Offertory Prayer

Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the Episcopal Fund, your church not only supports the Bishop who serves your conference, but the global work of our United Methodist episcopal leaders. Your giving makes possible their witness for the whole church in many areas including evangelism, justice ministries, global health and working with the world’s poor. 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 the Council of Bishops of the UMC at: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/council-of-bishops

August 3, 2014 -- Eighth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide

God of abundant grace and compassion, you heap blessings on us with the reminder that we have been blessed to be a blessing. As we offer our tithes and offering this morning, we remember that we live in a world where so many don’t have enough to eat or clean water to drink. The words that Jesus spoke to the disciples ring loud in our ears: “You give them something to eat!” As we put these gifts in your hands and lift our eyes in gratitude, bless the gifts and multiply them to ease the need in places we may never go for people we may never meet. We ask this in the holy name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen. (Matthew 14:13-21)

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

To-Do List, Reflection on Romans 12:9-21

Rejoice in hope. Be patient in suffering. Persevere in prayer.

Paul's sermon here is not so much "How to become a Christian," as it is "What to do now that you're a Christian." He stresses, as he has done before, that Christians love each other, really love each other. Give money if they need money. Don't seek revenge against those who may have earned it. Live peaceably (I'm relieved to say that he adds, "as much as possible.)

OTOH: One of my all-time favorite Pauline quotes is verse 20. "Do nice things for your enemies; it's guaranteed to drive them nuts."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rebuke and Reassurance, Reflection on Jeremiah 15:15-21

The prophet Jeremiah, as he often does--and not without reason, has been complaining. God has told him things are going to get worse (15:13-14).

Jeremiah complains again, "I've said what you've told me to say, and I have suffered for it. Why won't you stop this pain?"

God offers reassurance to Jeremiah. "Keep saying what I want you to say. Your enemies will not win, for I am with you. I'm the one who can and who will save you."

Does Jeremiah fear that God has deserted him, or does he fear that God won't leave him alone?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lectionary and Prayer for Labor Day

Amos 5:11-15; Psalm 2; Psalm 72:1-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; John 6:5-14, 26-27

O God, you have bound us together in this life. Give us grace to understand how our lives depend
on the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of all who labor. May we be mindful
of their need, grateful for their faithfulness, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Reinhold Niebuhr, UMBOW, 443).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Followship, Reflection on Matthew 16:24-26

"If any of you want to be my followers, take up your cross. What is going to happen to me, you can expect to happen to you."

I wondered, as I thought about this passage, what modern-day evangelists were saying to potential converts. Then I remembered who he was talking to--his disciples, insiders, not the crowds, the uninitiated.

He was telling those who were already following him what the Christian way will be like for them. I then wondered about what our current Methodist evangelism material is like. I found this resource: Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith

Here's a quote from the review by Kwasi Kena:
The book looks at John Wesley, in particular, as a great evangelistic practitioner. Wesley's central motive for evangelism was not to recruit new members. Instead, profound gratitude to God and deep compassion for others motivated him. Love for God and neighbor were central. Wesley abhorred cheap love. He challenged people to broaden their thinking of who their neighbors were and to discern what responsibility they had toward their neighbors.

A Repayment Policy, Reflection on Matthew 16:27-28

"After all," Jesus tells them, "worrying about and working for things that make your life comfortable for a while doesn't do you much good for very long. Focusing on the unimportant draws your attention away from the more important."

Jesus knew as much about cost as a CPA. "What you decide to do today will affect what happens to you tomorrow and the day after that and for time to come. Take care of the matters that God cares about, and God will take care of what should matter to you."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 27

Read, pray, and reflect on Matthew 16:23.

Get Behind Me, Reflection on Matthew 16:21-23

When Peter was told what what was going to happen to Jesus, he rebuked Jesus. As Allen and Williamson put it, he turned from being the rock to being a stumbling block. (Preaching the Gospel without Blaming the Jews)

When the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promised them to him in exchange for being worshiped, Jesus told him to go away.

When Peter pleaded with Jesus to skip the suffering, Jesus called him Satan and said, "Get behind me." Boring and Craddock suggest that Jesus was not telling him to go away. Rather, Jesus was telling Paul, "Get in line behind me. You're next." The People's New Testament Commentary

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wesley Code Cracked

The Mail Online reports that a 270-year-old diary, written in code, has been cracked for the first time to reveal a secret history of the Methodist church, it emerged today.

After nine years of painstaking work, more than 1,000 handwritten pages from 1736 - 1756 have been deciphered from the personal diary of co-founder Charles Wesley.

Wesley's Diary

From "Who am I?" to "Here I Am," Reflection on Exodus 3:11-15

God has heard the cry of the Israelites and has come to send Moses to rescue them. Has Moses been paying much attention to their cry? We are told nothing of his yearnings to save his people. "Who am I?" he asks. "Why have you picked me?"

I've always read this as modesty on Moses' part. But, now I'm thinking that it may be more than modesty. It may be a sincere question, "Why me? Why not someone who has spent years devoted to freedom fighting?" Or, "Why not somebody who doesn't have a steady job and a family to take care of? Don't you know some single, underemployed people who have time for charity work?" [I admit I'm going a little over the top now, but I'm thinking of common current reasons for not doing God's work.]

God responds, "What difference does it make who you are or what you think you are good at? Think about it. I Am the one who is sending you."

(As before, much thanks to William Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel)

Lectio Divina, August 26

Read, pray, and reflect on Exodus 3:11-12

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 25

Read, pray, and reflect on Exodus 3:9-10 and Psalm 105:4-5.

God Responds to the Cry of the People, Reflection on Exodus 3:1-10

Moses is at work. The text gives us no indication that he is seeking God or that he has spent much time thinking about what had happened to him in Egypt and what is still happening there. But, God has been thinking about these things.

But, when God impinges on Moses' life, Moses does notice. When God sees that Moses is willing to let the everyday stuff be laid aside, God calls to him.

"I have seen the misery of my people who are still in Egypt. I have heard their cry. I have come down to rescue them, to bring them to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

Rescue, though not immediate, is imminent.

Then God tells Moses how this rescue is going to be effected: "I'm sending you."

Several questions arise for me as I think about this passage. How many times does God make a dramatic appearance in our not-so-dramatic lives, and we don't even notice? How many times are we compelled to come closer to God, to recognize a holy time and place, and we don't respond? Should we expect God to know our suffering? Do we recognize God's behind-the-scenes work in our rescue from that suffering? Does everyone, or anyone, respond positively to the call of God if it is to do something as dangerous as face a Pharaoh?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 24

Read, pray, and reflect on Romans 12:4-6a.

Grace-provided Gifts to the Church, Reflection on Romans 12:4-8

Boring & Craddock, in their People's NT Commentary remind us that the "you" Paul uses is plural. Paul is still talking to "y'all." Paul is talking to the organized community of folks called out from some other kind of life.

I'm struck by the "one body" part. I get the metaphor. But, I am even more impressed with the "members of one another." I am not sure what to do with this metaphor, but I am going to think about it some more.

Paul listed the kinds of gifts that were needed in the church of his day. Consider how timely his analysis still is: prophecy (he's not talking about fortune tellers); ministry; teaching; exhortation; giving; leading.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scenes from my Neighborhood

One of the things I have been doing in retirement is serving as a volunteer for Mississippi Reading Service. Once a week, I read the Sun Herald (Biloxi, Gulfport, and South Mississippi). One of my favorite column's is George Thatcher's. He walks along the coast and comments on what he sees. Here's an example:

Scenes from the Beach

I thought about his perceptive, reflective comments as I walked through my neighborhood this morning. I went past a building that has housed several different businesses in the last couple of decades, most recently a technical college. It is empty now but will soon re-open as a Halloween Store. In the big glass windows were models dressed in the Halloween costumes. If I knew how to get photos on my blog, I wouldn't have put any of these on it. When did Halloween morph from being a children's day to get too much candy to a grownup's day of not being too grown up?

Lectio Divina, August 23

Read, pray, and reflect on Psalm 138:7-8.

Sacrifice, Reflection on Romans 12:1-3

The center, physically and metaphorically, of the Torah is Leviticus. Think of it as a kind of confirmation manual (with thanks to John H. Hayes' essay in The New Interpreter's Study Bible).

This book begins with seven chapters giving instructions for sacrifices. The animal you offer should be without blemish. Bring it to the entrance of the tent; the priest will take over there. Bring offerings even for unintentional sins. Also offer sacrifices for thanksgiving

Paul said, "Offer your own body as the sacrifice. Offer not only your body; offer yourself, all of yourself. Not just once, giving an animal to the priest and thinking you have accomplished what you came to do. Offer your body, your time, your effort. And your body includes your mind. Use that mind to figure out what God wants, not what the world seems to think is more important."

In this definition of sacrifice, Paul is echoing Old Testament prophets:
"'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?' says the Lord; 'I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats (Isaiah 1:11)'".

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings" Hosea 6:6).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Look and Listen, Reflection on Isaiah 51:1-6

A couple of generations earlier, their country had been invaded and their capital destroyed. Many of their grandparents would have been swept into exile. The central place of worship, the place where they sought reconciliation with God, was destroyed.

Isaiah is speaking to the exiles, "Listen to my words. Look to the rock from which you were hewn."
To see what can happen, we look back at what has happened.

Isaiah continues, "Remember your ancestors, Abraham and Sarah; remember how, under God's call, they thrived." Abraham and Sarah traveled from home to a strange land. The promise of progeny was long delayed but realized. The God who called them, nurtured them, accompanied them, is the God who is now offering comfort to the exiles.

Even earlier ancestors, Adam and Eve, lost Eden because of their disobedience. Isaiah is now promising that their descendants will migrate in the opposite direction. The wilderness will become Eden (51:3).

For more background on this passage, look back at Isaiah 49-50.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 21

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

Words of Wisdom

It's hard to learn anything before you need to know it.

Keys of the Kingdom, Reflection on Matthew 16:18-20

Try not to think of all those cartoons you have seen of St. Peter at heaven's gate, letting some in and excluding others. For one thing, Matthew does not restrict the term, heaven, to mean a place somewhere else, at a time only after death. Rather, the kingdom of heaven is a more pious way of saying kingdom of God; that is, a place here and now, where God is in charge.

Peter has the keys; that is, Peter understand and can convey what kingdom life is like, what kingdom residents are like.

Jesus built this church and entrusted Peter with it.

(with thanks once again to Boring & Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Father, Reflection on Matthew 16:13-17

I've been reading Julian Sheffield's essay, "The Father in the Gospel of Matthew," in A Feminist Companion to Matthew, edited by Amy-Jill Levine:

The term, father, is used for God 65 times in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). 44 of those are in Matthew. God the father is identified as "heavenly" or "in heaven" 20 times in Matthew.

Sheffield instructs us that this interpretation of God as heavenly father comes from the context of Rabbinic prayer language. This language emphasizes who is in charge--God, not Caesar.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prayer prompted by Moses' Rescue

O Lord, today somewhere near me is a child at risk. Remind me how you have worked through so many people before to save children. Remind me of the midwives. Remind me of big sisters. Remind me of Pharaoh's daughter. Remind me that whether I'm just doing my job, rather I know the child personally, or whether I have a position of authority, I can do the work you would have me do. Open to my eyes today ways that I can continue to by your agent in this world. Amen


To help visualize children who need help now, visit the website Vision Project

The goal of Vision Project is to produce documentary material and educational programs that encourage understanding and awareness about a broad range of social issues. This information and programming is for the general public with a particular focus on members of the younger generation.

Birth of Moses, Reflection on Exodus 2:1-10

A couple of things strike me as I read this passage. One is that the midwives' names are given and the king's is not. Often in the Bible, a woman will be described not by her name but by her relationship to her father or husband or son. For example, Moses' sister and mother and Pharaoh's daughter) are not named here (If we have read ahead in Moses' story we may assume that this sister is Miriam). Why are we told the names of the midwives? They don't appear later that I can remember.

Another point that interests me today is comparing the story of Moses with that of Jesus. They have several factors in common: an imperial ruler that threatens the life of this infant among other infants, the rescue of this child who will later rescue his people.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gleaning

Have you been eating too much lately? Not everybody has.

Are you interested in helping others eat enough? Visit The Society of St. Andrew to get ideas about how to end hunger.

The king said, "Let us deal shrewdly with them" Reflection on Exodus 1:8-22

Having a lot of immigrants taking up space and resources happened in Egypt, and it's still happening. What are we to do? Here's the United Methodist position
Immigrants, Social Principles ¶ 164A

Another Reason You Should Subscribe to Alive Now

I've been subscribing to the devotional magazine Alive Now for several years. In it, I find meditations, poems, prayers, photographs, and paintings.

Today I read this quote from Augustine:
Let your prayer be against the malice of your enemies, that it may die and they may live. For if your enemy were dead, it might seen you have lost an enemy, yet have you not found a friend. But if your enemy's malice died, you have at once lost an enemy and found a friend....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Extension of the Covenant, Reflection on Isaiah 56:6-8

I thought about Isaiah's instructions about foreigners when I came across this website from the National Council of Churches Who Is My Neighbor?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Home in God, Reflection on Isaiah 56:1

"Come back," God says through the prophet Isaiah, "Come back home, Come back to a place, Come back to a way of living."

We modern readers may or may not have been separated from a physical place. Few of us have known forcible exile. Yet, separation from God and separation from God's commands may be more familiar to us.

I have read and reread Isaiah 56:1, "Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed." Is he saying that our actions will precipitation our salvation? Is he saying that we need to prepare for salvation by living like saved people? In either case, I get the message that we are supposed to maintain justice and do what is right.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mission, Reflection on Matthew 15:21-28

Read this passage thinking about your congregation. Jesus is in a neighborhood housing people that are not like him, that have a different background from his. Someone that societal rules indicate that he should avoid approaches him. Although he initially ignores her, he does give to her what she wants, what she needs very much.

Had this Canaanite woman read Isaiah 56:1-8, "God says, "Outsiders are included in my promises"? Have we?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Words of Wisdom

Learn from every criticism. Believe every compliment.

What Defiles, Reflection on Matthew 15:10-20

Matthew is not telling us how superior we Christians are to Jews. He's telling us how to be better Christians. "You're worrying too much about the unimportant and not enough about the important."

Long before, Hosea had called Israel to repentance by voicing this word of God, "For I desire love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (6:6).

Thanks to Boring and Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary.

Lectio Divina, August 14

For out of the heart come
evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person,
but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.

Matthew 15:19-20

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Irrevocability, Reflection on Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Paul has been reminding the Romans that you don't have to be a Jew to be a Christian. Now, he reminds them that you don't have to be a Christian to be included in God's family.

"Of course, God has not rejected the Jews. Look at me, for example," he says.

God's mercy depends on God.

Lectio Divina, August 13

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Romans 11:32

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

His Story/ Their Story/Our Story, Reflection on Genesis 45:8-15

We read this story of the reconciliation of Joseph to the brothers who had, in their jealousy, tried to harm him. "God has brought this about. Bring everyone here where I can provide for them."

Centuries later, Joseph's ancestors will form a nation, split it in two, then succumb to defeat by Assyria and then Babylon. Those ancestors can remember Joseph's story when they themselves are in exile. God can turn this terrible thing into something good just as the terrible thing that happened to Joseph turned out to be a saving event for his family.

Even more centuries later, we can also remember Joseph's story of exile and delivery. And we can look in it for hope for our situations.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Providence, Reflection on Genesis 45:1-8

Years before, they had thrown their brother into a pit from which he could not escape, then sold him into slavery. Now, they are facing that brother, their lives dependent on what he decides to do with them.

"Don't worry, don't be mad at yourself for what you've done. God has sent me here to preserve life."

Do we agree with Joseph? Forgiveness is one thing, but attributing to God all actions, including such hurtful ones as done by Joseph's brothers, may be hard to accept.

William Goldingay, in his Old Testament Theology, Israel's Gospel offers an explanation that is helpful to me:

God does not inspire the brothers to their immoral deed, but makes creative use of desires and acts that were self-serving or destructive.... The acts of God include human actions whose results can be made to further God's intentions in the world rather than working against them, p. 258.

and
Like other characters in Israel's story, Joseph is a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and God works through both of these--and not merely despite them, p. 281.

Prayer prompted by Joseph's story

O Lord, God of those I love and those I don't. Strengthen my faith in all that is important. Show me the way to serve you, wherever I am, however I got here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

We're the How, Reflection on Romans 10:12-15

The prophet Joel goaded his Jerusalem listeners: Be aware, the Day of the Lord is coming. Repent, return to the Lord. Be glad and rejoice in God. Joel told them that good times would replace the devastation they they had been experiencing. Then he said, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." For I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem" (Joel 2:32).

Centuries later, Paul quotes this prophet, Romans 10:13.

Many have read this promise stated by Paul as an exclusionary statement. They assert that Paul is saying "Only those who believe that Jesus is Christ and Lord are included in God's promises." Others, influenced by verse 12, read Paul's remarks as inclusionary rather than exclusionary. "You, even you, are included. You don't have to be a Jew to be part of God's promises."

"God is generous to all who call on him," Paul says. Then, he lets us know what the consequences of this is. "How are they supposed to know this if someone doesn't bother to tell them?"

Lectio Divina, August 10

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

Romans 10:14

Seek the Lord, and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Psalm 105:6

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tisha B'Av, August 9, 2008

Tisha B'Av

The Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av, including the destruction of both Temples, the first by the Babylonians, the second, by the Romans.

Achieving/Receiving Rightousness, Reflection on Romans 10:5-11

The righteousness that come from the law is one thing according to verse 5; the righteousness that comes from faith is something else, according to verse 6-8. But, this is not an argument about which is superior--Judaism or Christianity, because both arguments come from what Christians call the Old Testament. Jewish arguments presented for an aid to understanding Christianity?

Righteousness from the law: see Leviticus 18:5, You shall keep my statues and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord.

Righteousness is not something human beings are capable of achieving on their own. God's help is necessary: see Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it? No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Words to a Fearful, Depressed Prophet, Reflection on 1 Kings 19:9-18

Fleeing for his life, Elijah has escaped into the wilderness. A messenger of God has provided food and water. After forty days and nights, he arrived at Horeb (the northern tribes' name for Mt. Sinai).

Elijah searches for God--in the wind, in the earthquake, in the fire, then finds God in the silence (or, as in some translations, in the sound of a soft whisper).

Elijah confesses, "I have done everything for God, but I give up. I'm the only one left. God's enemies are after me. They want to kill me."

God says, "Get on with the work I have assigned you."

The particular task that God has in mind for Elijah is to anoint a new king and a new prophet, Elisha. "They will finish the work that needs to be done."

When we are depressed that we haven't been able to do the job that needs to be done, we can remember that God has not left all the work to us--that there will be successors.

Lectio Divina, August 8

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Psalm 85:9

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sermon in Wordle

Sermon at Rehab, August 10, 2008

Jesus' Response to Peter' Response, Matthew 14:28-32

The disciples were alone in the boat during a storm--as the church of Matthew's time must have thought itself on occasion. They didn't recognize Jesus until he called out to them, "It is I." Many commentators consider this reassuring statement to be an allusion to the Scriptural name of the Lord, "I Am."

Peter tests Jesus, demands a miracle from him, "If you are who you say you are, command me to come to you on the water." Apparently Jesus' words have been enough to give Peter confidence because he can walk on the water. For a few steps. Then Peter notices once more what had been so frightening before--the wind. He falters, he can no longer do what he had just been able to do. He begins to sink.

Peter calls for help. Jesus gives it.

Sometimes, we can see God's presence; sometimes, not so much. Sometimes, we make a good beginning, but we fail to connect to it a good ending.

Sometimes we call for help.



Psalm 107:24-33
24they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 6

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Matthew 14:26-27

Yes, His rescue is near for those who fear Him,
that His glory dwell in our land.

Psalm 85:8

When Battered by the Waves, Reflection on Matthew 14:22-27

The sea in the Scriptures is often a scary place, a place with sudden storms and hidden monsters. It often marks a border, a place of separation between us and them. Yet, it is a place under the control of the Lord.

Matthew tells us about the disciples, stuck in a boat during a storm. When Jesus came to rescue him, they didn't recognize him.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

God's Grace, Reflection on Psalm 105

Thanks to Jenee Woodard's excellent Textweek.com, I found an excellent resource written by Henry Wansbrough, The Prayers of the Psalter,

www.users.ox.ac.uk/~sben0056/psalms/

Scan down to Psalm 104 to read about this week's psalm (Note: the numbering system he is using differs from that used by the NRSV).

Or, go ahead and read the whole article and learn about other psalms as well.

Lectio Divina, August 5

When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
Psalm 105:16-17

God can make good from evil, Reflection on Genesis 37:21-28

In the verses omitted by the lectionary, 5-7, Joseph has a dream of being lord over his brothers. Not only does he dream it, he tells his brothers and father about it. His brothers hate him for his presumption; his father is not pleased, either. Yet, knowing what Joseph is thinking and saying, Jacob sends him to report on those brothers.

Knowing what Joseph is thinking and saying, the brothers decide to get rid of him. The first-born, Reuben, and the fourth-born, Judah, step in to stop the murder. Instead, they sell Joseph as a slave to some traveling Ishmaelites (hear the echo of the rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael?).

Coincidentally, or providentially, Joseph's dream will come true. Read Psalm 105:16-22.
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,

he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;

until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.

The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.

He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,

to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lectio Divina, August 4

O give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name,
make known his deeds
among the peoples.
Psalm 105:1

Sibling Rivalry Redux, Reflection on Genesis 37:1-4, 12-20

Jacob has returned home, is living where his father lived. In one way, he's living as his father lived: He has a favorite son. Isaac's favorite stayed home; the other son, Jacob, went into exile for decades.

The story changes as it repeats. In this generation, the father's favorite goes into exile.

Although Jacob is certainly aware of the consequences of intra-family jealousy, he seems to encourage it. After he has received a bad report about the brothers from Joseph, Jacob sends him out to see how they're doing and to report back to him.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: August 6

Memorial Observance Worship and Prayer Resources

God's Family Loyalty. Reflection on Romans 9:1-5

In the first eight chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans, he has been talking about Gentiles, their sins deserving of God's judgment and the gift of grace offered to them through Jesus Christ. Gentiles are not subject to the law; rather, God has adopted them into the family (as Jews themselves had been earlier adopted).

Krister Stendhal, and others, assert that the climax of the letter is in chapters 9 through 11 in its discussion of the redemption of the Gentiles and the salvation of Israel (from Reinventing Paul, John G. Gager).

Paul preaches that Christians do not have to become Jews to be included in God's family. Nor do Jews have to become Christians in order to stay:
to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever (Romans 9:4-5).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Drinking Tea

I am reading through Jan Richardson's In Wisdom's Path published by The Pilgrim Press. This morning I read this poem about drinking tea and realized she was also speaking about eucharist.

I would take
and drink of you,
Vessel of mystery,
bearing within you
potent depths,
containing within you
what quenches
and quickens:

to my sorrow
you offer soothing;
to my despair
you offer desire;
to my complacence,
your challenge;
to my resistance,
your rest.

Be well assured
I am not lulled by you.
There is a bite to your brew
that sets me forever on edge,
a taste that leaves me never slaked;
but with mouth trembling
and thirsty,
I would take
and drink of you.

Appeal on Church Sign

A country church on a state highway was trying to raise enough money to pay off the mortgage on its new Family Life Center. One of the favorites was selling tickets for catfish suppers, grilled hamburgers, even chitlins, once.

On their sign out front, the preacher would post:
Catfish Supper
June 27, 5-7 p.m
Cost $8
Isaiah 55:2
No one ever told her they thought the sign was funny or appropriate.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Homecoming, Reflection on Isaiah 55:1-8

Isaiah is writing to exiles in Babylon describing for them what their new life in an old place will be. Water for the thirsty. Food for the hungry. God promises to make with them an everlasting covenant. And because God has done so much for them, they are to reach out to strangers, to foreign strangers.

Last week's Gospel reading described the Kingdom of Heaven. This Sunday, the lectionary pairs Isaiah 55:1-8 with the story of the amazing, abundant feeding of the hungry crowd. We could read this passage from Isaiah to help us understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of Heaven.