12th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
In today’s Old Testament reading Jeremiah is complaining.  He’s railing against God about everything that’s being done to him.  He also thinks that God is in on everything, but He’s not.  It’s only after the fact that we realize that God does give us the strength to handle anything and everything that the world throws at us.  Sometimes it does feel like God is leaving us all alone, but that’s not really the case.  Jeremiah eventually came to understand that it’s the world that’s against God, and since Jeremiah, and us to an extent, could be considered God’s mouthpiece, then by proxy we are railed against.  In the end we will be protected, and that’s all we have to remember.
Psalm 26:1-8 (ESV)

I Will Bless the Lord

Of David.

26 Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.[a]
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
    nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
    and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence
    and go around your altar, O Lord,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
    and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.

The message that was given to Jeremiah so many years ago, Paul reiterates in Romans.  Be steadfast and hold true.  Be kind and generous to everyone around you, for you could be in the presence of God’s messengers.
Matthew states clearly that the way of a Christian is difficult at best, and at the worst, it causes death.  We are to die to ourselves so we can live out the best we can be.  It’s a daily burden that can be difficult to live with.  But God will never give us more than we can handle, that’s all we have to remember.

11th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Looking back from what we know with the New Testament, the Isaiah reading is very interesting.  Let’s face it, the Israelites at this point in their history had no concept of eternity.  What they knew is all they had during the here and now.  And then reading the last verses on how the earth will wear out, but God’s salvation will continue on throughout eternity.  I think it’s very interesting.  Maybe when the verses were composed they probably equated eternity until their death.  We still use the terms when it comes to love and (hopefully) marriage.  “I’ll love you forever!”  But now we see it in a completely different light.  God’s salvation is throughout all eternity, meaning even after we die we will be saved.
Psalm 138 (ESV)

Give Thanks to the Lord

Of David.

138 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.[a]
On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.[b]

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Paul discusses the difference between grace and sacrifice.  We are to be a living sacrifice, as he states.  All this is true, but at the same time most of us, if not all have a hard time with it.  We keep trying to crawl off the altar.  At the same time through that same grace we are giving “specialties”, what we call gifts.  The smaller the congregation the easier it is to see the differences, because those with certain gifts will automatically do what needs to be done.  You can’t step back and state that someone else will do it because there isn’t someone else.  Sometimes we working through our gifts is like laying it on the altar before Him.
In the Gospel reading we have Peter’s great revelation on who Jesus was.  Personally I’ve always liked the way the KJV, or any of the other versions that still use some of the archaic terminology.  “Thou art the Christ” sounds so much more regal, doesn’t it?  It’s what we’ve heard for the longest time, especially since the KJV was, and still is to some extent the most popular version.  But, I digress.  Jesus never told the disciples who he was.  All they had was what he did as he traveled around Galilee.  Those twelve, at least twelve in men, we have no idea how many women were there, also, saw his actions every day and how he treated everyone.  It was a great leap of faith, or as Jesus states that he didn’t figure it out all by himself, but that God had revealed it to him.

10th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
My house will be a house of prayer, is what Jesus stated, or something similar when he drove the money changers and others out of the Temple courts.  Isaiah’s passage here states that all the outcasts will come to worship Him at His temple.  Yet, right now there is no physical temple, for the Romans completely destroyed it and scattered the Jews.  What’s interesting is that this small group seems to be the only group of people who have managed to keep their identity for thousands of years yet all the cultures that surrounded them are gone or have gone through such dramatic changes that they’re no longer recognizable.  Something’s up if they’re still culturally and religiously there.  There is a reason and it’s because God made sure that they would still be there.
Psalm 67 (ESV)

Make Your Face Shine upon Us

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

67 May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Paul continues the comments from Isaiah.  God has not forgotten, nor rejected any one of us.  We are all adopted into His family.  Roman adoption is different that what we have in the modern world.  During the time Paul was writing, a father could disown a biological son, but he could not disown an adopted son.  An adoption was permanent and can not be undone or changed.  That’s what Paul is getting at.  Even if we do everything in our power to push God away, He will not be denied.  He will come for us and wait until we’re exhausted and finally give in.
You would think the Gospel reading for this Sunday would be the one where Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple, but it’s not.  It’s about faith and how it’s whats on the inside that counts.  For what we say defines who we are and even the smallest amount, “a mustard seed” can change the world.  At least it did for the Canaanite woman.

9th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Every time I read this section in Kings it always strikes me at how much whining Elijah is doing.  “Poor little me.”  It seems that when he gets the least little problem he thinks everyone is after him and runs away from the problem instead of facing it head on.  “What are you doing here?” in the scriptures God ask this to Elijah twice.  The second time, even though Elijah’s answers were the same they seemed to hold more pride, as if “look what I did!”  It’s not about how much we do, it’s the motivation behind it.
Psalm 85:8-13 (ESV)

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
    but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

As we continue our journey through Romans Paul touches on some of the words from the Old Testament reading (the seven thousand that stayed true and didn’t worship Baal) and a little bit from today’s Psalm reading.  We have to remember, that once we make the commitment, He will always be there whether we believe it or not, whether we want Him to or not.
Walking on the water.  Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?  But as believers we are called to do the impossible.  We’ve also been told over and over again that anything is possible with God.  Peter, who always seemed to take the lead in everything and would speak before he even considered what to do had enough faith to take that first step, but the wind and storm around him pulled his attention away from where it should have been.  That was why he started sinking.  In the midst of the troubles we encounter we are called to walk out on faith.  Some do, some don’t.  And the ones that do, the key is to keep our eyes upon Jesus because he will not allow us to sink.  Even during what we considered the worst possible events, all will be fine in the end.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance.  Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Why do we spend money for things we know will not satisfy us?  People say we’re the “we” generation, or something similar.  It really goes back to something I’ve said over and over again, which is our rebellion.  “If it looks pretty and it smells good so I’ll get it” is our thoughts without paying any attention to the future.  If we look towards the future then we can change our decisions for the day.  We can hold off on what we so desperately want (calling it a need) and find out that we never did need whatever it was in the first place.  Instant gratification is another term for it.  “I want it now.”  Advertisements play on that want vs need in showing that “yes your car runs just fine, but you need this new one!”  Actually you want that new one.  When the car gets destroyed in an accident, then it changes from want to need, especially if you have to travel to work and there are no buses that run by the building.  I’ve had to use public transport before and it gets the job done.  Wait on the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (and it’s not the wants that you think of).
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (ESV)

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

We once again continue with Romans.  This Sunday’s reading seems different, but in the end it really isn’t.  When we finally give up and stop our senseless rebellion we find just how foolish we were, even though we thought we were wise.  But at the same time it’s in our nature.  God gave us free will for a reason.  That way we can see our mistakes and hopefully learn from them.  Sadly, most people never learn.  They throw their fists up to God yelling that it’s all His fault.  How could it be when we were the ones who chose to do whatever the action was in the first place?
In the feeding of the five thousand Christ shows that all we ever do will never truly satisfy us.  It hearkens back to the Isaiah passage in which the writer stated that He will satisfy our every need and that we need not worry.  For some people it’s a difficult concept to understand because we want to do everything.

7th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
We may or may not know for certain this actually happened with Solomon.  That being the case, the good thing about it is that in the story Solomon felt it was better to ask for help than to try and do it all alone.  He watched how David handled everything and realized that he would never measure up to what his father did in his prime.  Aren’t we all like that?  The key is realizing when we’re overwhelmed and need that help before it’s too late.
Psalm 119:129-136 (ESV)

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
    and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression,
    that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
    and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
    because people do not keep your law.

Nothing really can separate us from the love of God except us.  If we’re smart enough like Solomon was, then we’d ask for help in this area.  The problem is is that most are not.  Most think that they can do everything all by themselves.  Which leads us back to our initial rebellion.  If it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t be in our current predicament.
In today’s gospel reading we have more parables.  Not only is this all about our rebellious nature, but at the same time it shows that if we do seek out the right things we will be rewarded with all sorts of treasures.  Not the ability to accumulate stuff here on Earth, but our reward when we reach Heaven.

6th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
What an interesting passage to read in light of what’s happening in both the Ukraine and the Middle East.  Fear not, and do not be afraid.  Isn’t that what we all need to hear at times?  I think the whole world needs to hear that at this point.
Psalm 86:11-17 (ESV)

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Paul goes into greater detail from the Isaiah passage.  Even though tough times are ahead, and are now, we still have hope.  We know everything will work out in the end.  It’s just getting there that’s the hard part.  We’re an instant gratification society.  We want everything now.  We hate waiting.  But in the end if you do wait, then the reward is that much greater.
This really isn’t a very happy passage, but at the same time it is.  Unlike the rocky ground in the previous week’s gospel message, this is fertile soil that both the good and the bad seed are sewn.  Only in the end does everyone show their true colors; their fruit if you will.  Everyone looks the same, but not everyone produces the fruit of the spirit.  That’s what’s shown in the end.  Don’t be afraid, as Isaiah said in the first passage.  For everything will work out in the end.  And that’s the good news.

5th Sunday of Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
When it comes to farming, three things need to happen.  There has to be a seed, there needs to be someone to place that seed in the ground, then there needs to be water and nutrients to help it grow into whatever the seed was destined to mature into.  It’s the same way with us, isn’t it?  The writer of Isaiah shows us that like the seed we are the same way.  We may not know we’re “planting” seeds, but we are.  We just have to keep that in mind as we go through our earthly lives.
Psalm 65:1-13 (ESV)

O God of Our Salvation

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

65 Praise is due to you,[a] O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
    O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
    being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it;[b]
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

In Romans, Paul goes into much greater detail when it comes to our former life and the new life that we have in Christ Jesus.  It is difficult, but at the same time, much more rewarding than doing our own thing day in and day out.  Here’s a more interesting way to explain it.  We are possessed by the Holy Spirit.  We think of possession as a bad thing, and if it is a demon, then yes it is bad.  But if we’re possessed by the Holy Spirit, then we have no worry if a demon could come in because then the Holy Spirit would have to leave, and that’s not a good thing.
The gospel passages goes back to the Isaiah one, yet Jesus goes into more depth when it comes to who responds to the seed and who does not.  The ground is just as important as everything else.  With bone dry, hard packed dirt, it’s very difficult to break it up.  Yet water is a miraculous substance.  It’s the one thing that can change something that was hard into something malleable, or it should be able to.  Sometimes things are so hard that nothing can help, things like concrete.  It’s been baked and dried into such a state that nothing can change it.  We only hope that the people that listen and reject aren’t to this point.  All we can do is to continue giving out the water we’ve been given.

4th Sunday of Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Every time I read a passage like this I always hear Handle’s music in the background.  At the same time we can see looking back from our perspective the hope that the prophet had about their coming leader.  Don’t we all do that?  Look forward to how we can change things, hopefully for the better?
Psalm 145:8-14 (ESV)

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your[a] mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

[The Lord is faithful in all his words
    and kind in all his works.][b]
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down.

“What was I thinking?” is a modern way of describing what Paul is talking about in this particular Romans passage.  The best way to describe it is that it’s that we were not thinking.  When we focus on what’s important then we always get things right.  When we don’t, then we revert to our nature, but it’s so difficult to keep our focus.  Exhausting is what it really is.
The questions that Paul raises in terms of trying to keep focused on the important things is answered by the gospel reading for this Sunday.  Jesus calls for all to come to him, for he will give us rest for our weary souls.  Weary from trying to do the right thing.  And that’s the best thing of all.

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Jeremiah, in this passage (which also connects us with last week’s Old Testament readings) is reminding the Hannaniah what it takes to be a prophet (at least in this particular era) and that they are supposed to give the good and the bad.  We like our egos stroked, and that’s what, at least from the readings, that most of the prophets were doing to the king.  We’re the same way.  We want to hear all the good stuff that’s happening, not what’s really going on.  We don’t want to know just how bad everything is (bury our heads in the sand).  Yes things are not going well at all, but we know that in the end, everything will be taken care of.
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (ESV)

I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the Lord

A Maskil[a] of Ethan the Ezrahite.

89 I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
    in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
    I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever,
    and build your throne for all generations.’” Selah

15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
    who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
    and in your righteousness are exalted.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
    by your favor our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the Lord,
    our king to the Holy One of Israel.

This particular passage of Romans is Paul’s gospel in a nutshell.  We are not slaves to sin anymore, but we sure do act like it.  I suspect if we truly knew what we were doing, then we’d be horrified.  But we have something called “free will”.  We think we’re free to do whatever we want, then check in ever so often to “fix everything”, then go back to doing what we want.  We’d never do that at work (hopefully) or you’d loose your job in less than an hour.  This all goes back to rebellion and that we want to do whatever we want.  We want complete control.  The problem is, we don’t realize that we’re under the control of someone else, whether it be God or Satan.
The gospel reading brings us full circle.  It’s our attitudes towards one another that really show what we’re like on the inside.  Even if we pretend for the longest time, something will happen and force us to act like our true nature.  The goal is to have that nature changed to one of generosity and kindness towards our fellow man (or human if you want to be politically correct).
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