Monthly Archives: March 2020

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Daily Lectionary – April 1, 2020

Morning Psalms 5; 147:1-11

First Reading Exodus 7:8-24

Second Reading 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

Gospel Reading Mark 10:1-16

Evening Psalms 27; 51

 

14But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

 

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; 3and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

 

4Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

 

Paul doesn’t have much of a reputation as a writer. Oscar Wilde once said something like: the best argument against Christianity is the Apostle Paul’s prose style. But Paul’s letters to Corinth bring out something of his best (“you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God but on tablets of human hearts”). This is despite the fact that Corinth may have given Paul more trouble than any of the other churches he started and supported. Maybe it was the challenge that brought out his best. We think that there were several letters between Paul and Corinth—maybe even five. But most were lost and so we have First and Second Corinthians. In between these letters Paul visited the church and things did not go well. And since that fateful visit Paul sent another letter, “a letter of tears,” calling the church back to faith and obedience. In short, Paul is fed up; and now all he can do is reassert who he is to offer correction. Paul claims that he is a minister of God whose “competence is from God.” Paul doesn’t encourage or chide or correct because he has everything figured out—but because this is the work that God has given him to do. As such, the church in Corinth is something authored by Paul “you yourselves are our letter,” written on Paul’s own heart. The life of the church is the witness to the one who planted it. In the same way, the church is “a letter of Christ,” because ultimately the author of all Christian community—of all of us—is God. And the life of God isn’t just written in what we say but in the way we live, written “on tablets of human hearts.” This is the goal of all of it—all the reading, worship, study, and learning we do (in church, or in reflections like these) so that something of God will be written on our hearts, not just on the page. It’s in our lives that something of God comes to life, just as “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Holy God, write your word of grace on our hearts, that in the telling of our lives we might proclaim who you are for us, in the love of Jesus, your Son. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – April 1, 20202020-09-08T16:05:05-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 31, 2020

We invite you to worship with First Presbyterian Church every day by reading the lectionary and a brief reflection. Let us worship God!

 

Morning Psalms 34; 146

First Reading Exodus 5:1-6:1

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 14:20-33a, 39-40

Gospel Reading Mark 9:42-50

Evening Psalms 25; 91

 

1Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.'” 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” 3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” 4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” 5Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” 6That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7“You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

 

10So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.'” 12So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. 13The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” 14And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”

 

15Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” 17He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” 20As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. 21They said to them, “The LORD look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

 

22Then Moses turned again to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? 23Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”

 

1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”

 

We know that God sent Moses to Pharaoh to plead for Israel’s freedom. But sometimes we forget how Moses really asked for it. Here Moses tells Pharaoh to let the people go so that they can go into the wilderness and worship God. This doesn’t suggest that the people will flee across the Red Sea—not yet, at least. The choice given to Pharaoh is whether he will let the people worship. Pharaoh doesn’t do this; instead he asks that the people work more. Now they are to gather straw to make bricks instead of having it provided for them. Even the suggestion that there may be something else to life—worship, freedom—means the Pharaoh makes the people work harder. Maybe more work will prevent Israel from thinking about God. In this way of thinking, there can be nothing more important than work. We know this isn’t true, but sometimes we act like it is. It recalls the well-known Mary and Martha story in the Gospel of Luke. Martha works hard to prepare her house for Jesus. Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen—to which Jesus says, “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.” What is the one thing we need? At this time of distancing much of what comprises our regular life has fallen away. Commitments are gone. Activities have been cancelled. The calendar is startlingly empty. For some this is a tremendous challenge, along with the attendant loneliness of the time. But there can be part of this that is liberating, too. When our lives are so concerned with busyness, sometimes we leave out the better part. We absorb the lessons of Pharaoh from our jobs thinking that our production and our busyness is the most important thing about us. We learn how to do more with less, making bricks without straw, or gathering straw ourselves (maybe that’s what it feels like to work from home, snatching hours of productivity from a place that should mean relationship and rest). But now much of what we have has fallen away, and it’s time to realize that there is one thing necessary. Now we have been led into the wilderness to worship God.

 

Gracious God, we worship you, we praise you, we thank you for your gifts of life and freedom. Help us to use these gifts, that we might grow in your grace and love, and rest in your presence always, wherever you lead us, in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 31, 20202020-09-08T16:05:06-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 30, 2020

Morning Psalms 119:73-80; 145

First Reading Exodus 4:10-20 (21-26) 27-31

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 14:1-19

Gospel Reading Mark 9:30-41

Evening Psalms 121; 6

 

30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

 

33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 

38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”

 

The disciples argue about who is the greatest. Jesus, of course, doesn’t answer. Instead he brings a child forward and talks about the welcome of God: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” This theme is repeated elsewhere in the Gospels— “if you did this to the least of these, you did it unto me.” One of the challenges of our lives, then, is that we don’t just see others as children or parents or friends or enemies or neighbors. We see (or try to see) everyone as a representation of Jesus. So when we offer hospitality or help; or when we think about who will be most affected by the virus—the elderly or the sick—we’re thinking about how we would treat Jesus in the lives of others. Maybe that would change how we would treat “the least of these.” At the very least it might prevent us from thinking about our own greatness.

 

Loving God, accompany us in our weakness, that we might have the greatness of heart to care for others as you have cared for us, in Jesus, your Son. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 30, 20202020-09-08T16:05:06-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 29, 2020

Morning Psalms 84; 150

First Reading Exodus 3:16-4:12

Second Reading Romans 12:1-21

Gospel Reading John 8:46-59

Evening Psalms 42; 32

 

1   How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2   My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

3   Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4   Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah

 

5   Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6   As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7   They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

 

8   O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9   Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.

 

10  For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the LORD withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12  O LORD of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

 

Of course the Psalms were meant to be sung. They were the hymnal for Israel. So we can imagine Psalm 84 as an opening hymn, inviting people into the temple to worship God: “how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” Christian theology built this image of temple worship into a symbol for the eternal presence of God—just as the people of God long to worship God in the temple, so we yearn for the eternal presence of God. This interpretation became popular. And so when Johannes Brahms, the great German Romantic composer wrote his Requiem, he was sure to include Psalm 84. You can follow the link below to Brahms’s interpretation. In the middle of writing his Requiem, his mother died; and the subsequent expression of grief finds hope in longing for the eternal presence of God. It says more than I ever could.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcwKW3by2Ps

 

Almighty God, all our longings are a shadow of our longing for you. We need more than good reports—we need the hope that you provide. We need more than social relationships—we need that love that unites us as your people. We need more than signs that you are with us—we need the fulness of your presence to open us to the world you are creating, even now. Give us a vision of what is to come, that our hope would keep us grounded in you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 29, 20202020-09-08T16:05:06-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 28, 2020

Morning Psalms 43; 149

First Reading Exodus 2:23-3:15

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Gospel Reading Mark 9:14-29

Evening Psalms 31; 143

 

23After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

 

1Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

 

7Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

 

13But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” 15God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

 

God hears the groaning of his people. It can be easy to forget in times when their seems like there is so much groaning—of pain, of fear, or of callous and selfish disregard for others. We live in a world of noisy groaning. Exodus reminds us that God hears it all. In hearing, God acts. God brings Moses to Horeb, this holy mountain where God was said to be. An angel directs Moses’s attention to God, and in that moment reveals himself: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Through the conversation it becomes clear that God has a job for Moses. God is going to send Moses to Pharaoh so that he will free Israel. Moses then asks the question that we all would, “”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And really, he’s right. He’s not anyone really special. But it doesn’t matter who Moses is. It matters who God is: “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” Whether we think of ourselves as unequal to the challenge, then—of life or struggle or grief—the assurance we have isn’t that we’re special, but that God will be with us. Isn’t that enough?

 

Gracious God, be with us in the comfort and communion of your Spirit. Knit your people together in love, that we might support one another through prayer and service as a sign of when you will bring us together to worship you again, together in the love of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 28, 20202020-09-08T16:05:06-05:00
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