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Saturday, October 27

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 88 & 86; Zephaniah 1:10-18; Luke 20:27-40; Romans 9:1-5

When I wrote yesterday’s entry regarding pastoral care issues surrounding the death of a loved one, I had no idea that this theme would carry through to today as well. For in this morning’s Gospel passage, Jesus’ give the Sadducees a lesson regarding death as well. Jesus’ teaching in today’s passage, however, is a difficult one for many folks at face value; consequently, it rarely gets used in pastoral care situations? And why is that? Well, in the passage the Sadducees try to trip Jesus up with a trick question involving a rather unusual scenario. They ask Jesus to pretend a woman married a man with 7 brothers, and the man later died. His widow then married the man’s next oldest surviving brother. Sometime later the woman’s second husband died. This process of the woman marrying her previous husband’s eldest surviving brother continued until the woman had married all seven brothers. “Which of the seven brothers,” the Sadducees asked, “would the widow be married to in the afterlife? Jesus responded by saying, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death” (Luke 34-35 from The Message). These words would cause an unprecedented amount of grief in many people who are banking upon the projection of relationships from this plane of existence into the next. So where are the words of comfort within the passage? Luke 20: 36, where Jesus continues, “They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God.” Isn’t that last sentence powerful – “all ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God”? What a wonderful description of heaven, or union with God! For the millionth time, our sacred readings remind us that our ways aren’t God’s ways: Gods ways are better! Next Thursday as we observe All Saints Day, I - like many of you - will remember and give thanks for my loved ones who have gone before me. As we do so, I pray that we will not only remember them but celebrate – yes, I said celebrate - the fact that now all of their ecstasies and intimacies are now with God. Perhaps that will put our thoughts into a healthier sense of perspective. Til next time…

Friday, October 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 83 & 4; Zephaniah 1:1-9; Luke 20:19-26; Romans 8:31-39

One of the most challenging moments for a pastor is sitting with a family member of a deceased person who is agonizing about the life and choices of their departed loved one. These thoughts end up leading them to wonder about the eternal well-being of their deceased loved one. At times like this, the grief of their loss is often compounded by their own theology. It’s at times such as this, when I turn to today’s passage from Romans to provide a sense of perspective and comfort. The Message translates Romans 8:38-39 Paul’s words as follows: “I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” At the crucial moments of our lives, this passage reminds us of what really matters: God’s love - a love whose depth and breadth transcends ALL human understanding. The next time you find yourself questioning the constancy of God’s love and presence in your life (or someone else’s), remember these words and take comfort in God’s AMAZING grace! Til next time…

Thursday, October 25

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 70 & 59; Proverbs 10:1-12; Luke 20:9-18; Romans 8:26-30

While I was exposed to many, many individuals who greatly shaped by life and faith during seminary; one of the most influential persons on my life was Rev. Jane Vennard. Rev. Vennard taught several courses on spiritual direction and prayer. Her teaching was so important in my faith journey because she helped me rethink my understanding of prayer. You see like many individuals, I had been taught that there were right and wrong ways to pray. The right way was to sit quietly, bow one’s head, and lift up pious prayers to God made up mostly of noble requests. The wrong way to pray was any form that varied from the right way in any shape or manner. That teaching sounded good in theory growing up. Unfortunately, the effect of that teaching was that it reinforced in me feelings that my prayer life was inadequate. The more inadequate I felt, the less I prayed. Consequently, over a period of time, my prayer life was practically non-existent. Thankfully, Rev. Vennard helped me connect with the spirit of today’s passage from Romans – especially Romans 8:26, which says, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. [God] does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. [God] knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God” (The Message). She taught us that a healthy prayer life has less to do with specific activities and more to do with one’s intention. As my intention to connect with God grew, I found myself communicating with God in new ways – ways that may not have fit my previous assumptions about prayer, but ways that were 100% authentic. Over time, I stopped worrying about trying to tell God what I thought God wanted to hear and started being real with God. As I’ve grown in my ability to be real with God, I’ve been able to stay more present with God and live a more prayerful life. Today, I invite you to examine your assumptions about prayer and see if there are ways you can open yourself up to the spirit of Paul’s words so that whether you are uttering a wordless sigh or moaning in an aching groan you are connecting with God in new and powerful ways. Til next time…

Wednesday, October 24

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 56 & 57; Proverbs 9:1-12; Luke 20:1-8; Romans 8:18-25

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, I struggled greatly with the language and imagery of the Proverbs (Proverbs 7:1-27 to be exact). For within that passage, once again feminine imagery was used to represent those things that spiritually gets one off track. For instance, Proverbs 7 warned of the “loose woman” or “adulteress” who “comes toward him, decked out like a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, and at every corner she lies in wait.” (Proverbs 10:11-12 – NRSV) Just as I was about to write off the Proverbs for its misogynistic approach, along comes today’s passage from Proverbs that extols the virtues of Lady Wisdom, who cries out to those searching for understanding, “"Are you confused about life, don't know what's going on? Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me! I've prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread, roast lamb, carefully selected wines. Leave your impoverished confusion and live! Walk up the street to a life with meaning" (Proverbs 9:4-6 – The Message). I appreciated today’s Proverb greatly - not just because it restored a long overdue sense of balance around feminine imagery, but because it presented a wonderfully invitational approach about how to get our lives on track. Today, in the midst of the scattered demands that contribute to the confusion in our lives, I invite you to slow down and listen for the call of Lady Wisdom. For if we listen closely to her call, perhaps we too can “walk up the street to a life with [new] meaning”. Hope to see you up the street a bit! Til next time…

Tuesday, October 23

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 87 & 48; Proverbs 7:1-27; Luke 19:41-48; Romans 8:9-17

As I continue easing into the new week, today’s passage from Romans gave me a great way to think about how I might approach the days ahead. In speaking of the life to which we have been called, Eugene Peterson translates Paul’s words from Romans8:15 as follows: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next Papa?’” Paul’s words give us a helpful way to think about how we approach life during our regular week/workweek. Do we take a cautious approach – carefully measuring out our resources so that we’ll enough just enough to slide by until the end of the week (our Friday), or do we take an “adventurously expectant” approach toward life that causes us to take risks – living each day as if it were the equivalent of Friday? My hope for us this week is that we’ll follow Paul’s advice and take an "adventurously expectant" approach toward all our days. Til next time…

Monday, October 22

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 76 & 118; Proverbs 6:1-19; Luke 19:28-40; Romans 8:1-8

I was talking with a friend about Paul’s letter to Romans last week. My friend was reading a scholarly translation of the letter and was frustrated with Paul’s wordiness. I smiled when I heard her observations because I too had felt that way in the past. I’ve enjoyed reading the passages from Romans in Eugene Peterson’s The Message this month because Peterson’s translation makes the passages much more accessible than most other versions. Take today’s passage, for example. In speaking of the difference between those who put their trust in their own ability to follow the law versus those who put their faith in God, Peterson translates Paul’s words in Romans 8:5 as follows: “Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God!” Paul’s words regarding those who put their trust in the law reminded me of those individuals at the gym who spend all their time lifting weights and sneaking peeks of themselves in the mirror. While their efforts at the gym might cause them to look good, it’s often the same individuals who hire landscaping companies to mow the lawn for them or grab their car keys to go to the store that’s just ½ mile away. In other words, the notion of translating their commitment to physical fitness into their daily routine - outside the gym - often gets overlooked. Those who put their trust in faith, however, do the equivalent of looking for everyday opportunities to get exercise. In other words, they don’t just seek out chances for fitness in the spiritual equivalent of the gym; they are looking for opportunities to engage their faith in their everyday lives. Today, I invite you to start observing yourself and seeing where you spend your time and energy. Are you content in your spiritual life to stand preening before the mirrors; or does your faith compel you to move away from the mirrors and out into the real world? Til next time…