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How important each one of us is

Morning: Psalm 34;Numbers 12:1-16; Romans 2:12-24
Evening: Psalms 85, 86; Matthew 18:10-20
No matter how small or seemingly insignificant we are, in Jesus’ vision no one is less important than anyone else … Even if just one of a great multitude gets lost, she is worth finding and saving from harm. Shepherds take extreme care over lost sheep; shall we not care just as much for a person who is isolated or in trouble?  Two people who agree are enough to guarantee the truth.  However few we are, however small we feel, God is in our midst … Imagine! The Creator and Lord of the Universe is with me? Little me!?

Violating a sacred trust by exploiting children

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120;Numbers 11:24-33; Romans 1:28—2:11
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; Matthew 18:1-9
This week, we witness the plight of migrant children separated from their parents in America.  Jesus teaches: “Whoever becomes humble like (a) child is (great).  Whoever welcomes (a) child in my name welcomes me.”  A world that exploits the weakness and vulnerability of children – and justifies barbarity by Biblical proofs – is far from the kingdom of heaven.  Shockingly, all over the world, children are trafficked, enslaved, used as human shields and child soldiers.  The implication of Jesus’ words is clear: the mistreatment of children violates a sacred trust and threatens our humanity until we put a stop to it.

Wisdom to choose the right moment

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Numbers 11:1-23; Romans 1:16-25
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Matthew 17:22-27
Every Jew paid a tax for the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was part of the politico-religious system that Jesus called out as exploitative, corrupt and ultimately doomed … a ‘den of thieves’.  One day it would fall, but this was not the time or place for Jesus to take a stand … the right moment to challenge the authority of the Temple and its rulers would come soon, in Jerusalem.  Sometimes we are compelled to challenge the spiritual forces of evil in this present age, and, like Jesus, we must choose wisely how, where and when.

Faith is drawing on a power greater than your own

Morning: Psalm 80;Numbers 9:15-23; 10:29-36; Romans 1:1-15
Evening: Psalm 77; Matthew 17:14-21
Early on, Jesus sends the disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, and they do!  Now, with all their experience, they can’t.  Jesus is angry with them for their “little faith”.  Their problem is not the size or amount of their faith, but that their faith is misplaced … they are relying only on their own strength. Even Jesus himself needed prayer and fasting to empower him.  It’s easy to forget … Your own strength may be small, but when you draw on a power greater than your own, you can move mountains.

Ready anytime for whoever shows up

Morning: Psalms 93, 96;Numbers 6:22-27; Acts 13:1-12
Evening: Psalm 34; Luke 12:41-48
“Heads up, the boss is coming!” “Look lively … visitors from head office.” Familiar lines, these, but I find being-on-my-best-behaviour just when I ‘have’ to dreary and demeaning. Is anyone completely happy with his work?  No, some things must be done, like it or not, whether the boss is coming or not.  If I do them it’s because I trust that life is essentially good; that’s why I’m trustworthy.  Jesus suggests that when I realize how much I have received, I live gratefully, without counting what everything costs me.  And I’m ready anytime for whoever shows up.

Listen to him

Morning: Psalms 75, 76;Numbers 3:1-13; Galatians 6:11-18
Evening: Psalms 23, 27; Matthew 17:1-13
Listening seems to be fashionable these days – I’ve heard 2 listening ‘experts’ interviewed lately on the CBC, as if listening were a new discovery.  But listening is old wisdom that we keep forgetting … Now they’ve rediscovered it again, as though for the first time.  Listening is a new panacea for human ills!  You know, I agree; I think to myself: It’s about time we learned to listen again.  Up on the mountain, Jesus’s apprentices hear a voice: “… listen to him!”  I think to myself: It’s about time we did that too.

Life for Life

Morning: Psalm 69:1-23, 31-38;Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14; Galatians 5:25-6:10
Evening: Psalm 73; Matthew 16:21-28
Peter’s faith is like a “rock”, but he cannot accept that Jesus will lose his life because of his message.  Peter resists and becomes a “stumbling-block”.  Jesus’ message draws lethal resistance from the powerful ones who resist the transformation he brings.  The Way of Jesus demands that, as his apprentice, you must be ready to offer your life.  This rarely means you have to die for him.  But, as many of Jesus’ followers discover, the moment you stop grasping at life is the moment you discover what an amazing gift life is.

On this rock

Morning: Psalms 70, 71;Ecclesiastes 11:1-8; Galatians 5:16-24
Evening: Psalm 74; Matthew 16:13-20
When Newfoundlanders hear the phrase, “On this Rock,” they think it’s about their beautiful island.  Well, it is about the solidity that characterizes that place, its capacity to weather storms and remain steadfast of character and spirit.  When Peter recognized who Jesus really was – somehow, incredibly, the power of the cosmos in human flesh – and when he worked up the courage to say it, Jesus said, now there’s something solid to build on, a faith that will see you through.  Build on that faith and you will overcome … even against all the powers of evil!

Beware of what tastes good but isn’t

Morning: Psalm 72;Ecclesiastes 9:11-18; Galatians 5:1-15
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Matthew 16:1-12
Have you felt tempted to eat a tasty morsel laden with unhealthy ingredients?  Sweet cakes tempt me. Some of the stories about Jesus are stories about the feeding of multitudes. These stories act like parables to encourage you to nourish your soul with goodness … with the kind of truth, justice and love shown in Jesus.  But, Jesus’ warns about the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’.  In other words, beware of ways of living or believing that are untrue – do not live a lie, or be untrue to yourself.  These may seem attractive but they will not nourish your soul.

The eternal longing for freedom … fulfilled in us

Morning: Psalms 61, 62;Ecclesiastes 8:14—9:10; Galatians 4:21-31
Evening: Psalm 68:1-20, 24-36; Matthew 15:29-39
Isaiah(35) envisions Israel’s deliverance: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” Jesus fulfils this vision.  He feeds multitudes, too, on a mountain … echoing Isaiah(25)’s mountain vision of a great feast for all peoples. Still today, people yearn for sight, to hear and be heard, to walk, and to find their voice.  Still today, the world longs for its deep spiritual hunger to be fed.  Tell them deliverance is coming ... be part of it.

Being Human … Courage to care for one another

Morning: Psalms 15, 67;Acts 4:32-37
Evening: Psalms 19, 146; Acts 9:26-31
Today is St. Barnabas’ Day.  Before becoming St. Paul’s companion, Barnabas sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. Among the early Christians, no one claimed private ownership; everything was held in common.  As they shared their faith “there was not a needy person among them”.  Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’ – perhaps he did inspire others to take courage?  Early Christians learned from Jesus that being human is about caring for one another.  And, in the spirit of Barnabas, modern Christians might still aspire to rediscover the richness of our humanity and the will to live it courageously.

Give your heart to what will endure

Morning: Psalms 24, 29;Ecclesiastes 6:1-12; Acts 10:9-23
Evening: Psalms 8, 84; Luke 12:32-40
A woman we know grows vegetables where the soil is poor.  When she hears I plan to garden someday, she says, “Start now; it takes years to build up good soil.”  If something life-giving captures your heart, don’t wait for a better time – there isn’t one.  A professor of mine said, “Read the best books first.”  Jesus says devote yourself now to what really matters: downsize, be generous, focus on life’s real treasures, give your heart now to what will last – be clear about what that is – and you will experience what they sometimes call ‘heaven’... right here.

Spot the hypocrite … but then again, better not!

Morning: Psalm 55; Ecclesiastes 5:8-20; Galatians 3:23—4:11
Evening: Psalm 138, 139:1-17; Matthew 15: 1-20
The Pharisees and scribes criticize those who do not observe the letter of the Law.  Jesus points out that the Pharisees forget the Spirit of the Law; their hands are clean but they are dark inside … They may appear pure and holy on the outside, but they are full of trouble.  Some people say that they have decided to avoid churches because churches are full of hypocrites.  As Jesus pointed out, though, they would do well to remember that hypocrisy is prone to point the finger at others while being blissfully unaware of its own contradictions.

You don’t have to walk on water

Morning: Psalms 40, 54;Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Galatians 3:15-22
Evening: Psalm 51; Matthew 14:22-36
It’s exhilarating to ‘walk on water’ when the Lakes are frozen in wintertime!  Jesus does not call people, though, to copy him, but to follow in his Way.  There are moments on life’s path when we may be faced with seemingly crazy or impossible challenges. This story of Jesus seems to say: In such impossible moments, keep your eyes fixed on his way of seeing the world.  Then, the storms that life throws your way will not overwhelm you and you will be empowered to bring love, peace and hope to a needy world … as Peter did.

Law or Faith?

Morning: Psalm 50; Ecclesiastes 3:16—4:3; Galatians 3:1-14
Evening: Psalm 8, 84; Matthew 14:13-21
The radically new thing about Jesus is his invitation to trust God instead of striving to obey what people believe are God’s rules.  In other words, live by Faith rather than by Law.  Trying always to do the right thing, Paul suggests, is a curse; God does not want us to live under that curse, but in a free, trusting and loving relationship with the Cosmos and the Creator.  What this means is that when you live in trust and love, in keeping with Jesus’ invitation, you know how to live a good life, and you choose to, without compulsion.

Standing against the present powers

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72;Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; Galatians 2:11-21
Evening: Psalm 49; Matthew 14:1-12
Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.  Did you recall the picture of the lone rebel standing in the path of four army tanks?  Sometimes the present powers don’t accept being questioned.  John stood against Herod and was executed. Jesus, too, stood firm against unrighteous power and was killed.  I wonder: “On which side of the powers do I stand?”  Sometimes that’s not clear.  Even when it is, I [don't] always have the courage to stand, with Jesus, for justice … I pray that I might.  Better still, perhaps we can stand together?

The humbling experience of your hometown

Morning: Psalm 45; Ecclesiastes 2:16-26; Galatians 1:18 – 2:10
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; Matthew 13:53-58
I left Manchester, England when I was 18 and never went back there to live.  Now, when I visit my family there, I sometimes feel as if they think of me as the same immature, annoying teenager that left there in 1971!  Do you ever have that kind of experience with your family?  I find it humbling, to say the least … that people think I haven’t gained any wisdom or understanding in all these years!  Maybe I’ve gained less than I think?  It’s vaguely reassuring that Jesus had a similar experience in his hometown.

What will the end be like? … Joy, not more suffering

Morning: Psalms 41, 52;Ecclesiastes 2:1-15; Galatians 1:1-17
Evening: Psalm 44; Matthew 13:44-52

Scholars agree that scribes and editors have put into Jesus’ mouth their own explanations of what he meant.  I trust that this Gospel passage is one of these: “At the end of the age, the angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.” Really?  I’m confident Jesus foretold the final victory of good over evil.  But I believe he taught that God’s final intention for all things is not weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the joy of finding hidden treasure … not more suffering, but the end of suffering

Prayer doesn’t change God but the one who prays

Morning: Psalm 63:1-11;Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; Acts 8:26-40Evening: Psalm 103; Luke 11:1-13
Prayer is consistently understood as asking for things. As with other clichéd ways of thinking, it is difficult to see prayer differently … when you believe you know what something means, you don’t hear when an alternative is offered.  But the Lord’s Prayer – the model Jesus gives his disciples to teach them to pray – begins with an invitation that God’s ways will prevail rather than ours.  The rest of the prayer seeks help to live well.  Thus Jesus teaches that prayer changes us, not God.  And when we persist with it, prayer transforms our hearts.

Contentment: The Life that really is Life

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Proverbs 25:15-28; 1 Timothy 6:6-21Evening: Psalms 42, 43; Matthew 13:36-43
Some people tell me they’re ‘down-sizing’ … they have accumulated too much.  St. Paul says ‘great gain’ comes from contentment since “we brought nothing into the world and it is certain we can take nothing out of it.”  Shun riches and the love of money, says Paul; instead, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness … fight the good fight of faith”.  Then he encourages the rich in good works, generosity and sharing … so that they may have “the life that really is life.”  In other words … seeking Life’s fulfilment in riches is an illusion.

Goodness grows in the world from small seeds

Morning: Psalm 31; Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2; 1 Timothy 5:17-25
Evening: Psalm 35; Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus describes in parables what he calls the “kingdom of heaven” … not in specific terms but enough that you know his vision of human destiny is of something very good.  This “kingdom” will really come here ‘on earth’, but not without challenges.  Even as goodness grows in the world, evil forces may attempt to supplant it … but to no avail.  The parables of mustard seed and yeast express the hope that even small, apparently insignificant, influences may be such a power for good that goodness itself will come to define our lives. Indeed, that’s possible now.

For whose glory?

Morning: Psalm 72; 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Hebrews 3:1-6
Evening: Psalms 146, 147; John 3:25-30
Going deeper spiritually is challenging … We humans are prone to want to polish our own reputations.  But for whose glory is our spiritual life?  David Fitch says, “to give glory to God is to enhance God’s reputation in the world.”  God’s reputation suffers when people of faith, especially leaders, seem to worry more about their own reputations than God’s.  People see through that.  Success in the world may require us to ‘blow our own trumpet’, but deep down we want to believe in something bigger than ourselves.  Which is why John the Baptist wants Jesus’ reputation to grow.

Freed from the power of death; free from fear

Morning: Psalm 38;Proverbs 17:1-20; 1 Timothy 3:1-16
Evening: Psalm 132; Isaiah 11:1-10; Hebrews 2:11-18
At the heart of Christian faith is the conviction that, in Jesus, the Creator entered into our human experience to suffer and be tested just as we are.  Christians believe that, by becoming human, Christ – the Messiah, as Jesus is known – is able to destroy the power of death through his resurrection.  Fear of death holds humanity in a kind of slavery.  But the Christian story invites us to live free of fear and to know that the Creator cares enough about the Creation to step in and help.

ay May 29th – How many signs do you need?

Morning: Psalms 26, 28;Proverbs 15:16-33; 1 Timothy 1:8-2:8Evening: Psalms 36, 39; Matthew 12:33-42
Jesus’ opponents challenge him when he says his healings speak for themselves.  But they keep asking for another sign. He offers only ‘the sign of Jonah’.  You recall … Jonah flees from God, but after 3 days in the belly of the whale, he calls the people of Nineveh to change their hearts, and they do.  What about Jesus’ opponents, which is all of us, at one time or another? … Jesus spends 3 days in the heart of the earth, but does his resurrection from the dead change our hearts?  Sometimes, we don’t see the clearest of  signs.

You can’t be forgiven if you don’t want to be

Morning: Psalm 25;Proverbs 10:1-12; 1 Timothy 1:1-17Evening: Psalms 9, 15; Matthew 12:22-32
That Jesus’ opponents asked how he did such amazing things proves he did them.  Also, you wouldn’t accuse someone of witchcraft if they were not accomplishing remarkable acts of healing.  But if Jesus had defeated evil, why would he employ evil means?  His opponents lied, to discredit all the good he was doing … Trouble is, when you discount the power of God’s good Spirit in bringing healing and forgiveness, you rule out the possibility that you too may receive forgiveness and healing by the same Spirit.  You can’t experience forgiveness if you don’t trust the one who forgives.

Point to one who is greater than you are

Morning: Psalm 146, 147;Job 38:1-11; 42:1-15; Revelation 19:4-16 Evening: Psalms 111, 112, 113; John 1:29-34
Too much of the world’s energy is consumed by people drawing attention to themselves.  We are urged: ‘Make a good impression’.  This is fine for some things.  But as a general habit, it creates a culture devoted to the ego and to self-preoccupation. The wise person, on the other hand, looks beyond herself for something or someone greater; wisdom serves bigger values than self.  If someone seeks direction in life, point them to one who is greater than you are, as John the Baptist does. He sends them to Jesus.

Faith … more than we can ask or imagine

Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-7; Proverbs 8:22-36; 3 John 1-15Evening: Psalm 104; Ephesians 3:14-21
The author of Ephesians prays for you and me … to be strengthened within by the power of God … to be grounded in love … and to see that all things are interconnected by a powerful love.  He prays we be ‘filled with all the fullness of God’, who ‘is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine’.   The paradox of faith is that only a leap of faith can help you experience the fullness of God; only a leap of faith can open your mind and heart to being stretched that far!

Mercy, not sacrifice … learn what this means

Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Proverbs 8:1-21; 2 John 1-13
Evening: Psalm 22; Matthew 12:1-14
Rules gather baggage – and we forget why some rules were made.  The Sabbath law was misunderstood.  It is not to punish people with, but it is for people who punish themselves with too much work, or who forget that not everything depends on them.  The Sabbath is to remind us that we are not God.  Given that, it’s strange how we can sometimes behave as if we were God, making ourselves judges of one another.  Thus Jesus reminds us: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  And earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, about mercy, “Go and learn what this means.”

Jesus … what God is really like

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Proverbs 7:1-27; I John 5:13-21Evening: Psalm 18:21-50; Matthew 11:25-30
Some think God is a policeman or angry schoolteacher. But Jesus says you can understand God by getting to know Jesus himself: “Are you having a real struggle? Come to me!  Are you carrying a big load on your back?  Come to me – I’ll give you a rest!  Pick up my yoke and put it on; take lessons from me, I’ll be gentle with you!  The last thing in my heart is to give you a hard time.  You’ll see – rest you need, and rest you shall have.  My yoke is easy to wear; my load is easy to bear.”

How do you remain true to love?

Morning: Psalm 119:1-24;Proverbs 6:1-19; I John 5:1-12Evening: Psalms 12, 13, 14; Matthew 11:16-24
There is intense media debate about Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding.  In Toronto, some ridiculed Curry’s passionate address about Love in the human family.  So how do you serve Love where Love itself is ridiculed and not recognized for the transformative and healing power that it is?  Jesus is confronted with people’s apathy about Love, too.  How do you stay true to Love in hostile circumstances?  Martin Luther King Jr. – whom Curry quoted on Saturday – says: “You just keep on loving ...”  Sadly, though, as Jesus points out, tragic consequences may naturally befall those who undermine Love.

The elusive Lady Wisdom

Morning: Psalms 5, 6;Proverbs 4:1-27; I John 4:7-21Evening: Psalms 10, 11; Matthew 11:7-15
The Old Testament has a strong Wisdom tradition.  The story of Solomon says he asked God for Wisdom and received many other blessings besides.  The Book of Proverbs prizes Wisdom and speaks of her in very personal terms: “Get wisdom ... Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;love her, and she will guard you … Get wisdom,and whatever else you get, get insight.  Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honour you if you embrace her.”  But ironically, if you ever think you have Wisdom, you probably don’t!

Who are Jesus’ disciples? … Those inclined to mercy

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3:Proverbs 3:11-20; I John 3:18 – 4:6Evening: Psalms 4, 7; Matthew 11:1-6
Have you ever had your expectations of someone disappointed? … You thought they would act differently than they did?  John the Baptist thought Jesus would topple Herod from power, and maybe even free John from prison.  Instead, Jesus befriended tax-collectors and ne’er-do-wells and went about healing.  So John asked Jesus: Are you the one, or should we look for another?  He expected Jesus to show his power by punishing injustice. Some may still want or expect followers of Jesus to judge wrongdoing harshly. But remember – when you find yourself judging someone – followers of Jesus are inclined to mercy and healing.

Mountain-top experiences can happen anywhere

Morning: Psalm 118;Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Acts 4:18-21, 23-33
Evening: Psalm 145;John 4:19-26
Iona – where some of us just went on retreat – is called a ‘thin place’; there, earth-bound spirits can soar to touch the divine.  But Jesus teaches the Samaritan woman that the attitude of your heart matters more than the place you’re in.  When your heart is open to the spirit and to truth, any place will do; all places are potentially ‘thin’ places.  Maybe people just go to Iona with an already open heart?  You don’t have to go there, or some other holy place, to find God … That can happen right here, within you.

The healing power of faith

Morning: Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-14; Ezekiel 36:22-27; Matthew 9:18-26
Evening: Psalm 33;Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20; I Peter 2:4-10
Ramadan, the Muslim holy fast, has begun - a time of heightened devotion, prayer and fasting, when believers focus their attention on the divine power and mercy.  Jesus’s healings in today’s Gospel – an official’s daughter and a woman with haemorrhages – are, Jesus says, due to the faith of those who come to him for help.  No doubt he enlists the strong wills and trust of the official and the woman, and that helps them immensely.  But this story is saying much more … This story is a testimony to the real healing power of faith.

Mercy not moralism

Morning: Psalm 102;Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ephesians 5:1-20Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Matthew 9:9-17
The radical newness of Jesus gets missed when people think he is just a moral teacher calling us to be good.  But that kind of call is bad news, since we all know very well that it is impossible for us to achieve goodness just by working hard at it. When Jesus calls Matthew to follow him, he shows that what broken souls need most, if they are to be healed, is mercy.  Jesus offers mercy.  Our world has lost sight of this … it still desperately needs the radical mercy that Jesus brings.

Immobilized by guilt; freed by love

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Zechariah 4:1-14; Ephesians 4:17-32Evening: Psalm 105:23-45;Matthew 9:1-8
‘Authority’ is misunderstood in our culture as the abusive and arbitrary use of power.  But the authority at work in Jesus is the compelling power of love.  This loving authority forgives, puts away the paralyzing burden of guilt and makes people free again.  The paralytic whom Jesus heals is everyone who has ever been immobilized by the consequences of their own wilful actions.  Yet Jesus has the authority to release them.  He says to the man “Get up!” Jesus will also ‘get up’ and show that the power of death will never defeat the power of love.

The compassionate authority of Jesus

Morning: Psalms 101, 109:1-30; Isaiah 4:2-6; Ephesians 4:1-16Evening: Psalm 119:121-144; Matthew 8:28-34
Media caricatures of followers of Jesus lead you to dismiss them as weak or ridiculous; perhaps people then dismiss Jesus too?  But the Jesus of the Gospels is neither puny nor ineffectual.  He is a force to be reckoned with … He carries and exercises authority over the forces of evil.  Wherever he goes, people are in awe of him.  They are drawn to him; they cannot ignore him or dismiss him.  I ask myself … Am I like those caricatures, or does my life reflect the compassionate authority and strength of Jesus?

Fear, or faith?

Morning: Psalms 97, 99, 100;I Samuel 16:1-13a; Ephesians 3:14-21
Evening: Psalms 94, 95; Matthew 8:18-27

Have you ever said: “I’ll be able to do what I really want when ……” followed by the reasons why “now is not the right time”? Jesus bids us put first things first.  You cannot live life to the fullest when you are preoccupied with what lies beyond death.  Similarly, if you think of faith as ‘death insurance’, you live in fear.  Instead, Jesus invites his followers to live courageously into an unknown future and let go of their illusions of certainty.  Do not trust in what you want to happen, but in the One who holds the future.

Who will take my place?

Morning: Psalm 80; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 1 John 2:18-25
Evening: Psalm 33; 1 Samuel 12:1-5; Acts 20:17-35
Today, the Church remembers Matthias, the apostle who takes the place of Judas.  As each human generation gives way to another, we wonder … who will pick up where I leave off?  St. Paul hands over his work to his followers as he prepares for whatever fate awaits him in Jerusalem. Samuel anoints David as king in place of Saul.  So … who will take my place? How can I help the next generation to continue inviting the world to a change of heart and to trust in the wisdom of love?

Mother’s Day

Morning: Psalms 66, 67; Exodus 3:1-12; Hebrews 12:18-29 Evening: Psalms 19, 46; Luke 10:17-24
Mona and I have been visiting my “motherland”, the British Isles that gave me birth, and Iona and Lindisfarne, ancient sites from which Celtic Christianity gave birth to earthy expressions of faith that make so much sense to us.  We visited my mother … Poignantly, in her pleasant confusion, she asked, “Am I your mother?”  “Yes,” I reminded her (and myself!) “you are my mother.”  I am privileged still to be able to revisit my mother, to experience her joy in me – as Jesus rejoiced in his disciples – and we get to know one another again for the first time.

Salt and Light for the World

Morning: Psalm 45;Exodus 32:21-34; I Thessalonians 1:1-10
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; Matthew 5:11-16
When someone is called “salt of the earth”, they are the kind of person Jesus was encouraging us to be – bringing out the best qualities in others and in the world around … just like a little salt in food.  And they do it gently … too much salt overpowers the rest.  It’s a little harder to grasp the idea of being “light for the world” … You want to guard against the presumptuousness of knowing everything – good thing too.  But rather, be the light that shines just enough so that it shows the other’s true worth.

Don’t worry … the troubles won’t last for ever

Morning: Psalms 41, 52;Exodus 32:1-20; Colossians 3:18-4:18Evening: Psalm 44; Matthew 5:1-10
Jesus’ blessings (the Beatitudes) are astounding … souls who long for goodness will have it; the bereaved will not be overwhelmed by the power of death; the gentle will fill the earth; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied; the merciful will receive mercy; those whose hearts are transformed shall see God; the peacemakers are God’s children; those who suffer for what is right will find it; you are blessed when people hate and persecute you and speak evil against you, because you love what God loves.  Don’t worry … the troubles won’t last forever.

The world is full of miracles

Morning: Psalms 63:1-8; 98;Exodus 28:1-4,30-38; I John 2:18-29
Evening: Psalm 103; Mark 6:30-44
What to make of Jesus’ miracles?  The ‘feeding of the 5,000’ (and that was just the men!) appears in all 4 Gospels.  That the story enjoyed such currency in early Christianity suggests that it carries truth.  There were, by all accounts, 5,000 – 10,000 witnesses who would have discredited the story had it been a lie.  We cannot easily dismiss as fable – though some do – stories with such strong foundations. What is so difficult? … The world is full of daily miracles.  Why did people flock to Jesus?  Wasn’t it simply that he did, in fact, heal and feed them?

Values to live by

Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Exodus 25:1-22; Colossians 3:1-17
Evening: Psalms 42, 43;Matthew 4:18-25
In our materialistic culture, fame and fortune are acceptable values to live by.  There are many, though, who heed a different call … rather then their own success, they serve others and the well-being of the earth.  When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, they cannot know that they will one day be known throughout the world for following Jesus.  Paul invites the Colossians to follow Jesus too … Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forgiveness and, above all, love … let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … and be thankful.  Values to live by.

Be ready! You don’t want to miss this …

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22;Exodus 24:1-18; Colossians 2:8-23
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Matthew 4:12-17
When Jesus speaks of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, he avoids the word ‘God’ out of reverence.  But he’s talking about God’s Kingdom, not a ‘heaven’ where you go when you die. Jesus’ hearers know he is a revolutionary.  In this revolution, God becomes king without the futile use of violence.  Violence cannot end violence.  Instead, Jesus announces that a new society is arriving imminently.  So be ready!  You don’t want to miss this.  You want to be a part of it … not so that you will become pious, but so that the whole world will come to itself.

Resist the temptation to be someone you’re not

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Exodus 20:1-21; Colossians 1:24-2:7
Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; Matthew 4:1-11
The story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness is famous … probably because it echoes our own temptations and falls from grace.  The temptation of Jesus also echoes the Biblical examples of those who are tempted and succumb, like Adam and Eve, or the people of Israel in their wilderness. But Jesus does not succumb.  In Jesus, the essence of true humanity is shown.  We think that it’s ‘just being human’ to give in to temptation; on the contrary, it is the truly human in us that resists the temptation to be someone we are not.

Expect the unexpected

Morning: Psalm 38; Exodus 19:16-25; Colossians 1:15-23Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; Matthew 3:13-17
With Jesus, anything can happen, usually not what you expect.  It’s so surprising when people think they have figured Jesus out.  When John expects Jesus to assert his authority, Jesus submits to baptism by John in a moment of humility that indicates the significance of his whole life … he humbled himself.  There was a CBC radio personality called ‘the Voice.’  Today, the Voice is a hit TV vocal competition.  The Voice that is delighted with Jesus is bigger still and comes out of nowhere.  What delights this surprising Voice is how surprising Jesus is.  With Jesus, expect the unexpected.

A change of heart is what transforms the future

Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Exodus 19:1-16; Colossians 1:1-14
Evening: Psalms 36, 39; Matthew 3:7-12
Time can twist the meaning of words. ‘Repentance’ (in Greek ‘metanoia’) really means ‘a change of heart’ or ‘a turnaround’.  It’s a sea change in a life, a complete reorientation. Unfortunately, repentance has been triviliazed as a moment of ‘saying sorry’ in search of forgiveness and a slate wiped clean.  But true repentance does not so much look backwards on past wrongs as it looks forwards towards a new future.  John challenges those whose ‘repentance’ is not heartfelt, but ‘just in case’… insurance more than intention.  Going through the motions, just saying words, changes nothing, but only a transformed heart.

Prepare the Way

Morning: Psalm 25;Exodus 18:13-27; I Peter 5:1-14
Evening: Psalms 9, 15; Matthew 3:1-6
A thousand years before Jesus, the people of Israel hoped God would come and establish his chosen people as a new Kingdom on earth.  They crossed the Jordan into their promised land.  Now John calls them back to the Jordan, to prepare the way for a new land of promise; they flock to him.  Isn’t it true that the old longing for something better, brighter, lasting and good still persists in the human soul?  And now we too are called: ‘Let go of false hope and turn again towards that better world … prepare the Way for it!’

This bit of the Gospel isn’t Good News; and it shows

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150;Exodus 18:1-12; I John 2:7-17
Evening: Psalms 114, 115; Mark 16:9-20
At the end of Mark, a very difficult saying is attributed to Jesus: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” Most respected Biblical scholars agree that this whole section is not part of the original Gospel of Mark. What does ‘condemned’ mean here, anyway, and who will do it?  It’s not ours to condemn anyone.  As for God condemning people, that does not fit well alongside Jesus’s message and embodiment of mercy and compassion.  I cannot see how this passage can possibly be called Good News.

Take courage; do not lose heart

Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-14; Exodus 17:1-16; I Peter 4:7-19
Evening: Psalms 110:1-5, 116, 117; John 16:16-33
A better world feels like a faint hope when its most powerful leaders are today engaged in a dangerous standoff that threatens our peace.  Jesus tells his disciples that they will face pain and persecution as they pursue his Way … like the pain of a woman in labour; but she will soon know great joy.  The Christian hope is the joy of a renewed cosmos.  When Jesus says he overcomes the world, he means the power of love defeats the power of death.  This is the Christian hope, and the mission of humankind.  So we do not lose heart.

The spirit will guide you into all truth

Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Exodus 16:23-36; I Peter 3:13-4:6
Evening: Psalms 134, 135; John 16:1-15
Have you experienced, after the departure of a person who is important to you, that you still feel their ‘presence’?  Jesus is clearly describing a more significant presence when he says to his followers that the holy spirit will come, after his departure.  And the spirit will make known to them their true path.

No Greater Love

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Exodus 16:10-22; I Peter 2:11-25
Evening: Psalm 18:21-50;John 15:12-27
Jesus’s mission was to make us more human.  The greatest love is to give your whole self, in gentleness and humility, to help others to find their true selves too. When Jesus says, “Greater love has no-one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” it invites me to ask myself … Am I free enough – do I love enough – to let go of my own fondly held privileges so that someone else can know freedom and joy in their life?  How am I being called to do that right now?

Prepare for ‘pruning’ and don’t go it alone

Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Exodus 15:22-16:10; I Peter 2:1-10
Evening: Psalm 12, 13, 14; John 15:1-11
My English grandfather taught me that good gardeners prune to make plants bear healthy fruit.  They clean away unnecessary, excess growth, to ensure the quality of the fruit.  Jesus teaches that we are like branches of vines, needing careful attention from a master-gardener.  His ‘pruning’ opens us up to light.  The knife may feel unpleasant, but resisting the ‘pruning’ or running away from the ‘vine’ only lead to withering and death. On the spiritual journey, be prepared to have your excess ‘dead wood’ cut away; and don’t travel alone.

Love and Peace; the measure of authentic faith

Morning: Psalm 5, 6;Exodus 15:1-21; I Peter 1:13-25
Evening: Psalms 10, 11; John 14:18-31
A show portrays a priest as mentally ill; he believes God is with him when he murders people he considers evil.  Mona and I are both reasonably mentally stable priests.  We laugh at these caricatures of clergy in the media … we have to laugh to keep from crying!  These portrayals reflect common cultural perceptions of faith and faith leaders as woefully suspect, untrustworthy, or just plain stupid. Jesus suggests that spiritual authenticity is demonstrated by love and peace.  These come from God; they are the real measure of whom we should trust, or whether we ourselves can be trusted.

Invitation to the drama of Word and Light

Morning: Psalms 85, 87;Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-10
Evening: Psalms 110:1-7, 132; Wisdom 9:1-12; John 1:9-14
John’s Gospel is all about God’s Word and Light coming into the world.  John believes that Jesus is Word and Light, the revelation of God’s grace and truth.  All who accept him become ‘children of God’.  That is to say, something can happen in the relationship with Jesus by which all may become new people, with a renewed sense of purpose.  The whole story suggests that a great drama of Sound and Light – Son et Lumière – is unfolding, a drama in search of actors who will speak the Word and reflect the Light by which the world will be healed.

God has room for all … and Jesus is the Way to God

Morning: Psalms 146, 147;Exodus 14:5-22; I John 1:1-7
Evening: Psalms 111, 112, 113; John 14:1-7
Last Saturday, my daughter read this Gospel at her grandfather’s funeral. She says it reminds her of our very large church rectory, where there is room for everyone. Jesus reassures his disciples that, in the unknown and indescribable future, there will be room for all.  And, in response to Thomas’s questioning, he says that he, Jesus, is the Way to God.  That is, look at Jesus – listening compassionately to ordinary folk; weeping at the tomb of his friend; serving his followers by washing their feet; or, loving and forgiving those who killed him – look at Jesus, and you’ll see God.

Resurrection … a real, physical re-creation

Morning: Psalm 145; Exodus 13:17-14:4; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
Evening: Psalm 104; Mark 12:18-27
Belief in resurrection was popular up to 200 years before Jesus, in revolutionary movements whose martyrs would enjoy a glorious future when God remakes the world.  Conservative Sadducees of Jesus’s time opposed resurrection, because it might encourage revolutionary thinking.  Modern folk-theology thinks of resurrection as an ethereal, disembodied, spiritual existence.  But Christians are clear … Resurrection is God remaking the world – how and when one can only guess. To Christians our physical existence is good, to be savoured and enjoyed to the full.  So resurrection is recognizably physical, but different than what we know now.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Morning: Psalm 136;Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; I Corinthians 15:51-58Evening: Psalm 118; Luke 24:1-12
In Luke’s Gospel, a group of women finds Jesus’ tomb empty.  Two men in dazzling clothes frighten the women and ask them: ‘why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’  What are we to do with this story?  Well, you either accept Jesus’ resurrection or you don’t.  And even if you don’t, the story still addresses our human tendency to pursue fulfilment in lifeless substitutes for God – wealth, or even ‘sacred’ objects.  But lifeless things do not bring life to anyone; nor do they bring anyone to life.

All that I have commanded you … Love one another

Morning: Psalms 146, 147; Exodus 13:3-10; I Corinthians 15:41-50
Evening: Psalms 148, 149:Matthew 28:16-20
So many people think of the Way of Jesus as a set of moral principles that you might think he himself had written the 10 Commandments and other rules.  In fact, Jesus commands only this: Love God and love one another.  Following Matthew’s account of the resurrection, Jesus says his disciples should: “teach (people) to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  It sounds simple doesn’t it?  We’re still figuring it out, though.  According to Jesus, the best guide for us is to look to him, study his life, and love as he did.  Piece o’ cake, right?!  Not.

An event that changed the world like no other

Morning: Psalms 97, 99;Exodus 12:40-51; I Corinthians 15:29-41
Evening: Psalm 115; Matthew 28:1-16
Stories about the resurrection of Jesus proliferated in the following months and years.  Of course, there was no CNN reporter on the scene; no one filmed the event.  But even with modern-day coverage, the versions would have multiplied within hours.  Important news usually does come in multiple versions – people tell the stories in their own way.  There is no argument … something astounding happened that day that changed the world like no other event before or since.  The reverberations of it continue to be felt in ever-new ways.  It’s hard to imagine “fake news” having such staying power.

Good news for the entire creation

Morning: Psalm 103;Exodus 12:28-39; I Corinthians 15:12-28
Evening: Psalm 111, 114; Mark 16:9-20
After church on Easter Day, I was grateful when someone said he appreciated this prayer: “You give life to the creation by renewing the earth in every season. Curb our exploitation of natural resources, and cause us to preserve the health of plant and animal habitats.”  The good news of Jesus is for the entire creation.  So often we address only the human dimension of the world.  Even our supposed ‘care of the Creation’ tends to be for the benefit of humans.  My friend’s affirmative comment invites ever more inclusive attitudes towards the much-more-than-human world.

Faith is not knowing, yet still accepting

Morning: Psalms 93, 98;Exodus 12:14-27; I Corinthians 15:1-11
Evening: Psalm 66; Mark 16:1-8
When, in the Gospel, they find Jesus’s tomb empty, the world is transformed … the Jesus Movement begins there and then, seeking to comprehend, explain, and share the astounding mystery of the power of death overcome.  There is no proof.  Two possibilities exist, though, after you consider the story … belief or disbelief.  A young man asks a wise man to prove something about God.  He responds with a question: “Do you love your wife?”  When the young man says, “With all my heart,” he challenges him: “Prove it.”  Faith is not knowing, having no proof, yet still accepting.

What would Jesus do? is the wrong question

Morning: Psalms 148, 149, 150;Exodus 12:1-14; John 1:1-18 Evening: Psalms 113, 114; Isaiah 51:9-11; John 20:19-23
In John’s Gospel Jesus appeared to his disciples where they were hiding in fear and wished them, “Peace”.  He did not tell them: ‘now go do what I have done’; who could manage that?  Rather, Jesus breathed on them and taught them to be guided by the Spirit.  The Way of Jesus does not focus on our being good, nor does it mean relying on our own wisdom and strength.  Rather, Jesus calls us to peace and spiritual wisdom, so that we may learn to live well … The capacity for living well comes from beyond us.

Suffering really can make things right

Morning: Psalm 95, 88; Lamentations 3:37-58; Hebrews 4:1-16
Evening: Psalm 27;Romans 8:1-11

How can Jesus’s suffering make things right?  Only if Jesus is God.  And even then, it is not because Jesus “pays the price” for trouble we cause.  What could that possibly mean? He pays himself!?  No … But suffering endured for Love does help, because it’s a powerful way of saying, “I love you”.  Believing that the cosmos is fundamentally friendly changes things.  For, when weighed down by my failings, knowing that the only record of them is in my own mind may help me find new life, and even make me ready to endure suffering for someone else’s sake.

A burial fit for the king of a new creation

Morning: Psalms 95, 22;Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33; I Peter 1:10-20
Evening: Psalms 40:1-14, Psalm 54; John 19:38-42

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret disciples, spare no expense for Jesus’s burial.  100 pounds of spices is 100 times the amount people grumble that Mary so extravagantly uses on Jesus’s feet at Bethany.  Now, in death, this is a quantity of myrrh and aloes fit for a king.  In other words, John is saying, if ever Israel had a king, it is Jesus.  Furthermore, now he will lie through the 7th day (the Sabbath).  Creation took 6 days, followed by the Sabbath rest. But Jesus will rise to be king of the 8th day … a new creation.

Last Supper: A Meal to Remember

Morning: Psalm 102; Lamentations 2:10-18; I Cor 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Evening: Psalms 142, 143;Mark 14:12-25

We once took all 5 of our kids to dinner in Quebec City, a city renowned for excellent cuisine.  When the meals arrived, an awed silence settled over the table.  Both to our chagrin (we thought we weren’t bad cooks!) and to our delight (we were glad they liked it), the kids agreed this was the best food they had ever tasted.  We will always remember that meal – we are now rarely all in the same place together.  We remember Jesus in bread and wine, because being at table together is the best way to remember life’s most significant moments.

Keep killing the truth, and there’ll be trouble

Morning: Psalm 55; Lamentations 2:1-9; 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
Evening: Psalm 74; Mark 12:1-11

In many Biblical stories, human beings consistently oppose the truth that the earth and life itself are gifts to steward and care for, not ours to do with just as we want.  Indigenous wisdom knows this well. We must account for our stewardship, good or bad.  The stories say more … We humans know the earth’s sacred purpose, but we still choose to live outside of Love.  Consistently – this time through Jesus – the stories warn that if human beings continue to turn aside from Love, we will be forced to give the earth back, so it can be restored.

The truth told slant

Morning: Psalms 6, 12;Lamentations 1:17-22; 2 Corinthians 1:8-22
Evening: Psalm 94; Mark 11:27-33
The powers that be who challenge Jesus cannot match the authority of his teaching.  Predictably, their reaction is: “Who do you think you are!?”  What’s more, Jesus speaks the truth in riddles and confounds their arguments, keeping them guessing and making them work things out for themselves.  Emily Dickinson has a wonderful poem that suggests she may have learned this method from Jesus: “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”  If you speak the truth bluntly, people may not hear it.  You invite people into the bigger picture; they come to the truth by themselves.