Monthly Archives: May 2020

Daily Lectionary – May 28, 2020

Morning Psalms 47; 147:12-20

First Reading Zechariah 4:1-14

Second Reading Ephesians 4:17-32

Gospel Reading Matthew 9:1-8

Evening Psalms 68; 113

 

Matthew 9:1-8

1And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.

2And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he then said to the paralytic – “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” 7And he stood up and went to his home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

We are concerned with the immediate need, and rightly so. It’s hard to think about the state of your soul when you’re hungry, or out of a job, or homeless, or sick. Sometimes there are things that happen that make it hard to broaden our view beyond the immediate. Part of the grace of God, then, is to widen our view. A paralyzed man comes to Jesus, carried by friends. Jesus sees everyone’s hope as they come to him for help with the one thing that presses most. No doubt Jesus knows why the paralytic has come; but instead of healing the man right away, Jesus notices his faith. “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Maybe the paralytic didn’t view this as his most pressing problem. But Jesus knows the truth: that God isn’t just concerned about broken bodies but broken souls. No matter the problem, then, take heart; your sins are forgiven.

 

Holy God, we praise you for your grace and love, in our savior Jesus Christ. Give us hearts of joy to live as your forgiven people, healed in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – May 28, 20202020-09-08T16:04:47-05:00

Daily Lectionary – May 27, 2020

Morning Psalms 99; 147:1-11

First Reading Isaiah 4:2-6

Second Reading Ephesians 4:1-16

Gospel Reading Matthew 8:28-34

Evening Psalms 9; 118

 

Ephesians 4:1-16

1I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

COVID-19 was not in our plans this year. We were looking forward to some family milestones—Ellie’s first horse show, Margaret’s dance recital, Peter’s first birthday celebrated with family. Katie and I were looking forward to a trip to Europe later in the summer, two whole weeks away from children (as it stands, we have spent most waking moments with children for the past ten weeks. Our last date may have been the weekend of Valentine’s day.) As frustrated as I feel, however, I know that many people have it much worse. For far too many this is a season of unspeakable grief, economic uncertainty, isolation, and alienation. As always, Paul, a prisoner, gives encouragement on how we are to live in times like these, no matter how serious or how mundane our situation may be. Some of the letter is simply good advice for people cooped up together for too long: “bear with one another in love.” But, more seriously, Paul casts a vision of God’s ultimate intention for our lives, which remains true no matter how far it feels like our plans have been derailed. If you’re looking for a job during COVID time, think about what Paul says—that we have been given gifts of the Spirit, pieces of God’s own power, so that we can grow into spiritual maturity, the full stature of Christ. This time is no different from any others; it’s a time for us to exercise the gifts of God entrusted to our care—no matter how strong or feeble—so that we can grow to resemble the love of the savior in our own lives. This is always God’s plan; it puts ours into perspective.

 

God, we need nothing less than your grace to grow into the life you intend for us. Let your Spirit take root within us, growing us into the stature and maturity of Jesus Christ. We pray in his name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – May 27, 20202020-09-08T16:04:47-05:00

Daily Lectionary – May 26, 2020

Morning Psalms 98; 146

First Reading 1 Samuel 16:1-13a

Second Reading Ephesians 3:14-21

Gospel Reading Matthew 8:18-27

Evening Psalms 66; 116

 

1 Samuel 16:1-13a

1The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” 7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.

 

Israel wanted a king for a long time. Coming off of years of instability and tribal warfare, now Israel was a nation like other nations: consolidated and powerful, able to protect itself against its enemies. By the time of the reading today, however, the sheen has worn off of King Saul’s reign. He had begun to ignore the word of God coming from the prophet Samuel and it seemed like a return to the bad old days was just around the corner. But God doesn’t leave the people without hope for long: “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’” Samuel goes to the house of Jesse to look for what’s next. He sees Jesse’s older sons, Eliab, Abidnadab, Shammah, and several others. They’re tall and strong. They probably look the part of kings (just like Saul did). But God reminds Samuel that he does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart. David, the smallest and the weakest, is the one chosen to be king.

 

We might expect Israel to have practice recognizing the way of God when Jesus comes along. Although David grew to be a great warrior, at this moment we see him anointed with God’s favor as a child—the least among seven brothers; in God’s economy, the weak defeat the strong, showing that the strength of God is beyond all human strength, or God’s wisdom beyond all human learning. We also see that this way takes patience. It’s likely some time before David fights Goliath and captures the notice of Saul. It’s even longer until he becomes king. And lest we think Israel’s problems were solved with the right person in charge, a look at II Samuel will remind us that problems still arise, even with God’s anointed in charge. So what do we do as we wait for God’s strange way of salvation? We renew something of expectation within ourselves. The exterior world will always present its challenges, but the Lord looks on the heart. We trust that God will right the wrongs of the world and restore creation; but in the meantime, maybe the kingdom begins within ourselves. We still might not have anything to “do” in this time, but maybe hope in God is work enough to fill a lifetime.

 

God, give us a Spirit of trust—of patience and peace, endurance and hope—as we wait on your promised salvation. Look on our hearts and restore us from within, that our days might be spent in expectation, looking for your Son among us, and your Spirit within. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

           

 

Daily Lectionary – May 26, 20202020-09-08T16:04:47-05:00

A Letter to the Congregation

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

“When are we going to return?” I’ve heard that question plenty. And the honest answer is: I don’t know.

I know what we want is for things to return to normal—to worship in a familiar place and recover that comfort of community that we use to sustain us when everything else around us seems broken. It’s a cruel irony of this time that the place we use for support in grief and change and transition is unavailable.

Having said that, the reality is that even a premature “return” to church wouldn’t feel like church at all. Recommendations published by denominational and public health officials include cautions about what in-person worship would look like: no congregational singing or collective spoken liturgy as, even with everyone masked, those things have the potential to spread disease; no passing of the peace or holding hands; no greeting or coffee hour (how could we all be six feet apart in the commons?). Can you even imagine a social distancing children’s sermon? Were we to return too soon, would it be like worship at all?

I want you to know, then, that the session is taking these concerns seriously, balancing our witness and mission as a church with the best public health advice we have received. To that end, we cannot say when things will return to normal. But let me share some good news.

The good news is that, despite the fear and frustration, our church has faced this before. We have the witness of countless generations to show that God always makes a way: that God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death.

The good news is that we are able to worship over our Facebook livestream, witnessing our faith and celebrating God’s goodness together, even when we’re apart. The good news is that our Missions Team is hard at work identifying the best stewardship of our collective resources and, to date, our church had donated over forty thousand dollars to local organizations and denominational mission efforts to support victims of COVID-19 and local
storms.

The good news is that we still gather in prayer and study, eager to learn what we can of a God who never lets us go, but goes to the cross rather than abandoning us.

In these past days I have been comforted by words from the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who reminds us that we cannot take for granted the experience of living around other Christians—that the church is “visible grace” anticipating the kingdom of God. We may not always have the opportunity to be together. What has felt normal for so long may only be a provisional glimpse of what God has in store for us. But it’s a promise—that no matter how distant we feel, in Jesus Christ, we are together.

Please know that your session is praying for you. I am praying for you. And, above all, Jesus
Christ is praying for you.

Peace,

Will

A Letter to the Congregation2020-09-08T16:04:47-05:00

Daily Lectionary – May 25, 2020

 

Morning Psalms 97; 145

First Reading Joshua 1:1-9

Second Reading Ephesians 3:1-13

Gospel Reading Matthew 8:5-17

Evening Psalms 124; 115

 

Joshua 1:1-9

 

1After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2“My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

What to do when the leader goes missing? This is just what happens with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus ascends to heaven and leaves his disciples staring, wondering what will happen next. It’s not until ten days later that they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—God’s own power and presence to guide them and help them in all the places they are called to go. It recalls something from long before, when Moses, Israel’s greatest prophet, the lawgiver, who spoke with God as a friend, died before the people reached the promised land. How to continue? God charges Joshua to keep going—that, even though Moses is gone, “I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you.” How do we act in the absence of our comfort? Or hope? Or the sense that we are unequal to the challenge of the day? We trust that God is with us. “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Gracious God, as you helped your people through wilderness ways, as you guided a scared Joshua and confused and bewildered disciples, remain with us, too—that in the challenge of the days ahead we would be assured that you are with us, and we would never be dismayed, in the hope of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Art: Christ the King of Kings, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55319 

[retrieved May 18, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_King_of_Kings_(Greece,_c._1600).jpg.

Daily Lectionary – May 25, 20202020-09-08T16:04:48-05:00
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