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 World Service Fund, your church supports a network of dedicated, faithful missionaries. Working with the support of our General Board of Global Ministries, servants like Clara Biswas do ministry in our name. Clara’s work with the children of Cambodia, who live in deepest poverty, has changed lives. In partnership with UM Women, her work has led to the building of a school near the garbage dump where these children scavenge to help their families. 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 our General Board of Global Ministries Missionaries at:www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service/Missionary-Landing

October 5, 2014 -- Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide

God of law and God of grace: Our minds are on the commandments you gave through Moses on Mount Sinai, and we hang our heads. You’ve asked little, and we fall so short. We have put other gods before you: money, work, pleasure, and prestige. As we bring our gifts to the altar today, we come with the deepest gratitude for your love that does not let us go, even when we fail. We pray that we may be found by you, far from perfect, but standing on your amazing grace! We ask this in the holy name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen. (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20)

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Offertory Prayers for February 2011

The General Board of Discipleship of the UMC has published Offertory Prayers for February,

Salt and Light, a Reflection on Matthew 5:13-18

Jesus gives two metaphors to describe disciples--salt and light.

Why salt? What characteristics of salt are displayed in discipleship? Salt preserves, keeps, protects. And, salt improves the taste of something. Was Jesus saying that the church was to do these things?

"You are salt," he said. Then he went on to remind them that if salt didn't perform the functions it was intended for, then is was not of any use and would be thrown out.

Is the church--or substitute "your congregation"--preserving, keeping, and protecting, or, making things better (Note: go back and read verses 1-12 to aid in answering)?

"You are the light of the world," he said. Light can't serve its purpose as light if it is covered up. Again look at your congregation--can anybody tell what good you are doing? And (looking at verse 16), what do they learn from looking at the results? Do they see the good works you are doing and from them, learn more about God?

Jesus reminds them that Scripture had and has authority and we are to be held responsible for following it. Thomas Long in his commentary on Matthew suggests that at this point we read ahead to Matthew 12. As he puts it, Jesus is calling on them to look at the heart of the commandments rather than the surface.

Daily prayer, Monday, January 31, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 95
O Come, let us sing to the Lord;
....
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
....
O that today you would listen to his voice!
....

Psalms 1, 2, 3, 5, 9

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 5:13-18

Lectio Divina
...Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:16-17).

Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments Psalm 112:1.


Midday Psalm 119:1-24

Evening
Psalms 6, 7, 8

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Consider Your Own Call, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:25-31

Here's how the Common English Bible translates 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life--what is considered to be nothing--to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing.

We shouldn't go around bragging about our accomplishments. In the first place, God is not looking for accomplishment-exclusive kind of people. And, secondly, God chooses people because God can use them for God's purposes.

Again, from the CEB:
It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us, and he met all religious requirements for us; he dedicated us to God, and he delivered us.

Then, in verse 31, "This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!" which alludes to Jeremiah 9:24, "But let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and ighteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord."

Paul, like Jeremiah before him, is cautioning us to get over ourselves and instead to exhibit some care and concern for others. We've heard about it from the prophets. We've heard about it from Christ. Let's get on with it now.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, January 30, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

Psalms 147, 148, 149

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:25-31

Lectio Divina:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.... O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forever (Psalm 131:1,3).

Evening
Psalms 144, 145

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How Important is My Status, Anyway? a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

Repeat from 2009:
Paul asks the Corinthians, and through them, us: Whose standards (or what standards) are important to you? Do you measure yourself by what society thinks is important?

Paul reminds them and us: Chasing after what the world thinks is important is different from seeking what God thinks is important.

God has shown us an amazing contradiction--a crucified savior. Any sensible, analytical person would see that as an oxymoron. Yet, this is the message we are preaching, a message that rather than confirm would seems wise and sensible, is a message that replaces our notions of what is wise and sensible.

God does not work according to our expectations or logic.

Further, what miracles and philosophy can fail to do, God can achieve.

Note: I am helped by Boring and Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, January 29, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 67
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.

Psalms 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

Lectio Divina
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right and speak the truth from their heart .... Those who do these things shall never be moved (Psalm 15:2, 5b).

Evening
Psalms 140, 142, 143

Friday, January 28, 2011

Admission Requirements, a Reflection on Psalm 15

The reading from Micah this week proclaims what the Lord requires of us--to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. The lectionary response is Psalm 15 which begins with the question, "Who is allowed in?"

The requirements for admission are:
to walk blamelessly and to do what is right and speak the truth

do not slander, do no evil to friends, and do not reproach your neighbors

stand by your oath--even to your hurt

do not lend money at interest, don't take a bribe.

Those seeking acceptance in the congregation were supposed to modify their behavior outside the building. Further integration--they had been told what was right and, now, they were supposed to live out what they had been told.

Their relationship with God is affected by, even dependent on, their relationship with their community. Moreover, doing the right thing changes the doer: "Those who do these thing shall never be moved."

Daily Prayer, Friday, January 28, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Psalms 131, 132, 133

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 15

Lectio Divina
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy....Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:7, 12).
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart (Psalm 15:1-2)

Midday Psalm 119:169-176

Evening
Psalms 137, 138, 139

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What the Lord Requires, a Reflection on Micah 6:6-8

The Lord had accused Israel of inadequate appreciation. Israel doesn't waste any effort in trying to deny that it has not exhibited gratitude for the many gifts of rescue and protection that have been freely given.

Rather, in an implicit admission of that charge, Israel asks, "How should I respond? What is it that I need to give you that would demonstrate my sincere appreciation?"

Israel seems to think that God wants some commodities, "Would calves be sufficient? How about thousands of rams or ten-thousands rivers of oil? How about my firstborn--would that make you happy?"

The Lord responds, "It's not a stack of goods that I want from you. I want you, and I want you to be the kind of person you were intended to be."

The Lord lists three requirements:
do justice
love kindness
walk humbly with your God.

We are being asked to remember what God has done for us and to act as if we do. We are not only to make a gift to the church occasionally; we are to act in the world every day and in every way to insure that those around us--and even those farther away--will have lives that will provide them with some resources, too. We are to be nice to people in church and, more than that, to keep on being nice to people outside there, as well. We are to be active participants in a way of life that assures that people will be treated well. And, we are to continue to remember who is the source of all the good things that have happened to us, to remember that we did not do it alone.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, January 27, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 150
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Psalms 125, 126, 127, 128, 129

Daily Lectionary Reading, Micah 6:6-8

Lectio Divina
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1)

Midday Psalm 119:161-168

Evening
Psalms 135, 136

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Plead Your Case, a Reflection on Micah 6:1-5

The Lord demands of Israel, "Get up and plead your case. Look at what I have done for you and how you have responded."

As we move through these weeks between Epiphany and Lent, we may well need to contemplate the answer to that question ourselves. We celebrated the birth of our Savior and acknowledged with joy the impact of that birth on the world. But, how did Christmas and Epiphany affect us? How are our lives different because of them? What do we do? What do we pay attention to? Do we even remember that the Lord is the source of all our gifts? Would anybody watching us use our resources catch on to the fact that we realize that we know and act like God provided them to us?

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123, 124

Daily Lectionary Reading, Micah 6:1-5

Lectio Divina
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.... O my people, what have I done to you? In what way have I wearied you? Answer me! (Micah 6:1, 3)

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1)

Midday
Psalm 119:153-160

Evening
Psalm 130

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reversals, a Reflection on Matthew 5:6-12

Thomas Long, in his commentary on Matthew, published by Westminster, says:
The church of Jesus Christ sees its life in two frames of reference. First, it sees what everyone else sees, too--the world of human history, a world of struggle in which the works and serves and lives out its mission. Based on the evidence from this world alone, there is little reason for hope or joy. War follows upon war, might makes right, and the innocent suffer every day.

But the church also possesses a second frame of reference. It sees what others do not see, that God is at work in this world even today and will surely bring all creation to a time of peace and rejoicing. This hoped-for time is the kingdom of heaven. For the world, the kingdom is a sure future; for the faithful, the kingdom is a present reality, giving strength and encouragement to its work.

As I look at the list of those who are blessed, I see some categories that we might strive for--hungering and thirsting for righteousness or peacemaker, for example--and some that would be thrust upon us. But, in all cases, we receive the blessing.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 63
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you
....
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

Psalms 97, 98, 99, 101

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 5:6-12

Lectio Divina
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! (Psalm 27:7)

Middday Psalm 119:137-152

Evening
Psalms 115, 116, 117

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blessed Are, a Reflection on Matthew 5:1-5

"Blessed are" begins a list of sentences. "Blessed" may be translated as "joyful" or "deeply happy." Look at both words--blessed and are. Those who are poor in spirit, or who mourn, or who are meek--they are--not some day will be--they are blessed.

The reason for their joy does lie in the future--they will be comforted and inherit the earth, but still in the present tense is "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

As I look back over these assertions of happiness made by Christ, I wonder at my own attitude. Do I see the possibility of blessedness for the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek? And, if I can do so, do I then wonder at what is being given up by those who are not poor in spirit or do not mourn or are not meek?

Sometimes I interpret this passage along the lines of "Since bad things do happen to good and bad people alike through their own doing and sometimes despite of their doing everything right, they can be comforted in knowing that God is with them and will support them through their difficulties. And, sometimes, I interpret it to mean that as long as I think that I am in total charge of my happiness and don't need God's help, then I am by that decision forsaking long-term happiness.

Daily Prayer, January 24, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Psalms 94, 96

Daily Lectionary Reading Matthew 5:1-5

Lectio Divina
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3-5).

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15)


Midday Psalm 119:129-136

Evening
Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113, 114

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Power or Foolishness, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

In his letter to the fractious Corinthian congregation, Paul wrote, "It's not about what faction you belong to; it's about Jesus on his cross." He goes on, "Not everybody is going to understand, but to us, the cross shows how resourceful God is." [BYW, I used some of the language from Good as New, a Radical Retelling by John Henson.]

Early Christians, living in Corinth, might have understood this message more readily than the typical American living today--even in our economic tough times, we're doing pretty well. How well would a message about the cross do today to gather more adherents? As I look through church webpages, how many focus on sacrifice or loss?

And, how many focus on doing something different from what the important people in power would approve of? Boring and Craddock in their People's New Testament Commentary remind me of what I should have been thinking of anyway that the Romans didn't crucify just anybody. Crucifixion was reserved for those who disturbed the peace--for revolutionists, terrorists, the worst criminals, and slaves:
"Cross" had the connontations of ugliness, contempt, weakness, loser, criminal, slave, unpatriotic lowlife.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, January 23, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 24
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.

Psalms 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Lectio Divina
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! (Psalm 27:7)

Evening
Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Distinctions but Not Disputes, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 10:10-16

Way back at the beginning of the Christian church in Corinth, Paul wrote to them, appealed to them, to stop their quarreling with each other. He doesn't like what he has been told--that they have divided into factions.

What are we supposed to do with Paul's advice today? When he reminds them that they were baptized in the name of Christ not in the name of one of the faction-leaders, what do we need to be reminded of? Inside the congregation or our denomination, where does our loyalty lie?

Yet, mindless agreement doesn't help much, either. And, I'm not ready to call for the end of denomination distinctions on the basis of this passage. How I'm reading Paul is that although I am not giving up distinctions, I must consider giving up disputes.

Here's how Carl Halladay puts it in Preaching through the Christian Year A:
We should not confuse unity with uniformity. To agree and to be of the same mind and judgment does not require us to formulate our theology in identical terms. Indeed, the true test of Christian unity is the ability to disagree in our formulation of the truth, even in our convictions about the truth, without compromising our ultimate loyalty to Christ--and to each other.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, January 22, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us
....
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Psalms 82, 84, 85

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:10-16

Lectio Divina:
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose (1 Corinthians 1:10
Now my head is lifted up above all my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord (Psalm 27:6).

Evening Psalm 107

Friday, January 21, 2011

Courage, Confidence, Celebration, Reflection on Psalm 27:6-9

The psalmist has recognized and shares the recognition. Not silently, either, but with shouts of joy. I'm pausing here to wonder how a typical church congregation would react to someone actually shouting at church. Then, I'm beginning to wonder how we do show our appreciation to God and how we tell others that we do have this appreciation.

In the psalm after the gratitude for what has happened in the past, the psalmist then continues to pray for continued help. Because we have suffered in the past, we recognize that hard times can come again. Because we have been helped in the past, we have confidence of where to turn for help in the future. And, we say all this joyfully and publicly.

John H. Hayes in Preaching through the Christian Year A summarizes this, "Courage and confidence would culminate in celebration.

Daily Prayer, Friday, January 21, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
....
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 80, 81

Daily Lectionary Reading Psalm 27:6-9


Lectio Divina:
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! (Psalm 27:7)

Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! (Psalm 27:9)

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Evening
Psalm 106

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shelter, a Reflection on Psalm 27:1, 4-5

This week's lesson from Isaiah speaks of the joy of a people who have been brought back home. Its inclusion during this period after Epiphany was probably affected by the explicit references of the great light shining of people who walked in darkness.

The psalm chosen as a response is an affirmation of the Lord, asserting that the Lord is my light, and also talks about return. In the psalm, the return is to the house of the Lord--the word temple is used explicitly.

John H. Hayes, in Preaching through the Christian Year A, cautions us not to confuse this temple talk as alluding to heaven some day. The psalmist is talking about a rescue here on earth:
That a fugitive could take refuge in the sanctuary is evident in Deuteronomy 16:1-13....

We can read these verses and consider the comfort we find in the church. Yes, I'm talking about the building here. But, I'm talking about more than a building. The presence of God accompanies us as we travel through our travails. We can seek shelter in days of trouble. We can expect protection--I'm struck right now by the image of being put up high on a rock, far above all the troubles below. (Yes, I know I can't stay up there, but some days, I do need that image.)

Daily Prayer, Thursday, January 20, 2011

Morning Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
....
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Psalms 73, 76

Daily Lectionary Reading Psalm 27:1, 4-5

Lectio Divina
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock (Psalm 27:4-5).


Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Evening Psalm 105

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Light Has Shined, a Reflection on Isaiah 9:1-4

Isaiah is speaking of a people who have known anguish, not just disappointment that things didn't turn out as well as might be hoped, but anguish, something different from and more than sorrow. His reference is to physical exile, but we can read his promises to apply to all kinds of distances and separations and losses.

Isaiah says of the people who have lived in deep darkness, on them light has shined.

We are reading this passage during the period after Epiphany and, as Christians, we interpret this light as the recognition of Christ.

As we contemplate the impact that the Epiphany has (should have or should have had) on our daily lives (expectations, ways of behaving, ability to accept other types of people), we can go back to what Isaiah said about what happened to those ancient people who had known anguish and what their response is to be.

They recognize the work of God. They express gratitude.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 71, 72

Daily Lectionary Reading Isaiah 9:1-4

Lectio Divina
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2).

Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his ent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord (Psalm 27:6).

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Evening Psalm 104

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Immediately and drastically, a Reflection on Matthew 4:18-23

I live in a part of the world that is majority Christian. It is the default option, you might say. So, I am struck by this passage from Matthew. Following Jesus means leaving home--including abandoning their father and their profession.

Leaving their father--where will they now get financial resources? who will make sure that their father is all right? What would be the contemporary parallel to Jesus' call to these four disciples; that is, what does discipleship require of us? what would we have to give up (are giving up)? Or, can't we just metaphorize this passage and stay at home with our same jobs?

Their response was immediate.

As usual, Thomas Long is helpful:
....In these stories of the calling of the disciples, then, Jesus disrupts family structures and disturbs patterns of working and living. He does so, however, not to destroy but to renew. Peter and Andrew do not cease being brothers; they are now brothers who do the will of God (Matt. 12:50). James and John do not cease being sons; they are now not only the children of Zebedee but also the children of God. All four of these disciples leave their fishing nets, but they do not stop fishing. They are now, in the kingdom of heaven, fishers for people. Their past has not been obliterated; it has been tranformed by Jesus' call to follow.

Matthew.

Daily prayer, Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Invitatory Psalm 63
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faits for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.


Psalms 65,66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading Matthew 4:18-23

Lectio Divina:
Immediately they left the boat and their father, and follow him (Matthew 4:22).
"Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" Your face, Lord, do I seek (Psalm 27:8).

Midday
Psalm 119:97-104

Evening
Psalms 102, 103

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading toward January 23, Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Link to Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary readings for 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

Because and Despite, a Reflection on Matthew 4:12-17

John had been preaching repentance, effectively so for many had traveled to the wilderness to be baptized by him--including Jesus.

Now that John has been arrested, Jesus begins his ministry. He travels to Capernaum--Matthew ties this move as fulling the words of Isaiah (9:1-2) describing where the light would dawn on people who had been sitting in the dark.

Despite the arrest of John, Jesus continues the proclamation, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Thomas Long in his Westminster Bible commentary on Matthew points out a crucial difference:
When John said the kingdom had come near, it was like a person pointing to a rain cloud on the horizon and saying that refreshing showers would soon come. When Jesus says the kingdom had drawn near, it meant that the hoped-for kingdom was beginning to happen in and through him. In the inauguration of his ministry, in his words and deeds, the cloudburst of the kingdom had begun."

Daily prayer, Monday, January 17, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading Matthew 4:12-17

Lectio Divina:
And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." (Matthew 4:16)
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 29:1b).

Midday
Psalm 119:89-96

Evening
Psalms 87, 88, 91

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Called, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

This is the first in a series of seven readings from 1 Corinthians. Don't try to relate each week epistle reading to the themes of the other readings. They may or may not have similar themes.

Saying that, I still see some relationship between the Gospel reading telling us about John telling us. Also, I am reminded of Isaiah's call, "I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth," when I read Paul's words to the Corinthians about being called to be an apostle, I notice that he specifically says that call extends to "all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus, Christ, both their Lord and ours."

Paul is thankful for the Corinthians, thankful that the testimony of Christ has been strengthened within them, thankful for their spiritual gifts. I'm trying to imagine what Paul would be thankful for if he visited each of our congregations. Do our speech and knowledge show how we have been enriched in Christ? What do we think of when someone says "enriched" anyway? Are we exhibiting spiritual gifts?

Another question that arises for me when I read Paul's letter is that he says that all people are called to be saints--not just the paid Christians, all. Who does the work of Christ in your congregation?

Daily prayer, Sunday, January 16, 2011

Invitatory Psalm 24
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.


Psalms 52, 53, 54, 56

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Lectio Divina:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Gather and the Lord Jesus Christ ((1 Corinthians 1:2-3).

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation
(Psalm 40:10).

Evening
Psalms 78, 79, 83, 86

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lectionary Readings

Link to Vanderbilt Divinity Library for this week's readings.

Affirmation and Pledge, a Reflection on Psalm 40:6-11

This psalm begins with gratitude to the Lord, recognition of what the Lord has done. It continues with affirmation of the benefits of trusting the Lord rather than some other false gods, "You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts; none can compare with you."

How are we to worship? What is it that God expects us to do to show that we do worship? Where does worship happen? What is the necessary cost? Am I doing it right?

The psalm says, "Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Brunt offering and sin offering you have not required." Focus first on what is not necessary--offerings; then, pay attention to what we have been given--that open ear.

That ear is open to what has been written in the Torah. More than listening, the psalmist attests that what has been written in a scroll has become a law within his heart.

James Newsome in Texts for Preaching, A Lectionary Commentary based on the NRSV-Year A, discusses how this psalm is related to this week's lectionary readings, including these comments specifically about the gospel lection:
John's recognition of Jesus following the baptism results in John's acknowledgment of who he himself is and of who Jesus is. Our experience of the redemptive presence of God has similar results. We affirm our history as the redeemed ones and pledge our continuing intention to speak and live in the light of our redemption. This Psalm lection is the song that celebrates both our affirmation and our pledge.

Daily prayer, Saturday, January 15, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us ad bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all peoples praise you.

Psalms 50, 51

Reading Psalm 40:6-11

Lectio Divina
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1).
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord (Psalm 40:9).

Evening
Psalms 75, 77

Friday, January 14, 2011

Waiting, Trusting, Testifying, a Reflection on Psalm 40:1-5

Psalm 40 begins "I waited patiently for the Lord...." Believers by being believers are not immune from the pains in life. I'm also admitting that my own waits have not always been very patient. But, the psalmist was patient--and needed to be--note the "waited" part. But, also note what is being waited for--the Lord. Even in times of tribulation, pain, or disappointment, the psalmist recognizes the source of what is going to make things better.

This trust comes, in part, from what has already happened, "He drew me up from a desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Rescue plus a new start.

The psalmist doesn't keep this rescue, this improvement in his life a secret. Rather, he tells about it. And the ones he tells listen, and, because of what they hear, their lives are changed, their expectations are changed, even what they consider as powerful enough to help them through their difficulties will shift, "Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false god."

Daily prayer, Friday, January 14, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
....
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear,
What can mortals do to me?


Psalms 41, 42, 43, 47

Daily Reading Psalm 40:1-5

Lectio Divina
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1).

Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods (Psalm 40:4).

Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Evening Psalm 74

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yes, Them, Too, a Reflection on Isaiah 49:1-7

The Lord has appointed Isaiah (or, as some commentators posit, Israel) to a task. Isaiah's immediate response is to point out that he is manifestly unqualified for the job, "I have already tried and I failed at it. I put it a lot of effort but accomplished nothing."

[Note: This assessment would be plausible for Israel to express during exile.]

Yet, despite his earlier failures, Isaiah accepts the Lord's commission, "Surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God."

Isaiah describes that commission--and ours.

"It is too light a thing that you should serve merely your own sort." (Experiment with defining "own sort" as national identity or religious adherence or some other way that you typically can distinguish between people).

The Lord continues, "I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Historically and currently, we continue to debate just what those nations have to do with that light; i.e., what acknowledgement are they required to make about its source?

Isn't it typical of any of us religious types that we think that the God we worship really likes us best? How hard is it for us to believe, to accept that God is concerned about the wellbeing of some people that seem really strange to us?

Isaiah a long time ago was preaching that the Lord had intended that Israel would be saved from its desperate situation be reinstated and renewed--not merely for the sake of Israel, but to be a light to the nations, to be a means by which the salvation possible because of the Lord might reach to other kinds of people.

I'm reading "Come Out, My People!" God's Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond by Wes Howard-Brook, which explores the two themes that run through the Bible--God's care for all people or for some people at the expense of others.

Daily prayer, Thursday, January 13, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
....
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Psalms 39, 40

Daily Reading, Isaiah 49:1-7

Lectio Divina:
The Lord says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end on the earth" (Isaiah 49:6).

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord (Psalm 49.6).

Midday Psalm 119:65-72

Evening Psalm 69

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Call to Justice and Mercy

The GBOD site for the UMC offers A Call to Justice and Mercy as part of the liturgy for recognition of Human Relations Day, January 17, remembering the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and what his life's work has meant for all of us.

Telling, a reflection on John 1:40-42

John the Baptist saw for himself but didn't keep it to himself. When he saw Jesus the next day, he told two of his followers who were with him. Jesus spoke to them directly inviting them to come. They did.

One of them, Andrew, then sought out his brother Simon Peter and told them they had found the Messiah.

The pattern of discipleship continues through the Gospel of John as each new disciple will go and finds someone else (I've been reading O'Day and Hylen's commentary on John.)

Excursus: Jesus is given several titles in this section, John 1:29-42--John calls him "the Lamb of God" in verse 29 and 36 and "Son of God" in verse 34; John's disciples call him "Rabbi" in verse 38; Andrew, "Messiah" in verse 41.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his...
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise,
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 37

Daily reading, John 1:40-42

Lectio Divina
One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (John 1:40-41.
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation (Psalm 40:9).

Midday Psalm 119:57-67

Evening Psalm 62, 68

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting New Disciples, a Reflection on John 1:35-39

John again recognizes and announces his recognition that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Excursus: The Lamb of God is a term used in Revelation 17:14 describing the post-biblical apocalypse. Scriptural references include the servant songs like Isaiah 53:6-7 with vicarious suffering; Passover lamb, Exodus 12-13, not as a sacrifice for sin but reinterpreted in light of the eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

John's disciples respond to his announcement by following Jesus. John knew who Jesus was because he had been told directly--and had bothered to listen (1:29-33). John does not keep this information to himself (34-36). His words and example are convincing to others (37).

Daily prayer, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 63
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Daily Psalm 36

Daily Reading, John 1:35-59

Lectio Divina
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus (John 1:38).

Then I said, "Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" Psalm 40:7.

Midday Psalm 119:49-56

Evening
Psalms 55, 59, 60

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sin, not sins, a Reflection on John 1:29-34

Religious authorities, aware of the impact that John had been making, traveled to the wilderness to question him. "Who are you?" they wanted to know. He denied being the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet, but put them on alert (19-33).

The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen point out what I should have been able to notice on my own but didn't, that John says "sin" not "sins" of the world. They say:
As a singular noun, "sin" points to the world's collective alienation from God. "Sins" in the plural evokes a catalog of individual misdeeds and "sinful" behaviors, which is not what John is saying here. "Sin" in the singular refers to a broken relationship with God in which we all share equally, whereas "sins" in the plural can be used to point to some relationships and behaviors as more broken than others. As the Passover Lamb, Jesus liberates the world from slavery to "sin" by bringing the world into new and fresh contact with the presence of God, so that human alienation from God can end.

Daily prayer, Monday, January 10, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Read Psalm 34

Daily Reading-- John 1:29-34

Lectio Divina:
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods (Psalm 40:4).

Midday Psalm 119:41-48

Evening
Psalm 46, 48, 49

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ministry as Manifestation, a Reflection on Acts 10:34-43

In the reading from Matthew this week, the Spirit of God alights on Jesus at his baptism and announces, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." In this reading from Acts, Peter is speaking to Gentiles, telling them that they are included in the care given by God to the people of Israel.

"Jesus Christ is Lord of all," he says. He reminded them that Jesus had done good things for all kinds of people.

Carl R. Holladay, in Preaching through the Christian Year A describes the baptism of Jesus as the inaugural event of his ministry:
Today's text invites us to ask about the significance of the Lord's baptism. We see that it was above all an inaugural event, a time of beginning in its own right. This moment of ordination launched his ministry of good works and healing through which the power of God was manifested: it became clear that "God was with him" (v.38). It was the beginning of the era in which the "good news of peace" was proclaimed (v.36). Its essence was his universal Lordship: "He is Lord of all" (v.36). It also inaugurated a new era in whch forgiveness of sins was made possible through his name (v.43).

Note verse 43, "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name," and remember that the name "Jesus" means "God saves."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, January 9, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and has established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully....
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.....


Read Psalms 32,33

Daily Reading-- Acts 10:34-43

Lectio Divina:
Then Peter began to speak to them, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (Acts 10:34-35).
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings; ascribe to the Lord glory and strength (Psalm 29:1).

Prayer for the Sunday of the Lord's Baptism:
By word and sign, O God,
you identified Jesus at his baptism
that we might know him to be
your Beloved One,
the vessel of your goodness.
By that same grace
you have united us in Christ
and called us your people.
How dimly we understand such love!
Deepen our faith.
Intensify our zeal.
Unite the separated branches of your church
that we may bear an undivided witness
before the world.
Through Jesus Christ,
in whom you are pleased to dwell. Amen.
Source: (This Day, A wesleyan Way of Prayer, Laurence Hull Stookey)


Evening
Read Psalms 44, 45

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who Will Speak for the Soul?

Diana Butler Bass writes about the tragedy concerning Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

She reminds us:
At their best, American pulpits are not about taking sides and blaming. Those pulpits should be places to reflect on theology and life, on the Word and our words. I hope that sermons tomorrow will go beyond expressions of sympathy or calls for civility and niceness. Right now, we need some sustained spiritual reflection on how badly we have behaved in recent years as Americans--how much we've allowed fear to motivate our politics, how cruel we've allowed our discourse to become, how little we've listened, how much we've dehumanized public servants, how much we hate
.

Baptism of the Lord in Art

Please go to the Vanderbilt Divinity Library to see how artists have portrayed the baptism of Christ.

Abscribe to the Lord, a reflection on Psalm 29

Repeats:
Although Tuggin' by Matt W. Miller is not a commentary on Psalm 29, but since it is a poem about a storm and its effects, as I read it I thought about this psalm. And about how storms can affect us. And how we can be rescued from them. Anyway, read the poem.

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.
(Psalm 29:7-8)

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!"

Daily Prayer--Saturday, January 8, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.....

Psalms 26,27

Read Psalm 29

Prayer to the Holy Spirit
O Great Spirit,
whose breath gives life to the world,
and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze:
lWe need your strength and wisdom.
Cause us to walk in beauty. Give us eyes
ever to behold the red and purple sunset....(excerpted from UMH 329)


Evening
Psalms 35:1-3, 9-28; 38

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Servant of the Lord, a Reflection on Isaiah 42:1-7

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus had been baptized, the Spirit of God descends and a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (3:13-17). The first hearers of the Gospel would have been familiar with the Old Testament (Christians' name for what they would have thought of as Scriptures) and so would have understood Matthew's message by reading into it what the prophets had earlier said.

For example, Isaiah spoke of the servant of the Lord, the one chosen by the Lord, the one in whom the Lord delights, the one who has God's spirit upon him. Because of the similarities, Matthew's readers (then and still now) can interpret the calling of that servant to be evocative of the calling of Christ--and of the people who follow Christ.

The Lord's servant, according to Isaiah will bring forth justice to the nations. Notice: not just to people like him, but to the nations. He won't be loud or violent but he will be effective and persistent.

The Lord says to him, "I have called you in righteousness.....a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners from the dungeon."

Here is our task as the church, the body of Christ, to continue to bring justice to the nations (not just assume that God cares about us alone) and to continue the work of healing and deliverance.

Daily prayer, Friday, January 7, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118;

Read Psalms 23,25
Read Isaiah 42:1-9
Prayer for Baptism of the Lord
Living God, when the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism in Jordan's water you revealed him as your own beloved Son. You anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized in his name may keep the covenant that they have made, and boldly confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior now and for ever. UMBOW 301

Lectio Divina:
See, the former things have come to pass, and news things I now declare (Isaiah 42:9)
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty (Psalm 29:4)

Midday Psalm 119:33-40

Evening
Psalms 30, 31

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baptism of the Lord, a Reflection on Matthew 3:13-17

I'm looking at Gospel Parallels (Thomas Nelson Publishers, edited by Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr.).

Luke doesn't specify that it was John who baptized Jesus. Mark doesn't report any discussion between Jesus and John. Both are ambiguous on whether anyone other than Jesus could hear the voice from heaven saying "Thou art my beloved Son...."

Matthew, on the other hand, includes discussion between Jesus and John before the baptism. That is, John didn't think he should do it, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus insisted, saying it would fulfill all righteousness.

Allen & Williamson, in their Preaching the Gospels, point out that:
Matthew has been concerned from the very beginning of his Gospel with celebrating those whose behavior fulfills a higher righteousness His genealogy lifts up instances of higher righteousness: Tamar, Rahab, Uriah, Ruth. Joseph manifested the higher righteousness, married Mary.... Trusting in status and rank being full of oneself in matters of faith, counts for nothing in Matthew's eyes. What counts is morally responsible actions [My reminder--read Matthew 25:31-46 for example.]

When Jesus came out of the water after having been baptized, Matthew, like Mark and Luke, says that the heavens were opened and the Spirit descended on him like a dove. Unlike them, though, Matthew has the voice speaking to the crowd, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Daily prayer, Thursday, January 6, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 150
Prayer for Epiphany
O God, you made of one blood all nations, and ... revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light....(from UMH 255)
.

Read Psalms 19, 20, 21

Read Matthew 3:13-17

Lectio Divina:
And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over, over mighty waters (Psalm 29:3).

Prayer for Baptism of the Lord
Father in heaven,
at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan
you proclaimed him your beloved Son
and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.
Grant that all who are baptized into his name
may keep the covenant they have made,
and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior,
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
One God, in glory everlasting. (UMH 253)

Midday Psalm 119:17-24

Evening
Psalms 22,28

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Recognition, a reflection on Ephesians 3:1-12

Repeat:
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.


Lectio Divina:
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).

Daily prayer -- Wednesday

Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you

Invitatory Psalm 118

O God, you come to us in the boldness and confidence you have granted us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Psalms 12, 13, 17

Reading Ephesians 3:1-10

Lectio Divina:
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the grace that was given me by the working of his power (Ephesians 3:7).

God delivers the needy when they call, the poor, and those who have no helper (Psalm 72:12).

Midday Psalm 119:49-73

Evening Psalm 18

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Arise and Shine, Reflections on Isaiah 60:1-22 and Psalm 72

Repeats:

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
In the Christian calendar, we celebrate Epiphany (on January 6 or on the first Sunday after Christmas).

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.

Lectio Divina:

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 water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound...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 (Psalm 72:1, 6-7, 12-13).

Daily prayer -- Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Morning
Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Invitatory
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name. Psalm 63

Psalms 9, 10

Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6

Lectio Divina:
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you (Isaiah 60:2)

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor (Psalm 72:4).

Prayer for the Epiphany of the Lord
Everlasting God, the radiance of faithful souls,
you brought the nations to your light
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Fill the world with your glory, and show yourself to all the nations;
through him who is the true light and the bright and morning star,
even Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen (UMBOW 297)

Midday: Psalm 119:25-48

Evening
Psalm 134
Psalms 11,14,15,16

Monday, January 3, 2011

Epiphany, a Reflection on Matthew 2:1-12

Twelve days after the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the church calendar marks the recognition of the impact of that birth. Recognition of the impact not only on the Jews but on the ruling powers and on those subject to them. Recognition not only by those first impacted but to the nations.

This reading from Matthew reminds us that even at the beginning of his life, foreigners were able to recognize his importance--and, persons in power felt threatened by him.

Repeat:
Some scholars were studying, as they had been studying, the sky when they observed a rising star. This startling phenomenon indicates to them that a new king has been born in Jerusalem. These wise men, perhaps from Persia, maybe Arabia, are compelled by their discovery to try to find out more. They journey to Jerusalem.

There, they seek out Herod the Great who had been appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate several decades earlier. He does not welcome the idea of a competitor to his power.

I have recently discovered Richard Einerson's Prayers of the People, a lectionary-based prayer guide. Here's a portion of the prayer for Epiphany:
... Be in all of those places where people seek like the Magi to journey to find Jesus, child of hope. Be with all who follow the bright stars of their lives...Be with all who live with the threats of reprisal, persecution, or danger because of their beliefs. Be with all leaders and temper their power with justice and love for people. O God, may the tragedies of the past not be repeated. May there be peace and good will among all people and may their journeys through life not be interrupted by tyrants. Amen.

Daily prayer--Monday, January 3, 2011

Morning:
Arise, shine: for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.(Isaiah 60:1)

O Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into your presence with thanksgiving. (Psalm 95:1-2)

Psalms 1, 2, 3, 5

Read Matthew 2:1-12

Where is this child who has been born king of the Jews. We have come to pay him homage (Matthew 2:1-2)

O God, we come to you in the boldness and confidence you have granted us through Jesus Christ our Lord (Ephesians 3:11-12)

Midday: Psalm 119:1-24

Evening
Psalm 4
Psalms 6,7,8

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Schedule for Reading the Psalms

Try reading through the Psalter every month by following this Schedule.

Blessings We Have Received, a Reflection on Ephesians 1:3-14

On this second Sunday after Christmas, the lectionary reminds us of the blessing we have received through Christ--adoption, forgiveness, and redemption.

God has chosen to include us. (When this letter was first read, Gentiles would have understood that they were included along with the Jews could now look at God as Father. We who are used to the idea of Gentile being a sort of synonym for Christian may not get the impact of this thought or we may not be willing to extend the adoption to groups that just don't seem to be God's type of family.)

Our inclusion comes through grace. But, having been included, we can respond.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Prayers for Epiphany

Everlasting God, the radiance of faithful souls,
you brought the nations to your light
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Fill the world with your glory, and show yourself to all the nations;
through him who is the true light and the bright and morning star,
even Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
(UMBOW 296, from Latin Sacramentary)

O God,
you made of one blood all nations,
and, by a star in the East,
revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel.
Enable us who know your presence with us
so to proclaim his unsearchable riches
that all may come to his light
and bow before the brightness of his rising,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen
(UMH 255)

The Praise of Wisdom, a Reflection on Sirach 24:1-12 and Wisdom 10:15-21

One of the alternative Old Testament (well, actually, Apocrypha) passages paired with the reading from the Gospel of John this week is from the book known as "Ecclesiasticus (church book)," or as the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach." Ben Sira (another way of saying the author's name) was a teacher who wrote this book around 180 BCE. The prologue was added a few decades later.

He was writing to observant Jews that were living in a world that had been pretty much Hellenized, exhorting them to stick to the wisdom found in their traditions. In the passage in this week's lectionary, Wisdom speaks for herself, "I came from the mouth of the Most High."

Like the Word in John's Gospel, Wisdom has her origin in God and is an agent of God.

[with help from the commentary in The New Interpreter's Study Bible.

The lectionary response to the reading from Sirach is Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21; here's a portion:
A holy people and blameless race
wisdom delivered from a nation of oppressors.
She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord,
and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.
She gave to holy people the reward of their labors;
she guided them along a marvelous way,
and became a shelter to them by day,
and a starry flame through the night
(16-17).