Offertory Prayer

April 27, 2014 – Second Sunday of Easter
Living, loving God, we give thanks and praise that the doors of our hearts can't keep you out, and the doors of our churches can't keep you in! May your breath blow anew through the world, may your spirit fill the lives of those who believed they were beyond your reach! May we who have been so blessed with the joy of this Easter redemption be generous in sharing all that we are and all that we have, so that the power of the Resurrection might reach all your children. In Christ's Holy name, we pray. Amen. (John 20:19-31)

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.


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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Belief and Judgment, a Reflection on John 9:35-41

The respectable religious insiders, perceiving a threat, had been investigating the claims that someone not authorized by them was able to perform miracles. They interviewed the man whose life had been changed by Jesus. When he responded to their queries by asking them, "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing," they accused him of heresy and expelled him.

Jesus returns. We don't know where he has been in the meantime. In verses 6 and 7, he had given the man instructions which the man followed in verse 8. But then, the narrative shifts to the reaction of the people to the man whose blindness has been healed. The reaction had not been positive.

Jesus had been walking along when he first saw the man. Now he comes in response to the news that this healed man has been driven out of his community. Jesus asks him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The man asks to know who this is so he can believe in him. When Jesus says, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he," he responds, "Lord, I believe."

This man who has been excluded from regular life because of one kind of difference--blindness--and then ousted because of another--refusal to give in to the religious hierarchy now admits what he seems to have already figured out (see verses 30-33).

This man can see that Jesus is from God; the religious authorities are blind to this. But, they do seem to have some uncertainty, at least. They ask Jesus, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus judges that they are. We Christians still have a similar difficulty in accepting that God can send help and love to people who aren't part of our select group, who don't follow the rules that we think are essential.

All of us religious types need to contemplate what Jesus is trying to get across to us when he says, "But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." Let us ask what it is that we can see so clearly that our sight has become an occasion of our sin.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, March 31, 2011

Morning
Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."


Invitatory Psalm 150

Read and reflect on Psalms 19, 20, 21

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 9:35-41

Lectio Divina
(John 9:38)

(Psalm 23:4)

Prayer for Today:
O Lord our God, you are always more ready to bestow your good gifts on us than we are to seek them, and are willing to give more than we desire or deserve. Help us so to seek that we may truly find, so to ask that we may joyfully receive, so to knock that the door of your mercy may be opened to us; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen (UMBOW 467).

Midday Psalm 119:25-32

Evening
Psalms 22, 28

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What We Know, a Reflection on John 9:24-34

It's wasn't just back then that people who are used to being in charge didn't like anybody doing something that disturbs their authority. They weren't willing to accept that this new guy, this Jesus, was able to accomplish something that they themselves hadn't even thought to try to do.

"In the first place," they insisted, "you shouldn't give the credit to anyone that we don't approve of. Credit belongs to God." The man who had been healed refused to enter the controversy. Theology wasn't the topic that concerned him at the moment. He, with some irony, asked why were they so concerned with the procedure that Jesus had used for healing, "Why do you want to know more about him? Are you considering becoming one of his followers?"

They responded negatively and huffily, "We know what true religion is like, and we don't know anything about this new guy."

"What else do you need to know?" he replied to their criticism. "He healed me. Only if he were from God, could that have happened." The religious authorities had had enough of arguing. They expelled the man.

In discussing this episode in her commentary on John, Written that You May Believe, Sharon Schneiders says:
The reader is, of course, supposed to identify with the man born blind. But do we, perhaps, but become sophisticated evaders when that confession has consequences for our reputation or job or safety? Even worse, are we religious authority figures whose first allegiance is to the institution and who are willing to suppress the prophets among us when their testimony to their experience calls that institution or our position within it into question?

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Morning
Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."


Invitatory Psalm 100

Psalms 12, 13, 17

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 9:24-34

Lectio Divina
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner" (John 9:34).

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff--they comfort me (Psalm 23:3).

Prayer for today:
Open my eyes to see the work you are accomplishing all around me. Instill trust in me. Instill courage. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:17-24

Evening
Psalm 18

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Morning

Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."


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

Read and reflect on Psalms 9, 10

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 9:13-23

Lectio Divina
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided (John 9:16).

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:2).

Prayer for today:
O God, who dost forgive our iniquities and heal our diseases, we cry unto thee.
....
In thy good keeping, all is well. Into thy hands we commend our bodies and our spirits. Do with us as thou wilt. Amen.
(taken from the prayer, In Time of Illness, UMH 460)


Midday Psalm 119:9-16

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 16

Investigation after the Miracle, a Reflection on John 9:13-23

John gives us a look at how religious people can behave. When confronted with a miracle, they asked some questions then pronounced their opinion that this Jesus could not have accomplished what was purported for him to have done. Their rationale--some of them asserted that he was not scrupulous enough in following the rules of their religion. Others categorized Jesus as a sinner and remarked that sinners weren't able to do the kinds of things that had been credited to him.

Since they weren't able to agree among themselves, they interviewed the once-blind man himself. He said "He is a prophet." Not yet satisfied, they then interviewed his parents. Because of their fear of what would be thought of them, they refused to say what they thought. Instead, they merely repeated what their son had told them. "If you want to know what he says that happened, ask him, not us."

As we consider the evangelism efforts of our particular local churches or our denomination, we might consider who represents us in this story. Are we the official religious types that can judge whether someone has been able to do the work that God wants to be done or even who is eligible to try? Are we the parents who are so afraid of others' opinions that we are incapable of admitting the good that God has done in our lives, how people close to us have been helped? Or, are we like the man who had been healed--able to recognize what has been done for us and willing to say so?

How much blindness is self-inflicted? How much blindness is protective when we really don't want to see something anyway?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Offertory Prayers for April 2011

The GBOD has posted Offertory Prayers for April.

Blindness, a Reflection on John 9:1-12

Theological reflection (that I find troubling so I'm going to skip over) followed by action. Jesus sees a problem that needs to be solved, so he gets to work immediately.

Notice that the blind man did not ask Jesus for help.

Onlookers don't accept that a miracle has occurred. Their responses include questioning whether it happened at all to asking how it did happen. When the no-longer-blind man tells them that and how Jesus cured his blindness, they wanted to know where Jesus was now.

Did they want to thank him? Did they want him to do something for them now? Did they want to learn how to help other people who needed it?

Do we recognize miracles?

What is our reaction to someone's being healed? What do we want to know? Why?

Can we remember (or imagine) being brought out of something as difficult as blindness?

Daily Prayer, Monday, March 28

Morning
Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking to you is he" (John 9:37).

Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Lets us come into God's presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise with songs of praise!


Read and reflect on Psalms 1, 2, 3, 5

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 9:1-12

Lectio Divina
But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" (John 9:10)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

Prayer for today:
O Lord, I say you are my shepherd. I know you are my shepherd. I have relied on your care. O Lord, make these assertions true for me. Remind me, keep me aware, of all that you have already done for me. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:1-8

Evening
Psalms 6, 7, 8

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Justified, Saved, Reconciled, a Reflection on Romans 5:1-11

excerpted from FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2010, Reading toward Trinity Sunday:

Looking for them, we can read about God, about Christ, and about the Holy Spirit in these verses. We usually are focusing on the "justified by faith" part--as opposed to being justified in any other less satisfactory way. This week we focus on how that happens--that our justification by (or our faith in?) God comes through Christ. Christ models for us suffering and the product of suffering. Further, the means of that process occurs because the Holy Spirit pours God's love into our hearts.

Repeat from WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 2008
Peace, Hope, Love, Thinking about Romans 5 while reading the newspaper
I read Paul's words about suffering and hope. I read about God's love for sinners. And then I read a couple of stories in the newspaper that seemed to be examples of this message.

The headline is "Vermont: Poetry Classes for Vandals." Twenty-eight young people broke into Robert Frost's house, got drunk, and damaged the place. The prosecuter has asked Jay Parini, a Frost biographer, who believes in the redemptive power of poetry, to lead them in a study of Frost's life and work. The New York Times, June 3, 2008, page A21.

The headline is "Where Illegal Guns Can Do No More Harm." In New York City, thousands of firearms are taken by law enforcement officers each year. Instead of crushing and burying them, they are crushing and re-using them. They have found a way to turn spears into plowshares. Guns are sent to scrap processing plants to be chopped up into tiny pieces and sent to foundries from New Jersey to China. The former firearms will be ultimately be used to build water pipes, chain link fences, or appliances. The New York Times, June 3, 2008, page A22.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, March 27, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 24
....
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the Ruler of glory may come in.
Who is this Ruler of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
the Lord is the Ruler of glory!


Read and reflect on Psalms 147, 148, 149

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 5:1-11

Lectio Divina
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will be be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
(Psalm 95:1)

Prayer for today:
O Lord, we give you thanks for sending your Son to save us, to save us although we hadn't deserved that salvation. Christ came to us while we were yet sinners. And, we give you thanks for the grace that allows and encourages us then to respond by living the lives that will serve best your purposes for this world. Amen,

Evening
Read and reflect on Psalms 144, 145

Saturday, March 26, 2011

O Come, Let Us Sing to the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 95

Psalm 95 is the traditional call-to-worship psalm.
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!

After the call (and even within it--see "rock of our salvation"), the psalm lists reasons for our worship:
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King avove all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

Summing up so far, we are called to praise God and to do so audibly, and we are reminded that God has already done a lot for us.

Thus, an appropriate response to the gifts we have already received is gratitude:
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice!

When we see Psalm 95 in a prayer book, we may see only this much of it. But, the remaining verses of the psalm do relate to this week's reading from Exodus:
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty ears I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways." Therefore in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest."

Rebellion, distrust, and doubt did not end in the wilderness. The admonition is this psalm helps us to remember that when we don't trust God, and so turn to our own ways and wills, things don't turn out very well for us. So, let's go back to the beginning of the psalm and sing the words and live them out.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, March 26, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 67

Psalms 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 95

Lectio Divina
Psalm 95:5
Psalm 95:7

O Lord, we come to you in joy and thanksgiving. You have given us this earth and all its glories. You have gathered us into your family. Break through our self-satisfaction and our fears so that we can be grateful for these gifts--and willing to share them. Keep our attention focused on your will. Amen.

Evening
Psalm 144, 145

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Prayer, Friday, March 25, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 131, 132, 133

Daily Lectionary Reading, Exodus 17:1-7

Lectio Divina
The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" (Exodus 17:2)
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Psalm 95:7)

Prayer for today:
When we grumble and complain, when we wonder if you, Lord, are with us, when we are not sure that we are headed the right way, when we are tempted to return to the past that has begun to seem better to us, guide us and help us. Give us courage to continue. Give us trust to believe that you still leading us. Give us strength to continue our journey through difficulties. Amen.
(adapted from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson, Authorhouse.)

Midday Psalm 119:169-176

Evening
Psalms 137, 138, 139

Give Us Water, a Reflection on Exodus 17:1-7

What is life after salvation like? They have been freed from oppression, but they haven't been given perfect.

Who is responsible for our happiness? The people in Exodus turned on Moses. After all, if it hadn't been for him, they would still be back in Egypt--yes, they would have go be building pyramids, but at least they would have had water.

When he is faced with criticism, Moses turned on the Lord. "What am I supposed to do now?"

Moses had not sought the job of leading the people out of captivity and had accepted it rather reluctantly. The Lord had been able to convince him to accept the risks inherent in the task and continues to support him, giving him directions that will get the people past this particular crisis.

We who are descendants of these ancient people will also face crises in our lives. And we may find ourselves reacting in similar ways. We may turn on God or or whoever represents God's message in our lives. We may think that life would have been better if we had not made the effort to follow the path that God laid out for us.

When they turned on Moses, he recognized that that they had lost their trust in the Lord. Moses prayed and was prepared to listen.

In the crisis--of fact and faith, the Lord provides what the people need. The Lord enables Moses to show the people where the water is--and does so with witnesses.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Circle Widens, a Reflection on John 4:39-42

She had been an unlikely choice for evangelist--a woman when women weren't supposed to do public things and a member of an ethic group that was considered not to be one that they would have anything to do with anyway. Yet, having met Jesus, she listened to him, and she believed him enough to go around telling other people what she had heard. And many of them believed in him because of her testimony. Because they believed, they invited Jesus to stay with them. And many more believed because of his word.

We don't have to do all the work ourselves. We don't have to do all the proving and convincing. We can trust that the word of Jesus is still convincing. Yet, we do need to do some work, some telling what we have heard, what we have experienced. Let us remember that we don't even have to be fully convinced in order to be convincing.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, March 24, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 150

Psalms 125, 126, 127, 128, 129

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 4:39-42

Lectio Divina
They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have her for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

(Psalm 95:6)


Prayer for Today:
O Lord, open our ears to hear what you have to say to us today. Keep us open to your word. We need to be saved and we recognize that you are our Savior. Through us, let your word be spread to those who need to hear it. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:161-168

Evening
Psalm

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comes the Harvest, a Reflection on John 4:27-38

Even if those WWJD bracelets had been popular at the time, his disciples would not have supposed that talking to a woman would be the answer to that question. John's gospel tells us that they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman. I'm pausing here to wonder whose association with Jesus would be astonishing to us modern-day disciples. Who do we think Jesus would be likely to hang out with? Who not? Why not?

Back to the passage--She preached, but with some uncertainty. Yet, the people who heard her wanted to know more. They left what they were doing to make their way to the one she thought might be the Messiah but wasn't sure.

Meanwhile, the disciples, the ones closest to him, wanted him to eat something. Just as he used the word "water" to mean water and more than water, he uses the word "food": "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."

Another metaphor--harvest. "Look around, the fields are ripe for harvesting." At the conclusion of our worship service last Sunday, we went outside to the steps to receive the benediction. As we few stood there, we could see many cars going by on the street, a couple of cyclers riding by, and even some pedestrians. I wondered what they were thinking as they saw us there, and if they would want to come inside some time--and how we might figure out how to invite them to.

And whatever we do or whenever we do it, someone has already done the preparatory work.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 100

Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123, 124

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 4:27-38

Lectio Divina
For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps" (John 4:37).

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. (Psalm 95:3-4).

Prayer for today:
O Lord, we give you thanks for the many workers you have sent out ahead of us and all that they have accomplished. Strengthen us now to continue the work they have begun. Amen

Midday Psalm 119:153-160

Evening
Psalm 130

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SCRIPTURE READINGS LISTED ACCORDING TO THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE

The UMC provides a list of Scripture Readings in the lectionary arranged in order according to the books of the Bible

The Hour is Coming, a Reflection on John 4:16-26

"Where is the right place to worship?"

For the Samaritan woman, the answer had been the mountain that had been the worship site for her people through history. She had understood Jesus to claim that Jerusalem was the appropriate place.

Jesus said to her that neither of the above was the place (although he did assert that salvation is from the Jews). [Remember that at the time of their discussion, the Samaritan temple would have been long gone, and by the time John's Gospel was written, the temple in Jerusalem would have been destroyed.]

The place is not the determinant. God comes looking for true worshipers.

But the time is important. "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Gather in spirit and truth."

The Messiah has come, is come, will come.

He then told the woman, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." She responded, "I know that Messiah is coming. when he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Morning
Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

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....


Psalms 97, 98, 99, 101

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 4:16-26

Lectio Divina
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:2)

Midday Psalm 119:137-152

Prayer for Today:
God of the covenant,
in the glory of the cross
your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people.
In this time of repentance,
draw all people to yourself,
that we who confess Jesus as Lord
may put aside the deeds of death
and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press)

Evening
Psalms 115, 116, 117

Monday, March 21, 2011

Living Water, Reflection on John 4:5-15

The antipathy between Jews and Samaritans extended back centuries in time. They were still distrustful of each other because of something that had happened, something that someone had done years and years ago. Yes, we can think of many modern day examples.

Jesus, a Jew, is traveling through Samaria. John reminds us that at one time Samaria was the home of Jesus' ancestors, a place near a plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

When a Samaritan woman approaches the well where he is sitting, Jesus asks her for a drink. She responds by commenting on how strange such a request is. Jesus answers her, "If you knew who was asking for this water, you would have been the one doing the asking, and you would have been asking for living water. And he would have given it to you."

She points out some apparent discrepancies in his assertion. "You don't have a bucket, and this well is deep. How are you going to get this living water?"

He cuts through her objections. "Everybody who drinks water from this well is going to get thirsty again. I'm talking about a different kind of water. Water that lasts. Spring water, gushing up to eternal life."

She wants this water.

Note from Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Gospels: The phrase "living water" is used to speak of God in Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; salvation in Ezekiel 47:9 and Zechariah 14:8, and wisdom in Proverbs 13:14 and 18:4.

Boring and Craddock in The People's New Testament Commentary, also point out the use of this phrase in Scriptures to refer to God and the salvation God gives. They point out whereas in John, the living water is Jesus himself, mediated by the Spirit (7:37-39).

Daily Prayer, Monday, March 21

Morning

Faithful God of love,
you blessed us with your servant Son
so that we might know how to serve your people
with justice and with mercy.
We gather the needs of ourselves and others,
and offer them to you in faith and love,
seeking to be strengthened by them.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Invitatory Psalm 95
....You are our God, and we are the people of your pasture, and the sheep of your hand.
O that today we would listen to your voice....

Psalms 94, 96

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 4:5-15

Lectio Divina
Those who drink of the water that I will give them will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (John 4:14-15).

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
(Psalm 95:1)

Prayer:
O Lord, direct us to strange places and unfamiliar people so that we can teach and learn more about you. And help us to listen when you speak to us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:129-136

Evening
Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113, 114

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grace First then Law, a Reflection on Romans 4:13-17

Have you ever been to a family reunion and wondered how some of the people at the table got invited? Could they really be part of your family and act the way they do and say the things they say and believe the things they do?

As the first Christians were wrestling with entrance requirements, Paul reminded them that God is the one who decides who gets in anyway. And God's eligibility rules may well not be the ones we would have devised if we had been in charge instead.

"Remember," Paul said, "Abraham is included in God's family not because he was a strict religious guy, but because God chose him and he said "Yes," and he did the "Yes," too.

The doing is important, but it is not the prerequisite. Repentance may precede the call, but it does follow it.

Back to the family reunion metaphor--Abraham is the father of the Jews, but he was chosen almost five centuries before the law was delivered to them through the prophet Moses. Thus, according to Paul's interpretation, Gentiles are part of the family even if they aren't Jews first.

That's not a big problem for today's Christian churches. We have adapted Paul's teaching on that point, at least. But, some of us may have difficulty in accepting other descendants of Abraham as full members of God's family--Muslims, for example.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, March 20, 2011

Morning
Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
O Lord, teach us your ways that we may walk in your paths.
(adapted from Isaiah 2:5, 3c, from UMBOW 326)

Invitatory Psalm 24

Psalms 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 4:13-17

Lectio Divina

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us) (Romans 4:16).

The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life
(Psalm 121:6-7).

Prayers for Today:
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!
O God, you have blessed us. We seek your presence.
Open our hearts so that we are able to forsake our sinful acts and thoughts so that we may return to you.
Save us. Forgive us. Love us. Hold us. Amen.
(adapted from UMBOW 332)

....Be our redeemer when we fall short..
When we feel enmity or hatred toward others, remind of our need to love and temper our spirits.
When we act selfishly, remind us of our need to consider others.
When we are seeking to impose our will upon others, remind us to listen to and her the needs of those around us.
....
Cause us to serve you with joy and eager enthusiasm. Amen

from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson


Evening
Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Transfiguration, a Reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

Methodists recognized Transfiguration Sunday a couple of weeks ago. Others celebrate this week. Here's what I posted according to the Methodist calendar:

I've been reading Stanley Hauerwas' commentary on Matthew as the lectionary has led us through this gospel. And I'm glad that I am.

For example, he points out that "six days later" points us to the creation story so that Jesus' transfiguration is the seventh day thus bringing God's work to completion.

Peter, James, and his brother John are there on the mountaintop with Jesus. They witness his transfiguration. They see him changed, and they see Moses and Elijah. Peter, as usual, speaks first. He offers to build three dwellings. We aren't told explicitly what Peter had in mind, but we can speculate that he wanted to keep Jesus on the mountaintop--usually a significant place in the Scriptures--along with those two important figures, Moses who had led the people out of slavery and brought them the law from the Lord and Isaiah the prophet who told them the Lord's word as they emerged from exile.

Perhaps Peter was attempting to live out this passage from Leviticus 23:
33The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 34Speak to the people of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, and lasting seven days, there shall be the festival of booths to the Lord. 35The first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. 36Seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the eighth day you shall observe a holy convocation and present the Lord’s offerings by fire; it is a solemn assembly; you shall not work at your occupations....


As Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud, a voice speaks to them, repeating the words spoken at his baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased" and adds some words not heard at that time, "listen to him!"

The immediate reaction of the disciples is fear. They fall to the ground.

They have seen light, heard the voice, and they are scared.

Jesus responds to their fear by coming to them and touching them. He tells them to get up and not to be afraid. Thomas Long, in his excellent commentary on Matthew, reminds us that Jesus has touched the leper (8:3), the hand of the fevered woman (8:15), and the eyes of the blind men (9:29) and healed them. Thus, as Jesus can heal blindness, fever, and leprosy, so can he heal fear.

When they look up, Moses and Isaiah are not visible. It's time to leave the mountain. On the way down, Jesus tells them not to tell anybody about the vision they have witnessed until after the resurrection.

Fred Craddock, in Preaching through the Christian Year A, explains:
If the disciples understood who Jesus was only after the resurrection there certainly was no reason to assume the crowds could. After all, if the baptism and prediction of passion seemed a contradiction of the terms "Messiah" and "Son of God," how much more would the cross? The people are not ready for the Transfiguration story because the disciples are not ready to tell it.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Reckoned Righteousness, a Reflection on Romans 4:1-5

Paul was writing at a time when the Christian church was debating whether anybody could be a Christian without first being a Jew. Not a debate now, but we still may argue over specific entry requirements and ways to maintain our eligibility to stay on the team.

But, even though our specific concerns may change, we can still look to Paul's words to help us. In the passage we're reading today, he uses Abraham as a demonstration of imputed righteousness.

Abraham believed God, and did what God called him to do--see this week's reading from Genesis 12. Abraham was chosen by God and responded to God long, long before the time of Moses. That is, Abraham was not declared righteous because he followed the law because he hadn't had the opportunity to hear the law yet.

Abraham trusted God, and that faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Two points are important. 1. God's reach is wider than that of any particular denomination. 2. Paul is not belittling the law. Once we know the law, we live it out, so that the way we live demonstrates what God wants the world to be like.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, March 19, 2011

Morning
Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
O Lord, teach us your ways that we may walk in your paths.
(adapted from Isaiah 2:5, 3c, from UMBOW 326)

Invitatory Psalm 67

Psalms 81, 82, 85

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 4:1-5

Lectio Divina
(Romans 4:3)
(Psalm 121:8)

Prayer for today:
O God, we come to you asking for blessings. Help us to be more willing to listen to your directions. Strengthen our faith so that we might respond to the many gifts that you have provided us and, in our response, show you to the world. Amen.

Evening
Psalm 107

Friday, March 18, 2011

Help, a Reflection on Psalm 121

I found on my bookshelf this morning a book I read years ago and had almost forgotten, Openings, a Daybook of Saints, Psalms, and Prayer by Larry James Peacock, published by Upper Room Books.

In his discussion of Psalm 121, he points out that in encompassing day and night, near and far, present and future, all of life rests under the protection of the Lord.

The Lord is always awake. The Lord is always with us. The Lord protects us in all our comings and goings, now and forever.

Can I have the confidence in the Lord that the psalmist expresses? Do I usually look for help from the Lord, or am I more likely to try something else first?

Daily Prayer, Friday, March 18, 2011

Morning
O Lord, you are merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

You do not deal with us according to our sins,
nor requite us according to our iniquities.

What shall I render to you, Lord, for all your bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on your name.

(adapted from UMBOW 331).


Invitatory Psalm 118
....
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, and I will extol you
....

O Lord, I give thanks to you, for you are good,
for your steadfast love endures forever.

Psalms 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 121

Lectio Divina
I lift up my eyes to the hills--from where will my help come? (Psalm 121:1)

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand
(Psalm 121:5).

Prayer for today:
O merciful God, in compassion for your sinful children
you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world.
Grant us grace to feel and lament our share of the evil
that made it necessary for him to suffer and die for our salvation.
Help us by self-denial, prayer, and meditation
to prepare our hearts for deeper penitence and a better life.
And give us a true longing to be free from sin,
through the deliverance won by Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen

(from UMBOW 336)

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Evening
Psalm 105

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ponderings on a Faith Journey: St. Patrick's Adventerous Prayer -- Bruce Epperly

Ponderings on a Faith Journey: St. Patrick's Adventerous Prayer -- Bruce Epperly: "It is St. Patrick's Day, and since an eighth of me is Irish, I should be ready to celebrate!  St. Patrick may be the patron saint ..."

Blessed to be a Blessing, a Reflection on Genesis 12:1-4a

The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell of God's gifts to us humans and what we do with them and how God responds.

In the beginning, God gave us a garden, companionship, and food. God said not to do this one thing, but that's what we did. God sent them out of the garden but out there they were going to be able to obtain food and to have families. Moreover, God replaced their fig leaf loincloths with fur coats.

Next, as we learned to grow crops and tend sheep, jealousy and violence erupted. God responded by protecting the malefactor from the retribution that we might assert that he had deserved.

Families grew and spread out, but so did the wickedness--to the extent that the Lord regretted even having populated the earth anyway.

But, instead of wiping out the human race entirely, God chose the moral man to begin the project anew. This worked for a while. Noah's son's families expanded and spread out into many lands. They began to be prideful of their accomplishments. They erected a tower with its top in the sky to make a name for themselves. God scattered them over the earth.

Then, in Chapter 12, God once again reached out, choosing Abraham to start things over, once more, "I will bless you, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Abraham's predecessors had done it wrong, but he was to do it right.

Abraham had some work to do, "Go to the place that I will show you."

For our Lenten journey, we can remember and celebrate Abraham's call and his response. And we can metaphorize it, to go where the Lord is showing us, to accept the Lord's blessing, and to do what the Lord commands.

Daily prayer, Thursday, March 17, 2011

Morning
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
We praise you for your mighty deeds, for your surpassing greatness.
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Psalm 73

Daily Lectionary Reading, Genesis 12:1-4a

Lectio Divina
Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that i will show you.... So Abram went, as the Lord had told him (Genesis 12:1,4a).

He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:4).

Prayer for Today:
God of amazing compassion,
lover of our wayward race,
you bring to birth a pilgrim people,
and call us to be a blessing for ourselves and all the world.
We pray for grace to take your generous gift
and step with courage on this holy path,
confident in the radiant life that is your plan for us,
made known and given in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Evening
Psalms 105

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Love for the World, Not Condemnation, a Reflection on John 3:16-17

Excerpts from The People's New Testament Commentary by Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock:
So: The Greek word can mean "so much," but its primary meaning is "in this way"....While God's love is indescribably infinite, the point here is not how much but how--God gave his Son.

Gave his ... Son: God does not punish someone else, but takes human sin into himself; Christ's giving himself is God's self-giving love.

Whoever believes: Here belief or unbelief is a human possibility and responsibility.

And that possibility and responsibility is the reason for the Incarnation, the Word coming into the world, "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morning
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Invitatory Psalm 100

Psalms 71. 72

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 3:16-17

Lectio Divina
(John 3:17)
(Psalm 121:2)

Prayer for today:
God of the living,
through baptism we pass from the shadow of death
to the light of the resurrection.
Remain with us and give us hope
that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit
who gives life to our mortal flesh,
we may be clothed with the garment of immortality,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
RCL Prayers, p. 76, Fortress Press
Midday Psalm 119:105-112
Evening
Psalms 104

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reflection on John 3:10-15

Nicodemus didn't get it right away. But, let us at least get that he's trying. He's the one who approached Jesus. He has witnessed the signs that Jesus has done, and recognizes that they are evidence of the presence of God. Yet, he asks Jesus, "How can these things be?"

Jesus responds, "You're a teacher, and you don't get it? You've studied the Scriptures. You've heard what I've been saying, but you don't accept it. If I were to tell you more, would you believe me then?"

Sandra Schneiders, in Written that You Might Believe, points out:
But, if the reader perseveres through the text, it becomes clear that Jesus' irony is not so much a condemnation as a challenge. Jesus goes on speaking to Nicodemus, and through him to the reader, about his own identity and mission. And Nicodemus, who seems to vanish from the stage at this point will reappear twice more in the course of the Gospel. In 7:50-52 Nicodemus appeals to the law of Moses to defend Jesus to his fellow Pharisees in the sandhedrin who declare Jesus guilty and dangerous.... Finally, in 19:32-42, Nicodemus aligns himself publicly with Jesus in his "lifting up: by joining Joseph of Arimathea in removing Jesus' body from the cross and burying him with an enormous outlay of spices that reminds the reader of Mary of Bethany's action in 12:3....

Nicodemus is the very type of the truly religious person, who is, on the one hand, utterly sincere and, on the other, complacent about his or hew knowledge of God and God's will. Such people are basically closed to divine revelation, Like Nicodemus, they "know" who Jesus is, what his message means (see 3:2). And like Nicodemus, it is only after they have been reduced to the futility of their own ignorance that they can begin the process of coming to the Light not by argument or reasoning but by doing the truth, a process that gradually opens the to the meaning of the scriptures.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Morning
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore

Invitatory Psalm 63

Psalms 65, 66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 3:10-15

Lectio Divina
(John 3:11-12)
(Psalm 121:2)

God of the covenant,
you call us to be fruitful servants within creation,
and to offer our lives
as the foundation of your realm.
We lay before you the desires of our hearts, that we may be transformed by their fulfillment.

RCL Prayers, p. 80, Fortress Press

Offer intercessory prayers for the people of the world, of your nation, of your community, and for yourself.
Midday Psalm 119:97-104
Evening
Psalms 102, 103

Monday, March 14, 2011

Even Scholars Don't Always Get It Right Away, a Reflection on John 3:1-9

Repeat from earlier year:
Jesus has been upsetting the insiders. One of them, Nicodemus, comes by night. I am told by Bible commentators that "night" implies more "not understanding" than a time. I had always taken "night" as literal and read that Nicodemus was hoping not to be seen by anyone important when he approached this trouble maker. After thinking about it for a moment, I've decided to keep both meanings.

Nicodemus asserts that the miracles they have seen Jesus perform have been persuasive. Yet apparently not completely so. It's night after all.

After being asked about how anybody can have a second birth, Jesus answers him by asserting the necessity of the Spirit.

"What is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind blows where it chooses..." Remember that the Greek word translated as wind also means breath or spirit. God breathes on us; a force moves us like the wind moves us and that force is as invisible as the wind as it is as potent as the wind.

"So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Who is this "everyone"? Who has been born of the Spirit? Am I reassured? insulted? puzzled? grateful?
.... "

Daily Prayer, Monday, March 14, 2011

Morning
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Invitatory Psalm 95

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 3:1-9

Lectio Divina
Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above." The wind blows were it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:7-8).

I lift up my eyes to the hills--from where will my help come? (Psalm 121:1)

Prayer for today:
O God, your glory is always to have mercy.
Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways,
and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith
to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word,
Jesus Christ your Son,
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

UMBOW 334


Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Evening
Psalms 87, 88, 91

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Both, And, a Reflection on Romans 5:17-19

N.T. Wright, in his Paul, asserts that Paul's view is that the point of turning from idolatry and sin and to worship of the true and living God is "both that they might themselves be rescued and that through their rescue, and the new community which they then form, God's purposes to rescue the world world might be advanced."

He continues:
In Romans 5:17, Paul speaks of the justified "reigning in life"; the aim is not simply that they be rescued from disaster, but that through them God would rule his new creation. And this is why, too, the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in the one family is so central to justification.

In Paul's day, Christians argued over whether somebody had to be a Jew to be a Christian. Then as non-Jews began to be the largest, about the only, Christians, they began to discuss whether Jews were still included in God's care. In current times, Christians are arguing about whether Muslims are worshipping the same God. Then, with Rob Bell's new book, we are even arguing about whether those who don't profess a religion at all, or a different one, can be included.

How do Paul's words help in this argument? For example, verse 19, "...by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, March 13, 2011

Morning
Let all who are faithful offer prayer to you....
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance...

Invitatory Psalm 24

Psalms 52, 53, 54, 56

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 5:12-19

Lectio Divina
(Romans 5:18)
(Psalm 32:9-10)

O merciful God, in compassion for your sinful children
you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world.
Grant us grace to feel and to lament our sins.
Help us to change our lives so that we can be the people you intended us to be
and to do for the world what you want done.
Give us a true longing to be free from sin,
through the deliverance won by Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
(adapted from UMBOW 336)

Evening
Psalms 78, 29, 83, 86

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Penitence, Forgiveness, a Reflection on Psalm 32

God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed God--the fruit on that tree looked too good not to have a taste. Having eaten of the fruit, they became aware of their vulnerabilities and tried to cover themselves up as well as they good. They made loincloths out of fig leaves. If we kept reading in Genesis, we would learn that God replaced those scratchy leaves with fur coats.

Psalm 32 also speaks of how difficult our lives as sinners can be and how the Lord comes to help us in our distress.

As long as we wallow in our sinfulness, our lives will be difficult. Recognizing where we have gone wrong prepares us for the help that the Lord can offer to us. Then, living our lives according to the way that we have been instructed by the Lord will enable us to experience joy.

And we don't have to keep quiet about that joy.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, March 12, 2011

Morning
Let all who are faithful offer prayer to you....
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance...

Invitatory Psalm 67
O God, be gracious to us and bless us and make your face to shine upon ys, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations....

Read Psalms 50, 51

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 32

Lectio Divina
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them (Psalm 32:5-6).

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart (Psalm 32:11).

O gracious God, your steadfast love surrounds and supports us. Release us from our sins. Deliver us from our fears. Amen.

Evening
Read Psalms 75, 77

Friday, March 11, 2011

Life in Paradise, a Reflection on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

I assume that this passage was included in the lectionary for this week as an explanation for Paul's comments about Adam in the Romans passage, how different the grace of Jesus Christ is from the sin of Adam. That being said, I find myself more interested in how the passage got in the canon rather than how Paul used it to make a Paul point.

I'm reading "Come Out, My People!" by Wes Howard-Brook and recommend that you do, too.

Howard-Brook asserts that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, as we have them, were written during the time of the Babylonian Exile. They were intended to help them wrestle with issues such how could God have let their nation and temple be destroyed and how were they to live in a foreign land. (I'm just skimming--you really do need to read this book.)

He also asserts that two streams run through the Bible--
a religion grounded in a covenantal bond between God and God's people intended for the blessing and abundance of all people and all creation, and
a religion that is actually a human invention that is used to justify and legitimate attitudes and behaviors that provide blessing and abundance for some at the expense of others.

He call the first religion, that of creation, and the second, of Empire.

Now to the passage for this week:
Howard-Brook points out that the woman misquotes the Lord God. Compare 2:16-17 with 3:2-3. The woman makes several changes including the addition of a prohibition, "nor shall you touch it."

We still do this. We read in the Scriptures what God has said. Then we enhance it or manipulate it to fit actions we don't approve of or to malign people that seem disagreeable to us.

What is the sin? Can overstating God's commands lead us to inappropriate actions?

Daily Prayer, Friday, March 11, 2011

Morning
Let all who are faithful offer prayer to you....
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance...

Invitatory Psalm 118
We give thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good;
your steadfast love endures forever!
....
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them.
....


Psalms 41, 42, 43, 47

Daily Lectionary Reading, Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Lectio Divina
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves (Genesis 2:6).

Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord (Psalm 32:9-10).


Prayer for Today:
Fill us with your strength
to resist the seductions of our foolish desires
and the tempter's vain delights,
that we may walk in obedience and righteousness,
rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.
(from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Midday Psalm 119:78-88

Evening
Psalm 74

Thursday, March 10, 2011

His and Our Temptations, a Reflection on Matthew 4:1-11

In the verses just before this passage, Jesus is baptized by John. Just as he comes out of the water, the Spirit of God descends from the heavens and lands on him. Then a voice announces, "This is my Son."

We might pause a moment and consider what being a son entails, what are the obligations, and, more interesting to some of us, what are the benefits.

Jesus was offered three benefits (or was tempted to show off what he, as Son, could do): the power to convert stones to bread; the ability to escape the pull of gravity; many riches if he would transfer his allegiance away from his Father.

The lectionary has placed this passage at the beginning of Lent. So, we can read about Jesus' temptations and consider how they might be applicable in our own lives. For example, how much effort, mental and physical, even social, do I put into worrying about something that I was consume immediately and only I will consume? How important is impressive the crowd to me? Would I rather do something flashy than something that wouldn't be noticed? When faced with a hard, or even a not-so-hard decision, do I really believe that what God wants is more important than other considerations?

Thomas Long, in his commentary on Matthew, points out that the ancient Hebrews faced similar tests on their long journey through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. He suggests looking again at Exodus 16; 17; and 19-32. They complained, they failed, they looked for other sources of help. Well, how different from ours is their story?

Long summarizes the three temptations as they appear to us. For the first, he says,
The church experiences this form of temptation whenever it risks losing sight of the breadth of its calling or when we measure the effectiveness of the church according to how quickly it responds to our personal ideas and needs, our demand to be fed.

For the second,
Trying out the promises of God to "see if they really work" is a sign not of sure faith but of fundamental doubt. It implies that ... we also know how, when, and where God is supposed to fulfill these divine promises. If God doesn't perform in just that prescribed way, either God must be a liar or there is no God....God is treated as our servant.

For the third,
Whenever we bow down to that which is not God--to nation, or race, or family, or social standing--hoping that this will fill our hearts, succumb to this temptation....

Long then summarizes his summaries:
Jesus does not waver from his calling, does not step off the way of suffering lured by the illusion of a shortcut, does not bypass the cross.

Daily prayer, Thursday, March 10, 2011

Morning
Let all who are faithful offer prayer to you....
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance...

Invitatory Psalm 150

Psalm 73

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 4:1-11

Lectio Divina
But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).

Prayer for Today:
Almighty God, your blessed Son was led by the Spirit
to be tempted by Satan.
Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations.
And, as you know the weakness of each of us,
let each one find you mighty to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.

(UMBOW 333)

Midday Psalm 119:68-77

Evening
Psalm 69

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Evangelism Checklist, Reflection on 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Here's another repeat from a previous year:
...[On] Ash Wednesday, we need to think about how Paul described the life of a Christian missionary. "Here's how we commended ourselves to you: great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger."

That is, servants of God will go through a lot as they reach out to people who are themselves going through a lot.

Then Paul offers a checklist that is still useful for us as we invite people into our Christian community: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech.

After reading Paul's description of evangelism, does your congregation have any repenting to do?

Daily Prayer, Ash Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Morning
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.

Invitatory Psalm 100
O Lord, we come to you in joy, with gladness, with singing.
We know that you have made us. We are yours.
We give thanks to you, for you are good;
your steadfast loves endures forever,
and your faithfulness to all generations
.

Psalm 37
Trust in the Lord, and do good....
Commit your way to the Lord....


Daily Lectionary Reading, 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

Lectio Divina
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1)

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Prayer for Today:
Gracious and merciful God,
you see into the secret places of our hearts,
where we mourn our sins.
As we turn again to your grace, receive our prayers.


.... Intecessory Prayers ....

Look with mercy on our contrite hearts,
wash from us the stain of iniquity,
and create a new and right spirit in us,
that we may declare your praise
and offer an acceptable sacrifice in these Lenten days;
through Christ Jesus, who bore our sins on the cross. Amen.

(from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Fortress Press)

Midday Psalm 119:57-67

Evening
Psalms 63, 68

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rend Your Hearts, Reflection on Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Here's a repeat from a previous year:
As we begin Lent, we read this message (warning?) from Joel: Sound the alarm. The day of the Lord is coming, a day of darkness and gloom. (Read Joel 1:1-2:11).

Yet, even in the face of our deserved judgment, the Lord continues to beckon, "Return to me."

As Christians travel through Lent, let us heed Joel's reminder: Rend your hearts and not your clothing. What do we need to give up (or to take up) that is our way of fasting, weeping, and mourning?

Keep reading.

In verse 13, we see the familiar doxology of God's mercy (Exodus 34:5-7).

Again, Joel says, "Sound the alarm," and adds:
Sanctify a fast.
Call a solemn assembly.
Gather the whole congregation including the old people and the very young.


In verse 17, he reminds us that our lives demonstrate what we really believe about God. There's an old cliche' that your life is a sermon that you are preaching everyday. What if it is true?

On the UMC Worship, site, Daniel Benedict has suggested several excellent Lenten Practices. For example:
___Spend time in solitude each day.

___ Read a book for inner growth.

___ Read twice through the Gospel of the lectionary cycle you are in. (Matthew in 2011).

___ Begin to keep a journal of prayer concerns, questions, reading.

___ Focus on thanksgiving, rather than on asking, in prayer.

___ Give myself a gift of three hours to do something you always say you don't have time to do.

___ Give up a grudge or a rehearsal of a past event.

___ Forgive someone who has hurt me.

___ Plan to visit a "shut-in" neighbor or church member weekly.

___ Write a letter of affirmation once a week to a person who has touched my life.


Go to his list to see other suggestions that may fit your life.



Repeat:

Psalm 51 is one of only seven penitential psalms. I'm wondering why only seven. How often do we need words to express our recognition that we need to be forgiven?

Here's the first seven verses:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.



Interestingly enough for me, as I am reflecting on this psalm, I'm also doing the weekly laundry. Those clothes really were dirty, and they really did need cleaning. Soon, they will be presentable for wear once again. The metaphor fails though because the washing I am doing to the clothes will remove only the surface stains.


Repeat from another post

Although most of the other penitential psalms are communal prayers, this psalm is expressed as an individual cry, Have mercy on me, blot out my transgressions, wash me, and purify me.

And I can ask this of God because mercy is what God is like, because mercy befits God's faithfulness, because God is abundantly compassionate.

Sometimes, we need reminders that we are sinning. And, sometimes, we are so burdened by our sins that we need reminders that God is compassionate.

We can pray Psalm 51 when we recognize that we need forgiveness, that we want forgiveness:

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Morning

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.

Invitatory Psalm 84
....
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
....
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer
....
A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
....
You are a sun and shield;
you bestow favor and honor.
....
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Psalm 36
Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in their hearts; there is no fear of God before their eyes.....Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens....

Daily Lectionary Reading, Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17

Lectio Divina
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 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 (Joel 2:12-13).

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot our my transgression, and my sin is ever before me (Psalm 51:1-3).

Prayer for today:
Righteous God,
in humility and repentance
we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving,
we bring the pain we have caused others,
we bring the injustice in society of which we are a part,
to the transforming power of your grace.

Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer
and to turn again toward the sunrise of your reign,
that we may walk with you in the promise of peace
you have willed for all the children of the earth,
and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

(Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Fortress Press


Midday Psalm 119:49-56

Evening
Psalms 55, 59, 60, 62

Monday, March 7, 2011

Treasures, a Reflection on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

repeat from previous year:
....Jesus is warning his followers against hypocrisy.

Give charity because someone needs help not to show off.
Remember that your prayers are directed to God, not to impress somebody.
Fast in secret rather than in public.

Notice that Jesus assumes that they are going to contribute to charitable causes, to pray often, and to fast.

What Jesus is cautioning them about is confusion of goals. You're doing the things that you ought to be doing, and remember why you are doing them. You will be rewarded, but not necessarily in an immediate, public way.

Daily Prayer, Monday, March 7, 2011

Morning

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.

Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
....
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
....

Psalm 34
I sought the Lord, who answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.


Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lectio Divina
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me (Psalms 51:8-10).


Prayer for Today:
Almighty and merciful God, who desires not the death of a sinner but that we turn from wickedness and live, accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and restore us by the Holy Spirit to newness of life. Amen. (from UMBOW 323).

Midday Psalm 119:41-48

Evening
Psalms 46, 48, 49

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Confirmation of Prophecy, a Reflection on 2 Peter 1:19-21

Back then, Peter was warning them to be wary of false interpretations of scripture. Warning still applies. Old problem, still a problem: distinguishing between valid application to current situation and heresy.

Peter directs them back to the text--and, as Christians, we need to remember that for Peter, the scripture was what we now call the Old Testament.

Directs them--note "no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." We interpret the scripture not individually, at home, without consultation, but in the community, that is, for us, the church.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, March 6, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 24
O Lord, we recognize that the earth and all that is in it is yours.
....
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in your holy place?
Who shall stand in your holy place?
...

Psalms 32, 33

Daily Lectionary Reading, 2 Peter 1:19-21

Lectio Divina
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).

I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill (Psalm 2:6).

O Lord, keep our attention on you. Open our ears and our hearts to what you have to say to us today. Move us. awake us. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 44, 45

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Is My Son, a Reflection on 2 Peter 1:16-18

Peter is writing to people who are already in the church, not to potential converts. And, in this congregation are some who have been challenging him. Peter's defense is not based on what he terms "cleverly devised myths." Modern congregants may be able to come up with some examples of how factions have arisen and on what they base their points of view.

Peter centers his standing on his eyewitness of the Transfiguration.

We didn't get to go with Peter and the others up on the mountain top that day.

But, we can hear what God had to say that day, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

In our disagreements inside the church--outside it, too?--we need to return to that message. We can see what God wants to be done by viewing and contemplating what Jesus did.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, March 5, 2011

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

Psalms 26, 27, 29

Daily Lectionary Reading, 2 Peter 1:16-18

Lectio Divina
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16).

Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling (Psalm 2:11).


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

Friday, March 4, 2011

Serve the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 2:8-12

When the psalm was first sung, the reference to the king actually meant the king. According to the Jerusalem Study Bible, "adoption language expresses the close kinship between God and the king, and is common in the ancient Near East, and "Some biblical passages may suggest that some groups in ancient Israel viewed the king as divine."

Christians now read the son of God as the Son of God, Christ.

We recognize the power that the Lord has over the earth. And we can call on people who hold earthly power to recognize the instruction offered to us by the Lord.

Doing what God wants us to do will have the best result for us. Not doing so brings problems.

Walter Brueggemann, in Texts for Preaching, A Lectionary Commentary based on the NRSV--Year A reminds us that since we want to use this psalm as a praise to Jesus, the true Son of God, we need to also remember what God's rule is like:
One model for this "translation" may be found in Isaiah 11:1-9, where he who "strikes the earth with the rod of his mouth" (11:4) presides over the peaceable kingdom where "the wolf shall live with the lamb" (11:6).

Daily Prayer, Friday, March 4, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118
O Lord, we give thanks to you, for you are good;
your steadfast love endures forever!
....
When I called to you out of my distress,
you answered me.
When you are by my side to help me,
I do not fear.
....
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
....
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 23, 25

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 2:8-12

Lectio Divina
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession (Psalm 2:8).

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth (Psalm 2:10).

Lead us to your mountain where me might have a vision of the world remade where all your children have the opportunity to have adequate food and nourishment; where all your children have the gift of literacy and the access to books; where all your children have the joy of meaningful work. (from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson)

Midday Psalm 119:33-40

Evening
Psalms 30, 31

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Who's in Charge Here, a Reflection on Psalm 2:1-7

In early January, we celebrated Epiphany, the recognition that Christ is the manifestation of the Lord--and that this epiphany was recognized by those that would have been considered outsiders to the faith. This Sunday we are celebrating the Transfiguration, the experience on the mountain--what the disciples saw and heard, and remembering Moses' mountaintop meeting with the Lord.

Some people get it--although they may be confused or unsettled. Some people don't. The psalmist recognizes this lack of recognition, "Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?"

Many of those in power don't acknowledge their dependence on God, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us."

Not just kings and rulers either. Many of us choose to go our own way rather than try to follow the guidance of Christ.

What does God think about our thinking that we really know more about real life than God could possible know? The answer the psalmist gives is "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision."

And if laughing at us wasn't humiliating enough, "Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify the in his fury, saying, 'I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.'"

Although it would be more comfortable immediately for us Christians to think that the Lord is angry with people who haven't converted to our religion, this passage should instead give us concern about how we are living out our own conversion. Do our lives demonstrate our dependence and allegiance to God?

Daily prayer, Thursday, March 3

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
We enter your sanctuary in praise.
We praise you for your mighty deeds;
We praise you for your exceeding greatness.
We praise you with music and song and dance.
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Psalms 19, 20, 21

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 2:11-7

Lectio Divina
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision (Psalm 2:4).

I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you (Psalm 2:7)

O Lord, lead us to your mountain to find new truth and the truth of your law. Lead us to your mountain where we might have a vision of peace among all your warlike children. Lead us to your mountain where we might have a vision of a world remade where all your children know justice. Amen (from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson.)



Midday Psalm 119:25-32

Evening
Psalms 22, 28

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mountain, cloud, fire, a reflection on Exodus 24:16-18

Moses came up the mountain alone as the Lord had instructed him. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. A cloud covered the mountain. A fire appeared. (Remember that from the beginning of their journey, the presence of the Lord has been visible to them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; see Exodus 13:21-22).

God appears on the mountain. But, God is not restricted to the mountaintop. God moves with them, leads them.

In these verses in Exodus, only Moses is allowed to get close. Although God's presence is visible to the others, Moses is needed to be the communicator with them.

What do we do with this? We think we can approach God directly. We consider some places to be holier than others, but we believe we can pray to God wherever we are.

Yes, I realize that we are reading this passage this week because the creators of the lectionary connected its message with the transfiguration. Matthew's account of Jesus' on the high mountain does have many parallels.

Daily prayer, Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
....
We are the Lord's
we are the people of God,
....
Give thanks and bless God's name!
....

Psalms 12, 13, 17

Daily Lectionary Reading, Exodus 24:16-18

Lectio Divina
Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord as like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel (Exodus 24:17).

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us" (Psalm 2:2-3).

The Lord is Sovereign; let the people tremble in awe.
God is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.
The Lord is great in Zion, and is high above all peoples.
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God,
and worship Yahweh upon the holy mountain.
(UMBOW 318)
Midday Psalm 119:17-24

Evening
Psalm 18

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lent--what and how

Alive Now (you really should consider subscribing) has an article, Lent 101 by Penny Ford, that answers questions about Lent and has suggestions for practices that we might try.

On the Mountain, a Reflection on Exodus 24:12-15

For several chapters, Moses has been relaying the Lord's instructions to the people, what they need to know about how they are to live in the land promised to them. In the passage we are reading today, Moses returns to the top of the mountain where he had heard the Lord speak the Ten Commandments (He'll get the stone tablets in Ch 31). He is accompanied part way by elders, but the Lord calls him to come up alone.

The Lord says to Moses,
Come up to me on the mountain.
Wait there.
I will furnish instructions to ensure community.

Moses climbed up the mountain.

Do we have holy places today? How do we discern God's will for us? Are we willing to climb a mountain to find out what God wants us to do? How important is community to us anyway?

Daily prayer, Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for your courts;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to you,
the living God.
....
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Psalms 9, 10

Daily Lectionary Reading, Exodus 24:12-15

Lectio Divina
The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction." (Exodus 24:12)

"I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill" (Psalm 2:6).

Prayer on the way up the mountain:
Lead us to your mountain and teach us to wait. Lead us up your mountain, and on our journey when the destination is not clear teach us also to walk in faith and in trust. Lead us to your mountain even if it means going through the haze, clouds and darkness to experience your power (from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson, AuthorHouse.)



Midday Psalm 119:9-16

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 16