight against poverty. When Ebola was first reported in Liberia this past summer, many residents dismissed it as political propaganda or superstition. The historic text message shown here from Liberian Bishop John Innis, the most effective means of mass communication in this situation, made real the threat. 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 United Methodist Communications at: www.umcom.org/global-communications.

November 23, 2014 -- Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday
O Lord our God, you are the good shepherd. You continually reach out to help us. When we are distracted and scattered, you draw us near with your loving voice. You welcome us as sheep of your flock and give us refreshing food and drink. Thank you for green pastures of rest and spiritual renewal. We dedicate our offerings to further your work in the world: to bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, rescue those in danger, and feed them with justice. We pray through Christ your Son, the great shepherd of the sheep. Amen.(Ezekiel 34)


November Offertory Prayers were written by the Rev. Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reflection on One-Year-Bible readings for November 23

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
(Psalm 119:34)

Ezekiel 45:13-46:24
Rules for the reclaimed homeland: No more violence and oppression. Maintain honest business dealings. Make religious offerings. Take time for celebrations.

1 Peter 1:13-2:10
This letter is written to people who live far away from the true home, "Live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You're one of us now. You've been rescued from the futile ways that your ancestors lived. Christ has ransomed you."

How do we read the letter today? What does it say to our lives?

First, I'm struck by the term "exile." I hear people refer to America as a Christian country. Yet, I read polls that indicate that when asked what their religion is, the largest number report "none." Furthermore, as I read the morning paper or listen to conversations, I don't always hear Christian principles discussed. Have I, like these ancient people, inherited futile ways? Worse, am I passing on futile ways to the generations that follow me?

What do I have faith in? What are my hopes set on?

Peter is writing to the new converts: The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope. Rejoice because you are also included.

He outlines the appropriate response to the news of salvation:
Consider what's important.
Consider what lasts.
How much of Peter's instruction is palatable to us today? Do any congregations exhibit the kind of love that he is talking about?

Peter says to them--and through them, to us, "Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house."

These words remind me today that the early Christians had little interest in building those big buildings on the corner that we now think of as defining church. We say "A church is not a building" a lot, but I'm not sure that we really get it. This passage helps me.

First, I'm struck by the metaphor of "stones" for individuals. A stone is strong and durable, but it takes a lot of stones to make anything useful. One stone looks different from another. To make something, we need to find stones that fit together, that fill in the gaps of the ones next to it. And, if a stone cracks or falls out, another stone can be inserted. Moreover, when the needs for that building exceed its current capacity, the builder can add on to it. And that add-on may look entirely different from the original structure.

After all, our spiritual houses are all founded on the same cornerstone.

Even though I am a Methodist, thus an Arminian, I can readily see how others could find instruction from passages like this that say "as they were destined to do" and "you are a chosen race."

Rather than argue the differences, today I am more interested in that spiritual building that we who are Arminian and we who are Calvinist comprise. We share a precious cornerstone.

We choose to believe or believe because we are chosen, but we share that cornerstone.

And chosen and believing, we share a function: to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness into the marvelous light.

Peter was telling his listeners that they are part of God's family. Extending his message to our time, we can recognize that Christianity is inclusive of people whose backgrounds, whose behavior, whose appearance may be very different from our current congregation. And the message is still that they, like us, have received mercy.

Psalm 119:33-48
If you see any of these signs, please pay attention.

Warning signs are intended to help us. So, are God's statutes.

Proverbs 28:11
The rich is wise in self-esteem,
but an intelligent poor person sees through the pose.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, we give you thanks for including us in your family. Open us now to reach out to others, even those who look or act differently from what we are used to. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reflection on One-Year-Bible readings for November 22

Open my eyes so that I might behold
wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:18)

Ezekiel 44:1-45:12
Troubling message: Not all will be welcome.

1 Peter 1:1-12
This letter was to Christian congregations in what we now call Turkey, as the Common English Bible puts it," to God's chosen strangers in the world of the diapora."

He reminds them of what they already have--a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers them reassurances that God will continue to protect them.

But, as we read these reminders and reassurances, we also realize the reason Peter offered them--They were undergoing suffering because of their faith.

Peter's explanation for the suffering is that it is necessary so that their faith may be found genuine. Suffering helps us get rid of the unnecessary and focus on the important. For example,
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness (Malachi 3:1-3).
Many Christians during Lent do a kind of purification, choosing to eliminate certain foods or distractions from their lives so that they can focus more on what is really important. I'm wondering whether we have picked those habits back up when Lent is over or whether we have now become a new kind of Christian.

Peter says to them to rejoice. Their new faith that has come through the period of testing, will be genuine and will result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Reading these words from Peter (or as my Bible commentaries lead me to believe, someone else for whom the early church put Peter's name on his letters), I'm wondering how applicable they are for me. I know that in some parts of the world that Christians are under attack. But where I live, they really aren't. What is it that I have to give up in the world that I live because I am a Christian? Am I suffering because of it?

How genuine is my faith? How much of my life, how many of my decisions are based on example of Jesus Christ?

Can I discern what is important? Can I tell the difference between the gold and what should be refined away?

Psalm 119:17-32

Proverbs 28:8-10
One who augments wealth by exorbitant interest
gathers it for another who is kind to the poor.
When one will not listen to the law,
even one's prayers are an abomination.
Those who mislead the upright into evil ways
will fall into pits of their own making,
but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.

Prayer for today: O Lord, keep our faith strong as we pass through life's difficulties. Focus us on what is important to you. Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reflection on the One-Year-Bible readings for November 21

Blessed are you, O Lord; 
teach me your statutes.
(Psalm 119:12)

Ezekiel 42:1-43:27
A vision of the temple, restored and filled with the glory of the Lord. Is the temple being described to be a physical structure or is it metaphorical? Verses 10-12 in chapter 43 the description of the temple, now destroyed but to be rebuilt, is tied together of the with recognition of their sins and their need to observe and follow God's law and ordinances.

James 5:1-20
James warns the rich that their riches won't protect them and that they should have paid higher wages to their employees.

James reminds us that Christians know both the bad and good of life. "When you are suffering," he says, "then pray." We are not alone. We are not with help. And he tells us, "When you are cheerful, sing songs of praise." Again, we are not alone, and we need to remember with gratitude the help we've received that led to our cheerfulness.

Also, James reminds us that being a Christian is more than that me-and-Jesus thing. He says to confess our sins to each other. To each other?

And not just pray for my healing, my gratitude, my sins, but also I'm to pray for yours.

James uses the Scripture to bolster his teaching: Remember Elijah.

Psalm 119:1-16
A way that Christians have used to express disdain for Jews--and Protestants for Catholics--is to say that they are obsessed with the law. Walter Breuggemann reminds us that Torah piety is a living-out of the realization that they have been disobedient but were rescued by the Lord anyway. Thus, their commitment to doing what God wanted them to do was driven not by guilt, fear, or coercion, but by joy, comfort, and well-being (Theology of the Old Testament).

Psalm 119 demonstrates this praise of the law and the law-giver.

Brueggemann again, but this time in the commentary, Texts for Preaching, points out the three steps in this section of Psalm 119: Step 1, verses 1-3, We have seen destruction and disappointment. The Lord has shown us how we can attain happiness. Step 2, But, just have been told what to do is not enough. We need continued support--verse 4 shifts to a prayer to the Lord. The third step, verses 5-8, the psalmist expresses the resolve to keep Torah and to establish God's instruction as the pole around which life revolves...and the joy to be found in that commitment.... At the same time that the psalmist gives voice to this resolve, however, he or she confesses the power of human ignorance and weakness. In order to keep Torah, it must first be learned (v. 7b). And even when God's instruction has been learned, faithfulness to it is often interrupted by human weakness and sin, so that the petition in v. 5 becomes a necessary one for the poet to raise.

Proverbs 28:6-7
Better to be poor and walk in integrity 
than to be crooked in one's ways though rich.
Those who keep the law are wise children, 
but companions of gluttons shame their parents.

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 119:12-16.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reflection on One-Year-Bible readings for November 20

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
(Psalm 118:19)

Ezekiel 40:28-41:26
The temple will be rebuilt.

James 4:1-17
"Why can't we just get along?" someone asked.

Well, why can't we?

James seems to be telling me that I'm not going to be able to get along with anybody as long as I'm worried about my own self too much.

Give thought to what God wants.

Is there any hope for me?

James says "Of course. Just give up what the devil wants and start wanting what God wants."

Can it be as simple as James makes it out to be: Resist the devil and he's beaten. Draw near to God and God's with you.

James writes of the importance of wisdom and also of the divergent outcomes of being wise and being unwise. He says that it's pretty obvious if somebody is wise. If you're envious or selfishly ambitious, you're not.

Moreover, your envy and selfishness harms everybody. (I'm wondering if envious and selfish people worry about this.)

How God wants us to be, according to James, is peaceful, merciful, impartial, and not hypocritical. Perhaps, if I would try to attain and act out those characteristics, then I wouldn't be envious or selfish. Or, if I weren't so envious and selfish, then I would find it easier to practice peace, mercy, and impartiality, rather than hypocrisy.

When you are aware of bad things happening in the congregation, what is your responsibility? Please note that I'm not talking about the many times that we don't agree with someone or the times when we don't get our way.

Psalm 118:19-29
I often used to begin the worship service by quoting the first part of 24, "This is the day the Lord has made," and the congregation would immediately respond, "let us rejoice and be glad in it."

The "us" is important. Everyone in that congregation had known some kind of pain or rejection. Yet, they could rejoice.

We wouldn't need victory if we didn't already know rejection, but our lives have both. We don't have to pretend that our lives haven't had and don't have grave difficulties. But, we can remember and be thankful what the Lord has done and continues to do for us. And,  even in that rejoicing over what had been overcome, we still need the strength and support that God gives us. This is the day. Every day is this day.

Proverbs 28:3-5
A ruler who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law struggle against them.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, forgive us for those times that we have been envious or selfish or hypocritical. Guide us into ways of peace, into ways of accepting others, into ways of helping people in difficulty. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflection on One-Year-Bible readings for November 19

O give thanks to the Lord.
You are good; 
your steadfast love endures forever!
(adapted from Psalm 118:1)

Ezekiel 39:1-40:27
Restoration. They had deserved their losses, but the Lord will take them back.

James 2:18-3:18
One of my new favorite books is The Twible, in which Jana Riess presesents all the chapters in the Bible in 140 characters or less. For example, she sums of James 2:
EPIC FAIL RELIGION: when a cold, hungry guy hears a Christian say, "Stay warm and be fed, pal!" while passing him by.
James asked, What is the conflict among you? If he were writing to Americans right now, we could say that it is this recent political season  exposed quite a bit of conflict. Here's a suggestion of how we could be more Jamesian when we express a political opinion (by Ginger on her blog RambleRamble):

But, of course, we don't restrict our trash talk to discussing politicians. We may also judge the people we are around us. James say to stop it now.

Psalm 118:1-18
"The Lord is my strength and might; he has become my salvation." We acclaim the victory, yes, but we also recognize what impact that victory has on us--how we are to live now.

"I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord." We wouldn't need victory if we didn't already know rejection, but our lives have both.We don't have to pretend that our lives haven't had and don't have grave difficulties. But, we can remember and be thankful what the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Proverbs 28:2
When a land rebels,
it has many rulers;
but with an intelligent ruler
there is lasting order.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, we give you thanks for what you have done for us and continue to do. Help us now to live the lives that show your love. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reflection on One-Year-Bible readings for November 18

Praise the Lord, all you nations!
We extol you all you peoples!
Great is your steadfast love toward us,
and your faithfulness endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
(adapted from Psalm 117:1-2)

Ezekiel 37:1-38:23
Ezekiel was speaking to people in exile. Was their home lost for them forever? Did the losses in their lives prevent them from worshiping God, from being connected to God? Could they still be a people? Does the despair that comes from the pain in our lives keep us from any hope?

The Lord comes to Ezekiel and asks, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel says, "You know the answer."

The answer that the Lord gives him is in the form of an instruction, "Prophesy to these bones. Tell them what I am going to do."

Ezekiel does speak to the people. And as he does, those scattered bones come together, sinews and flesh and skin cover them. But, no breath.

Here we are, a bunch of individuals grouped together, yet not accomplishing anything. Economic times are tough. Where will the money come from to satisfy our needs? our wants?

A bunch of bones lying in a field. Even when connected, they're not getting the job done.

God says, "I'll put my breath into you and you shall live again."

This state of life works as a metaphor for our own times.  A couple of examples: We can use it to despair of our economic difficulties or of the decline in organized religion--or in our particular denomination. We may still look the way we did in the past when things were better, but things aren't the same. We aren't as productive, we fear the future.

Here we are, church congregations, fearful of their present and for their continued future, who can celebrate receiving God's own breath into their midst.

When there was no breath in those mortals, the breath of the Lord God came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet.

O Lord, lift us from our fear.

James 1:19-2:7
God created us with God's purpose in mind. So, we are to act in a way that will fulfill God's purpose.

The first requirement is a hard one: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Also, eliminate sordidness and wickedness.

What kind of person would be like this? Oh, right. The kind of person that will be able to welcome God's word that can save our souls.

James knows that we are familiar with scripture, can even recite it or discuss it, and he knows that we may have not allowed that scripture to change us very much. He says "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves."

He cautions us to look at what the Bible throughout has required.

His test for whether someone is religious includes care for orphans and widows in distress and keeping oneself unstained from the world. Some of us think that one of those is more important than the other. James is holding out for both--as well as refraining from anger.

Being religious might be hard for some of us.

James wrote to the Christians of his day "What good is it to say you have faith if your neighbors need food or clothes?"

Psalm 117:1-2

Proverbs 28:1
The wicked flee with no one pursues, 
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, calm our fears. Increase our trust in you so that we have the courage to follow your commands to be more generous. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reflection on the One-Year-Bible readings for November 17

I love the Lord.
You have heard my voice and my supplications.
You have inclined your ear to me,
therefore I will call on you as long as I live.
(adapted from Psalm 116:1-2)

Ezekiel 35:1-36:38
After the prophecies of judgment against the aggressors comes the blessing of Israel. And a reminder. The last time that the Lord had provided the people with their own country, they responded badly. They had deserved the punishment they had received, but the Lord forgives them.

This time will be different. The Lord offers this assurance, "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." The gift is free but comes with obligations,  "I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances."

James 1:1-18
The letter to James is written to a congregation that has already heard the basics of the Jesus story. They've heard about Christianity, but they need instruction on how to live out the faith.

Being a Christian may mean taking a more difficult path, but the result could make you stronger, whereas dithering can make you weaker. Riches don't last. Your gifts come from God. Remember that God had something in mind for how you use those gifts.

Psalm 116:1-19
I can't remember my first prayer. I don't even remember who first told me about prayer or suggested words that might be used. I'm guessing that grace before meals and those bedtime prayers were the first. But, I don't remember who taught me about prayer in time of great difficulty. Somebody must have, because I have been praying that kind of prayer throughout the tough times in my life.

One source of instruction for all of us is, of course, the Psalter.

The psalm for today is a thanksgiving psalm.

And, as a thanksgiving psalm, it also gives the need for the prayer that the Lord has answered.

The psalmist remembers the time of distress and anguish and calling on the Lord for help. And, having received that help, the psalmist then gives thanks.

Notice that the psalmist is not being totally private, but is promising to be a witness to the care and support that the Lord gives.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
Proverbs 27:23-27
Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds;
for riches do not last forever,
nor a crown for all generations.
When the grass is gone, and new growth appears,
and the herbage of the mountains is gathered,
the lambs will provide your clothing,
and the goats the price of a field;
there will be enough goats' milk for your food,
for the food of your household
and nourishment for your servant girls.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, we have heard the story, we have received the gifts, and we have informed of the commands; yet, we often behave as if we did not know what you wanted us to do. We ask forgiveness and your continued presence. Amen.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflection on the One-Year-Bible readings for November 16

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, 
but to your name give glory, 
for the sake of your steadfast love 
and your faithfulness.
(Psalm 115:1)

Ezekiel 33:1-34:31
Ezekiel is called by God to speak to Jerusalem as it faced its fall to Babylon, to speak to a people who had lived in a kingdom in a land promised to them by God, and who had lost it.

How are any of us, living at any point in history, supposed to learn survival lessons? Ezekiel reminds us that God uses prophets, sentinels, to warn us of dangers, "Tell those people that I don't want their destruction. Tell them to turn back, to repent."

Bad things do happen to good people. But, let us remember that sometimes, bad things happen to good people who did bad things. And, let us remember, that if we are going to remain bound together in order to serve God more effectively, then we have to be responsible to one another.

God sent Ezekiel as a sentinel to warn people of danger. God sends each of us to speak--and to listen.

Look back in earlier chapters of Ezekiel to see the kinds of sins he was talking about. For example, "You wore expensive clothes and ate expensive meals but did not aid the poor and needed," (16:1-49). What is lawful and right, according to Ezekiel, includes caring for the poor and hungry (18:5-13).

A shepherd is committed to the care and safety of the flock. Ezekiel writes to a people in exile, a people who have lost their homes, who are wandering, who need protection, who need to be rescued.

Look back at the earlier verses in this chapter. Israel's human shepherds had been feeding themselves rather than the sheep. They had not looked after the needs of the weak or injured. They had not searched for the strays.

They deserved to be scattered. But, scattering the shepherds means scattering the sheep. God declares, "I will rescue the sheep."

"I will seek the lost," God promises. "I will strengthen the weak."

Consider who will benefit from the attention of the Lord God, the true shepherd.

Ezekiel reminds us that the shepherd has another duty, protecting the weak from predators. "The fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice."

The world may think that the well-fed and strong are those that have received God's blessings. Ezekiel  might ask whether they have usurped the blessings that were intended for all of God's flock.

When we read in Ezekiel about the coming judgment, do we read Final Judgment? That is, do we think these pronouncements are only about going to heaven or hell?

Consider that the judgment of the powerful and the consequent setting-aright is God's word to us of what our life on this earth would be like if we would just do what God has always wanted us to do.

Ezekiel says, "Your leaders have cared about themselves not their people. I am going to give you a new leader, a leader who will protect you, a leader that will carry out my will."

Even though they were not able to live out the promises and gifts, God continued to care for these people. God sent other shepherds, another Shepherd, and continues to be our Shepherd. And shepherds need assistant shepherds;  all of us are accountable for all the sheep.

Hebrews 13:1-25
"Let mutual love continue," this week's passage from Hebrews begins. I'm assuming that the word "continue" connotes that this congregation already has achieved mutual care. The next instruction is "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers..." They can love each other, and they are also required to love some new people, people they aren't used to, people that may not automatically know what they're supposed to do in each circumstance.

How are we supposed to interpret this prescription? Who should be included in the category "stranger"? How would we show hospitality to someone in our country that we did not invite in?

The letter continues with its instructions: Remember those in prison. And not just remember, empathize. Are we allowed to limit this just to people who are imprisoned for certain beliefs rather than have to think about the other prisoners, those who we think really should be put somewhere out of sight.

Then the message comes home--literally. "You married people, stay faithful."

And, in this time of economic difficulty, what do we do with the command to keep our lives free from love of money?

To summarize, care for strangers, prisoners, spouses, but don't obsess so much about money. After all, God is with us and will help us through it all.

Thomas Long in his commentary on Hebrews, says about verses 15-16:
We do not make, of course, the same sacrifice that Jesus offer; his was "once for all" (10:10). Our sacrifices are praising God, confessing God, name in public, doing works of mercy, and sharing what we have with others--in other words, right out there in public view we are to worship, evangelize, empathetically serve the needy and exercise generosity to others. Such "sacrifices are pleasing to God", which is one of the marks of faith.
Psalm 115:1-18

Proverbs 27:21-22
The crucible is for silver,
and the furnace is for gold,
so a person is tested by being praised.
Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle
along with crushed grain,
but the folly will not be driven out.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, direct our attention to those in need, the weak, the injured, the strayed. Give us the will to extend our care to them. Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reflection on the One-Year-Bible readings for November 15

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
(Psalm 113:1)

Ezekiel 31:1-32:32

Hebrews 12:14-29
The preacher is describing what the community ruled by God is like. He uses the metaphor of two mountains. He describes the first as a place where some things can be seen and heard and touched. The other mountain, Mount Zion, is not like this.

Another important difference is that people had been terrified to approach the first mountain. At Mount Zion is a city whose residents are having a celebration.

"You have not come to something that can be touched," the preacher had said, "a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and a tempest." He continued on, describing how terrifying that mountain was then contrasted that experience with the approach to the new mountain.

There, at this new mountain, are assembled a congregation before God who is the judge of all and Jesus, the mediator.

And, since Jesus is there, also present is the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

We are cautioned not to refuse the one who is speaking.

Remember. Pay attention. Listen.

Refusal to listen has consequences.

Life here on earth is temporary, but the life promised to us is unshakable.

We are cautioned not to refuse the one who is speaking.

Psalm 113:1-114:8
Psalm 113 begins with a call to praise, a call for all the servants of the Lord -- that means all of us, surely?-- to praise the name of the Lord.

All to praise and for all time.

For all time and all day long.

The psalm recognizes that the Lord is supreme, high above all nations, with glory above the heavens. When we pray this psalm, we are saying, "Our Lord, you are so high you have to stoop down to look at the heavens."

The time we are to spend praising the Lord can't be measured any more than the Lord's glory can be measured.

Our Lord is unique, says this psalm. Then, what might seem like a surprising reason is given--This Lord is willing to come down from a high throne to lift up the weak and the poor.

I'm thinking about the content of my usual prayers and wondering how much gratitude I express that God cares so much for the poor and the lowly.

Proverbs 27:18-20
Anyone who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and anyone who takes care of a master will be honored.
Just as water reflects the face,
so one human heart reflects another.
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and human eyes are never satisfied.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, open our ears to hear your message; help us to pay attention to your will; and remind us of your word when we get distracted by everything else that is going on around us. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Reflection on the One Year Bible readings for November 14

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in the commandments.
(adapted from Psalm 112:1)

Ezekiel 29:1-30:26
Egypt, that once-proud, powerful nation, will be destroyed, its people scattered.

Hebrews 11:32-12:13
What has been possible by faith--
making it out of Egypt and into the promised land
settling the land and protected it from enemies

Many suffered, many did not reach the goal

We remember them, how they lived their lives and what they accomplished by faith. Their lives and accomplishments are an example for us. They had a goal and were willing to make sacrifices.

And we have Jesus as our example. He strived and suffered, and he has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Thomas Long in his commentary Hebrews in the Interpretation series characterizes the author's message:
The Preacher knows that it is late in the day, and that we have already run several sprints and dashes. We are winded and tired, but this is the race that counts, so we are to strip off anything that would slow us down--all the weighty encumbrances and shackling sins and run our portion of the race with endurance. The trail has already been blazed; the path of the race has already been forged by Jesus. He is the lead runner, and he shows us where to go, since he is the "pioneer," the one who sets the course. He also shows us how to run, since he is the one who runs the race with flawless form, the "perfecter of our faith." Indeed, it is Christ who makes it possible for us to run at all.
Psalm 112:1-10
This psalm answers the question, "What is life like for people who are doing what God wants them to do?"

First, they are happy.

Then follows a list of attributes of happiness, beginning with they are rich--a little troubling because we know so many non-rich people that do try to follow God's will.

Because they trust the Lord, they don't get scared easily.

Also, they are good examples. They are gracious, merciful, and righteous. They give to the poor.

For an exercise, try reading the front page of your local paper. Watch your favorite news channel for about 5 minutes or so. Do you see happy there? Or, do you see scared? Can we in our lives connect God's will with actually changing our habits and attitudes? Do we believe that if we were more generous that we would be less afraid?

What do you think about the assessment in verse 10, that it is the wicked who are angry about distributions to the poor?

Proverbs 27:17
Iron sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens the wits of another.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, strengthen our faith. Amen.