Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29 - Fourth Sunday in Easter (Protestant)

Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 63, 98, 103

Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38

1 John 2:18-29

Mark 6:30-44

Today’s Question:

How can we identify and take comfort in the eternal nature of God?

Today’s Reflection:

Lately, many of the weekly passages have struck me with the conflict between our temporal view of events and God’s eternal view of the same events. Today’s passages are no different as the Eternal comes in direct contact with humanity. From the Psalms to the Gospel, God’s nature versus human nature contrast time-bound and eternal ideas.

The Psalms provide us a Hebrew understanding of God’s eternity with phrases like “as long as I live,” and “from everlasting to everlasting.” Eternity was bounded by time (a LONG period of time, but time nonetheless) as Jewish history was connected to God’s direct involvement and memory of those events served as the timekeeper. Many Hebrew traditions serve to preserve the memory of events, keeping them eternal.

In Exodus, elaborate directions describe the priestly vestments for Aaron and his sons. Each part of the garment and adornment on it held symbolism for the Israelites and their history with God. When the people saw it, it reminded them of different aspects of their special relationship. Every detail had purpose in preserving the eternity of God’s interaction with his people.

The writer of 1 John warns about antichrists working in the early church. These false teachers strayed from the teaching of Christ. For whatever reason they had, they did not promote the truth of Christ, but changed the message. The author reminds us in verse 24, “let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” He is telling us to stick to the teachings of Christ and that if we stray from those lessons, then we risk losing our relationship with God. The same works for us today: stick with scripture as guided by the Holy Spirit and we are ok, stray from that guidance and we enter dangerous theological territory.

The Gospel story in Mark tells one of Christ’s miracles witnessed by thousands of people. It too gives us a lesson on eternal versus temporal thinking. Christ provides for the immediate needs of the crowds who had gathered at the location of what was intended as a retreat for Christ and his apostles. Despite the “invasion,” Christ took the opportunity to teach and further the ministry. Even after the disciples suggested calling it off so the people could get to nearby towns and find food, Jesus suggested they feed the people instead. The disciples had just returned from their first mission on which they had taught and performed acts from the authority given to them, yet they could not imagine feeding such a large crowd. The meal from such meager stores provided a practical demonstration of the difference between eternal and temporal thinking.

Examples from each of the passages today give us insight in to shifting our thinking from the natural temporal thinking toward eternal kingdom thinking. Events in the Psalms, understanding the symbolism of the priestly vestments, discerning true teaching, and acting on faith provide guidelines we may continue to use today to determine the eternal nature of God and live within those perimeters. We can take comfort in the assurance of our right relationship with God.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us open our eyes to the larger picture of your kingdom.


April 29 - Fourth Sunday in Easter (Roman Catholic)

Until I can get his information connected to the blog, I wish to give credit to my friend Jason Lewis who is partnering with me in this spiritual journey and is presenting a perspective from the Roman Catholics while my perspective is shaped by the protestant branch of Christianity.

Today’s Scriptures: From the Roman Catholic Lectionary

First Reading: Acts 4:8-12

Responsorial Psalm: The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.  (Psalm 118: 1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 29)

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-2 

Gospel Reading:  John 10:11-18

Today’s Question:

How do you relate to the Risen Jesus as the Good Shepherd?

Today’s Reflection:

Today is known as GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY because, in each year of the liturgical cycle on this 4th Sunday of Easter, the Gospel is always taken from the 10th chapter of John where Jesus speaks of himself as the "good shepherd".

In today’s passage Jesus emphasizes the self-sacrificing element in his own life: "The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep." He contrasts the good shepherd who owns the sheep to someone who is simply hired to look after them. The hired man thinks primarily of his own welfare and, if he sees a wolf coming, he takes off, leaving the sheep to be attacked and scattered in fear and terror. Jesus, on the other hand, will not be like a hired person: "I lay down my life for my sheep." Perhaps he contrasts himself with those mercenary religious leaders among his own people – and to be found in every religious grouping – who do just what is expected of them but have no real commitment or sense of responsibility to those in their charge.

He knows his sheep.

Secondly, the good shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. There is a mutual bond of love and intimacy. That love is compared to the deep mutual relationship that exists between Jesus and his Father. "My own know me just as the Father knows me." Again the hired man or the self-interested leader will not have such a relationship with his charges. The Second Reading speaks in similar terms when the author says, "Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are."

One shepherd and one flock.

Thirdly, the good shepherd deeply desires that many other sheep should come to identify themselves with him. "There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well." The ultimate goal is that "there will be only one flock and one shepherd", that the whole world will be united together with its God and Lord. This is the meaning of the Kingdom which is at the heart of the Gospel message.

This is a goal which preoccupies us still today. There are still so many millions of people who have not yet heard the message of a loving God, a God who sent his only Son to die for them. They seek meaning and happiness in their lives by pursuing all kinds of other goals which inevitably turn to ashes: material abundance, status in the eyes of others, power over others, mistaking pleasure and hedonism for happiness…

In so doing, they reject Jesus the Good Shepherd. "Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us." This is something we must learn to accept as a fact, even if it is hard to understand and even harder to take.

No matter how closely we follow in the footsteps of our Shepherd, in fact, the more closely we follow him, the more likely it is that we will be rejected and even attacked. More tragic still, however, there are so many people who claim Christ as Lord, many of them very good and sincere people, who are often divided, even bitterly divided among themselves.

Here, more than anywhere is there a need for all to follow one Shepherd and form one flock. Otherwise how can we give witness to the love of Christ if that love is lacking among the servants of Jesus?

Lastly, there are those who, though incorporated through baptism into the Body of Christ, consistently behave in a way which totally distorts people’s understanding of Christ and his call to discipleship, fulfillment and happiness. Probably, most of us have at one time or another failed in our call to give witness to the truth and love that is to be found in Christ. 

We need to give life willingly.

Jesus emphasizes that, in giving his life for his sheep, he is doing so of his own will. It is not just by force of circumstances. His death is to be the living proof that "the greatest love a person can show is to give one’s life for one’s friends". This is the proof that Jesus truly is a Good Shepherd.


On the face of it and looked at with purely secular eyes, the life and mission of Jesus seemed an utter failure. Even Jesus’ friends and admirers must have shaken their heads in sorrow as they saw him die on the cross. Jesus himself said "It is finished." But, for him, the words had a completely different meaning.

As Peter tells the assembled Jews in the Temple in today’s First Reading, "This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to humanity, this is the only one by which we can be saved."

As Jesus himself says in the Gospel today, "I lay down my life of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again." And so it was. The Second Reading contains part of an address Peter gave in the Temple after he and John had cured a crippled beggar at the Temple’s Beautiful Gate. The healing of the man in the name of the crucified Jesus through the agency of Peter and John is the proof that Jesus is risen and working among us.

Today’s Prayer:

Look upon your flock, kind Shepherd, 

and be pleased to settle in eternal pastures

the sheep you have redeemed




Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 22 - Third Sunday of Easter - Roman Catholic Lectionary

Until I can get his information connected to the blog, I wish to give credit to my friend Jason Lewis who is partnering with me in this spiritual journey and is presenting a perspective from the Roman Catholics while my perspective is shaped by the protestant branch of Christianity.
Today’s Scriptures: Roman Catholic Lectionary
First Reading:             Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm:     Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
Second Reading:         1 Jn 2:1-5a
Gospel:                      Lk 24:35-48
Today’s Question:
Where does God fit in our times of change – our grieving process?
Today’s Reflection:
The context of today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is Peter and John’s miraculous cure of the crippled man when they went up to the temple for prayer and the crowd is attracted.  These are the people to whom he speaks.  Note how he appeals to their Jewish heritage, proclaiming Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises.  Note, too, the names given to Jesus:  “servant,” “Holy and Righteous One,” “author of life,” the Christ (Messiah).  The second reading from the First Letter of John gives us more names for Jesus.  Jesus is referred to as “God’s advocate.”  The text in the second reading also stresses the importance of keeping God’s commandments as the way not only to knowledge of Him, but to love.
Today’s Psalm (4) is a confident prayer that asks for God’s blessing, one that could easily have been prayed by the crippled man, one that no doubt was prayed by the apostles as well, knowing that it is through the same Jesus, through the power of Jesus, that healing is accomplished – not through their own.  The psalmist declares that we all need to be healed through the saving power of God.  As the psalm says, “Lord, let your face shine on us” we too, need to let the face of the Lord shine on our daily lives.
The Gospel story of the Emmaus journey is one of significant importance to us during the Easter season.  The two disciples referred to in the first line of today’s Gospel reading are the two who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus.  In today’s text, they have returned to Jerusalem and are with the other disciples, when the risen Christ is suddenly in their midst.  What a contrast to his peace is their fear and doubt, which soon gave way to joy.  As on the way to Emmaus, the Lord interprets the scriptures (the law of Moses, the prophets and Psalms in particular) as pertaining to him and fulfilled by him.  They are now witnesses.  Beginning in Jerusalem, they must proclaim his Good News to all the nations.  Luke picks up this story in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.
The Emmaus story is one of grief turned to joy.  Joy is the overriding theme in the scriptures today, but the two disciples had to go through the pain in order to get to the joy.  This is a clear example of the Paschal Mystery that we celebrate every time the People of God gather to celebrate God’s Word and the Eucharist at every Sunday Mass.  The Paschal Mystery is the life, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  The Paschal Mystery is related to us in our everyday lives.  As the disciples are on the road to Emmaus (before they even see the Risen Christ) they pondering, “all that they have seen and heard in the last several days” regarding the event that had taken place with Jesus.  It isn’t until he breaks bread with them that they recognize him, for “they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”
For those of you who are in any sort of grieving process right now – whether it be the death of a loved one, friend, the loss of finances or your job, or even a relationship – find someone close to you and break bread with them.  Allow the healing presence of Jesus into your lives and recognize Christ “in the breaking of the bread.”
Today’s Prayer:
Let us remember your presence and comfort, even in times of great distress.

April 22 - Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 148, 149, 150, 114, 115
Exodus 18:1-12
1 John 2:7-17
Mark 16:9-20
Today’s Question:
How does God work in the salvation of humankind?
Today’s Reflection:
Today’s Psalms are among the ones repeated several times during this season, but they offer insight into the theme of the week each time and this week they provide an insight beyond that connected to the them as many people celebrate today as Earth Day, drawing attention to the natural resources and humanity’s stewardship of them. We sometimes forget that while God created the earth as our home, he also charged us with being wise stewards, caretakers, of his creation. Our stewardship extends beyond the church doors into all the earthly creation.
The Psalms also work in God’s direct involvement in his creation, our world and the ways he influences events in the world around us. God’s working with humankind on behalf of his people, and then his directions on how we should do the same provide a central theme for today’s scriptures in the Old and New Testaments.
The passage from Exodus has Moses, talking to his father-in-law, relating just how God’s works have affected the Israelites in their last days in Egypt and adventures since leaving Egypt. He recounts the plagues against the Egyptian and miracles saving the Israelites. God worked both for and against peoples – for the Israelites and against the Egyptians – to bring about good for his chosen people.
The 1 John passage continues the juxtaposition of ideas related to who we are. The initial verses describe “no new” commandment, but indeed a “new commandment.” To understand he passage, one must understand the “new commandment” to which the author is referring. The commandment is not new in the Christian church as it has been around since Christ spoke it (John 13:34), but it is new compared to the commandments given in the books of law.
“Love one another.”
Not new.
Nevertheless, something is clearly happening in the church to which John is writing as he discusses the challenges of love and hate as they relate to a person truly living the way Christ taught and being separated from it. The passage illustrates that love and hate are more than emotions, they are actions. As emotions they are too powerful to remain something internalized, but they burst forth, guiding our behavior. While we may seek to conceal them, they are revealed as the darkness within us.
The gospel passage in Mark continues the idea of an imperfect us. There is no doubting Thomas in today’s passage – there are the doubting eleven. Jesus’s response to them provides guidance for us today. Though they doubted and were unfaithful and were imperfect, Jesus gave them both the power and authority to continue his ministry on earth.
We continue to control love and hate as we battle faith and doubt. We are imperfect people who can, with God’s blessing, continue his ministry on the earth as he commands us to. God works on our salvation through our imperfection relying on his perfection. He worked with/through Moses to save his people from the Egyptians as he continues to work through others and us for the salvation of people in this day. His actions are both for and against some, but ultimately for the growth of his kingdom.
Today’s Prayer:
Let us accept our own imperfection, but not be comfortable with it. Help us to know that we must rely on you, and your perfection, to see good things through to the end.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 18 - Second Sunday of Easter

Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer, Year 2
Psalm 146, 147, 111, 112, 113
Exodus 14:5-22
1 John 1:1-7
John 14:1-7
Today’s Question:
How do we learn to focus on the eternal instead of the temporal?
Today’s Reflection:
Other than an occasional fanatic labeling the Statue of Liberty an idol, we do not spend much time thinking about idols in today’s world. Very few people stop and bow down to anything they refer to as a manifestation of their god. In the time of the Psalms, however, idols representing various gods existed in homes and community squares all around the Israelites. For the people of the time, and through today’s scriptures, we see a common theme of distinguishing between the temporal and the eternal.
Each of today’s Psalms describes God’s involvement in creation. Everything from the order of nature to the behavior of humankind is explained in the passages of the day with an emphasis on God’s forever presence in contrast to the here-and-now presence of idols. Those idols, made of clay, metal, wood, and cloth, come and go as time and elements wear them away. The seasons and common events in them are described and attributed to God. They happen every year, giving them an eternal quality as they happened in generations past and continue into the future. They are before and after memory because God has declared them so.
Just as God controls the natural world, God also guides human behavior. Psalm 147 closes with the statement that God deals differently with Israel than the rest of the world because they know his laws. The laws of God dictate how we are to interact with one another and especially treat those who are poor and weak and extend from generation to generation. Meanwhile the laws of man exist only in the lifetime of that prince or king. As soon as he dies, the new king issues his own decrees: they are only for his time, the here-and-now presence of kings. God’s laws are universal and unchanging from generation to generation.
The epistle 1 John begins with a declaration of “what was from the beginning” begin present in the here-and-now world of the apostles. They saw and heard Jesus. His presence transcended time from the creation to the present and the Gospel of John passage continues that idea with as Jesus describes going to Heaven to prepare the place for his followers. Together the scriptures create a picture from the beginning, to the present (time of the Apostles), to the future day in which rests our hope.
The busyness of everyday so pervades my life and the lives of everyone I know, that thinking in eternal time proves challenging. My mind focuses on what must be done in the next thirty minutes. Sometimes my calendar becomes my idol, the clock, my god. The unfortunate fact of life is that I live in time, but my actions do not have to be governed by time. By following God’s laws and God’s will for my life, I am affecting the eternal in the temporal world. When I do right by God, I do right. God’s laws are universal and unchanging from generation to generation.
Today’s Prayer:
Let us, even in our hectic, busy lives, seek God’s eternal picture in the actions we take and decisions we make. Keeping eternity in mind, we solve the challenges of today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter - April 8

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 148, 149, 150, 113, 114

Exodus 12:1-14

Isaiah 51:9-11

John 1:1-18, 20:19-23

Today’s Question:

What do we do with the joy of Easter?

Today’s Reflection:

He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection was the great equalizer. No longer were only the Jews God’s chosen people, but through Christ, all people have the opportunity to enter a direct fellowship with him. Today as we celebrate the resurrection, we recognize the final barrier between God and humankind was shattered.

The Psalms recall a unity in worship in which all creation rejoices in praise and barriers between the highest and lowliest in rank are broken down. Inanimate earth to rulers of the earth come together with equal rank to worship the Lord.

The Exodus passage remembers the institution of the Passover and gives the Jews specific directions in preparation and eating of the meal, with emphasis on them being ready to MOVE. It also emphasizes the importance of the first-born which the John passage re-visits. Christ is presented as being eternal as God. Word. Flesh. Spirit. Altogether in one, and through that one, unity is achieved.

We experience so much joy today as we consider the hope in the resurrection and the salvations we know. We also need to consider how we are going to move forward in the future with this same joy and energy to complete the works God has called us to do. We inherited the same spirit as the disciples and we have no excuses to let our tasks go undone.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us capture the energy of today and carry it forward into our daily living, building the kingdom of God as we do.




Friday, April 6, 2012

Holy Week - Saturday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 95, 88, 27

Lamentations 3:37-58

Hebrews 4:1-16

Romans 8:1-11

Today’s Question:

How do we escape the despair of separation from God that we sometimes feel?

Today’s Reflection:

Today we wait from the pit.


Holy Saturday is perhaps the darkest day in the Christian faith as we read through the scriptures that commonly tell of our separation from God. Christ is in the grave. Our hopes are dashed.


Psalm 95 repeats from Good Friday as a Psalm of both joy and caution – a time of coming together into worship and warning about maintaining our relationship with God. Following it comes Psalm 88 which goes with us into the pit of despair and fear that God has forgotten us completely as sometimes happens when we find God’s voice quiet – or our ears closed. Psalm 27 offers us a glimmer of hope as the psalmist reminds us that God will not stay separated from us. Verse 13 turns its focus to Heaven and eternal life, just as we are promised heaven and an eternity with God.

The Lamentations passage, appropriate to the name, gives us a vision of complete separation from God. Verses 43 & 44 describe a situation so dire, prayers cannot even penetrate the barriers of separation God with which God surrounds himself. This level of despair must have been how those closest to Jesus felt on Saturday in that void between death and resurrection.

The epistle passages present the choice that we have to accept or reject a relationship with God. In Hebrews the author focuses on rest in God with the Sabbath as a focus while the Romans author presents the choice of living in the flesh or in the spirit. Both focus on the choice we have to accept or reject God and the consequences that come with it.

Today we concentrate on despair knowing that tomorrow brings joy. While every passage today recounts some degree of separation from God, every passage also leads us to the hope of reconciliation with God, affirming that he desires the relationship with us.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us consider despair and turn that into a growing, strengthening relationship with you, God, as you seek to draw nearer to us.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Week - Good Friday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 95, 22, 40, 54

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33

1 Peter 1:10-20

John 13:36-38, 19:38-42

Today’s Question:

Why is it that today comes with so many different emotions?

Today’s Reflection:

Good Friday brings us so many conflicting emotions. We are assaulted by the great grief as we humanize the death of Christ, connecting those emotions to others around us whom we have known and lost while finding in the middle of it the exhilaration that comes with reliving our salvation through the death and resurrection.  Today’s passages span the same range of emotions

The Psalms range from a joyful call to worship to others that remind us of our low state in comparison to God. Lamentations begins to shift from being all about the punishment God put on the Israelites to a passage that closes with an optimistic outlook, declaring, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end,” and, “For the Lord will not reject for ever.” Just as today takes us to the depths of despair, we know Sunday is coming.

The Epistle passage from 1 Peter calls us to live holy lives as Christ did in his example to us. We should discipline our minds and bodies to change our focus from those perishable things of the world and tradition to the imperishable blood of Christ. The Gospel passages in John focus on events on either side of Jesus’s death. First Jesus identifies that Peter will deny him to the people. The second part of the passage identifies the hasty burial shortly after Jesus dies.

Beginning with Sunday, each day leading up to Good Friday marked a triumph of Christ in his ministry. Key events and powerful teaching made the events of Friday so much more devastating. Everything was going right. And suddenly it stopped.

We proudly wave the palm fronds. We rejoice at the cleansing of the temple. We relish in the giving of the Lord’s supper.


And then we are faced with unimaginable violence.


And we confront the death of the perfect one.


And suddenly we are the worm David proclaimed himself to be.


Two thousand years later, we know how it turns out, but we, rightfully, cannot but feel the grief that comes as we remember the day. The heady joys of the week make the sadness that much more heavy which in turn makes the thrill of Easter that much stronger. Connecting with these feelings connects us again to God and provides a renewal, at least for a while, of our faith.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us find our way through the grief of this day into a renewed, reconfirmed faith with the strength to take up our own cross.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Holy Week - Maundy Thursday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 102, 142, 143

Lamentations 2:10-18

1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32

Mark 14:12-25

Today’s Question:

How can I find peace when everything around me is going wrong?

Today’s Reflection:

The past week has been one of the most challenging weeks of my life. Due to state testing requirements, I worked fourteen or more hours most days to make sure everything was best for the testing environment. On top of it, one of my students, a classmate to those being tested passed away. Added to that, my childhood next-door neighbor and father to my childhood best friend suffered a massive stroke that will likely lead to his death in the next few day. My emotions are torn in more directions than I can begin to manage. As I read today’s passages, I wept uncontrollably at times, but came away with such an overwhelming sense of peace and holding a faith deeper than it was yesterday.

In the Psalms, David requests demands God’s protection for himself as persecutors surround him. He is one of my favorite Bible personas because as much as I endeavor to do good, I fail. David’s flaws, and the challenges he faces because of them, are presented in the Scripture – no whitewashing there.


I try.


But I fail.


The theme fills today’s passages.


And then God is there to pull me from the abyss. It happens in Psalms, Lamentations, Corinthians, and Mark. No matter my trouble. No matter my grief. No matter my despair. No matter my sin. God is there for me.

That is the message for this Maundy Thursday. Despite knowing the torture he would shortly face, Jesus continued his lessons with the disciples, demonstrating how real the love of God is for all who believe in him.

Weeks like this week reinforce every part of my faith and deepen it. I am thankful these weeks do not happen very often, but can accept them, with a degree of grace when they do.


Today’s Prayer:

Let us be comforted with your ever-present strength and assurance.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week - Wednesday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 55, 74

Lamentations 2:1-9

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

Mark 12:1-11

Today’s Question:

How do we overcome the conflicts that arise from our human nature and human interaction?

Today’s Reflection:

“Let death come upon them;

let them go down alive into Sheol;

for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.”

And that is what David wished upon his friends!

My biggest fights and most hurt feelings have come from disagreements with friends, but I cannot think of anyone I would wish into Sheol. Indeed, I rarely get angry at people who are not friends. I do not have the emotional connection with a stranger to invest the energy David’s level of rage demands. Today’s passages have in common discord between known people. Some of the complaints are listed, some are not, but the important lessons come from the response to discord, for as long as we are human, conflict will happen.

The Psalms bring in conflict between friends. Equals of David are causing him much distress with things they are saying. The Lamentations record conflict between God and his people. The Corinthians passage cites an unnamed church member in conflict with Paul and others in the church, and the Gospel passage targets church leaders distance from God. The examples describe conflicts between people and other people, between people and God, and between people and other people and God.

In some of the conflicts, we see the resolution. In others, we know the resolution, though it is not presented in the passage, yet in others, we are left with the resolution in the hands of God. God gives us the example – seek reconciliation as he does with his people. The passages in Lamentations come in a time of deep despair of the Jewish people, but in the end, their relationship with God is restored. Paul continues this direction in his letter to the Corinthians, telling them to forgive and console the one with whom they are in conflict.

Poets, authors, philosophers have opined the price of anger and hatred. The Bible too warns us of the harms that come from holding on to these feelings. Paul adds to the price by reminding us that not only is the pain internal, but that it opens the door for Satan, the sower of strife, to disrupt the work of the faithful. Let us consider the costs we pay for our conflict and seek the way of resolution. Just as God is able to forgive us in all our sin against him, we are called to forgive others as completely and work to mend the relationship.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us open our hearts to your healing power and wrap ourselves around the harmony you desire for the work of your kingdom.




Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week - Tuesday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 6, 12, 94

Lamentations 1:17-22

2 Corinthians 1:8-22

Mark 11:27-33

Today’s Question:

What motivates us to participate in certain religious activities and respond to others who believe differently than we do?

Today’s Reflection:

David opens the first Psalm today beseeching God not to “discipline me in your wrath,” and immediately I thought, “well, what did you do this time, David?” His motivation was purely personal as he called on his special relationship with God for relief. Each of the passages today addresses the motivation of the people in the passages. What do they hope to accomplish through their actions? In some cases the motivation is clear, but in others the motivation has to be discerned. The passages also challenge our motivation in labeling others with views that diverge from our own: are we the judge or is God?

In Psalm 12, David moves from an obvious personal interest to challenge all who are not “godly.” However, given David’s history of conflict with others and punishment from God (see Psalm 6) are the people being so maligned by David here truly “ungodly” or do they merely oppose him? Mixed in these passages are references to God’s concern for the poor, implying that those David labels ungodly are those who persecute the weak. Those ideas of caring for the poor and weak continue into the next Psalm (94) with God’s judgment coming on those who do not do his will. While David happily names those who are outside God’s will, the passages make it clear that God, ultimately, brings justice.

The Lamentations passage continues the theme of God as just. Even though at this point in the book there is no sign of relief, the writer knows that God, ultimately will come through and restore his people as they come back to his ways.

Paul begins the Corinthian letter recounting the difficulties he and fellow missionaries faced in Asia, but moves into an explanation of why he has not been to visit. His language assures the people that he really, really, really wanted to visit, but it was not God’s will and he had to do what God wanted. The following passage expands the reasons for not coming; however, the reasoning remains the same – it was not God’s will.
When Jesus is confronted by the chief priests and others from the temple, challenging him on his authority, Jesus responds to them with a question, as he often does, that directly calls them on their motivation – maintain their own status in society. They leave one more time without any successful entrapment.

The passages today hit me in a very personal way. I am quick to condemn anyone who does not get the same message from the Biblical passage that I do. That quick condemnation violates one of my own core beliefs in the priesthood of the believer; that the Holy Spirit guides all who believe in Christ to understand the scripture. Because we all have different spiritual gifts, someone else’s interpretation may be that way to motivate them to use that gift in the way God wants them to. We have to take ourselves out of the equation and do only that which we are called todo.We know as it is demonstrated and promised throughout the Bible that God is the judge, and God will judge us all in what we do. We will have a clearer conscience and much less strife when we leave judgment to the One who will.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us daily do what you desire us to do and remove the desire to do the things we want to do. We struggle, God, to take ourselves out of the leadership, but help us find comfort in your plan.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy Week - Monday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 51, 69:1-23

Lamentations 1-12

2 Corinthians 1:1-7

Mark 11:12-25

Today’s Question:

As a flawed human, a sinner, how can I get the clean heart to be in right relationship with God?

Today’s Reflection:

Those of us who live in the south regularly hear about someone who is afflicted with (insert horrific disease). Professional gossips can out-afflict almost anyone. Perhaps it is because Biblical language infuses many regional idioms. Perhaps it is because we are too nice to mention actual problems by name. Today’s scriptures though, take affliction to a level that even the best southern gossip good Christian woman would struggle to rival.

From David’s challenges after meeting Bathsheba, to the fall of Jerusalem, to Paul and other missionaries’ sufferings, to Jesus’s cursing of the fig tree, affliction plays a major role in God’s demonstrated love for his people throughout the Bible. The frenetic pace of Holy Week sometimes distracts us from the ultimate affliction Christ endures for our salvation. Our own perceived (and real) afflictions also distract us from the work before us.

In the passages, some of the afflictions come because of failures of righteous people in following God. The afflictions of David in Psalms and the Hebrew people in Lamentations come directly from God because of the shortcomings of the people. They sinned against him and the pain and separation they felt came as a means of correction to move them from the ways of sin toward a more holy way of life. God’s punishment rarely permanently disables us because he desires us to be strong and well-grounded to do his work under his command. Even in the suffering God inflicts on his own people as punishment, the ultimate goal is to build faith and confidence in service.

In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul and the others suffered from the actions of people opposed to them because to their faithfulness, and God provided the consolation (perseverance) to continue doing those things he had asked. While the affliction sometimes leads to death, God’s consolation is ever present to see us through.

Jesus’s cursing of the fig tree – admittedly out of season – brings us the greatest challenge when it comes to the idea of affliction. I have a fig tree in my yard; at this time of year, it is a large, lush, green mass charging up for its mid-summer productive streak. The tree Jesus encountered was in the same stage – a picture of life and health. When the disciples and Jesus next passed, it had “withered away to its roots.” The Jesus gives a lesson of faith. The fig tree paid the price of Jesus’s depth of faith. Days later Jesus paid the price of our lack of faith.

The southern gossips may employ the term affliction with impunity because of its frequency in Scripture; however, most of the afflictions burning up the phone lines or email prayer chains, while uncomfortable to those suffering them, do not rise to the occasion of a Biblical affliction. Those recounted across the span of Bible times served some purpose to further God’s kingdom. Certainly we are called to love our neighbors and have compassion on them: God demands it. Responding to our neighbors with faith that withers fig trees and casts mountains into the ocean helps us to reach that pure heart, flawed as we are, and overcome our real affliction, separation from God by sin.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us escape us and consider others in ways that allow your will to be done in their lives.


Holy Week - Palm Sunday

Today’s Scriptures:

Psalm 24, 29, 109

Zechariah 9:9-12, 12:9-13:9

1 Timothy 6:12-16

Luke 19:41-48

Today’s Question:

How do we miss God’s presence among us?

Today’s Reflection:

As we enter Holy Week, today’s passages remind us of times when people of the time failed to see God as he worked in the world around them. From the time of David recounting false persecutors just as Christ would face, to the prophet Zechariah narrating the triumphal entry and execution of Christ, and the exhortation to Paul to maintain the faith until Christ’s return at the appointed time, people often overlooked the work or God, indeed, God’s presence among them, in order to protect their personal interests.

David’s Psalms today reflect on God’s power over all creation. The final Psalm focuses on God’s involvement in human endeavors. In a few verses he describes the conflict between wicked and good, which may also be read powerful and weak. The clarification that the lengthy punishment being described applies to the wicked comes at the end of the passage, leading the reader to believe, at first, that the curses described were the effects on the people against whom the false testimony had been presented. And this was likely true – for a time.

Zechariah continues the view of the coming king as he describes the arrival. The selections from 9, 12, and 13 set the stage for the events of Holy Week as it begins with a triumphal arrival and ends with deadly rejection that makes possible our status today. While the passage also presents the coming king with images of military victory; however, verse 10 specifically declares “he shall declare peace to the nations.”

The passage in Luke describes Jesus’s compassion for the people and popularity with them. His cleansing of the temple and teachings to the people led to the actions of the religious leadership that led to Christ’s execution by the Romans.

Each of the passages describes God’s compassion for the people and in a relevant context for today. Some today see in the passages a populist message in its appeal to the masses. Others see in it a call to social justice. Yet others see class warfare. Because our context blinds us to views contrary to our own, we can miss the presence of God as he seeks to move us out of our place into his. Defining ourselves into a certain method of interpreting scripture immediately blinds us to any message from God that conflicts with our paradigm. Just as leaders in the times of David, Zechariah, and Jesus sought to maintain their status and missed God at work, we too need to open our eyes to the broadness of God’s love and activity.

Holy Week gives us the opportunity, after the season of Lenten reflection, to closely examine the work of God through Christ in his final days as incarnate man in the context of the time and contrasted to the work of the religious and political leaders in the context of the time. The understanding that comes challenges us to consider who we are: the people or the Pharisees. As we reach the answer, perhaps we will understand how we overlook God’s presence among us.

Today’s Prayer:

Let us open our eyes and our hearts through Holy Week and beyond to see God among us. May our eyes be open to that which is different but ordained in God’s will for the fulfillment of his kingdom.