Resurection of Our Lord

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Prayer of the Day
O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Jeremiah is reminding the people of his time that even though they walk through darkness, it will get better.  What’s the saying, it’s always darkest before the dawn.  It’s the same here.  God will bring his people back to the land.  He did it before, and he will do it again.  After two thousand years, we look back on what was written and we can see the slow process of God getting us ready for such a radical change.  No one likes change, but sometimes it’s good.  Sometimes it’s needed more than ever.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (ESV)

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

118 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.[a]
23 This is the Lord‘s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It is so difficult for us to change our thinking.  We need to grow up, but it’s so comfortable thinking in the ways we always have.  It’s the familiar.  Our comfort zone if you would.  We need to, as Paul has stated many times, put away our childish behavior, because it is childish, and start acting like an adult.  It reminds me once of something that happened at the end of an American Football game.  I don’t remember who the teams were, but at the end everyone should get together and congratulate everyone on a game well played.  You know, like adults.  Well one player from the loosing team stormed off in a huff.  Everyone afterwards stated that he needed to act like an adult because he was one.  Why do we have such a difficult time with this concept?  I suppose it’s because we don’t want to have to take responsibility for our actions.  If only we did that we’d be living in a much better world.  I only wish more and more people acted their ages, isn’t that too much to ask?
It’s interesting that the gospels mention that Mary Magdalene was one of the first to see the risen Lord.  I think it’s God’s sense of humor playing out.  If Jesus had cast out seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, wouldn’t you think she’d have a very off kilter sense of humor?  And if so, of all people, she was the one to tell the others.  It’s the crazy one that was sent to tell the others.  Then again, during this time people who had epileptic seizures were the ones that were considered to be touched by the gods.  Maybe there’s something deeper here.  We’ll only know in the end after we’ve been judged and found worthy, not by our works, but by our belief, what God really had in mind with the women.  That’s another thing.  It was women who saw Jesus first.  Women were considered property.  Like the shepherds in the beginning.  The bottom of society got to experience him first.  Maybe that’s what we should take out of this.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

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Prayer of the Day
Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
Sunday is Palm Sunday, other denominations also call it the Sunday of the Passion.  For the mainline denominations this is the time that we process, sometimes around the building, or for the smaller ones, process into the sanctuary with palm fronds in hand.  It is a very moving ceremony if you’ve never participated in it.  Those who have know what I’m talking about.
I digress.  In the Old Testament passage we see in Isaiah the prophet showing how he would do anything and everything to continue spreading the word, even if it comes to being tortured.  With today’s viewpoint we can look back and read what would happen to Jesus in the New Testament leading up to his Crucifixion.  It’s hard to remember that you cannot read the New Testament into the Old Testament, but you can look back when reading the New Testament to see the patterns that lead up to Jesus life.  A better way to state this is that hind sight is always twenty-twenty.
Psalm 31:9-16 (ESV)

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!

In the New Testament reading Paul continues on within the same vein as Isaiah, except he takes it to the conclusion.  Jesus was obedient so that in the end everyone will realize that He is Lord.
This is the full Crucifixion story told by Matthew.  When you read it there’s nothing you can really say about it other than what it really is and means for all humanity in the end.

5th Sunday in Lent

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The valley of dry bones.  Sometimes it feels like were just bones and there’s nothing to bring us back to life.  We feel lost and alone.  The only thing that will bring us back is what Ezekiel called the Breath.  We also use the term “breath of life”.  It’s better known as the Holy Spirit.  That third mysterious part of the trinity (well all three parts are mysterious, but this one much more so.)  It’s His Spirit that comes to waken us from our sleep, our death and brings us back to the land of the living.
Psalm 130 (ESV)

My Soul Waits for the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.

Romans continues the imagery of live and death, but this time Paul goes into greater detail on how the Spirit brings us back from our rebellion.  When the Holy Spirit indwells in the believer he or she can be oppressed or suppressed, but they can never be possessed, because God already possesses us, but at the same time allows us free will.  The ones that are dead to Christ are like the field of dry bones.  And it is the Spirit who comes and brings us back.
We finish with the Gospel of John and the story of Lazarus.  This is one of the stories that everyone knows.  Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after he’s been in the tomb four days.  Jesus waited until it was obvious that he wasn’t coming back so he could bring him back.  The sad part about is that we all know that Lazarus would have to die again, but at the same time he knew what was in store for him, so I don’t think he was scared at all.  I would think that’s the key in that we have nothing to fear for God and Jesus will be with us through the entire process.  The transition as a friend who is a hospice nurse calls it.  She feels it’s her calling to make the complete transition as gentle as possible.  Like I mentioned earlier, we have nothing to fear because He has us in his hands.

4th Sunday in Lent

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First of all, I apologize for no posting last week.  I was offline and had no chance to even get something ready beforehand.

 

Prayer of the Day
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   Amen

 

 

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (ESV)

 

It is interesting to see that Samuel did grieve over Saul complete failure as king of Israel.  Was he “bummed out” because he thought that the initial choice would be the final say so?  He probably did.  Samuel, like almost everyone around us judge by the outward appearances.  Many eons ago we had to have this ability or we could be killed.  We still have it and end up treating people differently.  And members of the African American community are just as guilty as everyone else.  The goal is to see past it.  Initial viewpoints are difficult to overcome, but they can be.

 

Psalm 23 (ESV)

 

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]

 

Ephesians 5:8-14 (ESV)

 

In the end of the Old Testament reading we see that once David was anointed, the Holy Spirit settled on him and never left (which is interesting when you think about it).  The Psalms and now this in Ephesians go on in even more detail about that.  With the arrival of the Holy Spirit we really have no reason (except pride) to not walk in the light.  People don’t want to walk in the light because they don’t want to see just how wrong they are and that they want to do their own thing.  At the same time once we are revealed then we have no reason to hide anymore and that ironically enough we’ve got more freedom.

 

John 9:1-41 (ESV)

 

Being blind and deliberately walking in darkness are two completely different things.  In the story of the man born blind the gospel of John shows it clearly.  The Pharisees are so close, yet so far away.  In a way we should hold pity for them because they were truly blinded by what they thought was right.  Only in the end when they realized what was going on and refused were they walking in darkness.  Sometimes, though it’s hard to distinguish what is what.  That’s where the Holy Spirit comes to help us because sometimes we need a whole lot of help.  Face it, we’re dumb like sheep and will follow anything that sounds good.  The key is to figure out what’s good and what’s bad.

2nd Sunday in Lent

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Prayer of the Day
O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children.  Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen
In the Genesis reading we see the original call Abraham (Abram at this time) was given.  He had to give up everything in order to receive the blessings that God had in store for him, and the the least was his own child to carry on the legacy.  I found moving to another section of town to be difficult.  But Abram was sent to a place he had no knowledge of only by faith.  Do we have that type of courage?  I would hope so, but I’m not so sure.
Psalm 121 (ESV)

My Help Comes from the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

In Romans we go deeper into the reasons why Abraham left his home and what came out of it.  It’s all about faith.  He had no idea what would happen when he left.  Only through a winding road of trials did he come to see why he had to go through what he went through.  This is why he is in Heaven right now even though he had no knowledge of the coming Messiah.  No one had any knowledge of it, it wasn’t even a concept at this time.  Only by looking back now do we see how everything fits together.  They say hing sight is twenty-twenty, and reading the Old Testament through the eyes of the New Testament shows how beautifully everything fits together, and faith ends up being the glue that holds everything together.
In the gospel reading we see Jesus trying to explain to Nicodemus what we call the mystery of faith:  Christ was born, Christ has died, Christ will come again.  Not only that but that spirit can only call spirit, which is why many who close their minds off will never hear the call.

1st Sunday in Lent

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Prayer of the day:

 

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us, and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
We start the season of Lent with the fall of man.  Men and women who live in the southern United States have it drilled into them that childbirth is woman’s curse.  But what about the man?  He stood there and willingly ate of the fruit.  He was the one that should have known better, yet he stood there and ate anyway.  Maybe it was the first version of peer pressure?  We will never know.  What we do know is that like I keep mentioning Man’s always been rebellious and this is just another sign of it.
Psalm 32 (ESV)

Blessed Are the Forgiven

A Maskil[a] of David.

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

As we go through the readings we see in Paul’s letter to the Romans that through one man, Adam, all have sinned (which was the first reading.)  Never fear though.  We will not stay in sin for the rest of eternity because God through Jesus reconciled us all to him.  The key is if we accept it or not.  That’s all we have to do.  People try to make mountains out of mole hills, and this is one of those time.
In the gospel reading the tempter, Satan, left Jesus for a time after the time in the wilderness.  The thing to remember is that it was Satan who quoted scripture.  It’s also one of those things that you can so easily get off base just by a word or two.  We need to be on our guard when it comes to studying and teaching what the Scriptures tell us.  It’s so easy to point someone in a slightly different direction.  Lent should be the time when we focus on ourselves to see what we are doing wrong, and then seek God’s guidance in bringing us back to the right path.  The key is to understand that we need help and we cannot do it by ourselves.

Transfiguration of Our Lord

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Prayer of the Day

 

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus our beloved Son, you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

With the Transfiguration on my mind, it seems interesting that even in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) we covered the same thing at about the same time.  Still even in Exodus the writer mentions the same thing as with the text in Matthew, that the Shakinah (not sure how that’s spelled) Glory shown all around Moses, and it was on the seventh day.  From what we’ve read at the beginning of Genesis we see that the writers are showing that even God follows the format of resting on the sabbath.  We don’t have to go to Church on Sunday, but it’s better than if we didn’t.

Psalm 2 (ESV)

The Reign of the Lord‘s Anointed

Why do the nations rage[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break[b] them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

This is the only time Peter ever mentioned that he had been on the mount and saw Jesus transfigured into his true glory.  You figure that he was terrified when it was happening and said the first thing that came to mind, or it could have been something else.  We’ll never know until we have pass from this life into another.  Until then all we can do is try to understand what the eye witnesses saw.
Now we get to the actual gospel of the Transfiguration.  Peter, James, and John should have been awed that they were chosen, at least after the fact.  You do realize if the other disciples had found out what happened, they would have been beyond jealous.  This was the only way to make sure that there would be no revolt within the group.  They needed to keep a unified front, especially with what’s coming up.  Only after the fact could they talk about the Transfiguration and the real meaning of the images.  I do wonder though, how did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah that appeared?  It was probably a divine revelation from God himself, letting him know that it was just fine seeing one that had been dead many centuries and another who had been taken up to heaven, also many centuries ago.
Still, we have nothing to fear, it’s just our fear that gets in the way.

7th Sunday after Ephiphany

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Prayer of the day:

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Don’t try to gather everything is what the writer of Leviticus is telling us about.  Jesus’s comments easily tie into this in that there will always be the poor around us.  It gives us a chance to do what God has intended for us to do all along.  People just don’t like being order to do that.  It all goes back to that rebellious streak we’ve got in us.
Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV)

He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.[a]
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!

It’s hard for people of today to really understand that we’re not our own.  Ever since the Cross we’ve become God’s possession.  It sounds like slavery and in a way it is, but at the same time we know that God will protect us as long as we listen to him and do what He tells us to do.
This whole section is really about growing up and acting the way one should be acting.  Don’t act like a child and have a temper tantrum, or try to get a rise out of someone.  It’s not going to work, especially with God.  Just remember life isn’t fare.

6th Sunday after Epiphany

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Prayer of the day:

O God, strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.
Why are some of the most simple instructions the hardest to follow?  We seem to constantly make mountains out of mole hills.  We think it’s harder than it looks.  Many times it is harder, but at the same time it’s easier.  It’s all because we don’t believe what we hear.  It’s selfish ambition that makes us that way.
Psalm 119:1-8 (ESV)

Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet

Aleph

119 [a] Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
    when I learn your righteous rules.[b]
I will keep your statutes;
    do not utterly forsake me!

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he shows the frustration that church leaders end up having with their congregations.  It’s not that surprising at the same time.  When you get a group of people together there will always be factions within it, it’s human nature, it’s our fallen nature.  Our goal is to rise above that, and the only way we can is through God’s help.
In Jesus teaching on the Mount with the Beatitudes he goes into much greater detail.  It’s not just the commandments, but the spirit of the commandments that we constantly break.  Jesus understood better than anyone else that our actions are the final outward sign of what’s been going on internally.   So when he states that if we lust after someone, we’ve already committed adultery.  It’s a fine line that’s been drawn between anything and everything.

5th Sunday after Epiphany

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Prayer of the Day
Lord God, with endless mercy you receive the prayers of all who call upon you. By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do, and give us the grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.   Amen.
In Isaiah we see how he is showing the difference between selfish fasting and the humble form.  He’s trying to show that if we fast for show God will never honor it.  The further we go down the verses then we actually see what God wants from us when it comes to fasting.  If we care for the poor and needy God will honor our efforts and our own areas of desolation will be made green once again.
Psalm 112:1-10 (ESV)

The Righteous Will Never Be Moved

112 [a] Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor.
10 The wicked man sees it and is angry;
    he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
    the desire of the wicked will perish!

How else can we mature and wise by none other than learning to be humble before God.  It’s not about boasting and selfishness but about what the Spirit can teach us.
In Matthew we come full circle in a way, or at least from the New Testament passage.  We’re not to hide who we are, but to shine forth.  That’s a dangerous thing to do, especially in areas of the world that hate God, for they see their guilt and refuse to act on it.
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