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Showing posts from August, 2018

For God, there are no backwaters

Morning: Psalms 16, 17;Job 9:1-15, 32-35; Acts 10:34-48
Evening: Psalm 22; John 7:37-52
Today is St. Aidan’s Day.  An Irish monk, Aidan was sent from remote Iona in Scotland as a missionary to the English.  In April, Mona and I were privileged to stay on Iona. Afterwards, we visited barren, windswept Lindisfarne island, where Aidan founded a new Christian community.  From Lindisfarne, Aidan gently taught the English the message of Jesus. Jesus’s contemporaries once wondered how he could come from such a humble place as Galilee.  It is a pattern in Christian history – Highly influential people (Aidan, Jesus) often work far from the centres of secular power.  For God, there are no backwaters.

Will you examine your deeply held convictions?

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Job 8:1-10, 20-22; Acts 10:17-33
Evening: Psalm 18:21-50;John 7:14-36
The authorities call Jesus an impostor when he reveals truths that contradict their version of reality.  Some observe the letter of the law, but would rather not explore the spirit of the law.  By pointing this out, Jesus threatens the whole edifice of their power.  It’s safer, in the short term, to deny the truth than to have it turn your life upside down.  Jesus always challenges, if we are not afraid to listen: … Are your convictions reasonable?  Do they serve the common good?  Or are they simply unexamined, habitual, and possibly mistaken, ways of seeing the world?

When you suffer, are you sustained by hope?

Morning: Psalm 102;Jeremiah 38:1-6; Revelation 7:13-17
Evening: Psalm 86; Judges 16:28-30; 1 Peter 3:13-18
We don’t usually choose to suffer (who would?) but hope helps us endure it – for healing; for someone we love; for country; for the world. Suffering for faith needs hope too, unless it comes from blind, pathological obedience to twisted ideals.  But when we suffer in the cause of Love, can we say what we hope our suffering might accomplish?  Perhaps the way we confront our own suffering will help others learn courage?  Suffering without hope is meaningless.  With hope, we accept suffering as one inevitable part of our being made for Love in a still imperfect world.

God in the flesh

Morning: Psalms 5, 6;Job 6:1-4, 8-15, 21; Acts 9:32-43
Evening: Psalms 10, 11; John 6:60-71
Last night, someone wondered why it’s difficult to spark people’s interest in being Jesus’s disciples.  According to John, many stop following Jesus because he stirs up such controversy … people always find Jesus challenging. What people balk at in every age is the belief that, in Jesus, the actual Word of God takes flesh in a human life.  You can spiritualize this, but that just makes Jesus a good man and strips him of his awesome importance for humanity.  He is much more, John is saying, so shockingly and tantalizingly all at once … Jesus is God in the flesh.

Drink my blood … What’s this about?

Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3;Job 4:1, 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27; Acts 9:19b-31
Evening: Psalms 4, 7; John 6:52-59
King David refused to drink water brought by his 3 bravest warriors from the well in occupied Bethlehem: “Can I drink the blood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  In saying we must drink his blood to be fully alive, Jesus echoes this story of David … So, if we ‘drink’ Jesus’s blood, we accept what he does, not only risking, but giving his life.  We accept that his suffering and death actually overpower the power of death.  But don’t expect anyone to explain this in 100 words … or in a lifetime!

Faith recognizes grace for what it is

Morning: Psalms 146, 147;Job 4:1-6, 12-21; Revelation 4:1-11
Evening: Psalms 111, 112, 113; Mark 6:1-6a
In Nazareth, Jesus could do no deeds of power; the handyman’s son could not convince his own townspeople.  Today’s Gospel is about how faith influences not only healing but all human experience.  I don’t mean, “Ask for anything in faith and you’ll get it.”  That’s too simplistic.  But faith does entrust life to a power greater than our own.  Unbelief excludes anything that lies beyond my understanding.  Belief consents to Divine possibilities.  Of course, God often acts whether we consent or not; all the everyday miracles are pure grace, unbidden and free.  Faith simply recognizes grace for what it is.

Drawn to Jesus

Morning: Psalms 137:1-6, Psalm144; Job 3:1-26; Acts 9:10-19a
Evening: Psalm 104;John 6:41-51
I did not one day decide to follow Jesus; I was ‘drawn’ by him.  C.S. Lewis says he was “decided upon”.  What attracts me is that Jesus so often befuddles me – saying things like ‘I am bread’.  Then I must decide … try to make sense of it, or judge it to be nonsense.  I am glad I was drawn to Jesus … he doesn’t make things simple, nor give me everything I want.  His life is, in many ways, a mystery, but, oddly enough, a mystery that makes sense to me … Does that make sense to you?

Jesus is like a mirror to show us who we are

Morning: Psalm 86;Genesis 28:10-17; John 1:43-51
Evening: Psalm 15, 67; Isaiah 66:1-2, 18-23; 1 Peter 5:1-11
This is St. Bartholomew’s Day; and do we ever need the humility that Jesus saw in him!?  Now, if someone asks, “Who here is humble?” and you raise your hand, you’re probably not!  Humility is a gift that grows when ego needs diminish.  Forces within and without have us caring too much about our own power and privilege.  It is not part of our created nature to lord it over others, but we need help from beyond ourselves if we are to be true to ourselves.  Jesus is a like a mirror, who helps us to see our true humanity

The dangerous passage to freedom

Morning: Psalms 131,132; Job 1:1-22; Acts 8:26-40
Evening: Psalms 134, 135;John 6:16-27
Jesus walks on water in 3 of the Gospels … This story comes up often in a 2-year cycle of readings.  It’s a key story for people whose foundational narrative is the Exodus – Moses leading the nation from slavery to freedom through the Red Sea.  Jesus is the ‘new Moses’, confronting the storms that afflict people now and inviting them to trust that, in God’s strength, they can weather these storms.  The crowds watching just want Jesus to give them more bread; Jesus wants his followers and the crowds to take courage and embark on the dangerous passage to freedom.

Power is for service, not for personal gain

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25
Evening: Psalm 128, 129, 130; John 6:1-15
News stories abound of priests and pastors who abuse their power to sexually exploit minors.  Shocking!  Shouldn’t we be able to trust spiritual leaders!?  Yet in reality, most of us – from parents to politicians, grandparents to aunts and uncles, older siblings to bosses or religious leaders – may find ourselves in a position to exploit the vulnerable.  In Acts, someone even offers money to buy from the apostles the power to confer the Holy Spirit on others. Peter teaches that we should not seek power, nor use it in order to exploit people for our benefit, but rather, to serve them.

Truth needs witnesses

Morning: Psalms 121, 122, 123;Judges 18:1-15; Acts 8:1-13
Evening: Psalms 124, 125, 126; John 5:30-47
On Sunday, the former mayor of New York and lawyer to the US President said, “Truth is not truth”, and caused a media storm.  Truth is elusive in this and every age. Jesus himself said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.”  Both meant: Truth is what objective witnesses verify.  We must then judge whether those witnesses are credible.  If the truth of Jesus must be measured against the testimony of credible witnesses, it’s not too much of a stretch, is it, to demand the same of the (lowly-by-comparison) president of the USA, or anyone else?

Life finds a way

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18;Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a
Evening: Psalm 106:19-48; John 5:19-29
25 years ago, Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park said: “Life, uh, finds a way.”  Jesus, the apprentice of the Creator, brings life from death. This is the theme of John’s Gospel … Jesus invites us to be “born from above” into a quality of life that is ‘eternal’.  Who has not experienced the power of death?  So the invitation to reallylive is compelling  – Though our little lives are short, Life itself is eternal and, uh, finds a way.  We are invited to embrace Life. As for the particulars of the Way … we shall see.

Reaching out in faith

Morning: Psalm 118;Judges 16:15-31; 2 Corinthians 13:1-11
Evening: Psalm 145; Mark 5:25-34
‘Reaching out’ to anyone is transformative.  Both are changed.  A woman in the crowd around Jesus, unknown to him, reaches out believing he can heal her bleeding disorder.  He knows someone has touched him; meanwhile, she is healed.  He feels a change in himself; she gets better.  How such miracles occur is beyond our power to investigate.  But Jesus wasn’t a magician; the woman’s faith was the vital factor in her healing.  The story seems to ask – Is there something about Jesus that makes you want to reach out in faith to him, to be transformed by his mysterious power?

Saturday August 18th – Give it a rest

Morning: Psalm 107:33-43; Psalm 108:1-6; Judges 16:1-14; Acts 7:30-43
Evening: Psalm 33:John 5:1-18
Yesterday, my computer chose not to wake up … I may have become too dependent on it?  Try as I might to rouse it from sleep, I could not.  I found a piece of advice on-line: “leave it to rest for 30 hours and then try again.”  Today, about 30 hours later, at the computer store, a young technician pushed 4 keys together and the sleeping Mac awoke!  A message for me maybe?  There is a right time for everything … the time I forget to observe too often is rest-time. Well, my ‘resting’ computer taught me a lesson, eh!?

Faith accepts that I do not yet know what I need

Morning: Psalm 102;Judges 14:20—15:20; Acts 7:17-29
Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; John 4:43-54
It’s popular nowadays to ask people what they need.  ‘Needs assessments’ assume, however, that we know what we need.  Jesus points out that we are often only interested in satisfying physical cravings, not realizing it’s spiritual ‘food’ that we need.  We will trust God if we get what we want – miraculous wine or bread.  The royal official in today’s story is different, though … he trusts God first, and then receives what he needs.  Faith is not faith if it depends on getting what you want.  Faith steps into the unknown expecting that there, its unknown needs will be met.

Satisfy spiritual hunger with Love

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Judges 14:1-19; Acts 6:15—7:6
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45;John 4:27-42
Imagine Jesus so excited he cannot eat!  His meeting with a social outcast, trapped in a life of immorality, transforms her life - she comes to herself. Jesus realizes the news of Love he brings is exactly what she and everyone need.  He doesn’t tell about Love; he lives it.  She can be herself with him, she feels valuable, she does not need to hide her deepest longings from him.  Jesus satisfies her spiritual hunger with Love and Hope.  This is the ‘food’ everyone needs most, until all who hunger are fed.  Amazingly, Love also ‘feeds’ whoever gives it.

Mary … of mothers, sons & brotherhood

Morning: Psalm 113, 115;1 Samuel 2:1-10; John 2:1-12
Evening: Psalm 45, 149; John 19:23-27
Religious culture often depicts Mary and Jesus so removed from human experience as to appear unreal. But Jesus’s earthiness is what appeals to me.  So, as he is dying, in a display of everyday humanity, Jesus turns to “the disciple whom he loved” (probably John), and says, in effect, “John, my brother, take care of Mom; and Mom, take care of my brother – he’s your son now.” Mary is down to earth, too.  By then, she has many children … yet there is room for one more in her affections.  And Jesus wants someone to care for her too.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!

Morning: Psalm 97, 99;Judges 13:1-15; Acts 5:27-42
Evening: Psalm 94; John 3:22-36
Christians have sometimes been persecuted and ridiculed.  In today’s story from Acts, Gamaliel, a wise council member, advises those who want to persecute Jesus’s followers: “Keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”  So, were 80 generations of Christians mistaken?  No, the wisdom of Gamaliel still suggests that something about this Jesus movement is ‘of God’.  Some parts may be misguided, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

You don’t need to ask a person if they were born

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18;Judges 12:1-7; Acts 5:12-26
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; John 3:1-21
Soul-full, spiritual maturity in a person is immediately recognizable.  When someone draws on deep spiritual wisdom, you know it.  They show a dash of humility, a pinch of patience, a modicum of kindness, the ring of truth and the aroma of love.  They trust a power greater than their own.  This is what Jesus meant when he said that if people are to see God’s dream for humanity and for the world, they must be ‘born from above.’  When they are, it’s obvious. They don’t necessarily call themselves ‘Christian’… Some follow Jesus’ Way without knowing it.

When are you going to get real faith?

Morning: Psalms 66, 67;Judges 11:1-11, 29-40; 2 Corinthians 11:21b-31
Evening: Psalms 19, 46; Mark 4:35-41
The story of Jesus calming the storm – Lake Galilee can be very dangerous – is a microcosm of the larger story of God’s providence … that the powers of evil and chaos will not prevail in the end.  Life throws all kinds of troubles in our direction and we have a choice: we can face them with faith; or be overwhelmed with fear.  Faith leaves you free to respond to the inevitable crises; but fear takes away your freedom and leaves you prone to just 2 Corinthireact.  Which is why Jesus challenges the disciples to start putting their faith in God.

The Earth as a Temple

Morning: Psalms 87, 90;Judges 9:22-25, 50-57; Acts 4:32-5:11
Evening: Psalm 136; John 2:13-25
For many of the indigenous peoples of the earth, the land and the heavens are holy – they honour and protect the earth as a holy place, where we are at one with the universe and with ourselves. Jesus throws the money-changers out of the Temple because they ruin the holy place of prayer, the place of meeting with God.  I cannot help thinking of the world as a Temple, too, and that it’s time we started treating it as the holy place of meeting that it is, and not just as a market-place, full of valuable resources and commercial opportunities.

A taste of new wine

Morning: Psalm 88;Judges 9:1-16; Acts 4:13-31
Evening: Psalms 91, 92; John 2:1-12
Jesus’s miracle of wine from water shows his radical newness: “no-one keeps the best wine until last.”  Jesus represents the promise that, in the end, everything will be made new.  The other Gospels tell how ‘new wine’ breaks old wineskins. But our world urgently needs the new paths Jesus calls us to tread. Surely the couple from the wedding at Cana lived the rest of their lives with extra zing and vitality because of the new and vital energy that Jesus helped them to taste on their wedding day.  When you think you’ve tasted everything … suddenly, a new vintage!

God beside you

Morning: Psalm 145; Judges 8:22-35; Acts 4:1-12
Evening: Psalms 85, 86;John 1:43-51
Nathanael, who is “genuine through and through”, is astonished that Jesus knows what kind of man he is, just from seeing him in passing.  Jesus reminds him that, at Bethel, Jacob dreamed of a ladder connecting earth and heaven.  In effect, Jesus says: ‘Come with me and you’ll see something even more astonishing than a Messiah … You will see earth joined to heaven, a reality beyond your imagining.  Come and see!  Can you imagine it … that God is beside you? It’s what Jacob dreamed of; it’s what you will actually see.’

Come and see … this is for everyone

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120;Judges 7:19 – 8:12; Acts 3:12-26
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; John 1:29-42
Near the beginning of John’s Gospel, John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God”, who by his death will heal Israel’s separation from God, like the sacrificial lambs of old.  John’s message is radically different, though, because Jesus is ‘the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.’  Jesus does not only restore the broken relationship between Israel and the Creator; Jesus heals the whole creation by bringing it into right relationship with the Creator. Jesus calls his disciples: “Come and see” (including us if we choose) and share in this healing work.  There is lots of it to do!

In the Wilderness … hope!

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39;Judges 7:1-18; Acts 3:1-11
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; John 1:19-28
John the Baptist said he was: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”  Our present-day world can feel like a bewildering wilderness … What values to follow?  How to live well?  Yet if you remain connected to One who is a Source of hope for the world, you will not be overwhelmed or give up.  John invested all he had in Jesus, and believed that people would find hope in him. We who hope as John did still trust that the Way of Jesus holds the key to the world’s healing.

We do not lose heart; there is a light Source

Morning: Psalms 2, 24;Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Evening: Psalm 72; Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; John 12:27-36a
There are many reasons to lose heart, to throw up your hands and withdraw.  From the spread of disruption and disinformation to the sheer volume of information in the media; it can feel overwhelming.  How to sift through it all?  Phew! But St. Paul insists … “We do not lose heart.”  There is still Light to challenge darkness; it burns within us.  So, as the old proverb says: ‘Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’  To not lose heart, though, you must spend at least a little time each day plugged in to the light Source.

Sharing, sharing, sharing

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Judges 6:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Evening: Psalm 84; 2 Corinthians 3:1-9, 18
The relatively new “share” option on Facebook echoes the time-honoured practice of generosity, encouraged by St. Paul – and taught to Canadian Beaver Scouts!  Paul says Christians are themselves “a letter” written on hearts of flesh … they share not just ideas (like FB memes), but their very selves.  Generosity – a reflection of God’s generosity in Creation and in life itself – is sharing that multiplies opportunities for kindness.  One act of generosity may trigger a domino effect of generosity on a massive scale – millions of “shares”!! Imagine! The Good News is that the indescribable gift of life’s goodness is for sharing.

Faith tells the story of Love; believe it or not

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Judges 5:19-31; Acts 2:22-36
Evening: Psalms 23, 27;Matthew 28:11-20
Denial doesn’t want to believe.  Denialism denies truth – climate change, the Holocaust – creating another ‘truth’.  The chief priests pay the soldiers to say Jesus’ resurrection is a hoax – that’s denialism.  But the disciples see Jesus, who tells them to spread his Way of Love.  Faith trusts experience – love, relationship, and story.  Believers are not in denial any more than unbelievers.  Faith just responds to a different kind of truth.  No-one can prove that love, relationship, or story, are untrue; Faith cannot prove they are.  Faith can only tell about the experience of Love.  You believe that or you don’t.

Stephen, courageous witness to a new truth

Morning: Psalms 28, 30;2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-7
Evening: Psalm 118; Acts 7:59-8:8
Stephen serves tables to free the apostles for their important work of prayer and the Word.  Stephen is an exemplary servant. He also becomes a powerful teacher about the truth he finds in Jesus, and that brings him into confrontation with the religious authorities.  The evil foibles and failings of religious authorities are nowhere more evident than in the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen.  They respond to Stephen with arrogance, judgement and murder.  People of faith now, however, must open hearts and minds to strangers who speak truth in unexpected ways.  Uncomfortable truth – but truth – often springs from unlikely sources.

Do you want to know the truth? We can help

Morning: Psalm 71; Judges 4:4-23; Acts 1:15-26
Evening: Psalm 74;Matthew 27:55-66
Michiko Kakutani’s recent book, The Death of Truth, describes tellingly how truth is endangered in our times. Some deliberately obscure truth ... about climate change, poverty or injustice.  After Jesus’ death, the power elite lied, calling him an impostor, because he challenged their power by seeking justice.  They said: ‘make (the tomb) as secure as you can’. Ultimately, we believe that you cannot shore up the truth against those who seek to twist it or manipulate it.  But isn’t that because we also know that the truth needs our help, and we are ready to give it?

You may feel alone; but you are never forsaken

Morning: Psalm 72;Judges 3:12-30; Acts 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Matthew 27:45-54
After a fabulous, restful summer holiday, the story of Jesus’ crucifixion brings me down to earth again with a bump! Jesus makes this human journey with us. And his cry from the Cross echoes our own cry when, in distress, we find ourselves alone: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Some human experiences are earth-shattering; the earth moves under our feet.  Yet the earthquake and the voice that follow Jesus’ cry may be God’s answer … When everything has been shaken, what remains is that we are children of God; never entirely alone, not forsaken … ever.