Monday, August 31, 2015

Looking Forward to September 6, 2015 -- The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

As this is the first Sunday of September we will be celebrating the sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Reading this week is Luke 14:12-24

The Sermon title is Whose Banquet?

Early Thoughts:  As people of faith we are called to the Banquet table.  Who do we invite to join us?  How do we respond to the invitation ourselves?

But first, a song...

(Because I can never read this parable without hearing this song in my head)

The banquet of God is open to all.   And if some people will choose not to show up, God will keep issuing the invitation until the table is ready (or filled as the parable and the song say).  And if we turn down the invitation then we don't get to share in the party.

When we take part in the banquet of God it is not based on any expectation of pay back--it is because we are joining in the party for the sake of the party.

So will we answer the invitation? Will we join with all those who gather at the party?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Looking forward to August 30, 2015 -- The Good Samaritan

This week we continue to look at some beloved Parables as we turn to what is possibly the best known of Jesus' parables -- the Good Samaritan.

The Scripture reading is Luke 10:25-37

The Sermon title is Who is my neighbour?

Early Thoughts: That is the question this Parable is meant to answer.  Jesus has just plumbed his own tradition, and has called out from Torah the basics of what it means to live as a follower of God--love God, love your neighbour.  It sounds so simple.

But like the questioner many of us sometimes want a way out.  We want to know where we can draw the line.  So who is my neighbour?  Who do I have to act lovingly towards?  Or maybe who can I not act lovingly towards?

That is the challenge I think.  Christ calls us to look at everyone as a neighbour.  Christ calls us to act lovingly (not necessarily to like or go out of our way to befriend) towards even those whom we have been taught to despise.  This may even mean we accept help from them! [I have often wondered if that was part of the scandal of the story to Jesus' listeners--accept help, be dependent upon, a hated Samaritan.]

Pictures of shirts like these were very common on Facebook a while back:

There is a reason we continue to read this story.  There is a reason we continue to talk about the Great Commandment to love God and neighbour.

Because we keep looking for the loophole.

Love your neighbour means love the ISIS member.  Love your neighbour means loving the Charleston shooter.  Love your neighbour means loving the unlovable.  Not accepting all the choices people make, not allowing all actions, not saying that everything is okay.  But it does mean loving them.  It means putting aside desire for revenge.  It means seeing hope for renewal.  It means they are still valid children of God despite their (sometimes horrific beyond belief) actions.

We keep trying to live into that challenge.  Hopefully we get better at it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

These Days Devotional for August 22

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: Luke 11:1-4

Pray Without Ceasing

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray”
Luke 11:1
Did they want to find some way to be as close to God as Jesus was? Did they think there was some source of power they could access? Or did they just know that prayer was vital to a healthy life? For whatever reason Jesus' disciples knew they wanted to pray. Do we have that desire in our lives?
If life in faith is life in community with God, then prayer is vital to our continued growth and health. It is in prayer that we build our relationship with God, that we open ourselves to God's presence, that we are renewed in spirit.
Prayer need not be fancy or elaborate. It has been suggested that the three basic prayers are: wow, thanks, and help. We start there.
Action Step: Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing”. Today look for those chances to say WOW or THANKS or HELP. Then say them.
Source of Being, walk and talk with us each step of this day. Amen.

Friday, August 21, 2015

These Days devotional for August 21

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Shining Light

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16
This is one of those passages that may suffer from overuse. We have heard it so many times before. But then again, maybe we hear it so often because we need to be reminded. Maybe we hide our lights under a bushel or hide ourselves behind walls instead of shining out in the middle of the world?
Jesus knew that he would not be on earth forever. Jesus knew that his message would spread best through direct contact. So Jesus encouraged (and encourages) his friends and followers (including us) to share the light with the world. Jesus calls us to shine out, to be one with the light that shines in the darkness but the darkness can not overcome.
Action Step: Find out what is casting dark shadows in your community. How can the church help provide light that defeats those shadows?
Light of the World, shine in and through me, that none would live in darkness. Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

These Days Devotional for August 20

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10

We All Have a Part

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”
In our baptism liturgy we name that we are called, claimed, and commissioned. Maybe we are also consecrated, set apart for a special task.
It is somewhat terrifying to think that God has a plan for us, to think that God has set us apart for a specific purpose. And so I think that like so many of those who are called by God there is a part of us that wants to find a reason why we can't respond, why we are the wrong person for the job.
But it is also wonderful to be reminded that we are a creature of the Creator, and that we have a purpose. The challenge is to discover that purpose and live it out.
Action Step: Look at your to do list for the day. How do those tasks allow you to live out who God has made you to be?
Creator, you formed and shaped me. Help me to hear your voice as I live out your call. Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

These Days Devotional for August 19

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-14

Wash And Be Clean

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? ”
2 Kings 5:13
Why do we make it so hard?? Why do we think we have to jump through hoops to be clean and whole in God's eyes?
Maybe, like Naaman, we want a sign of wonder and power. Maybe, like Naaman, we think we are so important we deserve such a sign.
But remember the beginning of the faith story, where God calls all things good. Remember the Christ who told the lepers that they were clean, the Christ who proclaimed God's forgiveness.
It is easy to be whole in God's eyes. Easier even than bathing in the Jordan. We just have to say “here I am, heal me”. Why do we make it harder?
Action Step: On those days when you feel unlovable or unclean stop and look in the mirror and say “I am a beloved child of God”. For that matter do it at least once everyday.
Parent God, help me always remember how easy it is to place myself in your loving arms. Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

These Days Devotional for August 18

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-4

Holy Disarmament

...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4b
This verse is posted at the United Nations. But that doesn't seem to have really inspired the world's leaders as they make decisions.
70 years ago World War II ended. And since then there has not been a moment of global peace. Instead of destroying weapons we as a society seem to specialize in developing new “better” weapons. I wonder what we could accomplish by redirecting those research and development dollars?
A common practice in Christian worship is to greet each other with the Peace of Christ (who we call the Prince of Peace). I wonder if we can get national leaders to also greet each with words of peace – and mean it.
Action Step: There is a long tradition of Christians advocating for peace. Look for a chance to raise peace and disarmament as an option in your world.
Jesus, Prince of Peace, fill our hearts with a desire for peace and justice in our world Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Looking Forward to August 23, 2015

For the next three weeks we will be re-hearing some well-known parables from Luke's Gospel.

The Scripture Reading this week is Luke 15:1-32

The Sermon Title is Lost and Found

Early Thoughts:  Parables are always a challenge.  And parables we have heard over and over again and been told for years are even more of a challenge.  Because when we hear them over and over we start to think we know exactly what they mean.  But Parables don't often work that way.  They don't have just one meaning, just one lesson.  And sometimes when we jump to the obvious meaning we might miss something deeper.

This week we have in fact 3 parables.  A lost coin.  A lost sheep. A lost son.  So obviously we are talking about searching right?  Well yeah.  But where are we in these stories? What do these stories tell us about how to live a citizens of the Kingdom of God?

Normally these are told as feel-good stories, showing God's devotion to God's children, showing how none will be shut out or left behind.  And that is a valid reading.  It is a reading that Luke makes explicit as he tells the story.  I am just not sure it is the only possible meaning to be found.

But where are WE in the stories?  Are we the hunter?  The hunted? The sheep safe in the fold? The older brother? The prodigal father? The servants preparing the banquet? The guests at the party?  And how is the story different from those perspectives?

I submit that we all, to a degree, at different times in our lives, play every role in these stories.  So maybe we need to explore what that means to us.  Jesus tells Parables to expand our vision of the Kingdom, to expand our understanding of how we shall live.

Are we Lost? Found? Searching? Hiding? Waiting? Pouting?

These Days Devotional for August 17

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

Scripture: Matthew 25:31-45

When do we...?

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40
This is one of my favourite passages in all of Scripture. And also one of the most challenging. Life in service to Christ is about meeting the needs of the “least of these”. To live fully in God's presence, to live as one filled with the Holy Spirit means giving of what we have to feed and clothe and comfort. But we don't always do such a good job of that.
Then there is the shadow. When we ignore the needs of those around us we ignore Christ. Ouch.
The essence of Kingdom living is to share the love. The love of God appears and flows through us in many forms.
Action Step: Who are the “least of these” in your neighbourhood? Challenge yourself to find out more about their needs..
God, open my eyes to see the needs around me, open my heart to respond to those needs Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

These Days Devotional for August 16

I wrote a week's worth of devotionals for the devotional guide These Days.  This week is when they are in the book, so I thought I would share them here as well.

How Shall We Live?
Scripture: Micah 6:6-8

Justice, Kindness, Humility

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8
We get it wrong. At least that is what Micah and other prophets suggest. We argue about whether we are doing the rituals of faith properly and miss the acts that are called for.
I mean does God really care what colour the altar cloth is or how we serve communion? Or is God more worried about how the world is being transformed by our encounter with the Holy?
Christ came into the world to proclaim the Kingdom, not the church. In the Kingdom peace and righteousness are the rule and norm. In the Kingdom justice, kindness and humility will describe God's people.
And rituals may well be left behind.
Action Step: When you finish weekly worship or daily devotion, ask yourself and your community how you can help create a kinder, more just world today.
God, help us to be people of peace, kindness, and justice. Amen.