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Showing posts from May, 2018

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.