Sunday, January 8, 2012

Epiphany Sunday - January 8

Psalm 146, 147, 111, 112, 113

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 1:29-34

This morning I heard an interview with a singer/songwriter/writer/poet (the list goes on). At one point, as this person prepared to sing one of the songs being discussed, there was a period of audio as the guitarist tuned his instrument. The banter of the interview discussed the tuning and I was entranced and began to think that our recent periods of Advent and Christmas were our tuning for this point – Epiphany. Today we celebrate the revelation and presentation of Christ to us, but to be ready to understand the extraordinary connection that happened between God and humankind in that moment, we require the preparation to move our hearts and mind into the moment.

The passage from Genesis takes us back to the beginning, as God prepared the earth for humankind. The creation, day-by-day, established a place where we could flourish and thrive. God interacted personally with his creation in that time just as Christ interacted with the people in his time, and possibly most importantly, just as the Holy Spirit continues to interact with us in this time.

Creation. Epiphany. Pentecost. We spend time studying the meaning in each of them and the functions of God, but the commonality between them is that God connects directly with creation: God desires the relationship that so many of the passages during Advent and Christmas described. Epiphany as a day and a season demands that we recognize the relationship and actively join into it.

Let us open our hearts to the direct connection that comes from Epiphany when we concentrate on the presentation of the Christ child centuries ago. We cannot forget that the arrival of Christ began an eternal, direct connection between God and humankind.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas - January 5

Psalm 2, 110, 29, 98

Jonah 2:2-9

Isaiah 66:18-23

Ephesians 6:10-20

Romans 15:7-13

John 11:17-27, 38-44

One of the greatest discouragements in my spiritual life is the feeling of being truly alone – those moments of sincere doubt when I wonder if it is all really worth it. Doubt, challenged by some as a lack of faith, gives us amazing opportunities to grow. Jonah, after doubting and actively challenging God’s direction, finds himself in the belly of the great beast separated from the world. Even in the belly of the beast in the depths of the sea, he learns he is not separated from God.

God’s eternal presence and revelation through any number of great and small miracles around me each day sustain me through the moments of questioning. God does not have to perform a Jonah miracle to get our attention. When we pay close attention, God provides regular miracles each day: unexpected interactions with people or his creation, a revelation from the Scriptures, a message or gift that is exactly what we need.

Let us get open ourselves to those daily miracles that remind us of God’s presence in our life, and let us not be afraid to doubt for finding the answers to those questions leads to spiritual growth.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas - January 4

Psalm 85, 87, 89:1-29

Joshua 3:14 – 4:7

Ephesians 5:1-20

John 9:1-12, 35-38

The recent passages from Ephesians have among the most practical verses I know in the Bible about practical Christian living. Today’s excerpt does not change that streak. It mentions several sins specifically, probably because they were issues with which the church was dealing, but it by no means is meant to be a comprehensive list as some would have it be. There can be no comprehensive list of sins, for as long as man has an imagination, man will be able to come up with previously unimagined sins.

The author implores the people to live a Godly life, not continue in the ways they had before being introduced to Christ. The writer begins this selection with the direction in verse one and two to be imitators of God and to love as Christ loved us. When we do such things, then those sins of old no longer are part of our lives. They have been replaced by new ways. The author continues with warnings that there will be deceivers and people who will come forward with “empty words.”

Let us genuinely become imitators of God with a love that equals that of Christ. Such behaviors not only transform our own lives, but the lives of all we encounter until we have changed our world into the world God would have. God does not expect more from us than we are able to do; living as he would have us will is entirely within our achievement by his grace.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas - January 3

Psalm 68, 23, 27

1 Kings 19:9-18

Ephesians 4:17-32

John 6:1-14

Ephesians 4 gives us something that is often lacking in Scripture – specific directions for living our life. While they include nothing new, sometimes God has to take the “broken record” tactic with us, repeating directions over-and-over again in order that we understand. To a large degree, the passage is an expansion of the commandment to love one another, for our good conduct demonstrates that love.

Verse 30 gives us a place to pause and meditate on the passage with its warning not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.” While in the middle of the specific directions, the verse reminds us that we have been given the Holy Spirit as a daily guide. When we remain attuned to the Spirit’s guidance, we then live in the way God would have us live with one another and with the world.

Let us constantly seek direction from the Spirit and be open to the guidance when it comes. Living within that guidance gives us the opportunity for wholeness and joy, in the kind of world we want to have.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas - January 2

Psalm 34, 33

1 Kings 19:1-8

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 6:1-14

As I read the passages today, the idea of unity kept coming to mind and was reinforced with each passage. Psalm 33:10 begins a series of verses regarding God’s standing with the nations; the Kings passage recognized a split in the nation over prophets, largely brought on by the queen; and the Ephesians verses remind us of our role in one unified church. God’s plan for the world is complete.

The Ephesians passage, despite its unambiguous language, continues to be a challenge for us. The verses clearly state that God has made us different with different roles in the church and world, yet all too often we continue to resist our “job,” instead preferring a job that we deem more glamorous or important. The “grass-is-always-greener” syndrome infiltrates even the heart of our spiritual service.

As we reflect today, let us all be open to the position God has for us within the church and accept that every position is equally glamorous and important, for without them all, there would be no complete body of Christ, and without that complete body, the ministries we find most appealing may not be served.  For all the ministries of the church, let us serve humbly in our position for the fulfillment of the Word.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas - January 1

Psalm 93, 96, 34

1 Samuel 1:1-2, 7b-28

Colossians 1:9-20

Luke 2:22-40

Two of today’s passages relate the stories of children being consecrated at the temple. The prophet Samuel and Christ both came from faithful families who did not shy away from doing the religious duties. Today as the Christmas season connects to the new calendar year and the inevitable resolutions to do better that come on the occasion, we have the opportunity to investigate the foundation of our own faith and consider our place in the Church.

As the young men were consecrated to the work that came to them, we have the opportunity to reflect on how well our lives are consecrated to the work God has called us into. Are we doing all that we can, or are we skirting by with a minimal effort and involvement?

The natural energy that comes with this time of year presents opportunities for us to do so much more. Let us take time in this season to find our place in the Church and carry it into the world around us.