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Saturday, November 3

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 89; Haggai 1:1-15; Luke 22:14-30; Romans 10:5-9

Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend about what it means to be living in an age designated “the Post-Christian Age”. The Post-Christian Age simply means that we are living in a time in American society when the power and privilege Christianity has historically enjoyed has passed. We are now in a time where Christianity has become just one of many, many things competing for our time and energy. The result is that in many cases, our faith has come to rank very low in terms of our overall priorities. We might think that this development is new, but the prophet Haggai’s words in today’s lectionary reading reminds us, it’s not. In the passage, the prophet decries the fact that folks of his day have neglected their faith in favor of their own pursuits. In exploring the lives of his peers in Haggai 1:6, the prophet utters: “You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it. You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty. You put on layer of layer of clothes, but you can’t get war. And the people who work for you, what are they getting out of it? Not much – a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.” Amazing how little things have changed over the last several thousand years, eh. So what was God’s advice for Haggai’s peers – for US, today? “Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.” Today, I invite you to do just that. Take a priority check and see where – in this Post-Christian Age – your faith ranks in terms of all the things competing for your time, energy, and attention. And if you don’t like where it ranks on your scale of priorities, DO something about it. Today. Til next time…

Friday, November 2

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalms 41 & 55; Proverbs 25:15-28; Luke 22:1-13; Romans 10:1-4

In several discussions over the years involving the sacred readings of our faith, I’ve heard folks be dismissive of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament readings) they struggle to understand. Often they’ll say things like, “I’m not sure what to make of that passage, but it doesn’t really matter because I’m a New Testament Christian so I don’t have to worry much about the Old Testament.” Every time I hear that response, it makes me sad for I don’t believe you can really make sense of who Jesus was – and how his ministry was shaped – without a solid understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. This point was brought home for me today as I completed my daily readings. Let me tell you why this issue was raised. Lots of folks probably remember Jesus’ teaching about our enemies that read: “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44). So where are the roots of Jesus’ teaching (besides, of course, his huge heart and spirit)? Proverbs 25:21 in the NRSV reads: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” The passage may have stopped short of using the word love, but a similar sentiment is there. Today, I invite you to consider the ways your faith has been shaped and informed by not one testament, but two. Let us give thanks once again for an expansive God that continues to take us outside our comfort zones as we explore our faith. Til next time…

Thursday, November 1

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 123 & 60; Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2; Luke 21:29-38; Romans 9:28-33

One of our greatest challenges in our lives is to see things as they are, not as we would like them to be. Over the years I’ve counseled countless folks, for instance, who are in troubled or abusive relationships. Time after time, however, individuals in these situations cling to the relationship because they insist on seeing the other person for who they’d like them to be, and not for who they really are. As a result, the individuals often remain trapped in life-denying relationships. Why am I off on this tangent today? Well, I’ll have to blame a section of today’s passage from Proverbs for that. In Proverbs 23:31-32, the author advises: “Don’t judge wine by its label, or its banquet, or its full-bodied flavor. Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with – the splitting headache, the queasy stomach.” That passage is a spiritual call to be honest with yourself in looking at – I mean REALLY looking at – the circumstances in our lives. Are there any areas of your life where you could benefit from a more honest assessment? If there is, ask for God’s assistance in helping you revisit (and hopefully address) this area. Til next time…

Wednesday, October 31

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 108 & 111; Proverbs 21:30-22:6; Luke 21:20-28; Romans 9:19-27

The piece of Scripture that most spoke to me is just slightly outside the bounds of today’s assigned readings. You see when you read Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation, often he doesn’t number individual verses; instead, he numbers a paragraph. The paragraph that started with verse 20 didn’t end with verse 27 – it went on to verse 33. Because of this I encountered verse 32 that really spoke to me. Verse 32 in The Message reads: “They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their ‘God projects’ that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into [God] and went sprawling.” This reminded me of one of the challenges our local churches face. We can become so caught up in our own programs that we totally lose sight of our call to serve the larger community. This oversight often shows up in a lack of commitment or apathy toward missions. Today’s scripture is a challenge to not get so caught up in our own stuff that we lose sight of what’s really important: God’s stuff! Today I invite you to examine your own life and see if there are places where you’ve become so swept up with your stuff (no matter how good and noble it might seem) that you’re missing God’s call. Til next time…

Tuesday, October 30

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 96 & 97; Proverbs 17:1-20; Luke 21:5-19; Romans 9:14-18

Some folks have designated the times we live in as the post-Christian age. This means that the times when Christianity enjoyed a place of societal honor and privilege have passed. If you listen to radio talk shows you know this is the case as you hear some folks complaining about this left and right. Their complaints include things like prayer being removed from public schools, faith-oriented floats being banned from seasonal parades, and clerks not being allowed to say “Merry Christmas” in retail stores. My take on all of this as a pastor is different than some folks might expect. I think the sense of entitlement that came with the power and privilege caused many of us to grow soft in our faith. As a result, we lost touch with the true nature of discipleship that Jesus called us to – a discipleship grounded in self-emptying, sacrificial love. Hence, I’m have no complaints living in a post-Christian world as I think the new reality can actually encourage us return to the true essence of our faith. Today’s passage from Luke, in fact, reminds us that God doesn’t promise us things will come easy for those who believe. In pointing his disciples toward the future, Jesus predicted, “They’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name…” (Luke 21:12 from The Message). If that’s the case, how do we deal with the overwhelming challenges before us? By claiming the spirit of Luke 21;18 that reads: “Even so, every detail of your body and soul – even the hairs on your head! – is in my care, nothing of you will be lost.” Today, as you reflect on the challenges you face in living out your faith in the modern world, remember that Jesus’ never promised that things would always be easy for us. Rather, he reminded us that God would always be present with us - and care for us - in the midst of these challenges. May you draw strength and encouragement from Jesus’ words during your times of trial. Til next time…

Monday, October 29

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 50 & 110; Proverbs 15:16-33; Luke 20:41-21:4; Romans 9:6-13

Like many faith communities this time of year, our church is conducting its stewardship drive for 2008. As a result of my increased awareness of stewardship issues, the latter part of today’s Gospel reading from Luke caught my eye. Luke 21:1-4 contains the parable of the widow who gave two of her last coins in the offering. Jesus concludes the parable by praising the widow who “gave her all”. Of course, we usually interpret this parable within a financial context. But Jesus’ description of the widow reminds us there was so much more involved in what the widow gave than just money. She gave God her heart, her soul, and her future. Precious offerings indeed! Today, I invite you to find time to take stock of what you are currently giving to God. If Jesus were to describe the portion of yourself that you are giving, what words would he use? Til next time…