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 great tradition of United Methodist support for Higher Education. Providing scholarships and loans, a network of college chaplains, and an ongoing relationship with 113 colleges, universities and seminaries that are part of our connection – together we open doors to education for many deserving students. 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 Higher Education & Ministry at www.gbhem.org

September 14, 2014 -- Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide
Merciful God, you have filled our lives with a deluge of love and grace. Yet we are too often stingy with forgiveness for others. While Christ’s sacrifice on the cross removed the weight of our sin, we continue to blend in with a world that is intent on keeping score and settling debts. May the gifts we give this morning, small in comparison with all we’ve received, help strengthen the church’s ministry of love and compassion. In our giving, may we make a witness as those who have been forgiven much and who seek to have Christlike grace shine through our lives. We pray this in his name. Amen. (Matthew 18:21-35)
"Prayers by Ken Sloan. Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Instructions, a Reflection on Acts 1:1-11

Repeat:
He was a man who taught and worked and died. He appeared to travelers and disciples. We don't experience him in the way that they did. Yet, we continue to experience him. In the Christian calendar, we mark the 40th day after Easter as the day of the Ascension of the Lord.

They had listened to his teaching. They had asked him when things would be the way they wanted them to be.

He told them that the Holy Spirit would visit them and bestow power upon them.

He vanished from their sight.

But not from their lives.


Another Repeat:
If you had been living in that time and place where the itinerant healer and preacher was crucified, would you have been able to foresee that his teachings would be remembered 2,000 years later? How likely would it have seemed to you that from a small bunch of scared followers, a world-wide religion would develop?

How did it happen?

A clue is in this passage from Acts. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples he had chosen to be his apostles. He told them that they were going to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to the ends of the earth."

They were. And they did.

from Psalm 47:
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Morning
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.

Invitatory Psalm 84
....
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
....


Read and reflect on Psalm 36


Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 1:1-11

Lectio Divina
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves (Psalm 47:3-4).

Midday Psalm 119:49-56

Prayer for today:
Risen and ascended Christ,
you surround us with witnesses
and send us the Counselor
who opens our minds to understand your teaching.
Bless us with such grace
that our lives may become a blessing
for the world now, and in the age to come. Amen.
(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press)

Evening
Psalms 55, 59, 60, 62

Monday, May 30, 2011

Worship Resources for Ascension Day

The GBOD has Resources for Ascension Day including sermon suggestions, prayers, and a litany.

Ascension, a Reflection on Luke 24:44-53

The other gospels don't tell us about Ascension; so, every year we turn to Luke.

Here's what I posted last year (which was an excerpt from the year before):
And then to this group of disciples who have been huddled together in fear and, even in the joy of recognition, have been disbelieving, he now commissions them, "You are witnesses that the Scriptures have been fulfilled."
....
Commission--I am sending upon you what my Father promised. Stay here in this city until that power comes.

While they are waiting, they gather in the temple.

I'm thinking that many of us Christians have gotten stuck in that period between Ascension and Pentecost. We have known the presence of Christ. We have heard and believed the promised made to us. We're expecting something great to come among us. We are gathered together in great joy to continue our worship of the Lord. We love church and we love the Lord and we love each other. But....

He reminds them that the part of our Bible we call the Old Testament is valid--and necessary for their understanding. We aren't supposed to cut off a large part of the Bible and we aren't supposed to cut off a large part of our neighbors--The risen Christ said to them that they were to include in their witness all nations. Does "all nations" include the people who live on my block that I have never even spoke to? Does "all nations" include people who are of a different socio-economic level?

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 30, 2011

Morning
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.

Invitatory Psalm 95
....
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us we kneel before our Maker!
For you are our God,
and we are the people of your pasture,
and the sheep of your hand.
….

Read and reflect on Psalm 34

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 24:44-53

Lectio Divina
And he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth (Psalm 47:1-2).

Prayer for Today:
Precious Love,
your ascended Son promised the gift of holy power.
Send your Spirit of revelation and wisdom,
that in the blessed freedom of hope,
we may witness to the grace of forgiveness
and sing songs of joy with the peoples of earth
to the One who makes us one body. Amen.
(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press)



Midday Psalm 119:41-48

Evening
Psalms 46, 48, 49

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Appealing to God, a Reflection on 1 Peter 3:17-22

When writing to these Christians who were suffering harassment, he reminds them that Christ also had suffered but had continued to evangelize.

He then uses an example whose meaning is still being debated--comparing the rescue from the flood with rescue from sin by baptism. God waited patiently while Noah built the ark that would save eight persons. Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Rather than trying to be the person that will finally settle the arguments over this flood/baptism tie, I'm instead going to return to what seems to be the main purpose--to speak to Christians who are suffering unjustly. Here's what Beverly Gaventa says in Texts for Preaching:
In the face of any suffering, whether caused by human inhumanity, by disease, or by nature, the available answers always fall short. What Christians can assert with 1 Peter, as with Christians of every time and place, is that God stands with those who suffer and that God ultimately triumphs over that suffering.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 29, 2011

Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
....


Psalms 32, 33

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 3:17-22

Lectio Divina
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil (1 Peter 3:17).

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble (Psalm 66:13-14).

Today's Prayer:
In the peace of the risen Christ, let us pray to the Lord:
that our risen Savior may grant us victory over all our enemies, seen and unseen ...;
....
that he may fill us with the joy of his holy and life-giving resurrection ...;
that he may provide through us for those who lack food, work, and shelter ...;
that by his love, wars and famine may cease through all the earth ...;
....
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(excerpted from UMBOW 397).


Evening
Psalms 44, 45

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reaction to Criticism, a Reflection on 1 Peter 3:13-16

Peter is advising new Christians how to react when non-Christians criticize them. The essence of the advice is for them not to worry about it but be ready to answer any questions. And if they do respond to the attacks, they are to do so with gentleness and reverence.

Do we find this advice helpful to our modern congregations? What are the criticisms that onlookers make against the church (or churches) today? Paul said for Christians not to fear what their critics fear. What do our critics fear? What are we afraid of? How do we respond to criticisms? What if our congregation is not criticized? Does that mean outsiders think we are doing everything right? Or, does it mean that we are doing anything that anybody even notices?

Daily Prayer, Saturday, May 28, 2011

Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 67
God, be gracious to us and bless us
and make your face to shine upon you,
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.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere you.

Psalms 26, 27, 29

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 3:13-16

Lectio Divina
But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated (1 Peter 3:14).

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried (Psalm 66:10).


Prayer for Today:
Give us the courage to be your followers, your representatives, your agents in the world. Protect us from any slurs or slights, and strengthen us not to respond in kind, but rather to respond kindly. Amen.

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

God Has Heard My Prayer, a Reflection on Psalm 66:8-20

This portion of Psalm 66 begins with a call to prayer, "Praise God who has saved us."

Next, the psalmist addresses God: "You have tested us. You have burdened us. You have let people mistreat us."

What this psalm models for us: 1) Life may have difficulties; we don't have to pretend that it doesn't. 2) We are allowed to complain to God about these difficulties. We don't have to pretend that they're good for us or that we deserve them--at least, all of them, anyway.

Then, it models for us what happens after we have come through whatever the difficulty was that we were complaining about. The psalmist gives credit to God, "You have brought us out." This gratitude is further demonstrated, "I will come to your house with burnt offerings. I will do what I promised to do if you helped me."

After these promises to God, the psalmist again addresses other persons: "Come listen to what God has done for me. I prayed. God heard."

I left out verse 18, "If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" because I'm not ready to deal with it today.

Worship Resources for Memorial Day

The GBOD website has Resources for Memorial Day including guidelines, suggestions for hymns, prayers, and a litany.

Daily Prayer, Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday
Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 118
O Lord, we give thanks to to you, for you are good;
your 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?
….
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
....


Psalms 23, 25

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 66:8-20

Lectio Divina
You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place (Psalm 66:11-12).

But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer (Psalm 66:19).

Prayer for today:
At times we have difficulties--some because of our own mistakes but not always. At times we are in despair because of our sufferings or our losses or even because we don't always get our way in everything. We pause now to turn to you. We give you thanks for the times you have rescued us, restored us, reassured us, the times you have listened to our prayers. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:33-40

Evening
Psalms 30, 31

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Time to Repent, a Reflection on Acts 17:29-31

Paul had been raised as a Jew and had lived among Jews. So, A god not made by human hands would have been a basic, long-accepted truth for him--but not so for the Athenians. As would the existence of God not lots of gods.

Paul is talking to people who would not have been brought up on the Scriptures that had formed and nurtured his understanding.

They may not have known about God, but God knows about them. "We are God's offspring," he tells them. It's hard for some of us to go this far. Although like Paul, we may believe that God created them since God created everything, we still aren't quite ready to accept that non-Christians are also God's children.

Paul then talks about the future, what is necessary for them and for all of us to do--Repent. We might be able to plead ignorance if we really had not been told something, but once we have been told, ignorance is no longer a valid excuse or even explanation. Paul tells them, "The day is coming when God will appoint a man to judge the world in righteousness."

What we do does matter. We will be judged. And since we will be judged righteously, that's the way we should be behaving.

"You can be assured of this," Paul tells them, "because he has raised this judge from the dead."

Daily Prayer, Thursday, May 26, 2011

Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

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

Psalms 19, 20, 21

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 17:29-31

Lectio Divina
Because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18).

Midday Psalm 119:25-32

Prayer for Today:
You have made us your own children. You have overlooked the wrongs we have done in the past. O Lord, cleanse us from all sin. Instill in us the desire to please you. Amen.

Evening

Psalms 22, 28

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sermon to Seekers, a Reflection on Acts 17:22-28

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus in Athens. I looked it up. The word means "Temple of Ares (god of war)" or "Mars' (another name for Ares) Hill." This building in Paul's time was the meeting place for the highest judicial and legislative council.

He begins by complimenting the Athenians on how religious they are. Or is he being a little snarky when he says that they worship even an unknown god?

He continues "Although you may not know the god you worship, I can tell you about the God who made the world, everything in it, a God not confined to any building, a God who does not need anything but instead provides everything."

Paul then tells them that God is the source and director of all people, and that while we may be looking for God, God is not far from us.

The one-God part may have been difficult for the Athenians to grasp. We moderns on the other hand may not be able to admit how many temples of unknown gods we spend time in and money on. We think our jobs are important, as are our leisure activities. Like the ancients, we also search for meaning or affirmation or security, physical or psychological, and, of course, amusement.

And like them, God is not far from us--even when we are looking in the wrong direction. God has created us--all of us--and continues to provide us life.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noies to the Lord, all the earth.
O Lord, we worship you with gladness;
we come into your presence with singing.
We know that you are God.
You have made us and we are yours;
we are your people, and the sheep of your pasture.
....


Psalms 12, 13, 17

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 17:22-28

Lectio Divina
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands (Acts 17:24)

I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue (Psalm 66:17)
.

Prayer for Today:
Save us from our narrowness. Save us from selfishness. Save us from searching for unknown gods. Save us from trying to limit your presence and impact on our lives. Open our eyes to see you in the majesty of creation and in all acts of human kindness. Amen. (excerpted from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson).

Midday Psalm 119:17-24

Evening
Psalm 18

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Because I Live, a Reflection on John 14:19-21

They are sitting around the supper table. Jesus is preparing them for what is to come. He's told them that one of them will betray him. He has commanded them to love each other. He has reassured them that he is not leaving them without support.

And they will know more than the world knows, "In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me."

How do we Christians see Christ in a way that the world does not? How do we show Christ to the world?

He adds to the promise of vision a promise of life, "Because I live, you also will live."

How does the church demonstrate that Christ lives? How does each congregation? Do congregations recognize that their existence as the church rest on the presence and promises of Christ?

Charles Cousar in Texts for Preaching points out that the world may not particularly value what the church is doing--especially when it is most faithful to Jesus' directive.

How has a denomination or congregation upset the world by doing or saying something that demonstrates our loving Christ and following his commands?

Cousar adds:
At the same time, the church is prevented from an arrogant aloofness from the world, because it knows that the divine presence is a gift. Jesus looks on a potentially orphaned community and asks the Father to send the Paraclete to be present with them. It is not a reward for the church's good behavior or its sincere piety, but an expression of God's grace that the people of God enjoy the presence and direction of God.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 84
....
O Lord, God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
God bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly..
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trust in you.
Psalms 9,10

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 14:19-21

Lectio Divina
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live (John 14:19).

Come and hear, all of you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me (Psalm 66:16).

Prayer for Today:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them th fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth (UMBOW 390).

Midday Psalm 119:9-16

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 26

Monday, May 23, 2011

Advocate, a Reflection on John 14:15-18

Jesus has just told them, "The one who believes in me will do the works I do." Believing is more than just sitting somewhere alone feeling smug. Believing is doing, and it's doing what Jesus did.

And not just doing but how we do or the attitude we have or the basis for doing--"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Remember his words in 13:34-35, when he gave them the commandment, "that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Note that each "you" is plural. Jesus is talking to the church.

Read ahead to John 15:7-15 to hear this commandment repeated.

Loving others is important to Jesus.

But, it can be hard.

If Jesus were physically standing there next to us watching every move, would it be any easier? He was preparing them for his physical absence. After he was no longer visibly among them, they were supposed to keep on doing what he had already told them to do.

They were not going to have to do this alone. He gave them the promise that God would send to them an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who would abide with them and be in them.

Note: In their commentary on John, O'Day and Hylen point out that the word translated as "Advocate" in the NRSV has a wide range of meanings reflected in other English translations as
"Comforter," "Advocate," "Counselor," "Helper."

They point out that the Paraclete plays a larger part in John's gospel than in the others:
The prominence of the Paraclete addresses a key set of theological questions. If Jesus as the incarnate Word brings a distinctive revelation of God to the community, what happens when the incarnation ends? Was the revelation of God in Jesus available only for those who had firsthand experience of the historical Jesus and his ministry? Is Jesus' revelation of God limited to one moment in history, or does it ahve a future beyond its particular historical moment?

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23
Morning
Blessed be God,
you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.

Invitatory Psalm 95

Psalms 1,2,3,5

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 14:15-18

Lectio Divina
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip (Psalm 66:8-9).

Midday Psalm 119:1-8

Prayer for Today:
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
you have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by your Spirit to keep your command
that we may show forth your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
to all your people. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 6, 7, 8

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Holy Nation, a Reflection on 2 Peter 2:7-10

Even though I am a Methodist, thus an Arminian, I can readily see how others could find instruction from passages like this that say "as they were destined to do" and "you are a chosen race."

Rather than argue the differences, today I am more interested in that spiritual building that we who are Arminian and we who are Calvinist comprise. We share a precious cornerstone.

We choose to believe or believe because we are chosen, but we share that cornerstone.

And chosen and believing, we share a function: to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness into the marvelous light.

Peter was telling his listeners that they had not been included in Judaism, but now they could, like Jews, be part of God's family. Extending his message to our time, we can recognize that Christianity is inclusive of people whose backgrounds, whose behavior, whose appearance may be very different from our current congregation. And the message is still that they, like us, have received mercy.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 22, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 24
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in your holy place?
....
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
....

Psalms 147, 148, 149

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 2:7-10

Lectio Divina
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love (Psalm 31:16)
.

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, we remember the good you have done for us. Instill in us the ability and will to tell others what you have done. We have not always responded to your gifts as we should. Yet, you have restored us. Now, strengthen us to be the kind of people that will demonstrate Christ to the world. Amen.
Evening
Psalms 144, 145

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Living Stones, a Reflection on 1 Peter 2:2-6

Peter says to them--and through them, to us, "Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house."

These words remind me today that the early Christians had little interest in building those big buildings on the corner that we now think of as defining church. We say "A church is not a building" a lot, but I'm not sure that we really get it. This passage helps me.

First, I'm struck by the metaphor of "stones" for individuals. A stone is strong and durable, but it takes a lot of stones to make anything useful. One stone looks different from another. To make something, we need to find stones that fit together, that fill in the gaps of the ones next to it. And, if a stone cracks or falls out, another stone can be inserted. Moreover, when the needs for that building exceed its current capacity, the builder can add on to it. And that add-on may look entirely different from the original structure.

After all, our spiritual houses are all founded on the same cornerstone.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, May 21, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 67
O God, be gracious to us and bless us and make your 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 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 2:7-10

Lectio Divina
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3)

Prayer for Today:
The world does not understand what you want. And sometimes we who call ourselves the church don't understand either. Or, we understand, but we find your ways hard to follow. Keep us mindful that living in your light really is better than huddling in the dark somewhere else. Remind us that you are with us, that we are your people, and that the world does need to know more about you and to see more examples of what you want the world to be like. Thank you for the mercy you have shown us in the times we have failed, and thank you for continuing to support and yes, for continuing to prod us. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 140, 142, 143

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Need Your Help, a Reflection on Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Much of the Bible is speaking to us (often telling us what God wants us to hear) or telling us about something that someone did or learned a long time ago. But, some portions of the Bible are words that we can use to speak to God. The Psalms, in particular, are addressed to God.

Psalm 31 begins with a plea for rescue. Listen to me. Protect me. Deliver me.

We talk like this to someone we believe can do what we so desperately need--and right away.

The metaphors that demonstrate the capability of salvation that are used in this psalm are rock and fortress--images that are solid, strong, capable of keeping the bad away.

And, sometimes, we are already in the bad and need rescue from it. Verse 4 says "Take me out of the net hidden for me," and then verbalizes the wish for rescue and the assertion that the Lord is capable of doing that rescue, "for you are my refuge."

The lectionary has chosen this psalm as a response to the reading from Acts that tells of Stephen's martyrdom. We can imagine his relying on it. I'm reading this psalm thinking about the flooding along the Mississippi River that has affected the community where I live and the communities of many of my family and friends. I'm thinking about the violence in the world between countries, within countries, and even within families. And I'm thinking about myself as I face surgery next month. "Listen to me, O Lord. Protect me. Deliver me. Take me out of this net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge."

Prayers in time of distress allow us to admit that our lives are not perfect now nor are they going to be. We will have difficulties, we will have enemies, we will be in scary circumstances, But, we have somewhere to turn.

Whether our enemy is human or nature or, as in my case right now, a failure of my own body to behave the way I would rather it have, we can pray to the Lord, our faithful God:
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Save me not because I have earned salvation. Save me because you demonstrate steadfast love.

Daily Prayer, Friday, May 20

Morning

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 131, 132, 133

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Lectio Divina

My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors (Psalm 31:15).

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love (Psalm 31:16).

Prayer for today:
God of power and majesty: With the rising of the sun you have raised Jesus Christ and delivered him and us from death's destruction. We praise you on this bright day for all your gifts of new life. Especially we thank you for all victories over sin and evil in our lives, for loyalty and love of friends and family, ..., for the continuing witness of the church of Christ. Amen. (from UMBOW 395).


Midday Psalm 119:169-176

Evening
Psalms 137, 138, 139

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Martyr, a Reflection on Acts 7:55-60

Read back some to see why the crowd is so upset with Stephen. He has been preaching to them about their ancestors. Abraham and then Moses were willing to leave home, to travel to unknown places, (and for Moses, to spend decades in the wilderness without reaching the destination). Moses over and over had to face the complaints of his followers who kept insisting that they ought to return rather than go on to something yet unseen.

Stephen then used Solomon as a bad example because he insisted on building a visible temple. Turning to the religious authorities, Stephen chastised them, "God doesn't live in a house that humans can build."

To summarize: buildings should not be the goal of your life with God. God expects you to leave the comfortable and spend some time with the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable.

They reacted by attacking and killing him. Saul, who we will later know as Paul, watches with approval.

As Stephen dies, he prays that they will receive forgiveness.

In the Book of Acts, some evangelists have received positive support (see Chapter 2, for example), but not all faithfulness to God's intent brings immediate success. For the "yet," here's an excerpt from Texts for Preaching, Westminster John Knox Press:
Yet while acknowledging the continuing reality of evil, the text makes it quite clear that those who are really dead are not Stephen, but the disciple's killers. His pain may be the most immediate, but his joy is ultimate and final, while their twisted and hate-posoned hearts show no inclination to be open to any good news of what God has done and is doing. And so the Easter victory is genuine and enduring, but in important respects it is a victory whose final consummation is still held in anticipation.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, April 19, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
We praise you in your sanctuary;
We praise you in your mighty firmament!
We praise you for your might deeds
We praise you according to your surpassing greatness!

Psalms 125, 126, 127, 128, 129

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 7:55-60

Lectio Divina
Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60).

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God (Psalm 31:5).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, remind me that you love me and welcome into your presence. And when I face terrible difficulty, teach me forgiveness. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:161-168

Evening
Psalms 135, 126

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Promise to the Church, a Reflection on John 14:8-14

Jesus has promised them a home with him in God's house and a way to get there. Philip still needs to be shown.

Jesus responds, "How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? The words that I say to you show you the Father. The works I do show you the Father."

"Anyone who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater work than these, because I am going to the Father."

Jesus then makes another promise, "I will do whatever you ask in my name."

This promise is to the church rather than to individual petitioners, that is, the "you" in this verse is plural, not singular. Jesus is talking to them about how they can continue God's work on earth, not how they can collect prizes for themselves.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into God's presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, who made us, is God,
We are the Lord's;
we are the people of God,
the sheep of God's pasture.
....



Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123, 124

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 14:8-14

Lectio Divina
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will greater works than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).

Take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge (Psalm 31:4).

Prayer for Today:

We bring to you our prayers for this world in need of resurrection Especially we pray for nations and peoples in strife, for the poor and impoverished, at home and abroad, for those we know in particular circumstances of distress, for the diseased and the dying, for all who follow the risen Christ, through the same Jesus Chfrist our Lord. Amen. (excerpted from UMBOW 395)
O Lord, save us today both from fear and from lethargy. Inspire us to do the work that you have shown us must be done. Amen.


Midday Psalm 119:153-160

Evening
Psalm 130

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Am the Way, a Reflection on John 14:4-7

Thomas thinks that Jesus is talking about geography when he says that "You know the way to the place that I am going." Modern Christians tend to think that Jesus meant that only Christians can get to heaven.

According to O'Day and Hylen's commentary on John, both interpretations are a misunderstanding of this gospel's message:
...the "I am" saying of Jesus' response (v.6) shows that "way" refers to the revelatory work of Jesus...similar to the gate and shepherd sayings of chapter 10; Jesus identifies himself as the point of access to life with God (gate, way) and the embodiment of that life (shepherd, life). Like the shepherd imagery, this language is familiar from the Old Testament. The "way" is usually associated with God's law an dGod's wisdom: "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth" (Psalm 86:11; see Psalm 119:1,3, 5, 27, 33; Proverbs 2:8, 12, 13, 20). Moses' farewell discourse likewise associates life with obeying God's commandments (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Judaism affirmed that the way to God was through the practice of and meditation on God's law. John affirms this basic sentiment and specifies that Jesus, God's Word, is that way to life....

O'Day and Hylen caution us to understand that John's gospel has as its central theological conviction that Jesus is the tangible presence of God in the world. People by encountering Jesus could have a new experience of God. John is concerned with helping Christians recognize and name God.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

Invitatory Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
O Lord of hosts, my Ruler and my God,
at your altars even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
....

Psalms 115, 116, 117

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 14:4-7

Lectio Divina
If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him (John 14:7).

You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, you show us the way we should go. You show us what is true. Awaken in us the desire to follow your way. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:137-152

Evening
Psalms 115, 116, 117

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Dwelling Place, a Reflection on John 14:1-3

Peter has just asked Jesus where he was going, and he replied that Peter couldn't follow him yet. Jesus then added that Peter was going to deny him three times.

In today's passage, Jesus is speaking to a group, also addressing their concern about his leaving them behind.

"Don't be troubled," he tells them. He then gives them the basis for confidence, "Believe in God and believe in me".

Their faith in God and in him will allow themselves to remain connected with them even when they no longer can see the physical Jesus. They will remain connected to him. And they don't have to wait to die for this to be true. They will be in relationship with him--as he puts it, they will dwell with him.

I'm curious but haven't looked hard enough to find an explanation of why the word translated as "dwelling places" in the NRSV was translated as "mansions" in the KJB. The Greek noun mone has the same root as the verb translated as 'abide."

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 16, 2011

Morning
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

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 God's presence with thanksgiving
....


Psalms 94, 96

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 14:1-3

Lectio Divina
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me (Psalm 31:1).

Prayer for Today:
Comfort us in our times of trouble. Remind us that you are a home for us. And remind us that you are also a home for those who aren't just like us. Instill in us the wish to follow where you lead. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:129-136

Evening
Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113, 114

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Return to the Shepherd, a Reflection on 1 Peter 2:22-25

I hope I can remember this passage the next time someone cuts me off in traffic or gets ahead of me in line. When Christ was abused--and, in his case unlike mine, really abused, he responded not with threats or revenge but entrusting himself to God.

In what way can we live for righteousness? How would our lives change if we began to understand that revenge was sinful and that we don't have to practice that particular sin anymore?

Peter says "For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd...." Isn't it about time for us to join that flock?

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 15, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein....

O Lord, clean our hands, purify our hearts. Instill in us the wisdom and ability to give up the false. Bless us, vindicate us, as we seek your face. Amen.

Psalms 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 2:22-25

Lectio Divina:
When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:23-24)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long (Psalm 23:6).

Prayer for Today:
We thank you for all those venturous folk who so long ago encountered Jesus and risked their all. We thank you that they did not devalue their potential in spite of their fears. We thank you that they saw hope in community and were willing to sacrifice for one another. We pray that we might have their king of courage and trust. Amen. (excerpt from Prayers of the People, Richard J. Einerson, Authorhouse.



Evening
Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Unjust Suffering, a Reflection on 1 Peter 2:19-21

Peter was giving instruction to people who were being treated unjustly. Looking back at verse 18, we see that his original audience was household slaves. The lectionary skips that part--we Americans don't want to seem that we are in any way condoning slavery. So, how do we find Peter's message useful, instructful?

Well, some commentators point out that people even at the lowest ranks of society were included in the Christian community from the beginning.

Other commentators prefer that we not go back to verse 18 but instead read this instruction about suffering as it applies to us in the circumstances that we find ourselves.

What about Christianity causes someone to suffer unjustly?
How does doing something right cause someone to suffer?
Does any suffering that we do because we are Christians really evoke the image of Christ's suffering?

For those of us who find the membership in a Christian church full of rewards rather than threats of harm, is there something that we are neglecting? Are we not doing something that God would approve of?

Daily Prayer, Saturday, May 14, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 67
O God, be gracious to us and bless us
and make your 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!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
....

Psalms 81, 82, 85

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 2:19-21

Lectio Divina:
If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval(1 Peter 2:20).

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with my head with oil; my cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).

Prayer for Today:
We have your example of how to live a life, how to serve others, how to speak out in the presence of detractors and enemies. Give us the courage today to endure what comes to us unjustly when we stand up for what is right. Amen.

Evening
Psalm 107

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Church on Its Best Behavior, a Reflection on Acts 2:44-47

What does the word "church" mean to us now? Is it restricted to that building that we gather in on Sunday morning? Or, does it mean more than that?

The United Methodist Church is engaged in an effort to ReThink Church, to think about church not only in but outside that building.

Here's an example of the way one congregation is asking people inside the church to consider what church is and what it can be, and for people outside the church to do the same.

Looking at the Acts passage, I really cannot imagine a congregation selling all of their possessions and sharing the proceeds. I can and have seen great generosity but not to the extent that Luke describes. We seem to be more likely to complain about high taxes than we are to worry about the needs of those less fortunate than we are.

What should we do with this text?

As I often do, I turned to Carl Halladay in Preaching through the Christian Year A:
So we best use this text as Luke intended it--as a broad stroke sketch of the church at its beginning: faithful in teaching; active in sharing; devoted to eating, praying, and worshiping together; fearful before the Dive; exuberant in its praise of God. It is a picture of the church on its best behavior.

The Lord is my Shepherd, a Reflection on Psalm 23

Thanks to Jenee Woodward's Textweek.com, I found this article from the Society of Biblical Literature that explores Psalm 23 in contemporary film and song.

Earlier this year, I published "Lessons to be Learned and Lived, a Reflection on Psalm 23":
Harold Kushner wrote a guide to the 23rd Psalm, The Lord Is My Shepherd. In this book, he discusses the psalm verse by verse both in context of the time it was written and how it is applicable to our own lives. For more information, see the Reading Guide.

Kushner reminds us that the psalm doesn't offer us the pious hope that if we are good people that our lives will be easy. Instead, we can expect God's help as we meet the challenges that face us. Another lesson that Kushner finds in the psalm is that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it.

Another repeat:
Gary Sims, when he used to write the Reflections each week for First United Methodist, Albuquerque, asked these questions:
Do you dwell in the house of the Lord?
If not, when are you planning to move in?
Will it be after you take care of a few things in your life?
Do you have an agenda or plan that you want to follow before turning your life over to God?
Are you putting God's goodness and mercy on hold?
Are you counting your blessings to see if your cup is overflowing?
Are you looking for a bigger cup?
Do you see that now is the time to move into God's house so that these promises of life can begin?

Daily Prayer, Friday, May 13, 2011

Morning
You are with us as we walk through this day. Keep us mindful of your presence and your guidance.

Invitatory Psalm 118
You, O Lord, are my strength and my power;
You are my salvation.
....
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to you.
....

Psalms 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 23

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

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long (Psalm 23:6).

Prayer for Today:
Holy Shepherd, you know your sheep by name and lead us safely through the valleys of death. Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security to the joyous feast prepared in your house, where we celebrate with you forever. Amen. (RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Evening
Psalm 106

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Early Church, a Reflection on Acts 2:42-43

I got the Greek Reader app for my iPhone and used it today to analyze some of the words in this passage. This analysis then raised questions and prompted suggestions:

apostles (apostolos apostle, messenger, delegate) Who are we listening to? Who does the sending; i.e., how do we decide to recognize the authority of the one we're listening to, or learning from?

sign (semeion sign, token) What do we see? What do we find convincing?

wonders (teras) What is happening that is so different from ordinary life that we notice it?

devoted (proskartereo persevered, adhered to, gave constant attention to) Imagine a buzzer going off at intervals.You're supposed to write down what you are doing or thinking at that moment. Try it, and see how closely you come to the description of this early Christian congregation.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Morning

You lead me in right paths for your name's sake.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Come into God's presence with singing!
....
You, O Lord, are good;
your steadfast love endures for ever;
your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 71, 72

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 2:42-43

Lectio Divina
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).

He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake (Psalm 23:3).

O Lord, we give you thanks for the possibility of fellowship with other Christians, for the opportunity to join in study, in communion and in prayer. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Evening
Psalms 62, 28, 68

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Am the Gate, a Reflection on John 10:7-10

Jesus offers assurances to his listeners: "I am the gate." I am the way in for those who are in need.

He's still using the metaphor of sheep, so we imagine a flock of sheep pushing against the fence, needing the comforts offered inside and needing protection from the dangers out there where they now are.

Until they can find the gate that will let them in, they are stuck there outside.

Jesus says, "I am the gate." I am the way that the sheep can escape dangers and get into the pasture.

Let's not restrict Jesus' promise to afterlife only. He's telling us sheep that there is a way out of our troubles and a way into what we need now.

Gail O'Day and Susan Hylen, in their commentary on John:
The image of sheep finding pasture echoes the promises made in Ezekiel: "I will feed them with good pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel: (Ezek 34:14; also see Psalm 23:2).

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Morning
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.

Invitatory Psalm 84

Psalms 65, 66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 10:7-10

Lectio Divina
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and destroy. I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:9-10).

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

Prayer for Today:
Everyday we are confronted with choices, with demands, people wanting things from us, people wanting us to do what they think we should be doing. O Lord, help us in the sorting out of your voice from the clamor of all the voices shouting at us and whispering to us. Keep us mindful of the true shepherd. Open our ears to listen to you. Amen.


Midday Psalm 119:97-104

Evening
Psalms 55, 59, 60

Monday, May 9, 2011

Voice of the Shepherd, a Reflection on John 10:1-6

In the lectionary, we come to this reading the week after Luke's account of the recognition at Emmaus. A fitting choice for the weeks after Easter to read about an early post-resurrection experience.

This week, we move to John's gospel and we are in the period of Jesus' ministry before the last supper but during a time when he is performing many miracles--displeasing his opponents, the religious authorities. Jesus said that he had come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don't see can and those who see will become blind." His opponents responded, "Surely we aren't blind, are we?"

So, are Jesus' words in chapter 10 an answer to that question? Is Jesus talking to his followers or his enemies when he describes himself as the shepherd?

Whether he is talking to them or not, isn't he talking about them when he contrasts his own role as the shepherd with that of the thief and bandit?

He has healed a blind man; they have criticized him because he did it on the sabbath. Wouldn't a shepherd have been concerned enough about the sheep in his care not to look on the calendar before helping it?

The sheep can tell the difference between the true shepherd and the false one. They know which one to follow.

John was writing about Pharisees, but they weren't the last false shepherds. Christians must continue to distinguish between the voices speaking to them. Jesus says that the sheep can tell the difference. Is that still true of today's sheep? Do we recognize the voice of the shepherd or are we likely to follow some other attraction?

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 9, 2011

Morning
Keep me mindful of the true Shepherd. Open my ears to listen to you.

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 God's presence with thanksgiving;
Let us make a joyful nose with songs of praise!
....
O come, let us worship and bow down,...
for you, O Lord, are our God,
we are the people of your pasture,
the sheep of your hand.

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 10:1-6

Lectio Divina
When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

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

Prayer for today:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heaves, Jesus, the Son of god, let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we ay receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (UMBOW 385).

Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Evening
Psalms 87, 88, 91

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 10:1-6

Lectio Divina
John 10:4
Psalm 23:1

Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Evening
Psalms 87, 88, 91

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Love One Another, a Reflection on 1 Peter 1:22-23

Peter is writing to the new converts: The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope. Rejoice because you are also included.

He outlines the appropriate response to the news of salvation:
Consider what's important.
Consider what lasts.

As Beverly Gaventa puts it in Texts for Preaching, a new life and a new way of living it are required:
While this new birth is intensely personal, in that it involves individual human beings who find their lives radically changed by the gospel, it also involves an intensely social dimension. Those who experience the new birth belong to one another in a profound and unrelenting way. These newborns are not members of disparate family units, each of which may take its own infant and go home. They belong to one another, as surely as they belong to the God who granted them this new birth.

How much of Peter's instruction is palatable to us today? Do any congregations exhibit the kind of love that he is talking about?

Not included in the lectionary, but read it anyway, is his quotation from Isaiah:
All human life on the earth is like grass,
and all human glory is like a flower in a field.
The grass dries up and its flower falls off
but the word of the Lord endures forever
(CEB).

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 8, 2011

Morning
O Lord, I prayed, save my life. What shall I return to you for all your bounty to me?

Invitatory Psalm 24

Psalms 52, 53, 54, 56

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 1:22-23

Lectio Divina
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23).

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, I have prayed to you many times asking for more and more. Today I pray again still asking for more. But this day, I ask that I am the one who does more, that I will in my thoughts and actions to those around me show the genuine mutual love that you have already shown to me. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 78, 29, 83, 86

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Litany for Mother's Day

A Litany for Mother's Day is on the General Board of Discipleship website.

New Way, a Reflection on 1 Peter 1:17-21

This letter was written originally to Gentile converts. "You're one of us now. You've been rescued from the futile ways that your ancestors lived. Christ has ransomed you."

How do we read the letter today? What does it say to our lives?

First, I'm struck by the term "exile." I hear people refer to America as a Christian country. Yet, I read polls that indicate that when asked what their religion is, the largest number report "none." Furthermore, as I read the morning paper or listen to conversations, I don't always hear Christian principles discussed. Have I, like these ancient people, inherited futile ways? Worse, am I passing on futile ways to the generations that follow me?

What do I have faith in? What are my hopes set on?

Daily Prayer, Saturday, May 7, 2011

Morning

What shall I return to the Lord for all the bounty to me?

Invitatory Psalm 67

Psalms 50, 51

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 1:17-21

Lectio Divina
Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God (1 Peter 1:21).

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116:18-19)

Prayer for Today:
Open our eyes to see you clearly. Strengthen our wills to follow your will. Instill in us the ability and will to love, to love one another deeply from the heart. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 75, 77

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gratitude, a Reflection on Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

I can't remember my first prayer. I don't even remember who first told me about prayer or suggested words that might be used. I'm guessing that grace before meals and those bedtime prayers were the first. But, I don't remember who taught me about prayer in time of great difficulty. Somebody must have, because I have been praying that kind of prayer throughout the tough times in my life.

One source of instruction for all of us is, of course, the Psalter.

The psalm chosen for the lectionary reading this week is a thanksgiving psalm.

And, as a thanksgiving psalm, it also gives the need for the prayer that the Lord has answered.

The psalmist remembers the time of distress and anguish and calling on the Lord for help. And, having received that help, the psalmist then gives thanks.

Notice that the psalmist is not being totally private, but is promising to be a witness to the care and support that the Lord gives.

I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Daily Prayer, Friday, May 6, 2011

Morning
O Lord, you are always beside us. You do not abandon us. We continue to give you thanks.

Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 41, 42, 43, 47

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Lectio Divina
Psalm 116:16
Psalm 116:17

Prayer for Today:
We pray for our world. Where there is conflict, bring peace. Where there is uncertainty and anxiousness, bring inner quiet. Where there is hatred, bring understanding and love. Where there is the terror of war, hover over your earth and bring a change to people's hearts. Where there is selfishness, bring generosity and a change of heart. Where there is peril, bring comfort and courage. Amen. (taken from Prayers of the People, Richard J. Einerson).

Midday Psalm 119:78-88

Evening
Psalm 74

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Can We Do Now? a Reflection on Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Peter was speaking to a crowd of people who had not understood or recognized who Jesus was. Now they do. They ask, "What can we do now?"

Who needs to read today's scripture--the Peters among us or the crowds who didn't get it before?

It's far easier than we would want it to be to imagine religious people whose lives are being lived largely without any acknowledgement or recognition of Christ.

Peter denied knowing Christ and did so explicitly. He was afraid. Many later Christians don't voice any explicit denial, but their allegiance to Christ's teachings might be pretty hard to discern.

Who needs to read today's scripture?

Some of Christ's teachings may be easier for us to fit into our daily lives than others. Most of us can go through the day without committing acts of violence or stealing anything, for example. Harder though is giving up selfishness or fear.

Who needs to be asking the question, "What can we do now?"

Peter said, "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away."

We need to tell this story so others can hear, and we need to listen to this story so we can live the lives that Christ intends for us. We may be far away in calendar years from Peter's questioners, but do we really need to be far away in recognizing the need for repentance?

Daily Prayer, Thursday, May 5, 2011

Morning

O Lord, you are always beside us. You do not abandon us. We continue to give you thanks.

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
We praise you in your sanctuary;
We praise you in your mighty firmament!
We praise you for you mighty deeds;
We praise you for your exceeding greatness!
....

Psalms 39, 40

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Lectio Divina
For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far ways, everyone whom God calls to him (Acts 2:39).

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people (Psalm 116:14).

Midday Psalm 119:68-77

Prayer for Today:
Lord of Life, submitting to death, you conquered the grave.
By being lifted on a cross you draw all peoples to you.
By being raised from the dead you restored to humanity all that we had lost through sin.
Throughout these fifty days of Easter we proclaim the marvelous mystery of death and resurrection. Amen.
(James F. White, UMBOW 394).
For all praise is yours, now and throughout eternity. Amen.


Evening
Psalm 69

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some Things You Have to Tell Somebody, a Reflection on Luke 24:32-35

As soon as they recognize him, they can understand something that has already happened, something that they hadn't noticed at the time but now makes sense to them--"Were not our hearts burning within while he was talking to us about the Bible?"

It's night, they've had a long walk, it's after supper, and they decide to go back to Jerusalem right then, not the next day.

The recognition of the Lord has to be shared, and shared immediately.

In Jerusalem, they learned that the Lord had also appeared to Simon.

Note the repeat about how he had been made know to them in the breaking of the bread. We usually interpret this to be related to Holy Communion, but we may also want to think about we recognize Christ in our midst when we share those ordinary meals as well.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Morning
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into God's presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, who made us, is God.
....
God's steadfast love endures for ever;
God's faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 37

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 24:32-35

Lectio Divina
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35).
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people (Psalm 16:14).


Prayer for Today:
Forgive us our foolishness and resurrect our spirits so that we may see you in the breaking of bread, so that we may see you in our neighbors, and so that we may see you in the events of history and the events of each day (Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson).

Midday Psalm 119:57-67

Evening
Psalms 62, 63, 68

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recognition of Christ, a Reflection on Luke 24:25-31

Although the one that they had hoped would rescue them had himself been executed, although they had not been able to see for themselves the angels that some of the women had said had told them that he was not alive, they still allow a stranger to walk along with them, to talk with them. They even listen to a sermon from him. Then, since the day is almost over, they invite him to stay with them.

Loss. Disappointment. Frustration. Yet, an offer of hospitality.

And at the table, when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them, they recognized him.

Loss, disappointment, and frustration did not end with those first Christians.

And, as we celebrate Holy Communion, we can recognize him.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Morning
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

Invitatory Psalm 84

Psalm 36

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 24:28-31

Lectio Divina
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them (Luke 24:30).
Then I called on the name of the Lord: "O Lord, I pray, save my life!" (Psalm 16:4).

Prayer for Today:
Open our eyes so that we may see you in the breaking of bread, so that we may we see you in our neighbors, and so that we may see you in the events that are happening around us each day. Amen. (from Prayers of the People, Richard Einerson.

Midday Psalm 119:49-56

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 16

Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Road to Emmaus, a Reflection on Luke 24:13-24

Not everyone catches on right away. Jesus was right there with them. And they didn't recognize him. They knew about the resurrection. They were even surprised that their travel companion didn't seem to.

They may not have been able to recognize Jesus right away, but they are ready to talk about him to strangers who show interest.

They tell of what they had been expecting and what they had been told.

They tell this stranger about Jesus, how he was a prophet and the one who had been sent to redeem them; yet he had been handed over by the religious authorities to the Romans who had consequently condemned him to death and crucified him.

The story got stranger. Some of the women in their group had told them that when they had gone to visit his tomb, a vision of angels had said he was still alive. Hearing this, some in the group went to the tomb and confirmed that the body was missing, but they didn't see Jesus.

And, on the road to Damascus, they don't recognize him yet.

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 2, 2011

Morning
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

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 God's presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise with songs of praise!

Psalm 34

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 24:13-24

Lectio Divina
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him (Luke 24:24).

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish (Psalm 16:1-3).

Prayer for Today
O Lord, how many times have you been right there with us and we didn't even recognize you? Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:41-48

Evening
Psalms 46, 48, 49

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Outcome of Your Faith, a Reflection on 1 Peter 1:8-9

Well, yes, we are separated from those Christians by a couple of thousand years, but we may forget that very few of them had personal contact with Jesus during his ministry. Peter was writing to people who had not eaten a meal with Jesus, or had a conversation with him, or even met him.

He said, "Even though you haven't seen him and don't see him now, you believe in him."

And this belief is bringing them great benefit, indescribable and glorious joy.

The outcome of their faith is the salvation of their souls.

But what he meant by the word "soul" is not exactly how we how come to define it.

The Greek word, psyche, translated as soul means self, human being, or one's inmost being. The soul is not just a part of the person, it is the person.

Despite how we often misunderstand what Peter is giving them assurance of, he is not restricting the benefits to a ticket to heaven after they die. He's saying, "You are receiving the outcome of your faith now."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 1, 2011

Morning
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
O Lord, you have comforted your people,
and will have compassion on your suffering ones.
(from UMBOW 379)

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;
for God has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in God's holy place?

....

Psalms 32, 33

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 1:8-9

Lectio Divina
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fulness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Prayer for Today:
Elusive God,
companion on the way,
you walk behind, beside, beyond;
you catch us unawares.
Beak through the disillusionment and despair
clouding our vision,
that, with wide-eyed wonder,
we may find our way
and journey on
as messengers of your good news. Amen.
RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.

Evening
Psalms 44, 45