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 OfferingThe 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 2, 2014 -- Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide
God of steadfast love, we praise you, for you abundantly provide for every living thing! Thank you for listening when we call to you in times of need. You guide us in your good path where we will find all you give us. You alone do wonders: you bring transformation, creating new life out of death. Enable us by your Spirit to live as people of gratitude who help others to experience your love and grace. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.(Psalm 107)

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 30

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day
when I call.
(Psalm 102:1-2)

Lamentations 3:1-66
Despair. Hope. Yet.

Help me. Pay them back.

Hebrews 1:1-14
Here are some excerpts from the commentary of Hebrews and James written by Frances Taylor Gench:
"Hebrews addresses believers who have grown weary in the Christian way and who are in danger of abandoning their Christian vocation: "fading enthusiasm, waning commitment, dwindling church attendance, and arrested development in the Christian faith," and "God has spoken; indeed, God has never been silent. God has spoken through prophets throughout our history, and now has spoken to us by a Son"

Gench focuses on the high Christology in Hebrews: The Son was at the beginning. Through him, the world was created and continues to be sustained:
Moreover, contemplation of Hebrews' panorama will guard against a restricted vision and limited appreciation of the story of Jesus Christ....Christians who do not attend church regularly, making an appearance only at Christmas and Easter, may envision Christ only in diapers or nailed to a cross! Hebrews, however, encourages a broader perspective. It fills out the big picture, thereby laying the groundwork for a more mature understanding of the one who stands at the beginning and end of God's purposes for the world, and who makes available to us God's own life.
How limited is the vision and appreciation of the story of Jesus Christ? I go to church two or three times a week but surely I realize that a lot, a whole lot, of people go only two or three times a year if that many. What do they think about Jesus if they really do go only on Christmas and Easter? How do we get across to them that God's purpose includes our lives? How do we learn that ourselves?

How do we view Christ today? Are we focusing on an infant? Do we see him only on a cross? This passage from Hebrews reminds us of other themes.

Psalm 102:1-28
Words of despair and words of confidence in God.

Proverbs 26:21-22
As charcoal is to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, in in times of despair, comfort us. In painful times, support us. When our enthusiasm for your gospel fades, wake us up to your presence. Strengthen our commitment to your church. Give us the words that would be helpful to tell to those that need to hear about you. Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflections on the readings for October 29

I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing.
I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?
(Psalm 101:1-2)

Lamentations 1:1-2:22
As I read the opening verses of Lamentations, I think about the condition of so many of our cities: "How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!"and "No one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter."

We may mourn, and we may look for reasons for the desolation of the once powerful, once loved city. We may ask why we let such desertion and devastation happen? In the case of Jerusalem they had been overtaken by a foreign army. The author of Lamentation tells Jerusalem that they deserved what had happened to them. Do we?

Philemon 1:1-25
As I began reading this letter from the emprisoned Paul to his friends and fellow Christians, I started to wonder who would write to me and to whom would I write. Well, of course now, I never write the paper kind of letters any more. But, I do e-mail some and I do send some direct messages by facebook.

What do I say? To whom do I write? Do I ever say anything about remembering someone in prayer? How often do I remember someone in prayer? How often do I tell someone how much joy and encouragement their friendship and support has given me? Well, how often do I even remind myself of this?

Paul is asking something hard of Philemon. "Your slave escaped. Take him back--but as a brother not as a slave."

What one Christian can ask of another. Give up what is due you. Forget the wrongs that have been done to you.

Paul is so sure of Philemon's love, that he is willing to trust him, willing to ask him to do this hard thing.

Paul is asking something difficult of his friend. Am I willing to do that? Do I have friends that I allow to ask difficult things of me? What is noticeable about my faith toward the Lord Jesus?

Psalm 101:1-8
Someone in charge says "Here are some things that would disqualify you from working for me."

Proverbs 26:20
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer,
quarreling ceases.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, show us how to restore what we people have destroyed. Give us the words to speak to people who need to change. And, encourage us to reach out to those people who have demonstrated friendship and support. Give us the words to express our appreciation to them. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 28

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
(Psalm 100:1)

Jeremiah 51:54-52:34
A recounting of the failed resistance against Babylon with some additional information.

Titus 3:1-15
The mercy of God saved us, not our righteousness. Even so, we are supposed to display righteousness. Some of the specifics are more difficult than others; e.g., avoiding stupid controversies. Today I am struck by the assessment that the reason we are supposed to avoid quarrels about the law is that they are unprofitable and worthless.

Psalm 100:1-5
I once asked a group of church-goers what scripture they had memorized. Several named Psalm 100. I was not surprised because when I was a child I had been encouraged to learn this psalm either at Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.

I don't know what I made of that phrase "all the earth" (or, in other translations, "all ye lands") when I was trying to memorize Psalm 100. I'm not even sure if I learned it in the NRSV or KJ. I'm not sure what I mean by it when I say it today. Who is being called to make this joyful noise? Am I recognizing Christians in other countries? Am I including Jews? What about Muslims? What about everybody else, those who don't descend from Abraham?

What do I think about "his gates"? Am I restricting the meaning of this phrase to church buildings (and synagogues and mosques)? Can God's gates include somewhere outside the church building? That is, am I restricting worship to a kind of formal space?

Proverbs 26:18-19
Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows,
so is one who deceives a neighbor and says, "I am only joking!"

Prayer for Today: O Lord, guide us into ways of obedience to your commands. Focus us on doing good works and direct us away from unprofitable disputes. Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 27

We worship at your holy mountain,
for you the Lord your God are holy.
(adapted from Psalm 99:9)

Jeremiah 51:1-53
The mighty will not stand forever.

Titus 2:1-15
A couple of years ago,  the Commercial Appeal published an article about what they said that some church people called C and E Christians, that is, people who come to church on Easter and for services relating to Christmas. I'm wondering what they would think about these readings from Titus. For that matter, I'm wondering what do people who come to church a time or two a month think.

For example, how do we react when we hear, "The grace of God brings salvation to all"? Just who would we in include in this "all"? Can we accept that "all" could mean "all"?

What do we think salvation is, anyway? According to this passage, salvation trains us to renounce impiety and worldly passions. Yes, that probably means New Year's Eve, too.

And what do we think about this assertion that the reason Christ saved us was that we would be redeemed for sin and thus become zealous for good deeds. Think about it, not only do good deeds but to do them zealously.

Psalm 99:1-9
This psalm begins by stating that the Lord is king. Now, as an American I have trouble thinking of king as a good word. But, I haven't been able to come up with a contemporary parallel that fits the essence of what the word king meant at the time the psalms were first sung.

That is although I am unwilling to accept the notion that any human is exalted over all people, I am ready to proclaim that, certainly, the Lord is.

The God we worship loves justice, has established equity and righteousness. A reminder that we should favor equity and righteousness ourselves.

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and Samuel from a pillar of cloud, and they did what the Lord wanted them to do.

And when they didn't, the Lord our God forgave them.

Proverbs 26:17
Like somebody who takes a passing dog by the ears
is one who meddles in the quarrels of another.

Prayer for today: O Lord our God, teach us to love justice, to establish equity and righteousness. Help us to forgive others that haven't learned to love justice or equity yet. Amen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 26

Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
(Psalm 98:4)

Jeremiah 49:23-50:46
Judgment against the nations continues--Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and even the powerful Babylon.

Titus 1:1-16
This letter although written to a specific person in a specific congregation has some wise counsel for us in our own congregations. Some of the requirements for leader selection would be difficult to insist upon; e.g. being married only once and, in addition, having church-going children. However, some of the requirements still seem timely to us; e.g., not being arrogant or greedy but being hospitable, prudent, and self-controlled.

Also timely, at times anyway, is the description of some of their congregants as rebellious, idle talkers. The letter continues, "Rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith."

Then adds a statement that we may be more comfortable applying to people we disagree with than to the one we see in the mirror, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions."

Psalm 97:1-98:9
One time when someone in the congregation complained about having to sing unfamiliar hymns, I told her that the Bible told us to and quoted Psalm 98:1, "Sing to the Lord a new song." Yes, I know that was snarky, but, I was kind often enough that they put up with me when I wasn't.

And, I wasn't just being snarky--this psalm does call us to newness. Every day, we have something to be grateful for that day. God has led us to a new victory over new problems.

Proverbs 26:13-16
The lazy person says, "There is a lion in the road!
There is a lion in the streets!"
As a door turns on its hinges,
so does a lazy person in bed.
The lazy person buries a hand in the dish,
and is too tired to bring it back to the mouth.
The lazy person is wiser in self-esteem
than seven who can answer discretely.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, guide us onto the proper path. Enable us to be guides for others as they search your way. And, keep us mindful that our words and our actions show others what we know and what we believe. Amen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 25

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into God's presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to the Lord with songs of praise!
(adapted from Psalm 95:1-2)

Jeremiah 48:1-49:22
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Israel will be saved, and enemies of Israel will be defeated, Egyptians, Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites. Yet, after the defeat of Moab, the Lord will restore its fortunes.

2 Timothy 4:1-22
The writer of this letter to Timothy closes with an acknowledgement that his death is near, "The time of my departure has come," and an appraisal of what his life has been like, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." He expects his new life, and that of others, to be good, "There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness..., and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

That good fight that he had fought was not restricted to enemies. His friends had at times deserted him, but, looking back, he sees that he had always been strengthened by the Lord. So, looking forward, he confidently expects the Lord to continue to be with him, to continue to rescue him and save him for the heavenly kingdom.

As Carl Halladay puts it in Preaching through the Christian Year C, he has known human desertion and divine loyalty so that "the mood of our text is confident, and the message is one of hope."


Psalm 95:1-96:13
Psalm 95 is the traditional call-to-worship psalm. After the call (and even within it--see "rock of our salvation"), the psalm lists reasons for our worship. Summing up so far, we are called to praise God and to do so audibly, and we are reminded that God has already done a lot for us. Thus, an appropriate response to the gifts we have already received is gratitude.

Yet, we also may experience rebellion, distrust, and doubt. The admonition is this psalm helps us to remember that when we don't trust God, and so turn to our own ways and wills, things don't turn out very well for us. So, let's go back to the beginning of the psalm and sing the words and live them out.

Psalm 96  has a universal note. In verse 3, we are directed to tell of the Lord's glory among the nations, the Lord's wonderful deeds among all peoples. In verse 7, all families are directed to acclaim the glory and strength of the Lord.

Are we able to recognize the work of God in our own lives? Do we see God's will working through the hands of other people?

Are we able to recognize the work of God in other people's lives?

Verses 7 and 8 in the Common English Bible say "Give to the Lord....". The New Revised Standard Version says "Ascribe to the Lord." When I read this passage in the NRSV, I wondered when was the last time that I heard the word "ascribe" in conversation. I don't think I use it often--or, ever. So, of course, I googled it. That's how I learned that ascribe is used as a company name. For example:
Our Ascribe™ Consumer Content Platform provides the ability to extract insight from unstructured data anywhere and transform it into actionable insights. ... www.languagelogic.info/products.html
Although I'm not sure what a content platform is, I do see a powerful metaphor in their description of what it does--provide the ability to extract insight from unstructured data. I'm asking myself, "Where did I see God today?" That is, as I go through my normal day, as I meet people and events, how do I see God working through them, being present to me?

But not just noticing.

As I continue to read the description of the content platform, it promises not only to extract insight but also to transform it into actionable insights. That is, to do something with the awareness.

Psalm 96 promises that the Lord is coming to judge the world, to judge it with righteousness and with truth. May we live lives that make this news good.

Proverbs 26:9-12
Like a thornbush brandished by the hand of a drunkard 
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like an archer who wounds everybody
is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.
Like a dog that returns to its vomit
is a fool who reverts to his folly.
Do you see persons wise in their own eyes?
There is more hope for fools than for them.

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 96.

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.