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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
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Saturday, April 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 129; Deuteronomy 32:34-43; Matthew 13:53-58; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Psalm 76

When reading today’s passage from Matthew, most folks probably turn their attention to the dynamics contained in the first five verses – the verses that address the crowd’s fickleness toward Jesus. It is very tempting for me to go there as well. But the portion of today’s Gospel reading that struck me most was actually contained in the very last sentence of the reading: “[Jesus] didn’t do any miracles there because of their hostile indifference” (Matthew 13:58 – The Message). That passage reminds me of something very important about the nature of God as revealed through Jesus: that nature doesn’t force itself on it; rather, to some degree it responds to the way we receive it. The question I would raise for your consideration today is this: “What is your posture toward God? Are you open and expectant in your attitude toward God, or does your approach reflect indifference – hostile or otherwise? My prayer for each of us today is that we may open ourselves to the healing and reconciling work of the Christ so that we might experience a taste of the miraculous within the context of our lives – no matter how big or small that miracle might be. Til next time…

Friday, April 25

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 66; Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14; Matthew 13:44-52; 1 Corinthians 14:33-39; Psalm 124

Every once in a while in my daily devotions, I run across a piece of scripture where the historical and cultural influences of the time it was written jump out and smack me in the face. Needless to say, it’s not a pleasant experience when I encounter such texts. Today’s passage from 1 Corinthians contains one of those unsettling pieces of scripture. In verses 34-36, Paul spells out the way women - or, more specifically, wives - should conduct themselves during worship. It includes advice such as: “Wives have no license for to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking” (1 Corinthians 14:35 – The Message). My first response when I read that passage was to get upset and sarcastically ask: “Soooo, is Paul saying there is time for unwarranted speaking for the husbands in worship?” But then I take a deep breath, remember the context in which those words were written, and continue reading. And it’s a good thing that I did; for in the very next sentence the Spirit is able to overcome Paul’s bias and get us to the real heart of the matter: “Do you – both men and women – imagine that you’re a sacred oracle determining what’s right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you?” (1 Corinthians 14:36 – The Message). My experience working with this morning’s passage reminds me of the difference between believing our sacred writings are the literal word of God as opposed to words inspired by God. You see if the sacred writings were the literal word of God, we would be compelled to take all the words in at face value. That means we would have to make the limitations and bias of the writers our limitations and biases as well. If the words were inspired by God, however, those same scriptures would invite us not just into the words but beyond them. In other words, we could look beyond the historical and cultural biases that are sometimes contained on the surface of the words and find the underlying truths that bring us into a closer relationship with God. Today, I give thanks for two things: (1) God’s ability to communicate truth through flawed human beings such as myself; and (2) and the spiritual gift of discernment that helps us individually and collectively discern when those truths are inspired by us (and our social context) and when those truths are inspired by God. Til next time…

Thursday, April 24

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 75; Jeremiah 33:1-13; Matthew 13:36-43; 1 Corinthians 14:26-32; Psalm 50

One of the disturbing trends in ministry over the last seventy-five years is toward the professionalization of ministry. I find this trend disturbing for two reasons. First, this trend has helped created a sense of hierarchy within the church where you have ordained clergypersons on one level and laypersons on another. Second, the trend toward the professionalization of ministry has created an environment where laypeople have come to expect others – the professionals – to do much of the ministry for them. “After all,” some say, “that’s why we pay them.” The consequence of all of this is that some laypeople feel more and more disempowered in their spiritual lives. Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians presents a very different view of how a faith community should operate - especially in its worship life. “When you gather for worship,” Paul wrote, “each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight” (1 Corinthians 14:26 – The Message). What an amazing way to worship where are all empowered to take and active role and the designations of lay and clergy seem unimportant. Thankfully, there are those within the emerging worship movement who are helping us re-claim this first century vision of the church. My question for you to consider today is this: how do you see worship? Are you most comfortable with the late 20th Century model of worship where words like lay and clergy are essential and where others create the worship experience for you; or are you open to re-claiming a 1st Century model of worship where each person – regardless of standing – is encouraged to help create a worship experience whose sum is greater than its parts? Til next time…

Wednesday, April 23

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 114; Jeremiah 32:36-44; Matthew 13:31-35; 1 Corinthians 14:13-25; Psalm 79

Over the past twenty-five years, mega-churches have taken over the religious landscape in the United States. One of the sad by-products of this is that many Christians have come to equate bigger with better/more faithful. As a result, lots of small churches have developed inferiority complexes. They have come to assume they can’t have an impact on the world because of their limited size. Unfortunately this “bigger is better” dynamic doesn’t just get played out in the life of religious institutions. It has crept over into our private lives as well. Many of us think that the only “movers and shakers” that can truly make a difference in the world are those with lots of money and/or status. Over time we begin to accept the belief that our little lives won’t really make that much of a difference. If that’s what you’re thinking, then today’s Gospel passage will give you another perspective on life. Today’s Gospel passage began with the parable of the mustard seed. And what that parable reminds us is that the scope of our lives shouldn’t be determined by the resources that WE can manage – no, the scope of our life is determined by our willingness to plant that proverbial mustard seed in our lives and then let it do what that seed does naturally: grow! The question for us to wrestle with today then isn’t, “What difference can my life really make?”; the question is, “Will I plant that seed in my field and then watch it grow?” Til next time…

Tuesday, April 22

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 68; Jeremiah 32:16-25; Matthew 13:18-24; 1 Corinthians 14:1-12; Psalm 21

I started taking piano lessons when I was in the fifth grade. I had a marvelous piano teacher who did a tremendous job of opening the world of music to me. I only had one small complaint about her approach to music: she was a bit of an elitist. My teacher felt that the only “good” music was that written by the masters hundreds of years ago. She looked down her nose at much of the music written after 1900. An amazing thing happened during my junior year of high school that challenged her approach to the core; the movie “Amadeus” was released. Of course my piano teacher hated the movie because it had the audacity to take on one of the masters – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – and portray him as an actual human being. The film went so far as to suggest that Mozart wrestled with many of the same things that all of us do – things like lust, jealousy, and pride. What I loved about the film is that it reminded folks that the “masters” of their day were deeply loved and valued not because their work fed the souls of the elite; rather, they were loved because their music had the capacity to touch all the people. In many ways, their music WAS the popular music of their day. As a teenager that helped me break down the artificial barrier that some construct between good music (i.e. which usually means “music that I like”) and bad music (i.e. which usually means “music that I don’t like”). A similar principle is at work in today’s passage from 1 Corinthians where Paul explores the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. It is clear from Paul’s words that there were those elitists in the community who were like my piano teacher and valued the ability to speak in tongues because it set them apart from others. Paul doesn’t mince words in addressing such an approach. He wrote, “It’s more important that everyone has access to the knowledge and love of God in language everyone understands than that you go off and cultivate God’s presence in a mysterious prayer language…” (1 Corinthians 14:5 – The Message). The beauty of cultivating spiritual disciplines in our lives that speak not to just SOME of the people but ALL of the people is that by doing so “you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience [God’s] presence with you” (1 Corinthians 14:3 – The Message). So what is your approach to your spiritual life? Do you find yourself gravitating toward experiences of God that are reserved solely for yourself, or do you look for ways of experiencing God that invite other people into your encounter as well? Til next time…

Monday, April 21

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 9; Jeremiah 32:1-15; Matthew 13:10-17; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Psalm 56

Over the last 15 months, the faith community I serve was engaged in the process of writing a Vision, Mission & Values Statement to guide the future of our faith community. This was a VERY organic process that produced some unexpected outcomes. One of these unexpected outcomes helped us arrive at an understanding that a part of our community’s call is to act as a facilitator for healing in the lives of our friends and members. Now many of you may think this aspect of our call is a no-brainer – that ALL faith communities by their very nature should act as facilitators for healing. While I would agree that in theory all faith communities SHOULD embrace this role, not all do. And why don’t they? Well, a part of the answer for me lies in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel. As Jesus speaks to the disciples, he makes a point of quoting the prophet Isaiah when he says of some people: “They screw their eyes shut, so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them” (Matthew 10:15 – The Message). That passage suggests that there are those living with pain that chose not to be healed. And why is that? I guess the old saying about preferring the pain we know to the uncertainty of change would explain a huge part of that. And sadly many churches ignore the festering pain of their members and look the other way simply because they don’t want to rock the boat. Today, I invite you to take some time and examine your life. Is there lingering pain that you have carried with you for some time now? If so, are you eyes open to the healing that is available right in front of you; or have you become so accustomed to it that your eyes have been screwed shut? May God help each of us to open our eyes so that we see – perhaps in some cases for the very first time – the healing that lies before us. Til next time…

Sunday, April 20

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 22:25-31; Acts 7:55-60; John 14:1-14; 1 Peter 2:2-10; Psalm 90

Most folks I meet these days have no idea what I thought my original call was. Twenty years ago I thought my call was to teach history in high school. That’s why my undergraduate degree was in Social Sciences. Of course, things didn’t turn out exactly the way I expected them to when I was 20. That would be the subject of another entry... Anyway, one thing that most fascinated me about history was the way we human being constantly try to clean up history by re-writing it. For instance, we’ll talk a lot about Abraham Lincoln being a great leader and yet we’ll conveniently leave out the fact that this great leader lost more than one election on his road to greatness. So why do we feel compelled to clean up history? I guess it’s our tendency to want to make noteworthy figures a little more socially acceptable. In the midst of these cleansing processes, we forget the words from today’s passage from 1 Peter that remind us a huge part of our call is “to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:10 - The Message). The importance of telling the whole story was reinforced in today’s passage from Acts when we were reminded once again of the sordid personal history of one of the giants of our faith – Paul! Every time we try to clean up either our personal histories or the personal histories of others, we cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to share with other “the night-and-day difference” God has made in our lives. Today, I invite you to think about sharing your personal UNEDITED faith journey with a loved one. You won’t just be re-claiming pieces of your story that you might have previously lost or forgotten about; you’ll be revealing another radical dimension of God’s grace that has been active in your life. Til next time…