15th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual loving kindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Jonah is an interesting book.  It never states what he did in the end, whether Jonah moped back to Israel, or actually went down to Ninevah and celebrated with the citizens in their new found freedom (at least how the story goes).  It’s more to question us, as the reader, or listener, on what we should be doing compared to what we want to do.
Psalm 145:1-8 (ESV)

Great Is the Lord

[a] A Song of Praise. Of David.

145 I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The conflict of whether to do what one wants or do what God wants is once again the focus of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Living on Earth can be easy, or difficult.  Easy if we decided to go with what everyone else is doing, and difficult if we push back and do what the world considers foolishness.  The question is which one will you or I choose?
“That’s not fair!”  Is what the ones who labored all day grumbled.  Even though they agreed to be paid a days wage, they felt they were entitled for more since the ones that were hired last received the same pay.  The key is that we need to be content with what we have and what we will earn each day.  I do understand their complaints, at the same time the ones hired last should be grateful that they were paid exactly what was told they would receive, even for an hour’s work.  Now that’s generous!

14th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
 The way Joseph’s brothers reacted when their father died is typical, especially for ones that know they did evil.  Their jealousy and hatred were so great that it was only after the fact that they realized they did something wrong, and then not by much.  They’re scared because they have finally come to terms with their actions many years ago.  The difference is that this time Joseph responded in kindness, only realizing after the fact that everything was for the best.  So when we’re in the middle of a Jacob moment it’s best we wait it out and then look back to see what was really happening.
Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 (ESV)

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Of David.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

 The thoughts and ideas of judging another continues with the readings from Romans.  We are not to judge one another based on our beliefs, ie whether we choose to eat or not eat certain types of foods, or whether we worship on one day or every day it is all to the Lord.  With the far extremes one side has a more difficult time in accepting this tenant than the other this is the best time to show compassion for each other.
The Gospel reading shows what could happen if one does not show compassion and forgiveness to another it will come back to haunt us in the end.  The key is how to respond to things such as these.

13th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
There has always been contention between the people who think everything is predestined, and the ones that think that we have a free will.  It could be a little of both.  For in Ezekiel God seems to tell him that it’s the ones listening to the message that have the ability to choose whether or not to believe in it.  It’s their choice whether to live or to die.  Then again we find in other parts of scripture that God has complete control whether we want to fight Him or not.  Confusing, isn’t it?  I suspect that it’s set up in such a way that we can take it either way and not be “punished” for it.
Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV)

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!

You shall not… The words Paul repeats several times makes one think that Christianity is a belief systems made up of rules and regulations.  You know, boring and not able to do anything of note.  Our goal is actually to care for the ones around us, the ones that are needing our services.  It can be hard, (we do like to keep what we’ve worked for), but in the end it will help everyone.  The key is not to be trampled upon.  The ones receiving the help need to work just as hard to improve themselves and the ones that are working to give the help.
In Matthew’s gospel we read even more about the care and now forgiveness towards one another.  What Paul is trying to get at is that we need to solve our problems amongst ourselves and not hang out our “dirty laundry” for everyone to see.  If we did that then we would have more people in line to at least give us a chance.

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.
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