Generous God, as we remember Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we acknowledge the temptation that pursues so many of us: to measure our worth, our power and our security by what we have. As we offer these gifts to you this morning, we pray that you might deliver us from the temptation of building our lives around what belongs to us. Continually lead us to the conviction that what matters is that we belong to you. We pray in the name of our Savior and Redeemer. Amen. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Monday, June 30, 2008
"What does it take to convince you?" Jesus is asking. "You criticized John for being too religious and Jesus for not being religious enough."
Current church members could compile a similar list. Evangelism is and always has been difficult.
Matthew does not intend for us to believe the accusations that John had a demon or that Jesus was a drunkard. Does he want us to believe the third accusation--that Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners? (with thanks to Ronald J. Allen & Clark M. Williamson in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews.)
Matthew uses two metaphors for Jesus in this passage: Son of Man and wisdom.
Son of Man: Jesus had responded to a potential follower by saying, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," (Matthew 8:20). Jesus will use this term again to describe the one who will come in glory and judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). According to the notes in the New Interpreters' Study Bible, Son of Man can refer to a human being (Ezekiel 2) or to a heavenly figure who rules (Daniel 7:13-14).
Wisdom: Hard to find, expensive to obtain, God knows where it is, Job 28:12-28. Wisdom calls out to us wherever we go. Wisdom was the first creation of God. Proverbs 8.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sin used to control you. You were its slave and an obedient one. Now, let righteousness be your master. Look at this way, what benefits did you get from sin? What benefits can you receive from God?
Saturday, June 28, 2008
"We Believe Colorado" is a diverse group of faith leaders seeking to broaden the values debate for 2008, according to organizers. The group is challenging the political agenda set by social conservatives and the religious right in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
Thursday's event combined worship and training for effective advocacy on moral issues such as civil rights, the environment and economic justice.
"I came happy. I came excited. I came to embrace and endorse 'We Believe Colorado' as an opportunity for economic and social justice to prevail," said the Rev. Andrew Simpson, presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Simpson and others said faith communities outside the extreme right have been in the majority but have not been counted by politicians and media as values voters.
"We Believe Colorado" is part of a national movement for racially, ethnically and religiously diverse alliances that will represent their common moral values in the political arena, according to organizers, such as Washington, D.C.-based Faith in Public Life and the Colorado Council of Churches.
Issues this year include lifting people out of poverty, equitable public education, affordable health care, a just immigration policy offering paths to legal status and families' reunifications, progressive taxes and government budgets that embody the common good.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Matthew is speaking to the church of his time and to ours. Discipleship can be tough.
Then I look at the heading of the last section, today's reading: Rewards. Discipleship can have rewards. Matthew tells them (and us): Some will welcome you. You have given up a lot in order to take the message to them. Some will respond, and in responding, will be rewarded.
Many ways are possible for us to emulate the first disciples. Ekklesia showed me this form of cups of cold water.
Oikocredit is a co-operative financial institution, which offers loans or investment capital to microfinance institutions, co-operatives and small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries, aimed at development financing.
The organisation has been active in India for over 20 years. In 2004, a local subsidiary was created: Maanaveeya Holdings & Investments (P) Ltd, allowing Oikocredit to provide rupee loans. As a result, the borrowers are no longer exposed to foreign exchange risks. In the past four years, Maanaveeya has built up a portfolio that now holds 32 microfinance partners with a capital outstanding of 1.60 billion rupees (€ 26 million). Today, Maanaveeya is exploring the possibility to also reach out to businesses such as fair trade organizations.
Oikocredit goes beyond microfinance and provides services that also reach organizations aimed at the working poor. In addition to cooperatives of farmers, Oikocredit supports fair trade organizations and producers engaged in fair trade.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The appointed text for this Sunday, June 29, contains the resounding word welcome. God welcomes us through Christ, and we are called to welcome others. Even a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ is a means of grace.
The issue of immigration policy is a flashpoint in public discourse. May we who hear the resounding welcome in the words of Jesus find it in our spirits to offer the grace Jesus offered to all. Jesus remembered the words of Leviticus 33:34 to welcome the stranger in our midst.
I hope that you will join me on Friday, June 27, at noon on the steps of the State Capitol as we give witness to the resolution passed by the Mississippi Annual Conference to pray and act as advocates for those whose lives are threatened by unjust immigration policies and practices. We encourage our state legislature to review policies punishing immigrants and their families as well as their employers. We encourage all to realize the impact of harsh policies on families who are our neighbors. We yearn and pray and witness for a more humane and just way of engaging the issues around immigration in our society.
With gratitude for your partnership in ministry,
Jeremiah, at the time of this confrontation, is wearing a yoke to demonstrate God's command to him that the people of Judah were supposed to capitulate to Babylon. "Anyone that tells you that the temple will be restored are liars," he had preached (27:1-22).
When is it appropriate to preach optimistically? When is it not?
Which prophet's words seem more in line with the suggested Psalm 89?
Do you agree with the decision of the lectionary preparers to connect this passage with Matthew 10:40-42?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
God has provided a substitute sacrifice.
God has provided an act of grace for a man who has shown over and over that he needs it.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The usual format includes: addressing God directly, voicing the complaint, and, often, expressing trust in God to handle the problem.
Psalm 13 begins, "How long, O Lord?" Are we uncomfortable voicing complaints and doubts?
Suggested reading: James E. Bowley, Introduction to Hebrew Bible.
Monday, June 23, 2008
New Report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Finds Religion in U.S. is Non-Dogmatic, Diverse and Politically Relevant
A major survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion &Here's an article that emphasizes the political findings in the report:
Public Life finds that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to
faith. A majority of those who are affiliated with a religion, for
instance, do not believe their religion is the only way to salvation.
And almost the same number believes that there is more than one true
way to interpret the teachings of their religion. This openness to a
range of religious viewpoints is in line with the great diversity of
religious affiliation, belief and practice that exists in the United
States, as documented in a survey of more than 35,000 Americans that
comprehensively examines the country’s religious landscape.
He had argued with God about the proposed destruction of Sodom. Why does he not argue now? Gunn and Fewell suggest several arguments that Abraham might have used: "Take me instead. I'm old. The boy is innocent. You are a just God." Instead, Abraham gets up early and takes his son Isaac on a journey toward a place God had shown him.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
If you have Walter Brueggemann's Inscribing the Text, read his sermon "The Secret of Survival."
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A team of volunteers also did some landscaping at the Mission First Clinic in Jackson. In Madison, a group helped build a house for a low-income family. In Rankin County, volunteers built a playground at the Center for Violence Protection.
As I read about how these volunteers have chosen to spend the day, I am thinking about two of this week' s lections:
"The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God," Romans 6:10.
"Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worth of me," Matthew 10:33.
"What's happened to us," he says, "is like what happened to Christ Jesus. He died. He was raised. He has a new life. We have died, as he did. We will have a resurrection like his.
"With baptism our old life of sin has died. We are free from sin."
Friday, June 20, 2008
The insurance company that is advertising itself in this commercial is Liberty Mutual. I don't know anything else about them so I am not recommending them.
But, I am recommending that you take a look at their new website, The Responsibility Project.
- Don't think I've come to bring peace. I've come to bring a sword.
- I've come to split up your family.
- Whoever isn't willing to die for me is not worthy of me.
This message would not have been metaphorical to many of its first listeners. By the time that Matthew's Gospel was available, some Christians had already been crucified by the Romans.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Jesus does not promise that faithfulness is easy, or always pleasant, or even very safe. He does promise "God knows you and values you," and "I will tell God about your faithfulness to me."
I look at the warnings in these verses and wonder how dangerous is Christianity to us today? Do we feel at risk if we choose to participate in the kind of life that Jesus modeled for us? Does the warning in verse 33 affect my decisions?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
At the initiative of brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, we in the World Council of Churches invite you to join us in observing Sunday 22 June 2008 as the beginning of a season of prayer for the people and government of Zimbabwe.
On Friday 27 June 2008, the citizens of Zimbabwe will return to polling booths to cast ballots in a runoff election for the presidency. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this election, its fairness, its outcome and its aftermath. Events in the coming weeks will challenge the people of Zimbabwe and the world to find means of overcoming violence in the exercise of democracy, and the results will influence the future of the nation and the region.
On Sunday 22 June we request churches to observe a day of prayer for Zimbabwe; on that Sunday, and in the days that follow, we ask you to join millions of Christians throughout the world as we lift up Zimbabwe and its people to the Lord, ask God’s blessing and pray that peace may prevail. We offer the following prayer as a petition to God for the people of Zimbabwe.
In your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of trial.
We pray with and for Zimbabwe in this hour of national decision,
and we ask your divine blessing on all the people of the land.
May Zimbabwe’s leaders seek justice by means that are just;
May the voters take action to promote the common good;
may international observers and mediators be guided by your wisdom.
Lead us not into temptation, Lord, and deliver your people from evil:
Empower us all to overcome anger, jealousy, division and violence;
help us to respect one another despite our differences;
and teach us the things that truly make for peace.
This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Through this and other prayerful actions, we will continue to support the people of Zimbabwe through the days and weeks ahead. In the love and unity of the triune God, we thank you for joining in this season of prayer.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary, World Council of Churches
Matthew 10 begins with Jesus summoning his disciples and commissioning them to do the kinds of healings he has done. "Not everyone will welcome you," he tells them (10:13-14). It is not only the Son of Man who will be in danger; his disciples also will be at risk (10:16-18).
We have something like a summary in verses 24-26. "You who are disciples have the authority of the one who commissioned you. With that authority comes accountability. If they don't like me, they aren't going to like you, either." Then Jesus tells them not to be afraid.
Christians living in the time that Matthew's Gospel was written could hear these words as being supportive of them in the conditions that they knew.
In what ways are they helpful for 21st century disicples?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
In the wilderness, after the water has run out, Hagar gives up hope. Once more, a messenger from God speaks to her. Before, God had told her to return to Sarah. Not this time. Hagar and Ishmael are no longer dependent on the good will of Sarah. God will take care of them and provide a future for them.
Then God opens her eyes and she sees a well of water.
We don't know if Abraham ever sees Ishmael again. We do know that the two brothers go to his funeral (Genesis 25:7-9).
Bringing this text into our present means considering all the children who have been abandoned by the comfortable. What messenger is God sending to show their protectors where the well is? Consider other ways of being alone--loss of a job, illness, living with addictions. How does God appear in these situations? What is our part in rescue to be?
Monday, June 16, 2008
What are we willing to do because of our own fears for our security? Who looks like a threat to our future? Who might expect a share of what seems barely enough for us?
Abraham isn't happy about Sarah's demand, but God assures him that Ishmael will be all right. What do we think would have been a better response by God to Abraham?
Would Ishmael have been better off left in Sarah's home? Would Sarah have grown more generous to Hagar as time went on?
Think about modern day examples of Ishmaels, unwanted children, children who have lost the protection of those controlling the resources. What part does God expect us to play in caring for these children?
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I don't know what I made of that phrase "all the earth" 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?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
This point then leads me to think of the mixed crowd (motley, in some translations, that accompanied them on the trek through the wilderness (Genesis 12:38). Are they included?
A further thought: Moses may have had one audience in mind, but God may thinking of a much larger one.
We can read this statement as a continuation in the theme of protection and shelter. Or, we can read it as a threat, "Do what I say (implicitly, everything I say) or else, you are out. Some Christians read this passage as confirmation that they have replaced God's former close friends. Here's what Ronald J. Allen and Clark M. Williams have to say about that "if" in their Preaching the Old Testament: The point of the 'if' is not that Israel might lose the covenant. the question is if Israel will carry out its vocation in the covenant; that is, to follow the way of life that God intends for them and, through that life, to witness to others so that they, too, will know God and God's intentions.
Friday, June 13, 2008
This email today from Bishop Coyner in Indiana is a reminder of the mission before us as we go forth from the 2008 Annual Conference. He invites a "Second Flood" of generosity in Indiana.
After Hurricane Katrina, we experienced a "second spring" in the natural world and in our life as a church. Indiana has been a strong partner for us in recovery on the Gulf Coast. You are invited to respond to these friends, now in great need, with offerings in your churches.
We have been deluged with floods here in Indiana-- I ask for everyone to pray for those impacted by these floods, and I am also writing to ask for a "Second Flood" of compassion and giving. . .
During those difficult times, we all learned to cling to Psalm 124 where we are assured:
"If the Lord had not been with us, then the flood would have overwhelmed us."
Let us help them with a "Second Flood" of compassion, and let us help them to know that the flood will not overwhelm them because the Lord and the Lord's people are standing with them.
Thank you for your prayers for others and your generosity.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
If we read ahead in Matthew's gospel, we see that Jesus did not intend the proclamations and care to be restricted. Remember the words of Jesus that we call the Great Commission: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.....
We must be careful in reading the initial instructions of Jesus to the disciples, recorded for us in chapter 10, as being the entire manual for discipleship. And we should be mindful that when we begin a new project, we might be better off if we tried accomplishing it in steps. Was Jesus talking about having a pilot project? Was Jesus judging the ability of his disciples to do any healing so that he wanted them to begin where they felt safest (or most comfortable)?
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Jesus has been teaching, preaching, and healing. During this journey, we are told, Jesus had compassion for the crowds because they were harassed and helpless. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." I am struck first by my notion of harvest as being something that will benefit the laborer (or, the laborer's employer). But, Jesus is using this term, harvest, as an opportunity to help the helpless.
When I looked for references to "harvest" in the prophets, I found one in Jeremiah 8 that also mentions healing, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." A couple of verses later he queries, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?"
Although I don't think that Jeremiah was using the terms balm and physicians literally, I think the connection between them and harvest is pretty much the same as in Matthew's gospel. Harvest is an opportunity. We don't have enough workers (in Matthew) or time (in Jeremiah) to complete the work.
Read these words of Jesus literally, then ask how much effort your congregation is making toward healing? toward curing disease and sickness? I write this contemplating that the Annual Conference Offering in Mississippi is directed toward the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Good. But, we're asking only $1 per member. Still good?
Read them metaphorically. What harvest, opportunity, is your congregation working on? What sicknesses are you making an effort to heal? Do you have enough laborers to bring in the harvest? Or, do you plant only enough that your laborers can manage?
Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits. What is the modern-day equivalent of "unclean spirits"?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The headline is "Vermont: Poetry Classes for Vandals." Twenty-eight young people broke into Robert Frost's house, got drunk, and damaged the place. The prosecuter has asked Jay Parini, a Frost biographer, who believes in the redemptive power of poetry, to lead them in a study of Frost's life and work. The New York Times, June 3, 2008, page A21.
The headline is "Where Illegal Guns Can Do No More Harm." In New York City, thousands of firearms are taken by law enforcement officers each year. Instead of crushing and burying them, they are crushing and re-using them. They have found a way to turn spears into plowshares. Guns are sent to scrap processing plants to be chopped up into tiny pieces and sent to foundries from New Jersey to China. The former firearms will be ultimately be used to build water pipes, chain link fences, or appliances. The New York Times, June 3, 2008, page A22.
God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? Ps 116:12
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Lord, you have inclined your ear to me,
I will call on you as long as I live (after Ps 116:2).
The Lord has promised a child to Abraham by Sarah, and the Lord fulfills this promise. Abraham names his son Isaac, which means "he laughs." Sarah says, "God has brought laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me."
We laugh when we are happy. We laugh when we hear something we think is impossible. Both senses of laughter fit this story. Sarah is asserting that people will hear about this child and say, "She's done what we would have thought was impossible."
Questions for us as we reflect on this passage: Do we expect surprises from God? How do we react after we are aware of God's surprising gifts-to ourselves or to others?
Monday, June 9, 2008
The next conversation between them in when the childless Sarai tries to solve her problem by having Abram impregnate her servant Hagar. We aren't told what he said--only that he listened to his wife. When Hagar conceived, Sarai concluded that she was contemptuous of her and complained to Abram. He responded by telling her, "She's your slave; do what you want with her," (Gen 16:1-6).
In the meantime, God has spoken to Abram several times. For example, "Go. You're going to have a lot of descendants. I'm going to give land to your offspring," (Gen 12:1-7; 13:14-17; and 15:1-6). When Abram was ninety-nine God told him once again that he was to be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. He changed his name to Abraham and his wife's to Sarah, and promised that a child was to be born to Sarah (Gen 17:1-22).
The Bible is silent on how much of this promise was communicated to Sarah. When she does overhear the messenger telling her husband that she is to become pregnant, Sarah laughs. Well, why not? She's right that it's unusual for a 100-year old man and a 90-year old woman to conceive a child.
How do we react when God lays out opportunities for us? Do we let our past failures determine our future efforts?
Sunday, June 8, 2008
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High (Ps. 50:13-14).
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast often,
but your disciples do not fast?" (Mt. 9:14)
Levine suggests some what she calls healthy readings. She compares Jesus to this suffering woman. "The woman suffers, she bleeds, she acts in humility by coming up behind Jesus, she retains her faith but she does not speak," 87..
Like the centurion in chapter 8, the leader of the synagogue places himself under the authority of Jesus. They both express faith in Jesus. She contrasts the leader of the synagogue with Herod. Both are Jews; both are leaders. But Herod does not seek the life of a child; he is so intent on destroying one child that he orders that many children be put to death.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
My response is, "Yes, but..." When God told Abraham about the impending birth of Isaac, Abraham's first response was laughter. He tried to get God to accept Ishmael as the heir and forget about any others. God, said no to him, "We'll do it my way" (Genesis 17:15-22).
Trust does not mean that we aren't allowed to argue. Trust doesn't mean that the outcome seems likely--or even possible. Trust does mean letting God's way become our way.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
in order that the promise may rest on grace
and be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not only to the adherents of the law
but also to those who share the faith of Abraham
for he is the father of all of us (Rom 4:16).
Paul asserts that God's promise of blessings (4:13) is guaranteed to all of Abraham's descendants (4:16). He's making the point that non-circumcised, Torah-illiterate, Gentiles are to be included along with Jews. How inclusive do we think that God's promises to Abraham are (Gen 12:3)? That is, are we willing to include the other descendants of Abraham, Muslims, in this promise?
Read Isaiah 51:1-8.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Abram's father had brought the family half-way already (from Ur to Haran).
The text doesn't tell us what Abram said to Sarai, or if he said anything to her, about the command to move or the blessing.
When Abram gets to Canaan, God says "This is your land." Abram then moves on to Egypt.
Monday, June 2, 2008
After Cain murdered his brother Abel, God sentenced him to a life as a fugitive and wanderer. But, God also put a mark of Cain so that no one would kill him.
When God saw that wickedness was abounding on the earth, God sent a flood to destroy everything--well, not quite everything. God protected Noah and his family and pairs of all kinds of animals. Moreover, after the flood God made covenant with Noah.
When humans built the Tower of Babel in an attempt to be like God, God responded by scattering them-- separation by place and by language.
Here's the recurring pattern in Genesis so far. Sin followed by punishment followed by grace. Today's passage may be seen as a response to the Tower of Babel. People were separated. Now, God calls Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
She told us that the church is the new city of God. I thought that many people feel safer living in the suburbs.