Not Sure What to Do? Do Justice NOW

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Jeremiah 22:1 The Lord proclaims: Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and declare this message: 2 Listen to the Lord’s word, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your attendants, and all those who go through these gates. 3 The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place. 4 If you obey this command, then through the gates of this palace will come kings who occupy the throne of David, riding on chariots and horses along with their entourage and subjects. 5 But if you ignore these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this palace will become a ruin. 6 The Lord proclaims concerning the palace of the king of Judah:

Though you are like Gilead to me,

    like the summit of Lebanon,

    I will turn you into a desert—uninhabited cities.

I will summon destroyers against you,

    who will use their weapons

        to cut down your finest cedars

        and hurl them into the fire.

O (Observation): The Lord seems to speaking in odd ways, here. God is threatening to destroy the Temple of the people STAY? Wouldn’t God wish for the people to stay?!?!

Well, God is more than disappointed in the people for worshipping other gods. God has allowed the Babylonians to come in and in a sense, God is inviting the people to trust in God again…this time by telling the people to leave the land God promised them and to trust that God would one day bring them back again.

The really challenging point is that some who will leave the Promised Land won’t survive to see it again…but their offspring will!!!

A (Application): Nothing in life is more difficult than saying goodbye to the old and waiting for the next thing (or taking the step towards that next thing). God’s people are called to trust God, once again, in the Scripture above.

As a person of faith experiencing major life changes (new jobs for me and spouse, moving, selling a house, new schools for kids), we are looking forward to getting settled soon.

We trust God. We have faith. But the stress exists all the same.

So – in the mean time – what to do? Well, do justice! Treat all people fairly. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Hmmm??

Well, let’s trust that God will lead us into the way of justice. Let’s trust that God will work through us to be kind to the most vulnerable in our society, instead of treating them like scum or the deplorable. Let us show mercy, that mercy might rule the day.

P (Prayer): Lord, soften the hearts of all of us towards compassion, that we might all benefit from your grace. Amen.

Advertisements

Seeking Refuge

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Jeremiah 9:23 

The Lord proclaims:

    the learned should not boast of their knowledge,

        nor warriors boast of their might,

        nor the rich boast of their wealth.

24 

No, those who boast should boast in this:

    that they understand and know me.

I am the Lord who acts with kindness,

    justice, and righteousness in the world,

        and I delight in these things,

            declares the Lord.

25 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will deal with everyone who is physically circumcised: 26 whether they are Egyptians or Judeans, Edomites or Ammonites, Moabites or the desert dwellers who cut the hair on their foreheads. All these nations are really uncircumcised; even the people of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.

O (Observation): God is dealing with God’s people much in the same way disappointed parents deal with their children: truth and love.

God is reminding all of God’s people that they have noting to boast in, except this: that they know and understand God (insofar as one can “know” God, that is).

God reveals God’s self as loving and merciful. When we disobey God, God’s frustration does show through, but always in the hopes that our behavior changes.

God’s people (and others who wishes to be in God’s favor) would circumcise themselves as a sign that they followed God and God’s ways. This was a commandment from God to Abraham. This was a sign of faithfulness to God.

But God says even those who are circumcised physically are not really circumcised towards a change in behavior. They are circumcised in ritual alone. In other words, their hearts are not changed to live with faith alone in God. They still veer towards the gods of this world.

A (Application): God’s frustration rests in the fact that all the things we trust in this world are fickle and change nothing.

So we, who are Christian, are called to trust in God. We are called to lean on God alone: not in knowledge or resolve or riches.

With that said, I point you to a statement by the bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, on the ELCA’s decision to become a “sanctuary church denomination.” (Click here for that statement. I beg of you to read that, then come back to this devotion.)

Much has been said on various news outlets about our denomination’s stance regarding this declaration. I beg of you to consider today’s scripture reading and consider God’s call for God’s people to be faithful not to a political party or to our wallets or to our “safety,” but rather to be faithful to knowing God and listening for God’s call to walk alongside and to serve our neighbor in need. It’s a simple as that.

P (Prayer): God, we seek refuge in you. Help us to help those who seek refuge in body and spirit. Amen.

Trust in God: So Simple, so Difficult

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Isaiah 30:

1

Doom to you, rebellious children, says the Lord,

    who make a plan, which is not mine;

    who weave a plot, but not by my spirit,

        piling up sin on sin;

    setting out to go down to Egypt without consulting me,

    taking refuge in Pharaoh’s refuge and hiding in Egypt’s shadow.

Pharaoh’s refuge will become your shame,

    hiding in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace.

    all will become shamed because of a people who can’t assist them.

They are no help; they are no profit;

    rather, shame and disgrace.

19 People in Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. God will certainly be merciful to you. Hearing the sound of your outcry, God will answer you.

23 God will provide rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food the ground produces will be rich and abundant. On that day, your cattle will graze in large pastures. 24 The oxen and donkeys that are working the ground will eat tasty feed spread for them with shovel and fork.

O (Observation): God gives both correction and mercy. God guides people, reminding them that their earthly notions of protection are feeble compared to God’s reign.

Hide in Egypt’s shadow? Not gonna help!

Hide behind earthly armies? Futile!

But what does God’s mercy look like? Like a parent who cares for their crying child. Like rain for the seeds planted. So that an abundance comes forth from the ground – satisfying animal and human alike.

Trust in God’s mercies, not your own schemes, people of God…

A (Application): Trust in God. Sounds like a cop out.

Does that mean we don’t make plans? Certainly not!

Trust in God means to do the most loving thing you can do in any given moment. This is trust, because doing the most loving thing means we may be putting ourselves at risk: our finances, our physical or emotional well-being, our safety, our plans…

Trusting in God is a TALL order. It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you struggle with this, you are not alone. Just recall the words from Isaiah 30. Hear how God tells the people that their schemes of this earth are pointless, futile. Instead, God, who can move mountains, can and will work together all things in great love for you and me and all of us. This can be a win-win situation.

Trust in God. Let others in. Let the Spirit move you this day.

P (Prayer): God, help me listen to you and trust in you. Amen.

Holy Work

Photo credit here. By the way, this is a video describing the ELCA’s program, Young Adults in Global Mission.

S (Scripture): Ephesians 2:8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith (or, through his faithfulness.). This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

O (Observation): Debate continues on the emphasis of the faith. Is it God’s faithfulness to us, or our faith that saves us? Either way, we have reconciled this by stating that “our” faith only comes to us as a gift of the Spirit. So, in the end, the onus is on God. God stirs up faith in us.

Is our level of faith in direct correlation to our kind acts (or perverse / sinful acts)? Certainly not!

God’s Grace is a gift – a gift we have in abundance!

We are created in Christ Jesus to do good! This is our purpose.

A (Application): How often do we cut ourselves short when it comes to our ability to serve others in the name of God? We have a perceived inability to do miracles and wonders in Christ!

Faith turns us from our selfish desires towards looking for the ultimate good in ourselves and others. Faith calls on us to look for the Christ in the other: the poor, the homeless, the outcast, the refugee, the immigrant. In doing so, we cannot help but to serve and to love our neighbor in need.

Where are you feeling called to serve? Whether in Christ’s name or just from the goodness of your heart. Do that work, and see a miracle!

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us of your presence in our lives! Stir our hearts towards the holy work to which you call us. Amen.

Redemption and Renewal

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 69

34 

Let heaven and earth praise God,

    the oceans too, and all that moves within them!

35 

God will most certainly save Zion

    and will rebuild Judah’s cities

    so that God’s servants can live there and possess it.

36 

The offspring of God’s servants will inherit Zion,

    and those who love God’s name will dwell there.


2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.

10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. 12 So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

O (Observation): In the Old Testament and in the New…God is at the center of redemption and renewal. Life for the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity was full of despair and despondency. No one had hope of ever getting back to a state in which God was present and active. But the psalmist was that voice of hope for God’s people. A prophetic voice amidst the challenge. God’s people – the descendants of God’s people of the day – would know God’s power. This is the eternal promise of hope for every generation.

Paul also speaks specifically of a personal and yet collective hope. We are each experiencing the indwelling of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Even though our bodies and brains can only withstand so much in this world, our hope lies in what the body and brain cannot destroy: Christ’s dwelling within us.

A (Application): Though our bodies and brains may fail, our faith lives on. This gives us hope to carry on, no matter the challenges ahead.

As a pastor, I know I need this word today. I almost skipped the devotion today, because I had more of “God’s Work” to do this morning. But stopping and intentionally sitting today, digging into God’s word…this is precisely where I needed to be. (Yes, this is God’s Work, too ?And I hope this word inspires you today to figure out: What in me is dying? What is being reborn?

My confidence and effort were lacking of late. That is dying so that Christ might give me strength this day to do what is necessary to do the hard work of discipleship this day for me.

Happy digging!

P (Prayer): Lord, guide our efforts and sustain as we die a little each day, that Jesus might be born in us more this day and every day. Amen.

Christ in Us All

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

Proverbs 20:27 The breath of a person is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inmost parts.

O (Observation): These two verses from very different times and situations bring forth the image of God dwelling in our very being. God is with us. God is in us. All have the ability to receive the Christ, who is already in us. The revealing of the Christ from within us makes sense as our very breath is like the lamp of the Lord. The lamp guides our way, from the inside out.

As Christ dwells within us, we cannot help but see the Christ in one another. As such, we start to treat one another as if we were interacting with the Divine Trinity itself.

A (Application): So what does all of this mean? It means that we get to see the Christ in one another. Seeing Christ in one another means seeing the hope of forgiveness in one another. The evil ones and the good ones. All are imbued with the Christ nature, for we are all one in Christ. We are all cut of the same cloth (as some like to say).

This means forgiveness is possible. This means that the chance of forgiveness and reconciliation is very high. This means that when we look on one another, we have hope to be forgiven or to forgive.

And when we cannot forgive, perhaps we hold on to the hope that the Christ dwelling in the other is still holding on strong. Even if we must let a relationship go.

Christ in us. Christ guiding us. This is my hope.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us always…from the inside out. Amen.

Stewardship: Faith and Science

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 65

You visit the earth and make it abundant,

    enriching it greatly

        by God’s stream, full of water.

You provide people with grain

    because that is what you’ve decided.

10 

Drenching the earth’s furrows,

        leveling its ridges,

    you soften it with rain showers;

        you bless its growth.

11 

You crown the year with your goodness;

    your paths overflow with rich food.

12 

Even the desert pastures drip with it,

    and the hills are dressed in pure joy.

13 

The meadowlands are covered with flocks,

    the valleys decked out in grain—

        they shout for joy;

        they break out in song!

O (Observation): The psalmist sees God as the one responsible for watering the earth and bringing forth vegetation and life itself. And not just life, but ABUNDANT life!

God’s stream brings sustenance to the earth!

Waters flow – strong or gentle – as needed.

Result? Desert and hills get what they need. Meadows and valleys rejoice.

This is legend AND this is science to the ancient ones who wrote these psalms. Perhaps science and legend are one and the same for this author.

A (Application): We are truly children of the Enlightenment. I’m all for science, but I believe the pendulum has swung too far. We are forgetful of the stories that brought us this far along the way. We fail to see our interconnectedness with other cultures and races. We fail to see how we are one with people who look and speak different from “us.”

Now that we “know better,” we don’t tell stories of the earth crying out or the animals having stories to share.

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis have both been influential for me and my family as they bring stories that don’t make sense : ). Odd creatures exist in their stories – both good and evil. Trees walk and talk. Portals to other worlds!

Now, it’s the Marvel Comic Universe that brings stories of far off worlds and odd creatures to light. (And yes, I’m a HUGE fan 🔷.)

But when it comes to our faith, we have very little imagination. We disconnect faith from the earth or the very things we use on a daily basis: soap, water, transportation, air, mountains, and so on.

God is revealed to us in more than just the person of Jesus. And we rejoice in this fact. And we rejoice in the abundant forms of life all around us.

One area I have found to be extremely challenging and equally rewarding: MONEY.

Science and logic tell us one thing. Faith, another. What if we joined these two together? What if we saw paying our bills and giving money away as equally important? What if we let loose of our desire to make it all work out for us, only? What if we gave our money a voice? What story would it tell us?

Would it tell us how we buy more of the same stuff for ourselves, while others go hungry? Would our money tell us we have plenty, but ignore that sentiment and use it more for ourselves?

Or would our money explain how it sustains our faith communities and homeless shelters and food pantries???

Let science and faith work together for the good of all.

P (Prayer): Lord, the stories of what we give to you are distant from our hearts and minds. Wake us up to the joy of giving once again. Amen.