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Saturday, November 16

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 131; Malachi 3:1-18; Matthew 18:1-9; 2 John 1-3; Psalm 133
Over the years, it has amazed me how complicated we’ve allowed our faith to become. We’ve bought into the notion that living out our faith means first creating and then supporting institutions and systems. This approach often gets picked up by folks in our pews and encourages them to lead lives that are equally complex and overwhelming. But does our faith really have to be so involved? Today’s Gospel reading suggests not. Matthew 18:4 reads: “Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.” What a wonderful thought. Today, when you find yourself starting to get sucked into the complexity and drama of our modern world, remember Jesus’ words and see if you can start molding a life of faith that is simple and elemental. See what begins to happen. Til next time…

Friday, November 16

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 118; Malachi 2:1-16; Luke 24:36-53; Romans 12:14-21; Psalm 126

Today’s passage from Romans is a wonderful primer on how to get along with others. I particularly resonated with Paul’s advice in Romans 12:17-18. Eugene Peterson, in his translation titled The Message, translates these words as follows: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” As I read these words, I was reminded of an irony in my life. Let me tell you what that is. My first job out of college was teaching English and social studies in a juvenile detention center. In my position, every day I encountered individuals who had committed a wide variety of offenses: from assaults to sex offenses to murder. You name the offense, I saw it! For some reason, being in a place where everyone knew everyone else was wrestling with a flaw of some sort made it relatively easy to look beyond those faults and find the “beauty in everyone.” Actually, the setting required it! In working in churches off and on for the past 24 years (my first church job was as janitor for my home church when I was 16), I’ve Paul’s words more challenging to live out in this environment. Maybe it’s because we feel as if church is a place where we can’t bring our flaws. Our constant efforts to project perfection (or at least “I’ve got it all together”-ness) perhaps leaves us worn out and cranky. Whatever the case, we often end up taking it out on others around us. What has been your experience in living out Paul’s words? Are there times and places in your life when it’s been easier to follow them than at other times and places? Today, may God’s Spirit encourage and empower us to live into them at all times. In all places. Til next time…

Thursday, November 15

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 132; Malachi 1:1-14; Luke 24:12-25; Romans 12:9-13; Psalm 121

Today’s second Psalm really hit the spot after the day I had yesterday. You see I received word in the morning that our church had been vandalized for the second time in the past six months. Both times, my office was hit. Thankfully, nothing of great value was taken either time. It appeared that both incidents were relatively small acts of senseless destruction. It’s amazing how at such times, our first instinct is to reach out to physical objects as means of regaining our sense of security: buying bigger locks, increasing the lighting, and so on. In the midst of such natural, fear-based reactions, however, come verses 7 and 8 of Psalm 121 that read in The Message translation: “God guards you from every evil; God guards your very life. God guards you when you leave and when you return; God guards you now; God guards you always.” As I continue to vacuum up the broken glass, rearrange my papers and books, and make the changes necessary to decrease future risk; I challenge myself to remember where my real sense of security lies. Suddenly, I feel less vulnerable. I hope the psalmist's words make you feel less vulnerable too. Til next time…

Wednesday, November 14

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 21 & 66; Zechariah 8:9-17; Luke 23:56b-24:11; Romans 12:3-8

It’s always good for me to read some of the familiar passages “out of season” if you will. By this, I mean it’s instructive to read the Christmas story in July; or – as is the case with this week’s lectionary readings – the story of Jesus’ passion in November. I say this because when you read them out of season, you tend to pick up on different themes or angles than you would otherwise. Take the women’s discovery of the empty tomb in today’s passage from Luke. In season, it’s easy to read this solely within the context of the Jesus’ story and not extend its meaning into the context of our lives. Today when I read the story, it invited me to think about the ways in my own life that I do what the women did: look for the presence of Jesus only in the places I expect him to be. Today’s passage reminds me that Jesus doesn’t work that way. He is constantly breaks out of the boxes (tomb or otherwise) in which we try to place him. The next time you walk into a meeting at work, for instance, ask yourself: “Do I expect to encounter the spirit of Christ here?” The next time you sit in the stands at your child’s soccer game, ask yourself: “Do I expect to catch glimpse of Christ somewhere from these stands?” The next time you are anxiously standing in line at a grocery store with your cart, look around you as you ask yourself: “Where might the essence of Christ be embodied right now?” Today, give thanks that our experience of Jesus transcends not only our boxes - but our expectations as well. Til next time…

Tuesday, November 13

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 145 & 43; Zechariah 6:1-15; Luke 23:32-43; Romans 12:1-2

Last Sunday in our adult Sunday school class, we explored the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. One of the aspects of the story we discussed was the fact that the individuals in the crowd were so enthralled with Jesus that they followed him out into the countryside without giving any thought to how they would feed themselves when they got hungry. Folks in our conversation wrestled with the practicality of their decision. That conversation got me to wondering whether or not our faith should be practical. Then, in the midst of my deliberations about this thing called practicality, along came Paul’s words to the Romans in today’s readings. Eugene Peterson translates Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 as follows: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” In sitting with Paul’s words, I was reminded me that the word “practical” itself is misleading since what is consdered practical varies from one culture to another - from one group to another. In other words, it’s relative to one’s perspective. Today, I invite you to think about your faith with Paul’s words as a backdrop. Is your faith considered practical by the world’s standards; or is your faith considered practical by God’s standards? Remember. Those standards are not the same. Til next time…

Monday, November 12

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 145 & 43; Zechariah 6:1-15; Luke 23:32-43; Romans 11:29-36

There are a lot of words that we like to use these days to describe a person of faith. Drawing from the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, we like to describe people of faith with words like patient, kind, loving, and merciful. Now don’t get me wrong – all of these are perfectly wonderful adjectives that should be used to describe a person of faith. The last verse of today’s reading from Zechariah give us another word to use: a word that’s fallen out of favor these days. That last verse in The Message reads: “All this follows as you put your minds to a life of responsive obedience to the voice of your God.” I wonder how many folks would use the word obedient to describe a person of faith these days. That’s a tough word for most of us to embrace these days because it threatens our world that’s been constructed on the individual. Anything that threatens the autonomy of the individual turns our stomachs! The more I think about the word obedient, however, the more I realize its importance in living a life of faith. You see you can practice all the other qualities I listed above (patience, kindness, love, and mercy) and do so on YOUR times and on YOUR terms. You can be patient when it suits you; you can be kind when the other person is deserving of kindness; you can be loving when you are around those who you feel are lovable; and you can be merciful when you feel its appropriate. But the word obedience changes everything. It reminds us that we can’t take on those qualities of God when WE feel like it; instead, we must take on those qualities in response to God and practice them on GOD’S terms (i.e. 24 hours a day/7 days a week). If I were to ask your loved ones to describe you as a person of faith, how many would use Zechariah’s word “obedient”? Today, think about your willingness to embrace the word obedience and then see where the word obedience leads you. Til next time…

Sunday, November 11

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 45 & 65; Zechariah 7:1-10; Luke 20:27-38; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

As we enter the holiday season, it’s easy to become so fixated on our commitments and traditions that we lose sight of what the holidays really represent. If that’s happened to you, don’t feel badly. You’re in good company. In this morning’s reading from Zechariah, we are told the people of Bethel have done the same thing. They’ve become so fixated on the religious tasks spelled out for them that they’ve lost sight of what’s really important; hence, God’s words through the prophet Zechariah spelling out what really matters – things like true judgment, kindness, and mercy. Today, as you anticipate the crushing demands of the holiday season before you, I urge to slow down and remember what’s really important during this time. Til next time…