Responding to the Call

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 5:4 No one takes this honor for themselves but takes it only when they are called by God, just like Aaron.

5 In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him,

You are my Son.

        Today I have become your Father

O (Observation): The call to serve the people of God comes from God…even for Jesus. Aaron served God’s people by communicating with God and bringing the people’s joys and concerns to God. Also, for the sake of order, priests throughout the ages have spoken to God on behalf of God’s people. They offer contrite hearts to God.

Eventually, we have seen God’s desire more clearly. We no longer need sacrifices – Jesus made sure of that. God never needed sacrifices, just a people willing to admit their brokenness.

A (Application): Instead of sacrifices, we bring our collective broken heart to God. And priests help us to do that.

Who are our priests? These are people of God who sense that called has called them to carry these broken hearts and help them to connect to God. These people who are called by God to be priests are also acknowledged and accepted by the surrounding community. In other words, that call is both internal (sensed by the individual) and external (verified by the God-follower community).

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America, that process of discernment is aided by what we call the “Candidacy Process.” If you are sensing that your baptismal call is leading you into service of the Church, check out our resources on the ELCA website.

And if you do sense God’s call, let me know…I’d love to help you process that a bit.

Here’s my number: 615-617-9697.

P (Prayer): Lord, in our baptism, you call us. Help us to respond to your call. Amen.

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A Re-Orienting Towards God and Neighbor

Reorienting

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S (Scripture):

Jeremiah 50:18 Therefore, the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims:  I’m going to punish the king of Babylon and his land,
just as I punished the king of Assyria.
19
But I will restore Israel to their pasture;
they will graze on Carmel and Bashan;
they will eat their fill
in the highlands of Ephraim and Gilead.
20
In those days and at that time,
declares the Lord,
if one searches for the sin of Israel,
they will find nothing;
if one seeks out the wrongdoing of Judah,
they will look in vain.
I will forgive those I have spared.

Hebrews 4:14 Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son; 15 because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin.

16 Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.

O (Observation):  In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s grace and mercy cycling into the lives of God’s people.  In Jeremiah’s words, God has broken Babylon, finally, so that God’s redeemed people will be welcomed back into their homeland once again.   God has mercy, blots out the offenses of God’s people’s past, and brings them to a new hope.

In Hebrews, we now understand that hope as coming through Jesus Christ, the one who speaks to God on our behalf.  We can certainly speak to God directly, but if Jesus does that for us, then all the better.  The result of Jesus speaking directly to God?   Mercy, grace, help.

A (Application):  So many times I feel overwhelmed:  a new job with high demands, family life, my family of 5 living with mom and dad until renovations are complete for our new home (thanks, mom and dad!), cars that need repairs, physical health that ebbs and flows, finding a new church home.   These aren’t complaints.  These are life issues that we all encounter.

Ordinary life can seem to shatter us, break us, almost.

Yet, reading these Scripture today takes me outside of my own world.  I get a broader view of life.  I see beyond my own sphere.  Because Jesus is busy reminding me, today, that mercy and grace come to me in my time of need, in my family’s time of need, and in the Church’s time of need.

God is always with me, and so, I can tend to that which needs tending, full of confidence and hope.

These daily meditations are a way of re-orienting my approach to life: family life, work life, play life, and more.

Here is an example of the play life I experienced with my family last night at the Gwinnett County Fair!  (A good reminder that life can be fun, even in the midst of craziness!)

fair

P (Prayer):  Merciful God, re-orient my life daily toward you and my neighbor.  Amen

Where Do I Fit In?

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S (Scripture): Psalms 107

17 

Some of the redeemed were fools because of their sinful ways.

    They suffered because of their wickedness.

18 

They had absolutely no appetite for food;

    they had arrived at death’s gates.

19 

So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,

    and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.

20 

God gave the order and healed them;

    he rescued them from their pit.

21 

Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love

    and his wondrous works for all people.

22 

Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices

    and declare what God has done in songs of joy!

O (Observation): The Israelites have suffered – at times – not because of what God did to them, but because they failed to live in wholeness within themselves, towards their neighbors, and with God. These failures bring about a situation in which people become desperate and lose hope.

Yet, in God, the people re-discover a hope that endures. God heals. God helps them to re-discover their purpose in this world. That mission then drives them onward and to pass on the faith from generation to generation.

A (Application): We all want to know answers to these questions (which I most recently re-discovered via Fuller Youth Institute’s research-based book: Growing Young).

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I fit in?
  • Why am I here?

These are questions of Identity, Belonging, and Purpose. Today’s psalm helps us to explore these questions a bit.

Who am I? A redeemed sinner.

Where do I fit in? Amongst people who give thanks.

What is my purpose? To declare the Good Work that God has done.

Explore these questions today.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to see You in my day. Amen.

Exile, Promises, and Hope

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 46:27 

But don’t be afraid, my servant Judah;

    don’t lose heart, Israel.

I will deliver you from a faraway place

    and your children from the land of their exile.

My people Jacob will again be safe and sound,

    with no one harassing them.

28 

So don’t be afraid, my servant Jacob,

    declares the Lord.

I’m with you;

    I will put an end to all the nations

        where I have scattered you.

But I won’t put an end to you.

    I won’t let you avoid punishment;

    I will discipline you as you deserve.

O (Observation): Some of God’s people experienced exile when the Babylonians were allowed to come in and take over Judah. Some of God’s people stayed in Judah to be servants to the Babylonians.

Either way, an exile was happening. This was no longer their home. Temples destroyed. Protective city walls crushed. Foreigners occupying the territory of God’s people.

God’s people erred and went out of their way to disobey God. And God’s response was to let the Babylonians come in and do their thing.

Yet, God would not completely abandon the people whom God claimed. God’s people would be remembered by God. They would not be forsaken forever.

The promise is made by God. Even though discipline awaits, God is still with God’s people.

A (Application): Exile. I kind of feel an exile has come upon our family. We moved from Murfreesboro, TN, to Lilburn, GA. Our children are in new schools, our jobs have changed. Yet, this does not feel like punishment, but rather a call towards a new direction. This whole situation is not one of correction, but one of new orientation.

We do sense God’s hand guiding and moving us in the right direction. We are to be patient and trust in the Lord. We are to “be” and not just “do.”

That is hard. Simple, but hard.

And so we go to work or school. We do our best to give God praise though our words and actions…knowing that God does not forget us.

God is with us. For, even though we feel like are being worn away, this allows God’s presence to shine through even more.

If you feel like you are in exile, explore the ways in which “less of you, more of God” comes about in your life.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us into the way of peace. Amen.

Set Free…to Serve!

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 34:8 Jeremiah received the Lord’s word after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim liberty for their slaves: 9 everyone was to free their male and female Hebrew slaves and no longer hold a Judean brother or sister in bondage. 10 So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed to free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage; they obeyed the king’s command[a] and let them go. 11 But afterward they broke their promise, took back the men and women they had freed, and enslaved them again.

12 Then the Lord’s word came to Jeremiah: 13 The Lord, the God of Israel, proclaims: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 14 I said that every seventh year each of you must free any Hebrews who have been sold to you. After they have served you for six years, you must set them free. But your ancestors didn’t obey or pay any attention to me. 15 Recently you turned about and did what was right in my sight; each of you proclaimed liberty for the other and made a covenant before me in the temple that bears my name. 16 But then you went back on your word and made my name impure; each of you reclaimed the men and women you had set free and forced them to be your slaves again.

O (Observation): To serve out of indebtedness and to be forgiven is the standard for God’s people of the day. Yet out of a sense of mercy, they are to forgive one another every 7 years. All are to be released and allowed to be forgiven of their debt. What is owed is no longer owed.

Yet God’s people enslaved one another again. Why do we do that?

A (Application): Why do try to keep in place that which is detrimental to us. God knows that freeing one another from a debt is about the healthiest thing we can do.

We work hard to help one another and pay off debts when we can. But if we are truly unable, what benefit is there in holding a debt over someone who cannot repay?

We do the honorable thing and help one another. We contribute to society. Some will take advantage of this, but most debts can be absorbed without too much of a cost.

Releasing is the idea. God released the people from one another’s debt in order to help them all see that freedom is the goal for us. Free from having to serve one another. And yet free to choose to serve one another.

This is our hope. Freedom for all. Service to all.

We are free to love and serve our neighbor. We seek to assist those devastated by Hurricane Dorian and all who seek refuge and care after natural disasters. We rally around this freedom that we have to help others.

P (Prayer): Lord, you have freed us. Help us to free one another. Be with those stranded and mourning the loss of life in the Bahamas and in other areas affected by Hurricane Dorian. Amen.

The Call

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S (Scripture): 2 Timothy 4:I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. 2 Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. 4 They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.

O (Observation): Paul commissions Timothy for ministry. He gives him instruction, guidance, boundaries within which to do his ministry. The grace has already come in the form of a call to particular ministry. Now, the living out of that grace confronts Timothy: preach, be ready, correct, encourage, keep control. Above all, do the work of the good news – whether convenient or inconvenient.

A (Application): WOW! What. A wonderful reading as I turn a page in my life this day. I’m getting into my first full day of work as an Assistant to the Bishop in the Southeastern Synod. This will not be something I take for granted, nor will I take this calling lightly.

I will take Paul’s encouragement, knowing that this call is a continuation of God’s call for me in the Church.

May God bless us as we embark on this new journey together.

Many thanks to my mentor and leaders from my youth, young adult, and college and seminary years. Many thanks to the congregational members and friends whom I have served. I hear God’s voice through their caring words and wisdom. (Whether I was able to comprehend those words or not.)

May God be with us.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, you call us to ventures in which we do not know the ending. May your wisdom and guidance be with us. Amen.

Let Your Light Shine, God

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 29:10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord.

O (Observation): God has been disappointed with the people who claim to follow God. So, God has allowed Babylon and it’s king – King Nebuchadnezzar- to conquer Judah, settle there, and send some of God’s people (in exile) to Babylon. While in Babylon, God instructs (through Jeremiah’s voice) that God’s people are to ignore false prophets telling them that this exile is just for a year or two. Instead, God is telling the people to settle into their new “home,” get married, have kids, and be a good citizen. That will ensure their future. For God will return the people to their homeland in due season.

So, even in the midst of exile, God is still providing a way for God’s people to be saved.

A (Application): The voices all around us claim to be “right.” Stay or go? This choice or that choice? And quite often, we base our response on logic or selfish desire.

How often do we base our response on faith that God will see us through? Sometimes we make the choice that seems less logical or outright destructive. But what if we are making the choice, while leaning into God’s grace?

What if our choice is just a choice? What if our choice is put into God’s hands? What if we listen and don’t hear what God is saying? What if our fears win? What if the other voices drown out God’s voice?

Make time this day to hear what God is saying. Quiet your mind. Let God’s light shine into your life this day. God is there. That is the grace.

You might be in exile. You might be full of fear or discomfort. Don’t let the knee-jerk reaction be the only “voice” you hear. Let God speak. Ask God to hear you. See what shakes out.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, listen. Gracious God, speak. Amen.