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Showing posts from April, 2018

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.