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, January 31, 2010
Is it because of something we have read? Or, is it because of something we have witnessed? Or, is it because of something that has happened to us? Or, something that we have witnessed ourselves doing?
How do we know that God loves us?
"Someday," Paul says, "we will know fully that which we can only know in part now."
But, we can start living into that day already. The love that we will know then is begun already in us where we are now.
We can see God's love in the community that surrounds us. We can be part of God's love now.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
If your group wants to stay together and stay healthy while together, then some attributes are necessary.
Love and tolerance.
Paul's description of love (notice we aren't talking about romantic feelings) includes patience and kindness. Moreover, it excludes envy and causes of envy like boasting, arrogance, and rudeness.
Implicit in this description is that the Corinthians were not all alike. Some had assets are qualities that the others lacked--otherwise, why would they have been envying or boasting?
A model congregation would include people with different talents (remember chapter 12) and different resources. But, differences can arouse ill feelings. Paul tells them that patient, kind love must be present for them to be an effective church.
And when those with whom we are associated fail to be patient and kind; when they continue to boast and be arrogant and rude, what are we supposed to do then?
Paul says love is the answer to this, too. Love means that we put up with their shortcomings, that we live as if we believe what Christ has told us, and that we look past what's happening right here right now to what is to happen.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Sounding good, even great, doesn't mean much in Paul's assessment. Love is requisite.
"If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith...."
Being able to be prophetic, that is, to be able to transmit the words of God, means nothing without love.
Being able to perform miracles, being willing to be generous, even sacrificing one's own safety are all nothing without love.
For the church to continue to do God's work in the world, its members must have love.
And that includes love for each other. Not just feeling, but also acting.
Sideline--something else I learned from reading Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law by Ronald Allen and Clark Williamson:
The term "love' agape is seldom found in the Greek language until it appears in the Septuagint, where it is standard speech for God's love for Israel (e.g., Dt 10:14) and for how people should live in covenantal community (e.g., Lev 19:18).
Thursday, January 28, 2010
When Jesus reminded his listeners of prophets' practice of aiding foreigners, his listeners were incensed. He escaped from their wrath.
The lectionary choice for a psalm to reply to the Jeremiah reading is the first six verses of Psalm 71.
The psalmist is asking the Lord for refuge, deliverance, rescue.
He is asking for help because he needs help and he can remember who has been his help in the past.
A modern discussion centers on why does God allow evil to exist. The question does not arise for this psalmist. Evil does exist, people can be unjust and cruel. And God is the one who can protect him from the wicked.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
First point, the word of the Lord came to him. We are given no indication that Jeremiah was seeking the role as prophet.
Second and related point, Jeremiah was not an adult when the Lord sought him out.
God came to the unprepared, unconfident Jeremiah and assured him that he would be capable of doing the work to which he had been called, "I'll tell who needs my words, and I'll provide those words for you."
And, I'm wondering how seriously we who have been baptized take the call made to us.
For instance, who are these "nations" in verse 5? Who is included in this "all" in verse 7? The link the lectionary makes to Luke 4 is helpful (sometimes, another word for disturbing?).
First point, repeated: God does the work. Read verses 9-10. The Lord says, "I have given you the words. I have appointed you to speak to people you may not approve of or who have customs you don't understand, or don't look like you."
The message includes destruction and restoration.
To uproot and pull down. To destroy and overthrow.
But not just that, also to build and to plant.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In Luke's gospel Jesus will continue to face criticism from insiders when he helps outsiders. How much have attitudes changed? How do we react in similar circumstances?
Note that although Jesus escaped from the violence intended against him that day, his way did lead to the cross. Also note that the cross was not the final end of his work.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Their first reaction is a mixed one. Although they like what he says, they aren't sure why he has said them. They seem to be reluctant to accept that someone that they know could accomplish great things.
Jesus responds by saying that no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
He then reminds them that both Elijah and Elisha had gone far from home to accomplish miracles. "Many widows in Israel were hungry yet Elijah helped a foreigner. Many lepers were in Israel, but Elisha healed a foreigner." Note they weren't just foreigners, they were not of the same religion as Elijah and Elisha.
We're left to ponder whether the people in Nazareth were blocking Jesus' work among them by their own refusal to accept him as anointed by the Lord--or, whether, Luke is reminding us that God is not restricted to helping hometown folks, that God's power extends beyond the circle of believers.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Not only society in general, but also the church.
Paul instructed them to recognize their mutual need for each other's contributions.
I'm wondering about today's congregations. Some differences in all churches--somebody preaches, somebody teaches children's Sunday School (for churches that still have children), somebody leads the choir, and so on. But, do all congregations include people from different economic and ethnic backgrounds? If they did, what differences would the church experience? What differences would the church make on the world (or, at least, the community around it)?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
He was writing to a fractious congregation trying to get them to get along.
I'm reading his words today from a different slant. I'm thinking about the devastation and suffering in Haiti, and the outpouring of support. See umcor.org, for examples.
Methodists, other Christians, and folks that don't associate with religious groups at all just seem to know what Paul was trying to get those Corinthians to realize--"The body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body...."
We all belong, and this tragedy has encouraged us to act out that belonging.
Friday, January 22, 2010
If only we humans could respond affirmatively to God's intentions.
The commands of God are intended to help us live good lives, orderly lives, joyful lives.
And they are intended to help us avoid behavior that would harm us and others. God's law provides rewards and boundaries (are these always opposites?)
Although we may want to behave wisely, we may fail at times. And we live among people who don't seem to care about doing right at all. Protect us from them, and protect us from failing to live up to God's wishes for us.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 19:13-14
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The words were old even in their time but they were words for their time.
Their leaders told them not to despair but to enjoy--and to share--the gifts that the Lord had provided for them.
The lectionary has paired this passage with that of the one from Luke, both telling of religious leaders in a religious gathering, reminding people of their gifts and obligations.
People do not always respond well to sermons. Read ahead to Luke 4:21-30.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
"Look at the sky," the psalmist says. "Notice that it's day. Notice that it's night. Where do you think the sun came from? Why do you think it moves?"
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This week's reading from Luke tells us about Jesus in the synagogue reading from the prophet Isaiah and bringing their meaning forward to the listeners in their time.
In our own time, in our own places, someone will be standing before a roomful of worshippers and reading ancient words about long-ago people and times. And in our own time, in our own places, we will hear those words with understanding, and our lives will change.
Monday, January 18, 2010
When he was in his hometown, he went to the synagogue as he was accustomed to do. There, he read passages from the scroll.
Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor," an echo of Isaiah 61:1.
Luke tells us that Jesus said that the Lord had sent him to proclaim release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free. This call echoes Isaiah's reminder that the Lord is not that impressed with acts of piety but prefers that the nation would loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free...(58:6).
He returned the scroll to the attendant and sat down. Everybody stared at him.
The people in the synagogue that day had heard the prophecies of Isaiah many times. They would also have been aware of the times that they had failed to care for the poor and the oppressed. And, there in Nazareth, at the time they were living, they themselves would have thought of themselves as oppressed, captive to the powerful Rome.
And he said to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Think about the terms "today" and "fulfilled."
Lectio Divina: Luke 4:18; Psalm 19:1.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Paul lists several gifts that the Spirit has given to different church members. Moreover, every one of the gifts is important, even necessary.
Different talents but same source and for same reason.
Explore your Spiritual Gifts.
Lectio Divina: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Paul continues to lecture and warn and remind them of what they should be concerned about.
In Chapter 12, he talks about spiritual gifts. (We aren't sure whether the Greek term should be translated as "spiritual gifts" or "spiritual persons").
Paul tells them, and through them, tells us that a congregation is made up of people with different gifts. Both words are important: different and gifts.
Gifts denotes that we don't get these talents or abilities by ourselves. The Spirit of God has passed them out to us. Different is also important because difference is essential if the whole thing is going to work.
Note the pattern from unity through diversity in order to enable unity.
there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone (1 Corinthians 12:6)
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! (Psalm 36:10)
Friday, January 15, 2010
Now, I had read Psalm 36 many, many times and had not picked up on the inclusion of animals. Then I read John H. Hayes' contribution to Preaching Through the Christian Year C.
What may initially strike us as odd in such a comparison or classification might not appear so if we give it some thought. The beast receives its blessings, its food, its livelihood witout setting out to please God or anybody; it makes no effort to measure up to any standard; it simply drinks in the benfits that come its way from the created order controlled by God. The writer is suggesting something similar is the case with humans.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 36:9
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Like Abram and Sarai, Jerusalem will have a name change (and, with it, a life change) from Forsaken to My Delight Is in Her, from Desolate to Married.
God is going to marry Jerusalem and be as joyful as a bridegroom.
How easy--or how hard--is it to imagine that God is joyful?
Quote from Walter Brueggemann's commentary on Isaiah 40-66:
It is worth noting that the term rendered "married" is from the same root as Baal, the god of fertility, and the land that is "married" is a land "baaled," or literally in the Hebrew, Be'ulah, that is, "Buelah land." The imagery of divorce or widowhood (see 54:4-6) is transposed into an agricultural term for a land barren and unproductive. Now this peole is revived and the city is restored; the land is recovered for fruitfulness and productivity.....The language is especially freighted, because marriage metaphors in that ancient world include fruifulness and generativity.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 36:8
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Then Isaiah expands on the promise. Not only will they be rescued, but also everybody will know about it-- "her salvation like a burning torch."
OTOH, some commentators believe that the promise not to keep silent and not to rest are Isaiah's, rather than his proclaiming God's words.
Under the heading, troubling or reassuring?, no mention is made of their need to repent, or even to ask for, deliverance.
Lectio Divina: How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Points to consider:
John calls this miracle a sign. The sign, according to John, revealed his glory. According to O'Day and Hylen, the term glory is an Old Testament term for the manifestation of God's presence and power (e.g., Exodus 24:15-18; 34:29-35; 40:34-38).
The stewards knew there was some very good wine but they didn't know that it was there because of a miracle. The bridegroom knew less. Yet, the disciples knew that a miracle had occurred. And because of the miracle, they believed. Or, was it because they believed, that they recognized that the miracle had happened?
What about the stewards, the bridegroom, the guests? Were they ever able to see God's presence and power in their lives? How about me? How often do I recognize God's presence and power in my life?
Other signs in John include 2:12; 2:1; 6:26; 10:20.
Monday, January 11, 2010
His mother thinks that he can take care of the problem.
Although he tells her that it isn't his hour, she assumes that he is going to take charge.
Some commentators think that his initial response to her by addressing her as "woman" is negative; others assert that this address is not rude but more like saying "ma'am" or "madam."
In either case, Mary, the one who has known him all his life, just assumes that he is not only able to solve a problem but is going to.
Sideline: note the event is on the third day, an important day in the Bible.
Another sideline: significance of term "hour": In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen discuss the importance of the term "hour" in this gospel. Although sometimes it does mean hour, that is, what time it is, the noun, hour, is also used as a theological term to denote the eschatological time--last times.
He may have demurred initially, but with this first miracle, his hour has begun
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Here the Holy Spirit is not something God bestows automatically or even something the believer receives as a free bonus. Instead, it come in response to earnest, fervent prayer...
I balked at this so was somewhat pleased when he went on to point out:
....To be sure, in Acts this is not a consistent pattern, for at other times the Holy Spirit descends in the act of preaching (10:44; 11:15; cf. 19:6).
I believe that the Holy Spirit occurs in response to prayer and to preaching, but can't I believe that it is not restricted to those? Can the Holy Spirit come to me and prompt me to prayer?
Lectio Divina: Acts 8:17; Psalm 29:11
Saturday, January 9, 2010
It's not a commentary on Psalm 29 but as I read this poem about a storm and its effects, I thought about the psalm. And about how storms can affect us. And how we can be rescued from them. Anyway, read the poem.
Lectio Divina: Acts 8:15; Psalm 29:10
Friday, January 8, 2010
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
Several evenings ago, I was watching television while sitting in my well-padded recliner. Comfortable, head leaning back, feet propped up. All was well. Then, through the window next to me, I saw a flash of lightning . Almost immediately, I heard a loud crash of thunder. The TV show lost my attention.
Since I spent my formative years in Texas, I have the Texas attitude toward storms. As soon as we hear thunder, we're outside looking at the sky. Thunder gets our attention.
You don't have to be a Texan to notice thunder.
A thunderstorm will interrupt your life.
You'll turn your attention from what you're doing to this interruption.
The Psalmist's life was interrupted by God (Psalm 29:9).
"The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;and in his temple all say, "Glory!"
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I'm reading Disciplines, the book of daily devotions published by Upper Rooms Books.
The entry for January 7, 2010, written by Cristian de la Rosa, talks about the experience of African and Latin American people who have struggled, and are struggling. The words of assurance from Isaiah are still timely--because people are still struggling.
It is very difficult to discern the voice of God in our own time. ....However, the memory of suffering is there ... and it interrupts history. These interruptions can help us claim our humanity as people of God--again listening to the voice of God and recognizing the accompaniment of God as we walk with those who suffer--in our own suffering or our memory of suffering.
Lectio Divina: Isaiah 43:5; Psalm 29:7-9
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Commentators tell me these verses are from what we now term as Second Isaiah and were written at the end of the Babylonian Exile. They still speak to us.
We need to hear the assurance, "Do not fear," because, well, we still are fearful. And because of that fearfulness, we need to hear those reassurances.
And because I am so tied up with what happens to me, I need to be reminded that God is caring for us.
Lectio Divina: Isaiah 43:1; Psalm 29:5-6
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Does that mean that everyone around could actually see the Holy Spirit?
God spoke to Jesus, saying "You are my Son....," an allusion to God's promise to the king in Psalm 2:7. As God's son, Jesus is invested with and will act in accordance with God's power.
Allen & Williamson in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, add:
The words "my beloved in whom I am well pleased" allude to Isaiah 42:1, which describes the servant of Israel witnessing to God's faithfulness and justice. Other resist that witness and cause the servant to suffer. Luke thus shows that Jesus will bring about justice (especially after the apocalypse) by following the path of suffering love.
In Matthew's gospel the voice spoke to the crowd. Is Luke telling us that only Jesus could hear? If the crowds could see the Holy Spirit but not hear the voice, what would did they think? After all, we weren't there but the message conveyed by the voice and the image of the Holy Spirit still affects us.
And our baptism includes us in Christ's community.
Lectio Divina: Luke 3:22; Psalm 29:3-4
Monday, January 4, 2010
Crowds had gone to wilderness to be baptized by John. They were expecting a messiah and many thought John was the one. John cleared up that misconception for them. It occurs to me that we moderns still may be confused about the source of our salvation--financial security, a fence with a locked gate, a more youthful visage, etc.).
John told them that the Messiah was going to make judgments.
It might be instructive for us to look at the verses just before this reading. The crowds fearful of the coming judgment have asked John what they should do to escape the wrath to come. John tells them to share, to be fair, to be honest, and not to be greedy.
As I read verse 17 and picture the Messiah coming with a winnowing fork, I fear the possibility of being one of the chaff that gets blown into the unquenchable fire. What I hope John means is that the Messiah can blow away those parts of me that are not generous or fair so that what is left is a person whose baptism has made a difference to her and to the world she lives in.
Lectio Divina: Luke 3:16; Psalm 29:1-2
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Epiphany on the Christian calendar is celebrated on January 6, the 12th Day of Christmas. The term, epiphany, means recognition.
For us, epiphany is demonstrated by the wise men guided by the star as they travel toward Bethlehem. There they, outsiders that they are, recognize the new King. The old king can't find the child by himself. Refer to Matthew 2:1-12 for details.
So, epiphany is the occasion for us to remember that outsiders recognized the Christ child.
Paul says to the Ephesians, and through them to us: People that we religious types did not once think should be included, well, I've been sent to tell you that they, too, are indeed included. They share in the inheritance we claim, they are family; the good news is for them as well as for us.
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son....From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight (Psalm 71:1, 13)
Of this gospel I have become a servant acording to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power (Ephesians 3:7).
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
Isaiah is speaking to people who have known defeat and desolation: Arise and shine for your light has come.
We're reading these words as we are still reeling from the economic shocks that have hit our world. We read them as we contemplate the continuing violence among peoples and nations.
Arise and shine for your light has come.
How are we to believe in this great reversal? How do we recognize God's power that has come into our lives? And how do we transmit that great power?
Isaiah explained that when God shares wealth and power, there's a reason: Nations shall come to your light. They all gather together and come to you.
An Ideal Ruler, Reflection on Psalm 72:1-2, 10-14
On this day in the Christian calendar, we celebrate Epiphany.
The presence of God is revealed. God's light draws us to Christ, and radiates in us and through us.
As we think about Christ as the perfect leader, we can also think about how us humans are supposed to do our leading. Look at Psalm 72.
A leader is supposed to judge with righteousness, to judge the poor with justice. Keep reading.
A leader is supposed to care for the needy, the poor, and those without a helper. A leader is supposed to redeem the the weak and the needy from oppression and violence.
Consider working some more on your New Year's Resolutions.
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that wter the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound...For he delivers the needy when they dcall, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy (Psalm 72:1, 6-7, 12-13).
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples' but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isaiah 60:2-3).
Friday, January 1, 2010
Being Given Dominion, Reflection on Psalm 8
"O God," the Psalmist sings, "When I consider your glory, when I consider your power, when I consider what you have created, I wonder why you bother with us."
God is greater, much greater than human beings. Yet, don't get too humble. God has a job for us.
Many of us can use this psalm to prod us or to assure us of the value of what we're trying to do--or, ought to be. We're responsible for maintaining, caring for, being responsible for, God's creations--human and earthly.
Lectio Divina: What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:4-5)
And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done" (Revelation 21:5-6a).
Monday, December 29, 2008
Prayer for New Year's Day
Creative God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth.
We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears,
new decisions and old controversies,
new dreams and old weaknesses.
Because you are a God of hope,
we know that you create all the possibilities of the future.
Because you are a God of love,
we know that you accept all the mistakes of the past.
Because you are the God of our faith,
we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise,
we come into your presence with gladness and a joyful noise,
and we serve and bless you. Amen.
(from Maren C. Tirabassi, the United Methodist Book of Worship, 294)