Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent - November 30

Psalm 119:1-24, 12, 13, 14

Amos 3:12-4:5

2 Peter 3:1-10

Matthew 21:23-32

A beauty of the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer or other source is the connection between scriptures from various portions of the Bible. The readings from the Psalms and Amos recall judgment that comes, in its time from failure to follow God’s laws. The passage in 2 Peter reminds the Church that God’s promises, too, will come in His own time.

The beauty of God’s delayed judgment was that it gave the Israelites an opportunity to turn from idolatry and return to following the law as it was given. Equally beautiful in the 2 Peter text is the promise that God wants to give as many people the chance to receive Christ’s promise as possible before He delivers on the promises made by Christ to His followers.

Recently the movie In Time came out presenting the idea of time as a commodity – something limited and valuable. The passages today reinforce the idea that time is indeed limited and valuable, but our ways of measuring it do not hold up in the scope of eternity. We know and evaluate time based on our limited view bound by the limits of mortality, but God’s plans exceed anything we can imagine and a central part of our faith is being able to accept that we cannot imagine all the parts of God’s works. We must learn patience to see it in the fullness of time, trusting that it will, in the end be for the good only God can create.

The  psalmists, prophets, and apostles all had to address the question of time. We still consider it today. When we move past it to do those things commanded of us, though, it ceases to be the commodity we make it and becomes another tool to build blessings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent - November 29

Psalm 5, 6, 10, 11

Amos 3:1-11

2 Peter 1:1-11

Matthew 21:1-11

Keeping a daily scripture reading away from the context of current headlines presents one of the greatest challenges in these days of constant media infusion. The blessing of scripture though, is that it is not meant to be read in isolation from the day of the news. God’s word for us is meant for today and if it was not, it would be a meaningless collection of folksy sayings and historic adventures. Verses from this year’s Advent would fit on many of the “Occupy Whatever” signs calling for justice for the masses.

The Psalms remind us of God’s all-knowing nature even when it seems that the evil around us prospers, His judgment is final and lasting and He sees all even when it seems that wickedness prospers at the expense of the poor and needy around the world. These passages segue nicely into the passage from Amos which warns the powers to be aware of prophets calling out, for as unlikely as they would appear, they do not speak without motivation from God.

Over all of this, Peter reminds us of his “ladder” of virtues that culminates in love. Love once again being the overarching determination of how we are to act toward others around us. Love is the proof of our salvation and the keystone that should mark our behavior as Christians.

Finally, the Matthew passage for today, reminds us of the humility with which Christ walked the earth. Even in the final week when He was set to be betrayed and crucified, He made possibly His grandest public appearance, not being pulled by a tricked out chariot, but on the back of a simple donkey. Sometimes as Christians it is too easy to remember the blessings we are given through the forgiveness of our past sins that we forget the commands to love others.

Just as the prophet Amos reminded the Israelites that they had a special relationship with God and were thus held to a higher standard, in his own way Peter reminds us the same thing. We must develop the virtues of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. He punctuates the passage with the admonition in verse nine saying, “For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.” We have been let off the hook once, now we are commanded to do the right thing.  It is time for us to occupy justice and as the Church again do the right thing without picketers on the street reminding us what it is.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent - November 28

Psalm 1, 2, 3, 5, 7
Amos 2:6-16
2 Peter 1:1-11

Today’s Psalms continue with the praise of the Lord as they focus on the protection God affords his people against their enemies. The Amos and 2 Peter passages, however, come with a warning. Once more the Bible confronts us with the promises of God and the expectations He has for us.

Despite the seeming contradiction of a promise with conditions, the passages make clear that we get good things when we do good things. Just as God provided protection from enemies and destroyed nations for the safety of His chosen people, His chosen people could just as easily be the target for His punishment when they failed to protect the helpless and needy and became too much like the world around them.

Peter makes it equally clear that the same expectations apply to the followers of Christ, not just Old Testament Jews. When we do not separate ourselves from the world around and cannot be distinguished by our actions are we any different. Persecution continues.

Maybe not in Old Testament overthrow of kingdoms and generations in slavery.

Instead it comes in daily undermining of beliefs and standards.

May God grant us, today, the ability to recognize the firm foundation and resist the erosion that brushes against us daily as we do the good things that merit the good things back from Christ.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent - November 27

Psalm 146, 147

“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!”

The first day of Advent, coming the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the United States, begins with a cry of praise in Psalm 146 and continues through Psalm 147. Both Psalms begin and end with the same exultant cry, “Praise the Lord!” Both call us to focus on God’s daily involvement in our personal lives as well as the live of the broader world.

What could be more right than to call us into a reflection of all that God does for us at the start of the church year? We have just completed the different seasons and recognized significant events in the Church’s history, now it is time to start again.

It is time to review. It is time to rejoice. It is time to revive.

It is time to praise. Let us remember the God who provided for us from the beginning of time and continues to provide for us. We are never outside his consideration.

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Tonight as I began looking over the scriptures for the upcoming Advent season and started making notes about them, I decided that I could turn them into something more than just my private musings and hopefully provide some insight for others free from religious jargon.
I have no formal theological training other than forty-something years as a member of Baptist churches. I am not typical Baptist, at least in the modern sense. I am a typical Baptist in the historical sense of the denomination with a firmly held belief in the priesthood of the believer. I cannot sit down with the Bible and come away without a message given through the Holy Spirit. I do not have to have a religious leader telling me what it means.
That I can interact directly with the Bible through guidance from the Holy Spirit is one of the glorious aspects of our faith. The more I consider the ancient texts of the Old Testament and, relatively, contemporary texts of the New Testament. I cannot find a way to separate one from the other and the message from God is consistent throughout: He desires a relationship with us and expects us to live justly with one another.
Jesus, in his life and words, managed to summarize the desires of God for all people into something real, not something codified by a series of rules. Instead, God’s hopes, and expectations, for us became something we could truly achieve. Old rules and the new covenant merge together into an interactive vibrant lifestyle that is far from the restricted distant, cold version of Christianity too many churches continue to practice. God does not desire an army of perfect followers controlled by the fear that one misstep eternally separates us from his presence, but would much rather collaborate with legions of imperfect seekers, humble enough to listen through our failures in our attempts to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Each day as I read scripture, I ask, “What does God want from me?” Activity dominates the descriptions of those who do what God asks. Most often when God’s wrath occurs, it follows inaction of the believers. Maybe together, we can find the active ministry God wants for all.