Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 36


 

Psalm 36:1-12

Key Verses: 36:5-6

“But your loyal love, Lord, extends to the skies; your faithfulness reaches the clouds. Your righteousness is like the strongest mountains; your justice is like the deepest sea. Lord, you save both humans and animals.” CEB

The Psalmist paints a picture for us of a world which does not go untouched by God. A world that is made up of the very attributes of God the foundations of the mountains, the bedrock upon which we all walk is God’s righteousness. We all live in the shadow of the righteousness of God. As God’s people we are to be like valley pools reflecting that righteous so all the world can see it in us. Living right, acting right, speaking right, loving right – reflecting the very character of God at all times in all things.

God’s steadfast love, God’s faithfulness, is in the air we breathe. Each time we breathe in we experience that love. What does that even mean we the cry of those who are desperate, is, “I can’t breathe!” So many are suffocating right now, how can we extend God’s loyal, steadfast love to everyone? No one should be unable to breathe in God’s life giving breathe. It was imparted to us all on the day of our creation. God’s steadfast love is all around, filling the very air we breathe to deny anyone that breath is to refuse them what was given to them by God at creation.

God’s justice, which is what those who have been denied the breath of God’s steadfast love are asking for, is as deep and wide as the ocean. We live on a blue planet because our planet is literally covered by its seas. God’s justice is what covers this earth, colors this earth. The picture the Psalmist is painting is one in which the entire earth is covered and colored by God’s justice only happens when God’s love is lived out, when the very laws of the heavens are made manifest in the hearts and lives of God’s people. The systems must be redeemed and transformed just as individual lives are transformed. First lives are transformed and then the world is transformed in and through transformed people. When we all love like God loves, when we agents of God’s steadfast love, righteousness and justice, transformed people can then dismantle the broken systems and then they too can be redeemed. First the hearts and lives of individuals are transformed, and then the make up of our world can also be redeemed, the foundations of our societies, the heart of our laws, and the fabric of our systems will begin to reflect God's righteousness, be covered in the deep unfathomableness of God’s justice and the very steadfast love of God will fill the lungs of all, and we will all able to breathe deeply

 

Thing to Think on

 What does it look like when the world is painted with God’s love, God’s righteousness and God’s justice?

What does it look like when all are able to find refuge under God’s wings?

 

A Prayer for Today

          Lord, so many can’t breathe right now; so many are unable to experience your justice, or your love. How then can we expect your justice to be known? What do I do? What can I do? How can I be transformed by you into an agent of your love, righteousness and justice? How do I live in such a way that I can help your redemptive work in this world? How do I live in such a way that the very fabric of my society, the foundations of the land in which I live are redeemed in turn? Shape me, change me into a person who reflects your holy character, who then goes into the world shaping and changing the world to also reflect your holiness. Let it be so, let it become so. - Amen

 

 


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

John 20:19-31: The Giving of the Spirit


This particular day in the life of the disciples, thus far, has been a long, roller coaster of a day. And the day’s not even over yet. It is the third day after Christ’s crucifixion. Early this morning Mary went to visit Jesus' tomb. But she came back fairly quickly, with a strange tale about the tomb being empty, “Come and see! What can it mean?” she said.

At this point Peter and John participated in a foot race to the tomb (which John won btdubs). They both returned confirming the woman’s tale. The tomb was indeed empty, Jesus' body was gone. Only Mary had stayed at the tomb to mourn this crushing new loss. When she finally returned she carried an even more fantastical tale about meeting a man, she mistook for a gardener, who turned out to be Jesus. “Jesus is not dead.” “The tomb is empty, because Jesus is not dead.” “He is alive!” “He has risen from the grave!” She kept just kept repeating over and over again,

Now it is evening and the believers are locked behind closed doors. Those who have gathered are made up of more than just the twelve (which would almost but not quite be an allowable gathering in these times). But the group is actually quite a bit larger that; there are the women who have been with Jesus throughout his journeys, along with several others who have come to believe, such as Lazarus and Nicodemus. This whole group is hiding behind locked doors.

What was going on behind this locked door? The passage tells us they are afraid. What kind of fresh danger is awaiting them? Could those who plotted to have Jesus killed, be even now plotting to come after them? What do they think happened to Jesus’ body? Do the Jews blame them? Will the Jewish leaders come after them demanding they turn over the missing corpse? What will they do when the body can’t be produced? And finally what do we do with Mary’s tale? Has she gone completely mad with grief? Did she see Jesus’ ghost, if so what would that even mean?  Can they, possibly, even remotely think to believe her? Do they dare hope that what she has said is true? What if she is telling the truth? What if Jesus is alive? What if the Messiah capable of conquering even his own death? If Jesus is really alive, where is he?

As they are attempting to process all that has occurred over the course of the past three days, the past week even, their minds cannot help but be dark and stormy seas of chaos and confusion. So much has happened since they arrived in Jerusalem just a week ago. They must be experiencing so many conflicting emotions. It all is swirling around inside of them threatening to overcome them. And then like the icing the craziness cake you have Mary's impossible tale. They are drowning in a whirlpool of the emotions, as they seek to make heads or tails of it all, suddenly Jesus is, right there in the room with them – standing right there. What are they thinking in this particular moment? Their dead, but now alive Messiah, just appeared in their midst.

“Didn't we lock that door?”

“How did he even get in here?”

“Whoa, wait he is really alive –  Mary isn't crazy!”

“Well, that's a relief.”

“Wait, wh. . . He is alive. He is here. I mean right here.”

All Jesus says at this point is “Peace be with you.” And then gives them proof he is exactly who he appears to be, who he seems to be, who they dare wish that he is. He allows them to see the holes in his hands and the cut in his side. He is the very same Jesus who died on the cross, which means he is the Jesus who has risen from the dead. They can see beyond a shadow of the doubt, which has been engulfing them all day, through undeniable proof that the man who stands among them, is Jesus Christ himself, raised from the dead, just as Mary had told them he was.

Then he says it again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus' words and Jesus' presence are there to give them relief, to calm their spirits, to allow them to be still within themselves and know, truly know that he is indeed alive. This is not supposed to send them into a tailspin; this is not to bring chaos into the turmoil within them. What he does here does not bring fear. Jesus has returned, and appeared among them, to bring them peace, the peace which only the God of universe, the creator of all things can bring to them, the peace only the resurrected Savior can impart.

With these four simple words not only are the turmoil and tempests within them calmed, but they become a sent people. For John, in the moment they become a sent people, they become the Church. In John’s understanding of the gospel it is in this moment, this ragtag band of disciples and believers gathered fearfully in that locked room, are no longer simply followers and disciples of Christ, they are the people sent by Christ, they are the Church. In this moment of sending, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you send,” they become the Church. And just like that the Church is birthed.

The meaning of what it means to be the Church is right here. The church is not this building. The Church is not what happens when we are together in one place (although, granted doing so is important), the Church is people who believe in and know the resurrected Christ and are sent into the world by that same Christ. In the Gospel of John, this is the “great commission,” This is John’s “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” moment.  This is John’s “you will be my witnesses,” speech. Jesus sends them into the world to teach what he taught, to live as he lived, to proclaim the resurrection to all who will listen. In this moment they become the image of God in Christ for the world; reflecting the Savior and their God in a world who truly knows neither. 

At this point it would be so easy to just jump to, skip the next bit, because although the whole middle part of this day was the most confusing, difficult part for these early believers to go through, this next part of the passage is probably the most difficult for us as modern believers. So although jumping right over this whole bit and proceeding to the part about Thomas would be easier, not to mention a whole lot of fun. Anyway I am going charge right on ahead and take this next part head on. This next bit is difficult because it is hard to deal with the fact that John tells Jesus’ story completely differently than other three Gospels. Most importantly he tells the story differently than Luke, and how Luke recorded events in his gospel and then in Acts. And we really like the way Acts tells it. And that's OK. We can like the way Luke records things better and we may even believe his way is more historically accurate one. In doing so we cannot ignore John or discount the way John tells things. The way he represents the events is no less true or valuable to the Church.

Whew, here we go. After Jesus has calmed their fears, brought them peace, and declares them to be a sent people, he breathes on them and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. Yep, that’s right, the newly resurrected Lord instills the Spirit of God within his followers, the newly declared Church on the very same day as his own resurrection.  This not the traditional way we are used to hearing about the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit, which in Acts happens on the Day of Pentecost. John relates the story “a little” differently; with Jesus giving the disciples the Spirit when he appears among them on the evening of his resurrection.

In John’s gospel, Resurrection Sunday is a big day. In John’s mind this is the one day changes everything forever. It is the day of the resurrection, the day when Christians become Christians, because it is the resurrection after all which makes us Christians. It is also day on which the Church become the Church, by being sent by the new resurrection Lord on Easter evening. Finally, it is also the day when the Church receives the gift of the Spirit, and the Church becomes the Spirit filled community of believers which will thrive and grow and spread to the far reaches of the earth. You know, the Church as we all know it today.

John truncates the events and piles all the important things here on the day of the Resurrection, because for him is THE DAY, the day that really matters.  It is the day which changes everything. So here when John recounts the events of the Resurrection, he puts all the most important things on Resurrection day.

So, Jesus breathes on the disciples. The newly declared, sent Church receives the Spirit. The words, which John uses to describe these events, are the words of creation. On the final day of creation God reached down into the dust and formed a human and once God had finished creating the human, God leans over and breaths into the human, bringing the human to life. It is when God breaths God's own breath into humanity that all humans gained life.

The language John uses here on the first day of the resurrection of the Christ is the language creation. This is the first day of the new creation and Jesus Christ breathes life into his followers, into the Church, life. Here on the evening of the resurrection new creation has begun, this day marks a new beginning not only for Jesus Christ, and for the Church, but for all creation. Just as was done on the day humanity was created, life is given. This time, new life is breathed into the Church, reconnecting us to all who we were at creation; filling us once again, in a new way, with the breath of God.

Jesus is giving us a chance to begin anew, in him. Through Jesus, we are brought close to God in a way we have not known since the Garden. When Jesus breaths on these first Christians, they are filled with the very breath of God, the Spirit of God flows within them. It is God's own breath which gives the believers in the resurrected Christ life. Through the infilling of the breath the resurrected savior humanity is able to regain the hope, lost in the Fall.

The new life we find in Jesus Christ is found in the life giving Spirit.  Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with God is renewed and strengthened; we get a new start, a fresh life, a new beginning. We are re-created, we gain all that was lost in the Fall, we gain relationship with our God, we gain the ability to be God breathed people, who are inhabited by the very Spirit of God; living our lives reflecting the love of God and sharing that love with all those around us. We are able to live as we were created to live.

So ok now that we are all “ok” with John telling the story of the receiving of the Holy Spirit differently, we come to the next even harder bit. *deep breath*

As God breathed people we gain the power of God's own infilling, the power of the re-created life. The breath of God gives us the power to gain proper relationship with God, but as a Wiseman once said to a Spiderman, “with great power comes great power comes great responsibility.” The power gained in the God-breathed life has responsibilities as well.

The responsibility of the power is the power to forgive. Jesus tells us that whatever sins we forgive on earth will be forgiven. We are given the power to forgive; to see the faults in those around us, and forgive them. To turn to others and extend to them the forgiveness we ourselves have received from God. *another deep breath*

Ok we have the power, nay the privilege to extend God’s forgiveness, Christ’s forgiving power to those around us. But there is a flip side to every coin. Jesus also says any sins we retain, will be retained. This sounds like the ultimate power, which can be horribly abused. To refuse to forgive one who is seeking forgiveness! But this is not a power, which Jesus is giving us, which we can wield however we wish. This is a warning, a caution. Be careful to be abundant with this forgiveness, extravagant even. As people who are seeking to live as Christ lived, we are to be people of forgiveness but not retention. Jesus gives us the power to forgive and to not forgive. But we must know that when we do not forgive it means just as much as when we do forgive.

We can choose not to forgive but we are called to forgive as freely and generously as God forgives. Our forgiveness of others is a direct reflection of the forgiveness we know in God. Others will first know the love and forgiveness of God in how we love and how we forgive. When we choose not to forgive we are reflecting to those around us that God does not forgive.

And where ever we do not forgive others, that kind of un-forgiveness will be shown to us. God will retain what we retain. The measure which we use will be used on us. So we are to forgive as freely and boundlessly as we know God forgives, retaining nothing against others, as God has done with us.

 So our first response must always be forgiveness. We are to forgive because we have the power and the responsibility to forgive as Christ forgives. This is an extension of God’s love which God has shown to us. We, as Christ’s life breath, still living and moving on this earth, are to be Christ’s love and forgiveness here on earth. We love where Christ loves, and we forgive where Christ forgives. It is through us that those around not only know the love of God, but it also through us that they know of the forgiveness of God.

It is here, we, as followers of Christ receive the Spirit. It is here we become the Church. It is here that we learn what means to BE the Church. It means that we are a sent people. A people sent into the world by Christ, by God; sent into the world to love AND to forgive.


Manna for Today: Psalm 35


Psalm 35:1-28

Key Verses: 35:22-23a

“But you’ve seen it too, Lord. Don’t keep quiet about it. Please don’t be far from me, my Lord. Wake up! Get up and do justice for me;” CEB

If you have not, read the whole Psalm. 

As I was working through this Psalm I kept asking myself, “What kind of awful things must be happening to this person for him to desire not only for harm to happen to those who are moving against him, but to then ask God to do that harm.” He must be so desperate. He must feel so completely out of options. 

I am impressed with his honesty with God. He tells God exactly what he would like to see happen to all those who are hurting him. This person is desperate. He is hurting. He has nowhere to go. So, he goes to God. He asks, “How long will you, God, watch this happen?” He begs God to not “keep quiet.” 

Do something! 

Make justice happen me! 

Stand up for me! 

Speak up for me! 

Establish your justice!

I do not know if I have ever been so desperate that I have desired for God’s wrath to move against the one who has harmed me. I have wanted for someone to get what they deserved. But I believe, I can say when I am at my most honest with myself, and with God, when I have been hurt the most by another, I have never wanted harm to happened to that person. I do not think this is true for me because I am better than the Psalmist. I think it is because I have never been this desperate, the harms done to me, the threats I have faced are not as great, as terrible, as continual, or systematic. I believe that not having ever felt this way is a privilege not everyone experiences. And when I say that I have never felt this way or experienced harm this great, it is me speaking from that privilege.

These thoughts, these reactions, this intense desire for retribution and for justice comes from deep, continual, systematic harms, endured over and over again, throughout a lifetime. I can only imagine how silent God must seem in the face of that kind of harm, how far away. I can only pray with the Psalmist, with the one who has been hurt this deeply, who is this desperate and come alongside her as her alley and cry out for justice for her. I can only stand beside him asking for what it is he asks, crying for what he cries. I can say, “Do not be far away from these in pain, these who are desperate, my Lord.”  And fall on my face before God and humbly seek God’s guidance to be one who works to bring justice wherever there is injustice.  

 

Thing to Think on

How does the pleas of the Psalmist make you feel?

Have you ever felt this way?

What would you ask God for if you were being as honest as the Psalmist?

Are you as desperate, as hurt and misused as the Psalmist seems to be in this Psalm? If not, how can you stand with the Psalmist in his pain?

What would your prayer be, if you were praying a prayer on behalf of someone who finds themselves in a similar situation as the Psalmist?

 

 

A Prayer for Today

Oh Lord, O God, I can see the pain. I can see their anger. I can see the desperation. I can see the harm that is done. I do not always understand it all. I am might never fully understand what it means to walk around in someone else’s skin. But I can believe them when they tell me their stories. I can stand beside them and call for justice. Let your justice reign, let it be here on earth (in my nation) as it is in Heaven. Help me to understand how I can be a person who works to make your justice manifest in what ever small way I am able. Help me to stand with all those whom you stand. Let their prayers become my prayers. -Amen

 

 


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ascension Sunday Sermon: Acts 1:6-11 - Why Are You Staring at the Sky?


Acts 1:6-11

Star Wars, I know not all of you have seen Star Wars and many of you probably have no desire to ever see Star Wars, but I have seen Star Wars . . . once or twice in my lifetime.  So when I think of final words some scenes come to mind.  In the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) one of the last things Obi Wan Kenobi says to Luke Skywalker is, “Run, Luke, Run.”  Later on in the series right before Yoda dies he tells Luke, “pass on what you have learned.”  And then in the final scene of the third movie, after Darth Vader has turned from his evil ways and is dying, he uses his final words to say to Luke, “you were right, you were right about me, tell your sister you were right.”

I find it interesting that in this story about the young Luke Skywalker and his experiences in the universe as he strives to become a Jedi is that two of his mentors and his nemesis/Father, when leave Luke they do not give him a treatise on what is means to be a Jedi.  They do not instill in him the principles of what is good and what is evil, they do not give him a list of dos or don’ts, nor do they give him guidelines on how to be a good Jedi.  Obi Wan simply tells Luke to run, to protect himself to get out of there.  Yoda tells him to pass on what he knows, to make disciples, so to speak, so that others may know and others too can become what Luke is still in the process of becoming.  And the series ends with Darth Vader telling Luke to go tell his sister the good news that Luke was right, there was the possibility Vader’s redemption.  With their final words none of these characters instilled in Luke proper theology of what is good and evil; they gave no commandments, no platitudes. They simply gave instructions to go, to share, to tell. 

Now many would say George Lucas, the writer behind the Star Wars series, made many mistakes as he made his movies, but I would argue he is onto something here, when it comes to how his characters use their final words. Although fictitious, Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Darth Vader follow a pattern when it comes to last words, which is the pattern of our Lord as recorded here in Acts. Jesus says some final things to his disciples. He says, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Jesus gives them instructions about what they should do. They are to wait in Jerusalem and then they should go out and be witnesses first in in the city they are in and then to the surrounding areas and eventually as they move out, reach toward the ends of the earth. 

Obi- wan told Luke to “Run,” Yoda told him to “pass on what you have learned,” and Darth Vader told him to go “tell” his sister and here Jesus tells his disciples to go and then go some more. Jesus does not give them proper theology, memorable aphorisms, or guidelines for Holy living. He does not give them a business plan; he does not outline a target demographic he gives them simple easy to follow instructions.  Go to Jerusalem, receive the Holy Spirit, and then go and be witnesses.

Once Jesus is finished saying this, he rises into the sky and is taken from their sight. It is interesting to see what the disciples do then.  They stare into the heavens. Directly after saying these words, Jesus leaves them. He rises into the sky and is hidden from their vision by a cloud. This is similar to what happened during the transfiguration, when Jesus was hidden by a cloud while he is chatting with Moses and Elijah.  Last time Jesus did this, cool things happened. Last time this happened, Jesus was temporarily removed from their site, he was not gone forever as he was this time. So there is some reason they might have been waiting there expecting Jesus to re-emerge. Although unlike last Jesus gave them explicit instructions on what to do next. He had told them to go, and instead they were standing there staring into the sky.

When my girls were younger I could give one of them an explicit instruction.  “Take this to the kitchen.  Put it on the kitchen table and then come back here.”  Not even five minutes later I would find her on the front porch playing with her jump rope and the item I handed her is nowhere in sight.  “Where is it?  “I don’t know.”  “What did you do?”  “I went into the kitchen and saw my rope and came out here.”  “What and where did you put the thing I gave you?” “You gave me something?”  “Yes.”  And where do you think we finally find it?  On the table?  NO!  In the kitchen?  Of course not.  Somewhere between the kitchen and the porch? No that would make too much sense.  I would find it upstairs on her bed, where she had put it after picking up the rope and going in search of shoes and socks.  At least she had shoes and socks on, I guess.

In my imaginings Jesus must have felt very similar to the way I did when these things happened in my household, that day as he looked at his disciples after his ascension.  Were they doing what he told them to do?  Were they going to Jerusalem?  No they were just standing there.  Standing there looking at the spot where they had seen him last.  Staring at the sky, doing nothing.  Not going, not waiting, and not going to Jerusalem. Who knows how long they would have stood there, not doing anything, not doing what they were explicitly told to do, just staring at the place where Jesus had been, waiting for him to come back, expecting him to appear.  Standing there, looking for Jesus in a place where he was not to be found. 

Thankfully we will not know the full extent of the disciples’ foolishness as stood there looking in to the empty sky for an undetermined amount of time, because their skyward meditation is interrupted by an angel, who took their eyes off the empty heavens and reminded them that they were given instructions.  The angel asks them why were they are still standing there staring at the sky. He tells them they needed to get about doing what Jesus had told them to do. Before they go the angel reassures them that although Jesus will return, it is not going to be right now, so stop staring at the sky and move along.

It is easy to laugh at how silly the disciples were, how ridiculous they must have looked staring at a vacant sky.  It is easy to roll our eyes at their thoughts that Jesus was going to reappear right there, where they had last seen him.  But the fact of the matter is, far too often we are not all that different than the disciples.  We too can find ourselves staring at the clouds looking for something that is no longer there, instead of moving forward and acting upon what Jesus is calling us to do now. 

Whenever we find ourselves sitting around waiting for something that is gone to come back, whenever we are hoping for something we can no long have, whenever are looking backwards at the way things used to be, wishing for them to return, we are  the disciples staring at the sky, staring at the place where Jesus used to be. Too often we spend our time staring at the sky so to speak; looking for Jesus to appear, or waiting for him to reappear in a place he once was. Jesus’ call upon the church, upon the lives Christian is always call to go forward, it always a call to go.

Too often we are figuratively staring at the sky wondering when Jesus is coming back or when we get to join him. We spend our time, and energy focused on self-preservation, and perpetuation. We spend so much of our time and thoughts on whether or not we will continue to be as we have always been; about mere existence, surviving as an entity. We want to get things back to the way they have always been, the way they used to be.

We as believers can find ourselves distracted, distracted by Jesus of all things, distract by looking for Jesus in the places where Jesus no longer is. That is what happened to the disciples here in this passage.  They were so distracted, focusing on where they had last seen Jesus; standing there waiting for him to continue to be where he once was, instead of doing what Jesus had instructed them to do. Any time our focus is on anything that is not on the call Jesus has for his Church, for his people, no matter how good, or important it might seem to be, it is an improper focus. 

Right now it is easy to get distracted with our desires to return to the familiar things, to get life and the things we do as a Church body back to they was they used to be. But trying to find Jesus in all the familiar places he used to be is turning our focus off of going and making disciples in the places we are right now. Our call is not to our Church buildings, to our sanctuaries to church the “way it has always been.” Our call is to going and to making disciples now, being the Church right now, the way things are now. Our gaze is a forward facing gaze, looking to where Jesus is calling us to be, and not looking backward facing gaze, focusing on where Jesus used to be. Jesus is directing our attention to the places to new places, to new things, not on the old ways and the old things.

The disciples were looking for Jesus to reappear where he used to be focusing on getting Jesus back, so things could go back to the way they were before, traveling around the countryside, listening to Jesus as he taught and watching when he healed them. But after the resurrection, after the ascension, things never went back to the way they were and that was fine. Thing did not need to go back, in fact they could not go back.

Jesus called them forward to something new. Jesus called them to go, to be the Church to make disciples. And it is turning away from the way things had always been and in the going, doing and being who Jesus was calling them to be now, that the Church was born. The church would never have come to be, as long as they stood there waiting for Jesus to return (they would still be there, standing, doing nothing, waiting for things to return to the way they were before).

We will go back to our sanctuaries but we should never be working or striving to get things back to the way they once were. Instead we are to always be focusing on where Jesus is calling us to go now. What new opportunities for discipleship does this “new normal” give us which were never open to us before?

Jesus had called his disciples to go and be witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judah, in Samaria, to the ends of the earth. They were told to go, be witnesses, make disciples, first in the city where they were, then to places nearby, and then to continue on until they had been everywhere and made disciples throughout the world. Sounds like something we might hear around here every once in a while.  Love God, God one another, and love our world, so that we can Christ-like disciples in Cambridge and all the world.

We do this by living the love of God, sharing the love of God and allowing people to experience the love of God in us and through us.  Let us all stop looking at the sky, trying to get back to the way things were, wondering when we can go back to our “old lives” putting our focus on returning to our sanctuaries, to our old activities and the way things used to be. Let us stop worrying about that which is not our goal or our focus our calling and move to do and be the disciples who are witnesses beginning in the places where we are now.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 27


Psalm 27:1-14

Key Verses: 27:13-14

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” ESV

There is a juxtaposition here. It says we will see God’s goodness in the land of the living. That means in the here and now. We can go forward knowing that we will not have to wait until we are dead to see God’s good work in this world, but that does not mean God will work right now. Or even when we would like God to work, and how we would like God to work.

Waiting is hard. We are not good at waiting. Right now, we can get almost anything, almost instantly. Amazon has an overnight delivery option, and you can get a microwave pancake in less than 20 seconds. We have been asked to wait for a lot of things right now. We have to wait to go to our favorite restaurant; wait to get to go visit our friends, and relatives; wait to get our hairs cut. Some of us are still waiting to return to our offices. Many of us continue to wait to return to our sanctuaries and buildings.

Here the psalmist tells us we must also wait on the Lord. Wait, hope, trust in the Lord. Wait knowing the Lord is at work even when we are unable to see it. Hope knowing God is the source of all redemption. Trust knowing God can work all things, even these things, together for good. God is at work, and we are called to trust, hope and wait, so we can see what God is doing. When we see where God is at work, we can join the work of the Lord, instead of running out ahead, thinking we know the way, believing we know where God is going. We can’t get there ahead of God. We cannot lead. We can only wait and then once we see the way in which God is moving, we can follow.

 

Thing to Think on

What does the goodness of God look like?

When we see God at work, does God always work in the ways we would expect?

Do you find hope in knowing you will see God’s goodness here in this life?

What does waiting for God look like for you today?

Are you trying to run ahead, expecting God to catch up to you?

What would it mean for you to change what you are doing so that you are catching up to God?

 

 

A Prayer for Today

Lord God, I hate waiting. Waiting is hard. Why can’t you work in then ways I want you to work, when I want you to work? I want things fixed now. I want things to be set right. You want things set right too. When your timing is not my timing, I find that hard. I get impatient. Help me to not run ahead. Help me to be patient. Help me to look for you; to see where it is you are going and follow along behind, patiently, trusting you will bring redemption to all things, even everything that is going on right now. I find hope in knowing you are working, that you are at work. Help me also to trust and to wait. - Amen

 

 

 

 


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 9 (again)


I realized after I wrote this that I had done Psalm 9 on Friday, and failed to move to a different Psalm today. Since God is always speaking through scripture and each Psalm can teach us many truths about God, this is a completely different devotional on the same Psalm. God is good and is continually revealing God's self to us in new and amazing ways. - Blessings 


Psalm 9:1-20

Key Verses: 9:8-9

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” NLT

          God is a shelter to those who society is actively working against. God is a home for anyone who is ridiculed and abandoned by the world around them, by those who should be striving to make things right in the midst of a world that seems to only know what is wrong. God is our refuge in times of trouble. Even, especially when everything is falling apart, the world around us seems too crazy, too scary, or just simply too much for us to bear. God is a stronghold in the middle of the chaos, a safe place in the middle of the storm. Even when no one else will seek to make right the wrongs, God is working to do so.

God is there for all of us who are seeking God. God will not fail us. God will not walk away from us. God will not leave us to figure things out on our own. God is there. Although the storm may rage, all though life will be difficult and we are sure we will lose our way, God will be our safe place. We can count on and rely on God in all thing and to help us make it through all things. So when everything seems to be too much, know you are not left alone, you do not have to make it through on your own. God is with you, God has not left you. God is the shelter and the refuge you need right now.

Thing to Think on

Does it give you comfort that God judges with justice and fairness, even when our system does not?

What does it mean for you to know that God is a shelter for those who are oppressed?

Do you find refuge in God when you are struggling?

In what ways do you feel you need to know God’s mercy in your life?

Do you feel as if you are being judged with justice and fairness right now?

Can you find ways to praise God in the midst of whatever struggles you are facing today?

 

 

A Prayer for Today

Lord, you are a good God. You are there for those who need you most and I know you are here for me as well. Lord, the chaos which surrounds me sometimes feels too much to bear. The struggles I am going through are too difficult. All I see before me is darkness and hardship. Show me your shelter. Let me know in what ways you are my refuge. Let me see you there with me in the midst of the storm, a safe place where I can rest and find new strength. Thank you for being here. Thank you for caring for me and taking care of me. I am thankful for all the ways you bring your mercy, your justice, your righteous and goodness into this world and into my life.  - Amen

 

 

 

 


Friday, May 22, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 9


Psalm 9:1-20

Key Verses: 9:1-2

“I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will talk about all your wonderful acts. I will celebrate and rejoice in you; I will sing praises to your name, Most High.” CEB

Being thankful is something we usually think about, around thanksgiving, but it is not an activity which should regulate to the month of November. Being thankful is a year round activity. God is the originator of all good things and the creator of all things. As Christians being thankful to God for the good things with which we are surrounded is a part of what it means to love God. Each day brings its own joys, its own beauty, its own blessings. Each day we should be conscious of this. We should take time to thank God for the joys in our lives, as well as the small pleasures we run across throughout the course of our days, thank God for them as they come our way. When we take time to pay attention to the joy, the beauty, the small blessings which fill our days and give thanks to God for them, even our hardest days, and our most difficult seasons, we will see God fills our lives with so much goodness. Recognizing this goodness, acknowledging these blessings and being thankful to the God who provides them, will not make the hardships we face any easier, but it will make these times more bearable as we become away that the difficulty, the pain and the darkness are not the only things filling our lives.

 

Thing to Think on

Be aware today, pay attention. Notice the small joys, and the little blessings that fill your day.

When you notice something good, something beautiful, something the brings your joy, makes you laugh, or even just brings a smile to your face, take a moment and thank God.

Make this a habit, so that when are find yourself in difficult times you will be more apt to notice the beauty, even in the darkness.

 

A Prayer for Today

Thank you, Lord, for waking me up this morning. Thank you for giving me another day to live in your love, experience your mercy and to walk in your grace. Thank you for all the ways you fill my life with goodness. Thank you for birds that sing, for friends and family who love and care for me. Thank you for a home in which to live and food for each meal. Thank you for continually filling my life with good things. Help me pay attention, help me to be aware how truly blessed I am and many ways you fill my life with your goodness. -Amen