One Nation, Underwood

S (Scripture): Proverbs 29

25 The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.
26 Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.
27 The unjust are an abomination to the righteous, but the upright are an abomination to the wicked.

O (Observation): Peace and security comes from the Lord, not from any earthly ruler or authority.   Trusting in God brings one justice and hope.  

And who is an abomination?   Depends on the viewpoint.   The unjust acquire wealth and status in ways that make the righteous jealous – though it shouldn’t.  The upright are an abomination to the wicked, because the upright are genuine and receive eternal favor without working lies or deceit.  

A (Application): The freakiest line from the latest House of Cards series is the title of this blog post.  President Francis Underwood pontificates on the future…and he says, “One nation.  Underwood.”  How creepy.  

How often does the “bad guy” win?   How do we allow this?   We do allow it, by the way, either because we stick our heads in the sand or because we are complicit with the system.  

…until we lift our heads…until we are no longer complicit…

We reach a true freedom when we begin to believe in and trust the Lord.   We can walk upright (repenting as we go) fearing no ruler.  We will do no battle.   Instead, our upright nature will drive the wicked ones crazy.   

Our trust will be in the Lord, and as we trust the Lord, we will see that our spirit is not captured.   Our will is set free in order that we live upright lives in the midst of an unjust world.  

Francis Underwood rules through wicked means.   Will you?  Or will you let genuine love for your neighbor guide your ways and your will?

P (Prayer):  Lord, lift up our heads to you!  Amen.  

Doubt and Worry is Okay

S (Scripture): Psalm 56
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me; all day long foes oppress me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many fight against me.
O Most High, 3 when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?

O (Observation): Trusting in the Lord is a hallmark of our faith.  When the Israelites were downtrodden and disoriented, they trusted in God for comfort and guidance.   

A psalm like this is borne out of a people who have known strife.   And yet, in the midst of their troubles, they rely on their faith in the Lord to carry them through the day. 

A (Application):  We have a hard time dealing with the struggles of the world around us.  Sometimes it’s a thing that happened to us directly: sickness, worry, fear.  Sometimes the thing happens to a loved one: death, disease, moving away.

In all cases, we can wonder and doubt along with the author of today’s psalm.  And we do not have to fear that our worries or doubts will cause God to push us away.  In fact, God blesses the broken and contrite heart.  

So fears, worries, doubts…these do not mean our faith is weak.  Indeed, our weaknesses are exactly where God plans to meet us.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, meet us in out weaknesses today.  Amen. 

Ableism – God Sneaking Up on Me Again

S (Scripture): Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them. 27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” 29 (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) 30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut.

O (Observation): Accusations and threats.  The people of God see Paul and know that he has taught about the errors the people of God have made.  Paul wishes to welcome Gentiles into God’s Kingdom, and yet God’s own people see this as a threat, not a joy.  

The Gospel has become “adhering to the Law,” rather than being in awe of God’s grace as God attempts to expand the people’s understanding of grace and mercy.  

A (Application):  When will we learn?   At what point do we stop and check our prejudices?   

Why do people dislike it when we label something as a prejudice?  

I guess I’m not disturbed by the fact that we have prejudices (for we see dimly this side of Jesus’ return).   I’m more disturbed by our lack of acknowledging our prejudices – especially when they are pointed out to us!

I’ve recently listened to a podcast by The Liturgists on the topic of “Ableism.”   Ableism is the acknowledgement of discrimination against those with disabilities (physical and intellectual).   Granted, my time with this subject is somewhat limited, but I have worked with folks who have disabilities: People bound to wheelchairs from birth, blind people, folks with Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum.

In each case, I found that I had to confront my preconceived notions of their “inferiority” as compared to my “superiority.”   I hear from my friends who are close to those with disabilities about how much joy their disabled children and family members bring into their lives. And in many cases, the changes and the frustrations that they have (and still do) encounter can be draining for them.  It’s a mixed bag, but in the end, many of my friends in these situations say that while their physical and emotional stamina can be drained, their hearts are full. 

We react harshly in situations that befuddle us.  We don’t like to venture into world’s that are not of our own making or understanding.  But what I’ve learned from friends close to those who are disabled is that God is working in and through them everyday.  That those with disabilities are just as much children of God as those without disabilities.  That we are called to love all of our neighbors. 

Those who trapped Paul and caused an uproar did so because Paul threatened their way of life and their traditions.  Paul was a threat, because the people of the Church were missing the point that God’s grace made them all clean, not their adherence to the Law.  So, too, do we miss the point when we look down on or feel sorry for those with disabilities.  

Instead of feeling sorry for them, perhaps we can treat them as normal folks.  Perhaps we can do our best to talk with the parents or family members of those with disabilities to see how they are doing.  To see if they need some rest, or simply someone to talk to or befriend them.  In this way, the Gospel is lived out: reaching out to our neighbor, with grace and mercy.  

Let’s think less about changing abilities and more about changing the world.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, open my eyes to the beauty of your creation.  Amen. 

Get Curious, Not Defensive

S (Scripture): 2 Kings 18:28 The chief adviser (to the king of Assyria) then stood there (before God’s people in Judah) and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect, “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you from my hand! 30 Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
…35 Who among all the gods of the lands has rescued their lands from my power? So how can the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?’”

O (Observation):  The kings of Israel and Judah were in cycles of doing good in the sight of the Lord and doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  Neighboring nations continually threatened to invade and take over the lush lands inhabited by God’s people.  

Here, the Assyrians are taking on Judah and its king, King Hezekiah.   The adviser to the king of Assyria is trying to cause Judah’s people to doubt the level of protection that their God can provide.   He is planting seeds of doubt, recalling other victories of the Assyrians.  

A (Application):   Facebook is my main source of doubt.  Cynicism is on a sharp increase of late, and it destroys the joy of social media.   I don’t like unfriending people and so I just end up scrolling through to read the next post down…from someone less cynical…or a post of a funny kid picture or a picture of someone’s pet.  

With folks being so divisive, I can start to see how we don’t feel like much hope exists.   The Enemy finds ways to cause us to say and do things that divide, rather than build up. (How do I know?  Because I’ve said things intentionally divisive, and I repent of those times in which I was too harsh.)

So, what builds up?  Perhaps curiosity, rather than defensiveness.  When someone writes a cynical post, I’ve started to get curious, rather than defensive.   That posture takes a lot of energy, though, I will admit.   If you don’t have the energy to keep that posture, perhaps you should keep scrolling…until you do have the energy.   Don’t let the cries of the Enemy win.  God wins.   God has won, already.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us wisdom to know when to move on and when to get curious.  Amen. 

We are to Fear and Love God

S (Scripture): 2 Kings 19:21 This is what the Lord says about King Sennacherib of Assyria:

27 “I know where you live, and everything you do.

28 Because you rage against me, and the uproar you create has reached my ears;
I will put my hook in your nose, and my bridle between your lips, and I will lead you back the way you came.”

O (Observation):   Under a threat, God doesn’t back down from an enemy.   God doesn’t take mocking too lightly.   And God tends to back up God’s own words with swift action.  

Apparently, God’s got this one under control and is not holding anything back.   God’s people have been far from perfect to this point, but all of that is pushed aside for the moment, as God defends God’s own honor.  

A (Application):  As we are getting more and more riled up over politics and news of terror attacks, My sense is that the Enemy still looks for ways to break us apart.  And the Enemy is essentially shaking its fist at God.  And my hope is that God acts directly as God did with Sennacherib.  

God will not be mocked.   God will take care of God’s honor.  We can do what we can to defend our God, but let us not feel like God can’t take over God’s own honor from time to time.  We can assist, as would an apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, or shepherd…but God’s honor will always be defended by God. 

As we read in Luther’s Small Catechism, in the explanation for each of the Commandments, each answer begins with the phrase, “We are to fear and love God, so that…”  This foundational sentiment helps us to clarify our place in the Kingdom, and helps us to display a healthy respect for our God.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to play our role in living out your will, so that we can all love you and live in reverent awe of you.  Amen.  

Making It Through Today

S (Scripture): Psalm 123

1 I look up toward you, the one enthroned in heaven.

2 Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female servant look to the hand of her mistress, so my eyes will look to the Lord, our God, until he shows us favor.

3 Show us favor, O Lord, show us favor!  For we have had our fill of humiliation, and then some.

4 We have had our fill of the taunts of the self-assured, of the contempt of the proud.


John 13:34 [Jesus says,] “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist utters a frustrated, yet faith-filled sigh to God above.   This psalm could very well have been composed while the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity – pulled from their homeland and sent to live in foreign territory. He is frustrated, yet not without hope. 

In the John text, Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet and is preparing them for a lifetime of challenges, and he won’t be around to help them in person.  So, he teaches them they hallmark of a disciple: love one another.  Not just those who part of “the Christian team.”  Rather, love ALL people.  This will show the world that love comes to rescue, not power or might.  

A (Application):  I’m really drained.  I know people are venting frustrations, but I can barely look at my FaceBook feed right now.  I have over 1,000 friends on FB, and my “friends” are all over the political spectrum.   

I see articles that take small things and make overarching generalizations as a response.  We spin stories and stats to our desires.    We cry “foul” because people are hurting each other or destroying property.  People are outraged for Trump being voted president.  People are outraged at the protests.   

I’ve pointed out some things that frustrate me about Trump followers committing horrific acts in response to their candidate being voted into office.   I’ve also posted about people committing acts of violence towards those who have voted for Trump.  All of it is inexcusable. 

What a crazy couple of days.  And all of the frustrations and angst are valid indeed.  We cannot invalidate the frustrations and fears, joys and praises that these last few days have stirred in the people of our nation.  

And as I read these texts today, I didn’t feel compelled to condemn anyone.   I’m moving past that.  Rather, I felt that the psalmist and I connected in a deep way.  I felt a kinship in the frustration, and sensed that God will see us through this, even though things are topsy-turvy for now.   

As far as how to move forward?  That’s where the Gospel text comes into play today.   Eventually (or now, if you can muster it) we are called to show love for one another.  As we show love for one another, we will pause.  We will listen and validate one another’s thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams and fears and worries.  Deepening our connections will be the key for how to move forward.   This is what will bring us together.  

Let us continue to sit across the table from one another.  And if we must, we will peaceably protest as we strive for peace and justice in all the earth. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into all peace.  Amen.  

Farther Than I Know

S (Scripture): John 6:47 Jesus says, “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

O (Observation): Jesus’ followers were looking for a sign to verify that Jesus was the one that God had sent.  They heard his words, but they wanted a sign.   Their ancestors received manna from heaven and they wanted a sign, too.  

This time, though, God gave more than just bread to eat: God gave them the bread of life – Jesus.  All who looked to Jesus for salvation received it.   This makes Jesus the bread that brings forth eternal life.   

Still, though,…to eat the flesh…?

A (Application):  Sometimes a leap of faith is what carries us through.  We plan and budget and prep.   But sometimes, we just reach the end of our rope…and that’s when God really takes over.   

Eat flesh?  Drink blood?   How odd…

What good can a slug of wine and a morsel of bread do me?  Well, it’s more than bread and more than wine…it’s God’s presence and grace in the bread and wine… mysterious… life-giving.    And it’s eternal.  

Being fed in this manner – week in, week out – I have been shaped to believe that my cares and my worries are never too big for God to take on.  And knowing that my wife and children and I are being cared for by our God of grace and mercy, I am able to carry on…unchained from fear and doubt… confident that God is carrying me farther than I know.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, I thank you again for carrying me farther than I know.  Amen.