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




Thursday, May 21, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 8

Psalm 8:1-9

Key Verses: 8:3

“When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made—the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—”  

All that God has made is good and beautiful. When we look at the natural world around us, we can see reflections of the glory of God. We see glimpses of the beauty of God in the stars and the flowers, the power of God in the Sun and the storm, we can see the gentleness of God in a summer breeze and a bumble bee’s wings. God’s creation is truly amazing and wonderful. We are continually surrounded by creation. We see it every day. And because it is always with us always surrounding us we forget that every inch of it shows us shadows of who God is and reveal to us truths about God’s character. Every bird, every flower, all of it is evidence of the magnificence of God. As you move through your day today pay attention; listen to the bird sing, pay attention to the delicate nature of a flower, look to the sky and ponder the infinite beauty that is always above our heads. God is good. God is beautiful. God is amazing. We can see God’s glory and God’s character in all of creation, if only we take the time to pay attention.


Thing to Think on

How often do you pay attention to God’s creation which surrounds you?

When you stop and pay attention what do you see? What do you hear?

What is God revealing to you today in and through creation?



A Prayer for Today

“For the beauty of the earth. . .” Lord, your world is beautiful. All you have created is amazing and good. Thank you for revealing yourself in so many ways. Thank you for showing me your glory in the stars, your beauty in a flower, and your gentleness in a soft breeze. Help me to see fingerprints of the creator in all creation and to give you praise for all the ways you continually show me who you are through the world around me. You are amazing and good and full of glory. I see this in all you have done and all you have created. Thank you. - Amen


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 7

Psalm 7:1-17

Key Verses: 2:3

“O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands,” ESV 

Here in this psalm, the psalmist is willing to admit he might be in the wrong and is willing to be held accountable for what he has done wrong. It is hard to admit we might be wrong. It is even more so when we believe that we are in the right or have failed in any way. As people who follow God and who seek to follow Christ’s example of righteousness and and humility in our own lives, part of being righteous and humble is being able to admit that it is possible that we are in the wrong. We must see that there are times that even as it is our desire to do right in all things that sometimes we fail, sometimes we do not fully reflect the character of Jesus Christ in our own lives. We are not always aware of these failing. We may have strived to do right by others, but even with our good intentions, we have hurt someone else or done wrong by them in some way. Even when we do not see what we have done as hurtful or wrong, we, in our striving to be like Christ in all ways, should apologize and work to make things right.


Thing to Think on

Is it hard for you to admit when you are wrong?

Are you willing to take on the consequences of your doing wrong, even when you do not believe you have done so?

What would it look like for you to seek to make something right for someone who believe you have wronged them today?



A Prayer for Today

I try hard to be the person you are calling me to be. I want to reflect the righteousness of Jesus in my own life. I want to do what is right. Lord, help me to admit that even in my striving, even in my desire for what is right, I may sometimes fail. Help me to do better. Teach me to be better. And Lord, help me to humbly admit my failings to you and to those I may have wronged. Help me to make right the things I have done wrong and work to make restitution to those I have wronged. - Amen

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 2

Psalm 2:1-12

Key Verses: 2:1, 10

“Why do the nations plot, and why do their people make useless plans? Be smart, all you rulers, and pay close attention. Serve and honor the Lord; be glad and tremble.” CEV 

Right now it seems we live in a maelstrom of ideas, of plans, controversies. It seems everyone is plotting against everyone else. Everyone is taking sides.  We have all come to believe that those on the other are not thinking. They are allowing themselves to be led by people who do not have all of our best interests in mind. They are not listening to reason, or seeing things clearly. While at the same time believing that we alone, and those who see things the way we do, are the ones who have a correct understanding of what is going on and what needs to be done. 

Everyone believes we ourselves have the proper plan for what needs to happen and how it needs to happen. The air is buzzing with the discontent and the vitriol which is being passed back and forth. Each of us thinks we alone, and those who are on “our side” have the best grasp of what is really going on and what needs to be done. But in truth none of us truly do. 

God is the only one who truly sees, and truly understands. In the end the only side it profits to be on is God’s. And before we all pick God up like a rope each one pulling on a different end attempting to claim God is has sided with us. God is not on any side, God does not take sides. We must align ourselves with God, not work to have God aligned with us. We must move away from our plotting and planning and instead move to stand with God. We can never make ourselves right, we can only work to be aligned with the one who is Right.


Thing to Think on

How do you see the situations in the world right now?

Do you believe that you have a good understanding of what the right thing to do is?

What do you think about what “the other side” believes?

What do you think about people who believe differently than you?

What is the difference between claiming God agrees with you and what you believe and aligning yourself with God?

Would aligning yourself with God change what you think? Would it change what you do? Would it change what you think about those who disagree with you? Would it change how your treat them?



A Prayer for Today

Lord, the things that are going on are so big. There are so many people who speak with such confidence, knowing the right things to do, have plans about what they believe needs to be done. Some of these people call themselves Christians and they believe differently than me. They believe what they believe as passionately as I do, sometimes even more so. Help me to behave charitably and with respect to those who see things differently. They very well may also believe they are doing what you would have them do. We both may be wrong. Help me to look to you for answers. I want to be on your side. I want to do what is right, what is righteous. I want do what it is you would do. Help me to follow Christ’s example; love as he loved, and to show mercy as he showed mercy, even to those who disagree with me. - Amen

Monday, May 18, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 17

Psalm 17:1-15

Key Verses: 17:7

“Manifest your faithful love in amazing ways because you are the one who saves those who take refuge in you, saving them from their attackers by your strong hand.” CEB 

“Listen to what I am saying!” “Listen closely to my prayers!” This is our cry when we are desperate. Sometimes when we are hurting; when the situation in which we find ourselves seems to have no positive outcome; or when we are at our wits end, it feels like God is not paying attention. It feels as if God is only half listening. So in our desperation we join our cries with that of the Psalmist, asking God to listen, to pay attention. We know God’s love is faithful, and we know God can do amazing things, but it seems those ways are not inclined in our direction, it seems as if God’s love is being given to another and we need just a little bit of it right now. Manifest your love over here we say. God we know you are the who saves, come save us. We know your hand is strong. Let us see how strong it is. When we feel God is not paying attention (even though we know God is), it is ok to let God know you feel this way. It is ok to ask God to listen when you feel God is not paying attention.


Thing to Think on

Does it feel to you like sometimes others get more of God than you do?

In what way would you want to see God’s strength, God’s grace, God’s love today?

Tell God what you want, what you need today?

Ask God to listen.


A Prayer for Today

Oh Lord, there are so many things in my life which seem too big for me, so many things which over whelm me. I know they are not too big for you. I know you are not overwhelmed by them. Right now, it seems you are not there. It seems as if you are distracted by other things right now, by things, by situations, that may be more important or more desperate than I am. But I am hurting. I am desperate. Look at me. Pay attention to what is going on in my life. Hear my prayers, pay close attention to my cries. I need to experience your faithful love, know your strength and see the amazing ways you can work in this world. I trust you. Help me to trust you more. - Amen

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 16

Psalm 16:1-11

Key Verses: 16:1-2

“Protect me, Lord God! I run to you for safety, and I have said, ‘Only you are my Lord! Every good thing I have is a gift from you.’” CEV 

How many times have we run to God, as a child runs to the safe arms of a parent? As God’s children, we are to trust God as implicitly as a small child trust his mother. There are so many place we turn first. To logic, to money, to the wisdom of others, to commonly accepted understandings of our society, we turn everywhere but God. And when we finally decide to come to God with our cares, we com reluctantly, as if we have given up and this is our last resort. “I guess if I can not figure this out myself, I will tur to God an see what God can do. When we come to realize that every good thing in our lives ultimately comes from God, we then can realize that it is to God to whom we should turn first. Relying on God should be our first instinct and not our last resort. God is a loving, kind, parent, who is continually seeking our best. Trust and reliance on God should be as instinctual as it is for an infant to trust her mother. God is our  strong mother and our caring father, who is there for us from the moment we open our eyes, until at last we close them and who is close by all through the night. All the good things which fill each of our days ultimately are gifts from God.


Thing to Think on

What would it mean for you to trust God as an infant trusts a parent?

How would that kind of trust in God change what you do?

What would it look life if God was all you wanted?

What would it mean for your daily actions, if your heart’s desire was firstly for the things of God and al other things secondary?

How does it change the way you think about being chosen by God to know that being chosen by God means that you in turn chose God?

What would it mean for God to be your first choice?


A Prayer for Today

Lord, I run to so many things. Too often I chose other things. And when I do chose you, I do not chose you first, I chose you third or fourth. Sometimes, I confess, you are my last choice. I want you to be my first desire, but the desires that fill this world are so easy to turn to. They are here at hand and I see them first and turn to them instead of you. Help me to learn to run to you. Help me to trust you implicitly and whole heartedly, with all things, in all things. Help my faith in you be my first reaction and not my final one. Help me to see all the joys in my life as coming from you and through this recognition learn to trust you in all things. - Amen

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 15

Psalm 15:1-5

Key Verses: 14:1-3

“Who can live in your tent, Lord? Who can dwell on your holy mountain? The person who lives free of blame, does what is right, and speaks the truth sincerely; who does no damage with their talk, does no harm to a friend, doesn’t insult a neighbor;” CEB

A person who walks with God; who belongs to Jesus will reflect the character of God. Jesus told us this looks like loving God and loving others. In seeking to do what is right we are to seek the good of those around us. Even as we seek truth we should not do so for our own gain or to malign or do harm to another. Our words should be words which build others up. The words we should say, should neither be malicious gossip, nor those which demean, belittle or dehumanize other human beings. When we say, “I believe;” when we call ourselves a Christian, our actions, what we do with ourselves, how we live our lives, what we say, and how we act should match those of Jesus Christ. When we do this we are dwelling with God, and being the people Jesus calls us to be.


Thing to Think on

How can the truth become something that does damage?

How do we seek truth sincerely then? What does that look like for you in your life?

In what ways do you use your words to bring harm to others?

What can you do today to seek good for a friend or a neighbor?


A Prayer for Today

Lord, as I am seeking to live a righteous Christian life, it would be easy to become focused on my own inner life. How good and pious I am being. Sometimes it is easy to seek truth and how it can benefit me. Help me to look beyond myself, help me to see how I treat those around me as an extension of my relationship with you. I cannot be the person you call me to be if in my righteous living I do not seek the good of those around me. In my desire to do right by you, ignite in me a desire to do right by all others in my life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 14

Psalm 14:1-7

Key Verses: 14:5

“Count on it: they will be in utter panic because God is with the righteous generation.” CEV

This Psalm assumes anyone who is corrupt or does evil does not believe in God. Those who mistreat others, who devour the poor we know by their actions that they have turned against God. When God looks down upon those who do not live out the goodness and the righteousness of God are like fools who say, “There is no God.” When God looks down from Heaven upon you, let your actions speak of your belief and trust in God. What we say we believe is displayed in how we live, what say and what we do. Let us trust in God and not respond to the situations around us with panic. Let us work to help those who are struggling, work to life the poor out of poverty, and to bring relief to those who suffer, instead of devouring them like they were bread for our consumption. Let us reflect the love, the goodness and the righteousness of God in our lives, and thus with our lives say, “I believe in the one and only God, who is righteous and good.” Let our lives show that we are a part of “the righteous generation.” Let us live our faith in God in all we do.


Thing to Think on

What do your actions say about what you believe about God?

How can you live out your faith in God today?

In what ways can you work to alleviate suffering, speak for the poor and reach out to those around you with the love of God?



A Prayer for Today

Lord, our world is so full of people who say they believe in you, who say they are believers but their actions do not reflect who you are. It is so hard to tell the difference between those who love you and those who do not. Help me to not be discouraged by the actions of others, and to always choose to do what it right even when it seems no one else is. Show me how to live; how to act each day. Show me your righteousness so that I may too be righteous. If there is only one who follows you, let me be that one. - Amen

Monday, May 11, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 13

Psalm 13:1-6

Key Verses: 12:2

“How much longer, Lord, will you forget about me? Will it be forever? How long will you hide?” CEV

We look at everything is going on in our lives, in our world and wonder:

“Where is God?” “How long will God let this go on?” “How much longer must we endure under the current circumstances?” “How long do we need to continue to be confused and miserable?” “Is God hiding from us?” “Is God just standing by and allowing all this to happen and just play itself out?”

“Listen to us!” We cry. “Hear our prayers!” Even as we are uncertain about how God will move and act in these times, we call out knowing we can trust God. We lift our voices in prayer knowing God’s faithful love will bring redemption even to the situations in our lives and in our world right now. God’s light and God’s love can and will reach into the darkest places and bring light even to the most difficult of circumstances. We know we can rejoice in God’s saving works in this world and we will even as we stand in the midst of the darkness and chaos, will sing songs of praise to God, trusting that God, in God’s unfailing love will work to bring righteous, justice and redemption.


Thing to Think on

What do you feel God is forgetting? If you do not feel God is hiding? How do you feel? Do you feel abandoned by God? Lost from God?

Name how you are feeling about how God is or is not acting right now?

What would salvation and redemption look like for you right now?

How would you want God to act?

Let God know how you feel and what you want.

What does trusting God with all this look like for you?

Find a hymn which expresses how you trust God, sing it or read it to yourself.


A Prayer for Today

God, where are you right now? I am finding it hard to see your hand at work, in my life, in the world. It seems that everyone is turning against one another. Knowing who to believe and what to believe becomes harder and harder. I need you to make yourself known. I need to t see you are work in the world and in my life. I need to know you hear my cries and listen to my prayers. But I trust that you do. I know your love is unending and does not fail. I know you can and do and always will bring your goodness, righteousness and justice even to the places and situations which seem to be most void of it. I will trust that this is and will remain to be true. Help me to continue to trust you. - Amen

Sunday, May 10, 2020

1 Peter 2:2-10: Called Together


One of the images I have of the Church is that of a body breathing. I know breath is normally a symbol of the Spirit but as the Spirit moves, we move with her. The Church breathes in and we come together, for worship, for the studying of scripture, for prayer, for fellowship. The Church breaths out and we go out into the world, into our individual lives; into our jobs, our schools, our homes, our neighborhoods. The church is gathered and then she is scattered. In and out.

The last time we came together we were released, scattered and have not, as of yet, been able to come back together in one place. The Church is holding her breath, and we must, through the Spirit, continue to live in this unnatural state. We are perpetually living as a scattered people, unsure of when we will physically be gathered back together again.

In his two New Testament letters, Peter, wrote to the Christian diaspora, which is Christians scattered across Asia Minor. Christians living isolated, and scattered. They too were dispersed. Peter challenged these scattered believers to hold steady in the face of a serious challenge to their stability, their effectiveness, their message. Peter’s same message to these scattered people across Asia Minor, continues to speak to us in our situation in these times as we too are dispersed and scattered.

In the opening words of this letter, Peter addresses the Christians as people who have been chosen by God (1 Peter 1:2). In the midst of mounting hardships, Peter reminds these early dispersed Christians of their true identity. They are the New Israel. Through Christ they are related directly to the promises of God in the Old Testament. They are the new people of God being shaped and formed in the image of Christ, living out his holiness in all the varying places they are.

Peter makes it clear to his readers just as the first Israelites were, through the Exodus, they did not come to be the people of God on their own initiative. They are a God initiated people. They are a chosen people. They are a grace-formed people, formed out of and in the mercy and grace of God. They are drawn together by God to be a holy people who live for God and live out the character of God among the nations.

As God’s people, they are not the source of their own existence nor are they the source of the message they carry. God has called them into being, as God’s people. They are shaped and formed by God. It is in God and through God they find their identity, as the people of God.

Peter writes this letter to the people of churches in Asia Minor, when he addresses them as God’s chosen, this address is not to them as individuals but to them as the Church. Each one us is called into something greater than ourselves. We are called to be children of God, part of family part of a whole. And that whole is the Church, the people of God.

 Peter is speaking to the Church, whom God has brought into being “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” This choosing is not unique to just the believers to whom Peter wrote. This is the common heritage of all God’s people throughout the generations. As Christians in our own era, this is our heritage as well. God is the initiator, the originator of our redemption. God has chosen us, together, to be the Church; to continue to be the people of God, in all the places we are, even as we are scattered.

Writing to scattered and often isolated people dispersed, across the empire, Peter encouraged their faith in the midst of trying circumstances. You are not alone, he said. You belong to God, and you form a new people—the people of God. Peter expresses this gripping reality: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (2:10). God shaped and formed them together even as they were apart.

In our separation, we too may feel that we are currently, not-a-people. We are scattered, we are dispersed. We feel alone and are isolated one from another and it is into this reality the words of God come to us, “you were once not a people but now you are the people of God.” In God through God we are united, we are joined, even in our separation, even in our isolation, when we seem to be the most “not-a-people” as we can be, God continues to call us together, to form us into the people of God.

No matter how far apart we are, no matter how separated, and scattered, we continue to be united as God’s people. The current physical separation which we as the members of God’s church are experiencing does not change the reality that God has shaped us and continues to shape us into people the people of God, Christ’s body, the Church. Nothing which God has joined together, as we are, can be truly separated.

Here in this passage, Peter asserts a significant aspect of what it means to be a chosen people, united by God, when he says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. . .” (2:9). Peter is once again alluding to the people of Israel, who had recently escaped from Egypt, in the Exodus. Through a miracle of God, they had just come across the sea and were camped at Mount Sinai, and the Lord spoke through Moses saying: “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Peter echoed God’s words given to the newly formed people of Israel, boldly claiming it for all believers, telling them, telling us that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (2:9). Peter staked claim to the heritage of Israel and applied it to the Church. The Church is chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ. This is our heritage. This is our future. We are the holy people of God.

Just as God brought the descendants of Abraham out of the land of Egypt and formed them into a new people, God shaped and formed the Church. The newly formed people only were called to be a people but were called to be a priestly nation. As such they were to bring reach out to the people of the surrounding nations so that they might bring them into relationship with God. As a nation of priests, were to be an evangelical nation, continually living out God’s holiness before those around them, living out God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s justice before them in this way draw others into relationship with God. They were to show others in and through the way they lived who God was and thus bringing others into their people-hood, allowing others in them to also be formed into a people alongside themselves.

This evangelical priesthood to which the people of the nation of Israel were called is the call of all Christians everywhere. We too are to be a royal priesthood bringing others to Christ. This is what it means to be a holy nation; we are to be people who live God’s holiness in this world. We are to be people who bear the image of God to everyone around us, and as we are being shaped and formed together into God’s people, we are to continually be bringing others with us who then can also be shaped and formed as we, alongside us, together with us.

In the middle of the first chapter, Peter also made an appeal to the heritage of the people of Israel. He applies it directly to his readers: “Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16). The holiness to which Peter calls his readers is the heritage to which the Lord has called all Christians. We have made a conscious embrace of the call to holiness. This call is God’s call upon the life of all Christians everywhere. Living out God’s holiness is a part of what it means to be formed together as God’s people, as Christ’s body, as the Church.

We are all called to be a holy people. We are called to live out the holiness imparted to us by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and we are called to obedience to Jesus Christ. This is an obedience of love and compassion, of mercy and acceptance. This is an obedience of rugged resistance to sin in all its forms and resistance to conformity to the standards, and whims of the world around us. This is an obedience of radical surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, to Spirit-empowered living, to love in depth toward people of every kind. And this is an obedience of active engagement with the needs of people around us.

This wonderful grace of holiness, of entire sanctification, is more than just a nice idea. It is the way we are to live as a covenant community of faith, as the people of God. It is the call of Christ’s Church.  It is the corporate means by which we as persons are brought into personal encounter with the holiness of God and God’s sanctifying power. We evangelize the world in order to lead believers into a transforming encounter with the Holy God who desires to sanctify all people “through and through.”

Peter also tells us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people “in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are called out of our old ways of living into a new life and as we are called we are called to go. As a priesthood, we are a sent people. The holiness we received and into which we live, is not a possession for our own good. We are commissioned to proclaim God’s mighty acts. Having been chosen, redeemed, transformed, and sanctified, we are also sent. A choosing that is initially exclusive, in that we are a chosen people, but is ultimately inclusive. This choosing is not for us alone; it is for all the people of the world.

In his second letter Peter made this point abundantly clear: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). It is likely that Jesus told His disciples about the conversation He had with Nicodemus, as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter three. Peter had obviously come to embrace the passion of Jesus for the lost. The God who loved the world enough to send His one and only Son does not desire that any should perish! We are a chosen people called to expansion.

Our congregation’s mission is a bold and courageous one: To make Christ-like disciples in Cambridge and in all the world. But this is not just our mission; it is the bold mission of all Christians everywhere. We are the sent people of God, called to proclaim the riches of Christ’s grace to those around us. With the radical optimism of grace motivating us, we go in the power of the Spirit to take the world for Christ.

As we sit in our separate homes, participating in these “un-gathered gatherings,” worshiping together as the Church in our homes, in all the scattered and divers places we are, we must now more than ever know are formed and shaped by God, united together as the people, the Church. It may seem in our dispersal that we can be nothing, but we are not nothing, we are God’s people. We may feel as if we are not-a-people, but now more than ever, we must hear God’s words to us, as God declares us a people. God continue to shape and form us into God’s people, a holy people who are and continue to be a priestly people. God is transforming us today, in this time, in all our separated places, into the united people of God. We are the body breathed out into the world, scattered but not divided, separated but not asunder. Because of the grace and help of God we will continue to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (2:9). How we live now in our scattered-ness will be our witness to our families, our friends, our neighbors; to the world showing them exactly what the holiness of God looks like. Let us live out our calling in all things, at all times, even now.