Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Devotion for Wednesday, March 29


When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul (Psalm 94:19)

The image above, a heart on fire, is often used to describe someone's passion for the Gospel.  I also can see that the cares, concerns, and struggles of our heart can also be described as a heart on fire.  In this instance, our hearts are consumed with pain and suffering; the kind of heartache that seems will never burn out.  This can lead us, also with great passion, to wish pain and suffering on those who have wronged us.

The psalmist writes these words in this kind of context.  The psalm is a calling forth of God's vengeance on those who have wronged the people.  The psalm is explicit in calling for God "wipe them out of their wickedness."

I often share with others that feelings are neither good nor bad; they simply are.  What we do with these feelings and the actions we take in response to them, however, is what we are called to consider in our discipleship.  

I don't believe going to God honestly with these kind of feelings is wrong.  It is actually a very human reaction, one that I am sure God understands.  Still, the reconciling nature and compassionate love of God will console our hearts and lead us toward a love of enemy that seems both counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Yet, it marks the path of Jesus.

And as we move beyond these moments of pain and hurt, with the Lord's guidance and strength, then our hearts on fire with consuming pain and hatred are turned to hearts on fire for the amazing grace and healing work of Christ. 



Consoling God, turn us from our pain and lead us toward love. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Devotion for Tuesday, March 28


Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2: 46-47)

"So there is no area of the church which is not wholly and exclusively subject to Christ. It is a dreadful reduction of the New Testament concept if today the church is often seen to have its existence only in preaching and the administration of the sacrament," a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Way to Freedom.

Church is not always easy, nor is it always pleasing.  What church is, when it is church at its best, is life together.  Common and shared worship.  Companionship in the joys and struggles of life. Being hospitable, and loving the neighbor, even if he/she is a stranger.  Finding purpose in something greater than ourselves.  Church is not wholly about meeting my needs.  Church, at its best, helps me to meet the needs of the world.  

Jesus, help the church to be life together, both in the sanctuary and especially beyond it. Amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Devotion for Monday, March 27


He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go, the demon has left your daughter." (Mark 7:27-29)

This is one of those readings that can often confound us about Jesus.  It is an example of Jesus clearly acting out of his humanity.  Jesus is initially dismissive of this woman seeking help for her daughter, who has a demon .  Now, what do we do with this?

I am of the opinion that this is a rather significant moment in the life of Jesus.  You see, according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus' ministry, healing, and preaching have, up to this point in the Gospel, been primarily directed to those who are Jewish, those who he calls "children".  The woman, and her daughter are Greek, of Syrophoenician origin. In other words, she is a Gentile, a non-Jew.  And Jesus had, until now, not brought his message of salvation to those outside the Jewish faith.  

In my estimation, I believe that Jesus, through His own faith and trust in the Father, experiences this woman's faith as an opening up of his ministry, one that takes his mission beyond simply the Jewish people to Gentiles as well.  For from this point on in Mark, Jesus begins expanding his mission to Gentiles as well.  

This can be very helpful for us as we consider our own journey of faith and discipleship.  Jesus was a model of faithfulness.  Jesus models an openness to God doing a new thing in his own life.  As we grow in following Jesus we will find that just as the Father opened new paths of ministry for Jesus, then indeed the Father will do the same in our lives. 

Father God, help us to be open to your ways in our lives, especially those that are new. Amen.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Devotion for Friday, March 24


When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." 
(Mark 6: 35-36)

The feeding of the 5000 is a wonderful and well-known story from scripture.  I have absolutely no problem believing it as a miracle.  Jesus, the Lord of creation, could easily have transformed five loaves and two fish into a bounteous feast, enough for everyone.  Not an issue for me.

For others, well, this becomes a stumbling block for them in relating to Jesus.  And I get it.  I truly do. I've heard the following, alternative, interpretation of the story and I find it to be a welcome interpretation.  Why? Because I believe it has something meaningful to say to us, perhaps even more than a miracle of Jesus will.

The reading says that disciples ask Jesus to send the folks away so that they can "buy something for themselves to eat."  The assumption here is that everyone should go their own way and be responsible only for themselves and their food.  Jesus, however, offers another possibility, one that powerfully models the purpose and power of the kingdom of God.

When Jesus says, "You give them something to eat" could it be that he was suggesting we use what we have to take care of each other, feed each other, and share with each other instead of just going our separate ways? Could it be that Jesus is inviting us to experience what life in the kingdom of God looks like? 

What if the act of Jesus blessing and sharing the loaves and fishes was to model for his disciples and inspire everyone else to share their food with each other? By doing so, there was not only enough, but plenty leftover. 

It could have simply been an awesome miracle.  Or it could be another kind of miracle; one where we learn to share, to love each other, and to use what God has first given us to be blessings to others in our world.  As we do what Jesus invites us to do, we will come to find that we not only enough for all of us, but in fact we have an abundance.  This is what life in the kingdom of God can be!

God of abundance, work the miracle of faith and loving of neighbor in my life. Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Devotion for Thursday, March 23


"Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob" (Psalm 81:1)

The word shout is interesting to me here.  When shouting occurs in our world it is generally seen as something not pleasant.  Shouting in the home means that either your kids are not listening, you are trying to communicate up two flights of stairs to someone, or else the wife is rather perturbed about the husband not doing the things around the house he said he would (from personal experience).

In any case, when the psalmist writes that we are to "shout for joy" I take this to be akin to what happens when I'm watching the Redskins or Duke.  I shout mostly in frustration (for example, last Sunday night when Duke lost to South Carolina).  Still, I will shout for joy as well.  I've often wondered, "Why don't I shout for Jesus?"

This may be a bit disturbing to others in our culture, but hey it could be a lot of fun.  When someone tells you about a great blessing why not shout "Whoo hoo!" just like I would with a Redskins touchdown.  When someone tells you about an amazing peace they have come to experience in their life, why not shout, "Yeah, baby, that's what I'm talking about Jesus! You da man!"

Of course, people may think we're crazy.  But I don't know, maybe they will be edified and do it themselves.  Next thing you know people could be shouting to the Lord all over, and wouldn't that truly be something to shout about?

Lord, may we shout our praise and thankfulness to you always and in all ways. Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Devotion for Wednesday, March 22


Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55: 1-2)

One of the devotions that I am reading this Lenten season is A Way Other Than Our Own by Walter Brueggemann.  As perhaps the preeminent Old Testament theologian of the 20th century, Dr. Brueggemann challenges and delights in his expositions.

I was fortunate to have taken Old Testament theology with him during my second year of seminary in Atlanta.  Later on, after he moved to Cincinnati, I was blessed to form a friendship with him.  Our love of baseball and Jesus brought us together.  He is a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan and I attended a Cards-Reds game with him.  We sat in the 4th row behind the Cardinals dugout.  I am not sure what excited me more ... sitting beside Walter or seeing Albert Pujols up close.

In one of the Lenten devotions he writes these words,

"Lent is a question, a gift and a summons. The questions of Lent are: What are we doing? Are we working for that which does not satisfy?  Are we spending for that which is not bread?  The gifts of Lent are free, gifts in the gospel that sustain life: free wine and milk, free water and bread, all the markings of sacrament. The summons of Lent is to bear new fruit. Do what is in sync with the God of the gospel, the God who has another intention for our lives, who wants us out of the rat-race of big is better."

Are you asking the questions of Lent? Are you receiving the free gifts of God's abundant grace and love? Are you bearing fruit through lives turned again toward God?

You are the God who disrupts our lives with an invitation. During this season of Lent, may we stop and may we start again: may we stop our strivings marked by greed and anxiety, may we start again the work of compassion and generosity. Amen (prayer by Walter Brueggemann).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Devotion for Tuesday, March 21


When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." 
(Mark 6: 35-36)

The feeding of the 5000 is a wonderful and well-known story from scripture.  I have absolutely no problem believing it as a miracle.  Jesus, the Lord of creation, could easily have transformed five loaves and two fish into a bounteous feast, enough for everyone.  Not an issue for me.

For others, well, this becomes a stumbling block for them in relating to Jesus.  And I get it.  I truly do.  I've heard the following interpretation of the story.  It is a welcome interpretation for me because it has something meaningful to say to us, perhaps even more than a miracle of Jesus can.

The reading says that disciples ask Jesus to send the folks away so that they can "buy something for themselves to eat."  The assumption here is that everyone should go their own way and be responsible only for themselves and their food.  Jesus, however, offers another possibility, one that more powerfully resembles the purpose and power of the kingdom of God.

When Jesus says, "You give them something to eat" could it be that he was suggesting what life in the kingdom of God looks like; a place where we take care of each other, we feed each other, and we share with each other instead of just going our separate ways? 

What if the act of Jesus blessing and sharing the loaves and fishes was to model for his disciples and inspire everyone else to share their food with each other? By doing so, there was not only enough, but plenty of leftover. 

It could have simply been an awesome miracle.  Or it could be another kind of miracle, one where we learn to share, to love each other, and to use what God has first given us to be blessings to others in our world.  When we do, we come to find that we not only enough, we have an abundance.  This is what life in the kingdom of God can be!

God of abundance, work the miracle of faith and loving of neighbor in my life. Amen.