S (Scripture): Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
O (Observation): The psalmist sees that forgiveness and wholeness are not something we achieve on our own. Rather, through humility and repentance, God sets us right with God and each other.
We are a broken people, yet made whole in Christ. Our actions and thoughts will always be tainted, but wisdom comes through the acknowledgment that we can be made whole by God’s power.
This is not about God holding the psalmist over a flaming pit, but hope for a better day to come!
A (Application): How fitting that a psalm designated for repentance and forgiveness is set forth this day in the daily Moravian texts.
Today, Maundy Thursday, we Lutherans set forth a time of healing (with laying on of hands and anointing with oil). This practice reminds us that God is about healing us and reminding us of our baptism and the healing power of God’s presence.
The words of this psalm have been construed to make people feel worthless and to hold power over others. (Create a high demand for salvation, and the healing price becomes exorbitant.) But in Christ, we see one who gave all for us. Not to hold that over our heads, but to give us hope for a new day.
Jesus transformed the Passover into a new meal – the Eucharist – a time of thanksgiving for what God has done, is doing, and will do for all of humanity. In the meal of Holy Communion, we see forgiveness and reconciliation.
On Sunday, April 28, 2019, at Barfield Park in Murfreesboro, TN, as the people of Muefreesboro gather for the next Love Your Neighbor potluck we will see people who have made peace and established friendships over a meal.
We set aside this day – Maundy Thursday – as a day of preparation for our days ahead. We begin a worship service that spans The Great Three Days, which will take us through Good Friday and on to the Vigil of Easter (in which we recall salvation history, affirmation of our baptism, and the Meal).
We remain a people of hope – humble, whole, sheep of God’s own fold.
P (Prayer): Lord, protect us and lift us up. Help us to bear witness to your love with our neighbors. Amen.
S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 2:12 We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. 13 These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But people who are unspiritual don’t accept the things from God’s Spirit. They are foolishness to them and can’t be understood, because they can only be comprehended in a spiritual way. 15 Spiritual people comprehend everything, but they themselves aren’t understood by anyone. 16 Who has known the mind of the Lord, who will advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.
O (Observation): Paul teases apart the ways of speaking with people who have been transformed by the Spirit compared to those who have not been changed by the Spirit. To speak in ways that call on people to share with one another and to give is not normal. That does not compute for someone not transformed by the Spirit.
Having the mind of Christ makes a difference!
A (Application): So much of what we argue about these days generates from our differences in our spiritual lives (or lack thereof). We can not argue for social justice policies with people who have a spiritual background different from ours (if they even have a spiritual background).
And a spiritual background causes us to have a spiritual vocabulary.
So what do we discuss when we use different vocabulary and language?
How about human life?!
The value of each human life. The potential for goodness and health and well-being. The potential for damage when we insist upon our spiritual vocabulary over and against someone else’s vocabulary.
In America, we are a people who claim that every person here has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Maybe we can find a common language…a spiritual Rosetta Stone, if you will. I believe that was what Paul was striving to be. A living stone. A loving Rosetta Stone…so that spiritual and non-spiritual alike can converse.
P (Prayer): Lord, help us listen. Help us speak. Amen.
S (Scripture): Psalm 50
“Listen, my people, I will now speak;
Israel, I will now testify against you.
I am God—your God!
I’m not punishing you for your sacrifices
or for your entirely burned offerings,
which are always before me.
I won’t accept bulls from your house
or goats from your corrals
because every forest animal already belongs to me,
as do the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every mountain bird;
even the insects in the fields are mine.
Even if I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you
because the whole world and everything in it already belong to me.
Do I eat bulls’ meat?
Do I drink goats’ blood?
Offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving!
Fulfill the promises you made to the Most High!
Cry out to me whenever you are in trouble;
I will deliver you, then you will honor me.”
O (Observation): God reminds God’s people that their sacrifices are not what pleases God. Sacrifices exist as a way for people to show God respect and honor. Instead, in the era of this author, these sacrifices may have been seen as a contrite way to appease God…rather than become a way to honor God.
God owns all creation. So the sacrifices are NOT for God. If God wants a goat, God already has it. If God wants a bull, God already has it. The sacrifices are for God’s people to show deference to God, who reigns over all.
Trust in God. Lean on God in times of need. Ah…now we’re getting somewhere.
A (Application): The hands of many workers over a long period of time followed plans to build Notre Dame cathedral. No doubt, much was sacrificed to build such a beautiful, ornate house of worship. We are devastated to see fire consume much of the building and its contents.
What is it about a cathedral that gives honor to God? Does God need the cathedral? Well, the Temple (built in Solomon’s time) was something God had a big part in planning. Instructions were given and plans carried out.
God’s people have moved back and forth over time…wandering and static…house church and cathedral worship.
The point isn’t picking one way or the other. The point is this: when in times of trouble, lean on God for help.
For the community in Paris, France…lean on God this day. Trust in God. Seek a vision for what is to come.
P (Prayer): Lord, give us wisdom to lay our burdens down and cast all sorrow on you. Amen.
S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. 11 My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. 12 What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? 14 Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. 17 Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.
O (Observation): Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians) is all about how to help the different factions of the followers of Christ to get along and to be of the “same mind and same purpose.”
They tend to identify with the one who baptized each of them: Apollos, Paul, Cephas, etc.”. Yet the one doing the baptizing is NOT the focus. Paul reminds them of this. Paul reminds them that in Christ we are baptized. And that is enough. No one else need be identified in baptism.
A (Application): Everything is political. I’m not just talking about parties or independents… I’m talking about “lowercase ‘p’ politics.”
We all struggle with three main desires: Identity (Who am I?), Belonging (Where do I fit in?), and Purpose (Why do I matter?).
Unfortunately, we want to “play politics” and to shape these desires by pointing people to ourselves. We want to define who people are (by what they don’t have). We want to define where they belong (by telling them you don’t want to be “one of those”). We want to define someone’s purpose (by what they can do for “me”).
This is exactly backwards. And Paul knows it.
Paul wants them all to be identified as being “in Christ”.
Who am I? You are God’s child.
Where do I belong? You belong to God, in the body of Christ.
Why do I matter? God will do great things through you, just like Jesus taught the apostles.
Do you believe this?
P (Prayer): Gracious God, define our identity, belonging, and purpose. Thank you. Amen.
S (Scripture): Psalm 49
Everyone knows that the wise die too,
just like foolish and stupid people do,
all of them leaving their fortunes to others.
Their graves are their eternal homes,
the place they live for all generations,
even if they had counties named after them!
People won’t live any longer because of wealth;
they’re just like the animals that pass away.
O (Observation): The psalmist is sick and tired of those with self-elevated status. Money and “wisdom” seem to be the hallmark for a great life. Money and wisdom are okay if used for mutual uplifting. But when money and wisdom are used to declare one’s self great…not so much.
What will one do with all wisdom and riches upon their death? Nothing!
Sure, you can leave a name and have a town or road named after you, but what can you enjoy in this life if you are not around to enjoy it?
A (Application): Why do we have the gifts of money and wisdom? If you could lay out the ideal response to having wealth and wisdom, what would that look like?
Ever thought of this?
Let’s make it simple: what do you do with the “wealth and wisdom” you have now? We like to dream about what we will do “when…”.
What if you stopped dreaming about when “that” time comes and started taking action TODAY!
You have gifts and you are a person who can do wondrous things. Money, wisdom…what are they for? As you wrestle with that question, ask yourself, “How can I serve others?”
You may advance your learning and training to make an impact. You may use wisdom to ask questions and listen, rather than just speak. You may bring peace to anxious situations. The possibilities are endless!
Use the gifts you have to help others in this world, and you will receive more than you have given.
P (Prayer): Lord, keep us mindful that the gifts you’ve given are not just for us. Help us to leave a legacy for others to live into. To empower others and lift up the lowly. Amen.
S (Scripture): Romans 16:1 I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. 2 Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.
3 Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. 5 Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6 Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
O (Observation): Paul does a most wonderful and honorable thing: he mentions the women who have been faithful to Christ and with whom he has worked alongside. Why honorable? This should be expected, yes? Of course these women mentioned should be included, but for Paul to do this in the first century is a bit scandalous.
After all, women were NOT seen as equals amongst the Jews. Women had little rights and certainly no claim to positions of authority, especially in relation to matters of religion.
Yet, here they are. These women mentioned by Paul are working tremendously hard in order to share the Gospel with those who would receive it.
A (Application): Yet another example given to us about God doing “a new thing” in Scripture, in the early formation of the Church.
These leaders working with Paul remind us that the obstacles before us in the Church are typically self-made. We put up parameters around who can lead / do certain aspects of organized religion. Quite often we give little to no regard for the individual’s value.
We have done much harm from WITHIN the Church, as we have denied certain people from being leaders in the church based on their ethnicity, race, language of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.
Thankfully, we are making strides towards being more just about these things from within the modern Church. We are seeing more diversity amongst our leaders, but our congregations seem less and less willing to extend calls to those who are not “white, straight, English-speaking” pastors.
But hope abounds. Congregations throughout the ELCA (in which I serve) are wrestling more and more with these issues and our hope rests in God’s abundant and reckless grace. Our denomination repents of these harmful actions in the present and in the past.
God will continue to send the Spirit to guide us into the way of peace. And we will hope to write about these leaders on social media, just as Paul wrote about his experiences to the churches in Rome.
P (Prayer): Lord, we are all made in your image and we are all known – individually – by you. Guide us. Amen.