Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the World Service Fund, a talented group of global communicators, lead by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, directs messaging that reaches people who have never set foot in one of our churches. Through billboards, digital advertising, video spots, radio and more, they give people outside the church a glimpse of who we are and what matters to us as Christians. 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 United Methodist Communications atwww.umcom.org and www.rethinkchurch.org.
God of our deepest joys and Alleluias! We sing our Resurrection songs this morning, not because of a miraculous historical event, but because you continue to bring life out of death and hope out of despair! When you rolled away the stone and let light enter Christ's tomb, you entrusted each of us who follow him to be bearers of light into the dark places of our world – carriers of the inexhaustible hope into lives filled with despair. May the joy of this morning, of the triumph of the Resurrection, empower us in our living out of these tasks, and in our generosity to support others who serve in our name. In the name of the risen Christ, we pray. Amen. (John 20:1-18)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Paul is not talking about some individual lifting-up and lifting-out. What we are waiting for and what we are experiencing as we wait, is being part of a fellowship. Paul is writing to a congregation. Through them, Paul is telling us that God is calling us into what we call the church. The pronoun "you" in verses 4, 6, 7, and 9 is plural.
Lectio Divina: 1 Corinthians 1:7-9
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Our enemy has been defeated. Yet, something is not yet as it should be. Think about the relevance to our own lives and times.
How daring is it for us to pray for God to enter our lives when we think what those lives have been like, what God might find. Look at verse 7. Which is it--no one is praying to God to come or is it that God is not listening?
Isaiah reminds the ancient people and through them reminds us: God has created us and continues to claim us. And although we don't deserve it, God is capable of forgiving us.
Lectio Divina: Isaiah 64:8-9
Friday, November 28, 2008
Make your name known to your adversaries.
You have given us many good gifts that we did not deserve. We have sinned. We forgot your gifts. We forgot your presence.
Yet, O Lord, as you were before us, you have always been with us. Amen.
What do we expect God to do in our world? I looked up "quake" in the Oremus bible browser, http://bible.oremus.org. The earth quaked when God helped Deborah and Barak defeat the enemy (Judges 5:1-5), when Jonathan defeated the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:150, and when David was victorious (2 Samuel 22:8-16 and Psalm 18:7).
Can we imagine some other dramatic shake-up than a war battle? Can we pray that a God who accompanied Deborah, Barak, Jonathan, and David will be able to confound our enemies of apathy, greed, selfishness, and fear? Remember that Isaiah was remembering that God has done awesome deeds that had not been expected.
Lectio Divina: Isaiah 64:1; Psalm 80:3
Thursday, November 27, 2008
A group of people, none acceptable for polite company, approached Jesus. They left some space but did call out to him. He healed all of them. One expressed gratitude, the one who was a foreigner.
Read this passage from three different viewpoints. First, consider what it is like to be in dire need and to have that need taken care of. What do you do next? Is returning to a normal life a plausible thing to do? Can you imagine yourself doing that?
Second, consider the response of the Samaritan. Consider his response in terms of this Thanksgiving Day? How grateful have you been?
Third, read Jesus' response. Are these rhetorical questions? Or, was he expecting an answer?
Reading from Corinthians:
On a day designated as Thanksgiving by the American Congress, we are reading a text commanding us to give and to give abundantly. Be careful not to fall in the trap of the prosperity gospel. Paul really wants us to be generous. He is reassuring us that God will provide enough resources for us to use them the way that God intended for us to use them.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Treat the land right. The September issue of Weavings asks
What kind of world will our children and grandchildren inherit? Will it be the bleak world envisioned by some, where we will live "not only in the ruins of nature, but in the ruins of the civilization that ruined it"?
Read more about the land given to us by God.
Lectio Divina: Deuteronomy 8:7-11
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Jesus' words are meant for them, and they continue to be intended for us.
"Keep awake," Jesus bids us. He's not talking about Santa Claus.
God had created a good world. We human beings had failed at our responsibilities. The old ways have to go. A new way is coming. God desires for us to live in a world transformed. Keep awake.
Lectio Divina: Mark 13:33-37
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, a day of gratitude, recognition of blessings received, and for many of us, sharing an abundant meal.
Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, that period of time during which we celebrate the first coming of Christ and anticipate the second coming. Two important themes are repentance and expectation.
On the UMC worship site, Taylor Burton-Edwards has good suggestions for Planning for Advent B.
I am particularly struck by his (her?) warning not "to domesticate the radical claims of these texts about the "destructive salvation" of this world by the inbreaking of God's kingdom."
To help you reflect on the meaning of the term, "Son of Man," you may find it helpful to read Daniel 7:1-14.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 80:1-3
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Psalm 100 is chosen as a response to the Ezekiel reading, both using the imagery of shepherd and sheep.
Psalm 100 begins by commanding us to worship the Lord, appropriate to a day when we celebrate the reign of Christ.
"Enter his gates," that is, step away from the world that has been profaned, and step into a place of worship, a place in which we can experience the presence of the Lord.
Christians can on this Sunday obey these commands. We can step away from the ills of last year and begin our new year recognizing that the steadfast love and faithfulness of our Lord.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 100
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Simon Barrow, of Ekklesia, has written about the continuing contemporary importance to Christians of the concept and fact of resurrection:
So let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. What does it mean to speak, as Christians should do, of the “bodily resurrection of Jesus”, the wounded and crucified healer, as the very basis of our life?
Rather, to confess that “God raised Jesus” is to believe that everything of substance in the life of Jesus, the human person who is indissolubly God’s person, is dynamically taken up in, through and beyond death into the life of God – a quality of living and a form of life that affirms, but also transcends, anything we can currently mean by the term ‘life’. This is not any old life but “new life”, says the New Testament, in a variety of ways. It is, if you will, God’s unconditioned love recreating possibilities for emergent life that we thought had been lost, sinfully destroyed, denied, wasted, gambled away or blocked off. Not some vague post-mortem assimilation into the Godhead, but a new order of being.
To believe that “Christ has been raised” is to live in a new way, sustained by God rather than our own efforts alone, as if the order of death had no final determination. Among other things, it is to refuse killing as an instrument of policy, as an untruth not just a moral outrage. This is why resurrection, the non-violent, non-vengeful and utterly gracious (‘given’, not made or claimed) form of eschatological living, is the ultimate threat to Caesar and his empire – which finally can only rule by death and its thrall, because it knows of no other possibility that would allow it go on being what it is.
Read more: Resurrection is no Easter conjuring trick
Lectio Divina: Ephesians 1:20-23
Friday, November 21, 2008
Consider that the judgment of the powerful and the consequent setting-aright is God's word to us of what our life on this earth would be like if we would just do what God has always wanted us to do.
Ezekiel says, "Your leaders have cared about themselves not their people. I am going to give you a new leader, a leader who will protect you, a leader that will carry out my will."
Even though they were not able to live out the promises and gifts, God continued to care for these people. God sent other shepherds, another Shepherd, and continues to be our Shepherd.
There may be one Shepherd, but Matthew's words indicate that all of us have been appointed assistant shepherds, and all of us are accountable for all the sheep.
Lectio Divina: Ezekiel 34:20-22
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Consider who will benefit from the attention of the Lord God, the true shepherd.
Ezekiel reminds us that the shepherd has another duty, protecting the weak from predators. "The fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice."
"When did we see you hungry?" they asked Jesus.
The world may think that the well-fed and strong are those that have received God's blessings. Ezekiel and Matthew might ask whether they have usurped the blessings that were intended for all of God's flock.
Lectio Divina: Ezekiel 34:16
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Look back at the earlier verses in this chapter. Israel's human shepherds had been feeding themselves rather than the sheep. They had not looked after the needs of the weak or injured. They had not searched for the strays.
They deserved to be scattered. But, scattering the shepherds means scattering the sheep. God declares, "I will rescue the sheep."
Lectio Divina: Ezekiel 34:11-12
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Are we reassured or frightened when we consider what Jesus was trying to get us to understand? Can we really see Christ in the marginalized? What if eternal life depended on it?
Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:44-46
Monday, November 17, 2008
Olivia Judson writes in the October 2008 Atlantic Monthly about The Selfless Gene. The article begins:
It’s easy to see how evolution can account for the dark streaks in human nature—the violence, treachery, and cruelty. But how does it produce kindness, generosity, and heroism?
Now Jesus is describing a new kingdom, the one to be ruled by the Son of God. Some will be blessed. The king will say to them, "Enter my kingdom. You belong there because you have shown love for me when I needed it. You have provided me with food, drink, and clothing; you took care of me when I was a stranger; you have reached out to me when I was sick and when I was in prison."
His listeners cannot remember doing any of these things.
Remember the delay in the parables. Neither the wedding guests, the foolish bridesmaids, nor the fearful servant made very good use of their time.
Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:31-40
Sunday, November 16, 2008
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.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 90:7-8,12
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Using Boring and Craddock as a guide, here are some OT references that help us see what Jews were expecting on the Day of the Lord:
Often, it is bad news; e.g.,
Isa 13:6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty! 9See, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it.
Jer 46:10 That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of retribution, to gain vindication from his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated, and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice in the land of the north by the river Euphrates.
Ezek 13:5You have not gone up into the breaches, or repaired a wall for the house of Israel, so that it might stand in battle on the day of the Lord.
Ezek 30:3 For a day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.
Joel 1:15 Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
Amos 5:18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; 20Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
Zeph 1:7 Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. 14 The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.
Mal 4:5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
In Joel, it may have an element of good news:
Joel 2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— 11 The Lord utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command. Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it? 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
This week's lectionary is a big help in getting us ready for getting ready. Matthew presents God as a judge of our actions and our inactions. The lesson from 1 Thessalonians also warns of the coming judgment that the Lord brings.
Yet, Paul also is consoling his listeners. "You do not need to be afraid of judgment. You have been faithful." He then reminds them to continue this way of being: "Keep on doing what you have been doing. "Your faith, your love, your hope are all protections for you."
God intends to save us, not destroy us. Paul states that this salvation comes through Christ. The question arises of whether Paul is teaching that our deeds are a factor or whether Christ can and will save the rest of us who don't have the deeds to deserve any saving.
Paul warns. Paul encourages. And Paul encourages us to encourage each other and to build up each other.
Lectio Divina: 1 Thessalonians 5:5-10
Friday, November 14, 2008
In the book of Joshua, they enter the Promised Land, defeat many enemies, and begin to settle in. There they are in a land on which they had not labored, in towns they had not built, eating fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that had not planted (See Joshua 24).
God has once more done something good for them. They once more were pleased for a while. And once more they misbehaved. Once more things turned bad. Once more they cried out and were heard.
The prophet and judge, Deborah, tells them how God is planning to save them once more.
The Old Testament has not saved for us the speeches or even the names of very many women. In Exodus, a fragment of Miriam's song appears. And, as in the case of Deborah, someone else, in Miriam's case, her brother Moses, does the actual work. Reading ahead, Huldah will also speak God's word--in her case, a not very reassuring one (2 Kings 22:14-20).
Lectio Divina: Psalm 123:1-4
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The lectionary pairing of this portion of Zephaniah with the gospel reading implies that they assume that the judgment of the timid servant is a final one.
Zechariah tells us that on the Day of the Lord, many will be punished. Their misdeeds include violence, fraud, and complacency. God will search them out with a lamp. We are accustomed to the term, light, as being complimentary when applied to God. We are reminded that light will seem good or seem bad depending on whether we want God to see what we are doing, or whether we would rather hide.
They thought their gold and silver would protect them. It will be no more help to them than the hidden talent was for the servant in Matthew's parable.
Lectio Divina: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-13
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
It may be comforting to read ahead to verses 31-46 at this point.
But, today, we are reading verses 24-30:
Prudence is punished.
Isn't prudence a virtue?
Prudence is punished.
Or, is it cowardice that is being punished? Or, is it a lack of trust in the Master?
Lectio Divina: Psalm 90:1-6
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
What Matthew does not tell us is what the result would have been if the two risk-takers had lost all their master's money. Are they being rewarded for being successful or for being willing to try?
How do we define successful, anyway?
On the other hand, some commentators read this parable as encouragement for the Christians who were surprised that Jesus had not already come back. "What should we do while we are waiting for his return?" they asked. This parable indicates that using the resources entrusted to them by their Lord is the appropriate action for Christians.
Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:23
Monday, November 10, 2008
Yet, I am able to read the term as including money. And it's a lot of money. A talent would have taken a laborer fifteen years to earn.
Can we sympathize with that third slave? His master had entrusted him with an amount of wealth that he would never have been able to accumulate on his own. Shouldn't he be careful?
How willing are we to restrict our actions and speech because we fear the cost of saying and doing something that will offend our financial supporters?
Ann Weems, in her Kneeling in Jerusalem, begins the poem "Stewardship,"
The pew preached to the pulpit, all the while clutching its checkbook
If the boat is rocked, it is the poor who will be drowned
(thanks to Resources for Preaching and Worship, Year A, edited by Ward and Wild, for the Weems reference.
Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:18
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Psalm 70 also has an element of urgency. "Hasten, O God, to save me."
Matthew compares the result of being prepared and not being prepared. Amos warned that the coming to the Lord might be really painful. The Psalmist expectantly awaits God, expecting rescue.
I'm not sure why the lectionary suggested pairing these passages. Is Amos speaking to me when he asks, "Why do you want the Day of the Lord?" Is he talking to the Psalmist who sings to God, "Your are my help and my rescuer. O Lord, hurry."?
Do I want the Lord to come, or would a delay be better for me?
Lectio Divina: Psalm 70:4-5
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Paul then affirms that what God has done for Jesus, God will do for them. "Jesus will return to earth as sovereign. All Christian believers will lead him back in a triumphal parade. All of us, all of them, will be with the Lord forever."
Boring and Craddock, in their The People's New Testament Commentary, point out that the language Paul is using derives from the apocalyptic language of his time.
Friday, November 7, 2008
In the Jewish wisdom tradition, Wisdom is one of God's closest agents, who was active in creation and who continues in the world to help the community live according to divine design. Wisdom of Solomon adds to this notion the idea that Wisdom will guide the soul to the goal of life, which is to live after death in the immediate presence of god. This is what it means to be immortal.
(from Preaching the Old Testament, Ronald J. Allen & Clark M. Williamson)
The foolish bridesmaids in Matthew's parable should have studied this passage. We should all be living it out.
Lectio Divina: Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-17
Thursday, November 6, 2008
- Ezra 3:12
On this historic day, there are dramatic expressions of hope, disappointment, energy, fatigue. In all these expressions of the human spirit, there is the mark of God.
We are incomplete in ourselves. We need one another. Our differences have been highlighted in the long campaign as those offering themselves for public service have engaged with one another and with us.
Today is the day to pause and to gather ourselves.
First, to gather self. To be gracious whether our perspective prevailed or was defeated. To be hopeful whether our candidate garnered the majority of votes. To be prayerful for those who have been elected to lead in our nation and our communities.
Second, to gather ourselves. To remember the power of community. To be generous and gracious in engaging across dividing lines of opinion. To be courageous in the building of new coalitions for the good of all.
Let us give thanks for those who have dared to offer themselves for public service. Let us pray for healing for those who are disappointed and strength for those who are elected.
Let us unite with one another across our differences to hold President-Elect Obama in our prayers as he moves forward to lead us. There is nothing to be gained from holding our hearts and energies in reserve. There is everything to be gained in offering ourselves courageously in community with one another.
May God's gracious presence and continuing power be with us, today and always.
With gratitude for sharing this life,
Then Amos speaks of what has upset the Lord, "I'm tired of what you call religion. You are practicing fancy but empty worship. What you should be doing is living a life of justice and righteousness."
Also frightening is the possibility that we might get what we deserve.
Think about those foolish bridesmaids.
Lectio Divina: Amos 5:18-24
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
If you are wise, you will prepare. Delay in the coming should not make you think the event just isn't ever going to happen.
As you read the news each day, do you doubt that God's way will overtake the world's way of being? Or, do you remain vigilant and keep prepared?
Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:13
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him. May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Scholars think now that this portion of the book of Joshua was written after exile to help Israel to understand why they had lost their nation.
We are troubled by verse 19. Can it be that God will not forgive us? One reading is that Joshua's words are to remind us that sin does have consequences. We should consider these consequences before we act.
But, as we read more and more of the Bible, we are reassured that God continues to reach out to us, and, yes, forgive us more times than we deserve.
Joshua asks them to make a commitment. A commitment is more than a single promise at a single point in time. A commitment is a change in the rest of our lives.
Lectio Divina: Joshua 24:23-24
Monday, November 3, 2008
They are divided into tribes, family groups, but they are one people who worship one God.
In this week's reading, Joshua has assembled all the tribes. He reminds them of how God has led them here.
"Make up your mind today," Joshua tells them. "Decide whether you are going to follow God or choose other gods."
Each person, each family, each leader has to make a choice. Yet, the choice involves the entire community. They have shared a history, their present situation depends on each other's decision, and their future will be affected by not only what each one does but also on what is important to their neighbors. John Donne was right.
Lectio Divina: Joshua 24:14-15
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Thessalonians had heard Paul preach and had been able to discern that the source of Paul's word was God. They more than felt good about this; they also did good. As Paul put it, "God's word is at work in you believers."
Paul is speaking of the Kingdom of God as something that is already here, not something that we will have to wait for until after we die.
He said, "You are witnesses." To test how we are doing, look at the headlines I have posted on the blog from Reuters. Do you see much Kingdom of God there? If not, look at the work the church is doing (include your own self here). Could Paul see God's work in us believers?
Lectio Divina: Psalm 107:9-13
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction,
and their going from us to be their destrution; but they are at peace.
For though in our sight they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.
A Hymn by Charles Wesley, UMH 656
If death my friend and me divide, thou dost not, Lord, my sorrow chide, or frown my tears to see; restrained from passionate excess, thou bidst me mourn in calm distress for them that rest in thee.
I feel a strong immortal hope, which bears my mournful spirit up beneath its mountain load redeemed from death, and grief, and pain, I soon shall find my friend again within the arms of God.
Pass a few fleeting moments more and death the blessing shall restore which death has snatched away; for me thou wilt the summons send, and give me back my parted friend in that eternal day.
Lectio Divina: 1 John 3:2