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Saturday, Novemer 10

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 22:1-31; Zechariah 5:1-11; Luke 23:26-31; Romans 11:22-28

In reading today’s Psalm, I was struck by the strong connection between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27. In Psalm 22, there is mention of the casting of lots for the psalmist’s clothes (Matthew 22:35); the psalmist’s cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 22:46); and the mention of being scorned and mocked by the crowd (Matthew 22:39-41). It was just one more reminder of the profound intimacy between the Hebrew (OT) and Greek Scriptures (NT). Having already written about the importance of that connection last week, however, I don’t want to take my time further developing this point. Instead, there was another aspect of the Psalm that grabbed my attention. This aspect was in Psalm 22:2 which read in the NIV: “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…” This claim from the psalmist got me to thinking about prayer once again. It’s so easy to practice intercessory prayer and equate one particular response (a yes - or getting what we want) with God listening/answering/caring. Many of us have little theological room for different answers (no, or not yet). Hence, the complaint, “You’re not listening.” I invite you to think about your own practice of intercessory prayer. Are you like the psalmist and equate God’s listening/answering/caring with getting what you want? Or do you have another perception of what it means for God to listen/answer/care? Til next time…

Friday, November 9

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 130 & 131; Zechariah 4:1-14; Luke 23:13-25; Romans 11:13-21

Let’s face it. There are some pieces of scripture that commentaries and studies don’t fully open up for you. The only thing that can do that is life experience. Today’s passage from Luke is one of those pieces – at least for me. This passage is the account of Pilate’s appearance before the people with Jesus when Pilate makes it clear that after examining Jesus he found nothing wrong with him. The underlying message Pilate conveys is that he wants to do the right thing by releasing Jesus, but the people won’t let him. Consequently, he is presented as a victim of his circumstances. The older I get the more I realize how easy it is for the rest of us to fall into situations in our lives where we feel like Pilate – circumstances where we profess that we want to do the right thing but say we are trapped. Folks at work, for instance, who don’t want to change numbers on the end of the year report but do so because their boss insisted. Folks who vote for an extremist candidate who blames a segment of society for all of societies ills and then justify their vote by saying the extremist candidate was better than his or her opponent. Folks who shop at a retailer that fails to provide livable wages and benefits for their employees and then excuse their purchases by explaining the retailer had the best price in town. Time after time we - like Pilate - have the opportunity to take control over our own lives and do the right thing; time after time we abdicate that control to others and simply go with the flow. Today, I encourage you to take an inventory of your life and see if there are places where you have done that. If you find such a place, spend some time in God’s presence asking for the strength to break that pattern and do the right thing. Til next time…

Thursday, November 8

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 69:1-36; Zechariah 3:1-10; Luke 23:1-12; Romans 11:7-12

If you were to ask most folks on the street to give a one word description of Christianity, I wonder what word they would use. Given Christianity’s treatment in the media, I suppose some of the descriptions would include things like “divisive”, “judgmental”, or even perhaps “self-righteous”. Of course, none of these descriptors are words that capture the true essence of Jesus. So what other words could be used to describe Jesus and his followers? Well, today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke provides a word that’s hidden in the accusations against Jesus by the assembly. That word? “Subversive” (actually, “subverting” in the NIV translation of Luke 23:2). That word got me to thinking about how much our reputation as followers of Jesus has changed over the last two millennia. While Jesus words often were subversive to the status quo, all too often Jesus’ words today have been tamed by the institutional church which has re-made Jesus into the poster boy for the status quo. Today, I ask you to consider the affect encountering this Jesus has had on you. Has it made you a poster girl/boy for the status quo, or are there whispers that you – a follower of this Jesus – just might be subverting the status quo as well? If so, you are in good company! Til next time…

Wednesday, November 7

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 71 & 142; Zechariah 2:1-13; Luke 22:54-71; Romans 10:21-11:6

One of the themes that undergirds the Gospel of Mark is often referred to as “The Messianic Secret”. This means that Jesus reportedly warned the disciples not to tell anyone who he was because it was not yet time for them to hear the news. When I was younger, Jesus’ approach there always frustrated me because it seemed as if Jesus and the disciples should have gotten the word out immediately and let the people decide whether or not they were ready to receive the news. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized Jesus’ wisdom in recognizing the importance of waiting until someone is ready to hear something before you share it. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke picks up on this nugget of wisdom when Jesus appears before the council of elders and is questioned by them. When they ask if he is the Christ, his response was simply, “If I tell you, you will not believe me; and if I asked you, you would not answer” (Luke 22:67-68). Often when we want to reach out to help or connect with others, we fail to consider whether or not they are ready to receive our efforts. This lack of consideration often leads to hurt feelings and bad experiences. The next time you are ready to say or do, I invite you to consider Jesus’ approach and ask yourself, “Are they ready to receive my offering or should I wait?” Til next time…

Tuesday, November 6

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 2 & 33; Zechariah 1:17-21; Luke 22:39-53; Romans 10:17-20

It’s easy for me to get so caught up in the demands of my daily schedule that I lose time to practice my daily spiritual disciplines. That’s especially true when it comes to my prayer life. I try to convince myself that this is okay to forgo my time of prayer since I’m connecting with God in other ways (i.e. acts of service, etc.) Today’s passage from Luke, however, is a reminder that I have no excuse for being too busy for prayer and centering, as the passage provides the example of Jesus who – on the verge of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion! – found time to pray on the Mount of Olives. That, for me, is lesson one: always find time to connect with God – especially at the most difficult times when you are tempted to forget this connection. There’s a second lesson regarding prayer in today’s passage as well. It has to do with the content of one’s prayer. In modeling a way to pray for us, Jesus said, “Please, not what I want. What do you want?” (Luke 22:42 from The Message) What a powerful way to help us re-conceptualize our prayer life – a way where our prayer life is built upon something other than just our wishes and desires. Today, I invite you to join me as we incorporate both lessons into our lives by first making the time to connect with God and then spend that time pursuing God’s desires and not simply our own. Til next time…

Monday, November 5

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalms 144 & 143; Haggai 2:10-23; Luke 22:31-38; Romans 10:10-16

As I explored emergent worship during my summer sabbatical, what most impressed me about faith communities exploring emergent worship was their willingness to let go of established patterns and routines and open themselves up to fluid ways of being that allowed for the movement of the Spirit. In most cases, the emergent communities were collections of individuals who had the luxury of choosing a new way of being. Today’s words from Haggai, however, remind us individuals and communities don’t always have the luxury of choosing new ways of being. In speaking to Zerubbabel, the governor of Juday, Haggai spoke these words: “I am about to shake up everything, to turn everything upside down and start over from top to bottom” (Haggai 2:21 in The Message). Often, we assume that having our worlds turned upside down is automatically a bad thing. But is it? In Zerubbabel’s case, the turning upside of his world meant Zerubbabel was taken as God’s “personal servant and I will set you as a signet ring, the sign of my sovereign presence and authority” (Haggai 2:22). Perhaps you are facing a circumstance in your life in which your world seems to have been turned upside down. Take some time and see what possibilities or opportunities might be opening themselves to you as a result of this traumatic time. Til next time…

Sunday, November 4

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 3 & 122; Haggai 2:1-9; Luke 19:1-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

This morning’s passage from Luke is a great eye opener for me. For in the passage we are introduced to an individual named Zacchaeus, a man whom is viewed one and only one way by his peers: as a Tax Collector. This title established not only Zacchaeus’ standing in the community, but his identity as well. This was so entrenched that no one – not even Zacchaeus – could imagine seeing himself any other way. Along came Jesus, however, who was willing to do something no one else was willing to do – look at Zacchaeus with new eyes. This willingness led Jesus at the end of today’s passage to establish a new identity all together for Zacchaeus; instead of being simply a Tax Collector he became seen as a Son of Abraham. The story reminds us that when we see the world through Jesus’ eyes, things begin to change. Today, I invite you to take a glance at the world from Jesus’ perspective. You might be surprised what you see. Even in yourself! Til next time…