God Through Us

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S (Scripture): Psalm 25

The Lord’s voice is over the waters;

    the glorious God thunders;

        the Lord is over the mighty waters.

The Lord’s voice is strong;

    the Lord’s voice is majestic.

The Lord’s voice breaks cedar trees—

    yes, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon jump around like a young bull,

    makes Sirion jump around like a young wild ox.

The Lord’s voice unleashes fiery flames;

    the Lord’s voice shakes the wilderness—

        yes, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The Lord’s voice convulses the oaks,

    strips the forests bare,

        but in his temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

10 

The Lord sits enthroned over the floodwaters;

    the Lord sits enthroned—king forever!

11 

Let the Lord give strength to his people!

    Let the Lord bless his people with peace!

O (Observation): In the creation story – and in this Psalm – the waters and floodwaters reflect the chaos that existed before creation. God separated the waters from the waters in creation. God created order out of chaos.

God is sovereign over all. God can make the lands and forests act like pets and play toys.

God is present in the midst of chaos and with that kind of power, surely the Lord can bless her people with peace.

A (Application): Our school system was closed today and yesterday and closed 2 hours early the day before that. Why? Flooding. Rain has been incessant for days and now many roads are flooded.

When waters rise, chaos ensues. Water is quite the force to be reckoned with. One must obey the serious damage that water can cause, especially when it flows over its regular bounds.

And somehow, God sits over the waters. We are part of a broken creation, but God remains faithful to us. How? Empowering our neighbors to love one another.

A great service organization – Murfreesboro Cold Patrol – sprang into action to help the homeless population by washing their newly soaked clothes and sleeping bags. They are helping to ensure that the chronic homeless are aided through this storm and flood.

God lives in the hearts of humans. We serve others and ensure the safety of our fellow humans the best way we can. In doing so, we can endure the floods and disasters of this world.

P (Prayer): God, empower us as co-creators to be the care and love in this world that you wish us to be. Amen.

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Mercy in Brokenness

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 30:3 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will bring back my people Israel and Judah from captivity, says the Lord. I will bring them home to the land that I gave to their ancestors, and they will possess it. 4 Here are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:

Why have all turned pale?
7 That day is awful, beyond words.
A time of unspeakable pain
for my people Jacob.
But they will be delivered from it.

8 At that time, I will break the yoke off their necks and remove their shackles. Foreigners will no longer enslave them, declares the Lord of heavenly forces. 9 They will serve the Lord their God and the king whom I will raise up for them from David’s family.

10 So don’t be afraid, my servant Jacob,
declares the Lord,
Don’t lose hope, Israel.
I will deliver you from faraway places
and your children from the land of their exile.
My people Jacob will again be safe and sound,
with no one harassing them.
11 I am with you and will rescue you,
declares the Lord.

O (Observation): Jeremiah is given a word of hope to share with God’s people.  God’s people are about to head out into exile (to Babylon). God declares again that the people of Judah or Israel.  God will not be forgotten, nor will God abandon them.  

God acknowledges that the leaders of Judah and Israel have looked away from God for hope and salvation.   This is the result: they will be left to their own powers, which are not enough to save themselves.   God will show them, however, God’s might, as God will rescue the people.  

Will God’s people learn from their mistakes?   Maybe.  

Will they ever make another mistake?   Yeah, sure.  You betcha!
A (Application):  When was the last time you made a mistake (of your own doing)?   Did you learn from it?   Thought so.   

And yet…you will likely make a similar mistake – or a new, more glorious mistake – and you will need to learn from that mistake, too, yes?  Yes.  

Mistakes are not bad, as long as we learn from them.  But even so, we will err.  And we will likely find that we’ve corrected our mistakes only to make newer mistakes down the road.  

Success, finding zero-fault…these are silly ways of seeking power and wisdom in this world.  

Instead, we fall…living in a fallen creation, and when recovery time comes, we receive mercy from God.   In this way, we acknowledge the Divine Love.   We fail.  We fall.  God redeems.  God picks us up.   We realize that no set of Laws or rules will make us  “successful Christians.”    Instead, the fall and the mercy.  This is God’s way…showing up with mercy after the brokenness appears.  

God and God’s people do not cause natural disasters, by the way…  I’m not at all trying to hint at that.  I’m simply trying to acknowledge that brokenness exists in the world…and God is here to show mercy when that brokenness moves in, front and center, like in a hurricane, or like in a mistake we make in our personal lives.     

Let us hope that we learn of God’s presence in the recovery efforts in Texas as the people recover from Hurricane Harvey.   Let us learn that God picks us up, when we fall and when we fail.   

P (Prayer):  Lord God, watch over all who enter clean up efforts in TX and give affected residents hope that they will be able to come back “home.”   Amen.  

The First Covenant

  

S (Scripture): Genesis 6: 17 For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

O (Observation):  The first covenant is established.   God will destroy the inhabitants of earth: humans, creeping things, animals, birds of the air.   Yet, God chooses to redeem all living things through the ark.   The ark will carry Noah and his wife and their sons and their sons’ wives.   2 of every living creature will be saved, as well. 

The Law:  destroy the corruption found in all living things

The Gospel:  bring new life to earth

A (Application):  The waters of the flood stand as a gateway to a transition: something new out of something old; something redeemed from something forsaken. 

This is God’s modus operandi.   

The covenant established here is a reminder that God makes promises and keeps them. The new covenant that comes in Jesus Christ points us to God making a promise to redeem us, and God keeps that promise. 

This covenant in Jesus keeps me from too much worry and stress in this life.  Jesus is my Messiah, my savior.  I need no other messiah.  Jesus is all I need.  

That’s what keeps me calm, cool, and collected (unless my child’s changing table won’t cooperate, and keeps falling apart…if so, you don’t want to be in the room with me : )

Are you waiting on another messiah?  A relationship?  A job? A raise?   Are you looking for another messiah?  Or is Jesus all you need?

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep me steadfast in your covenant.   Help me to trust only in you.  Amen.  
(Fun fact:  How many animals were saved?  Read Genesis 6:19 and compare it to Genesis 7:2.   Be prepared to be puzzled.)

Palmetto Floods… What to Think

  

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 18:14 “But suppose he in turn has a son who notices all the sins his father commits, considers them, and does not follow his father’s example…17 refrains from wrongdoing, does not engage in usury or charge interest, carries out my regulations and follows my statutes. He will not die for his father’s iniquity; he will surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practices extortion, robs his brother, and does what is not good among his people, he will die for his iniquity.”

O (Observation): A popular notion in Ezekiel’s time was that the sinfulness of the father (given a patriarchal society, mother’s were not given consideration) could be visited upon the son (again, patriarchal society).  So, many in the Hebrew faith began to believe that the children might be paying for the sins of the parents.   

How?   By being punished through oppression, sickness, and death. 

But no longer is that supposed to be the way they should think, now that God has spoken through  Ezekiel.   Each generation is set free from the parents’ iniquity.  God makes no connection between the sins of a child to the sins of the parents.   Will both still sin at times? Yes.   But will the child get a clean slate?  Absolutely!

A (Application):  The flood waters in Columbia, SC, and throughout the great Palmetto State have arisen and destroyed many homes, and in some cases, have caused injuries and death.    

A friend of mine was sitting in the stylist’s chair, about to get his hair cut, when he heard: “Can you believe God is sending these floods?!?!”  (That might not be the exact quote, but the sentiment is there.)

I hear people blame the sins of our parents for the direction our country is going.   Or they take a look at our sins, and worry that we will put our children in a worse position with God. Every time I hear someone say that we are reaping what we sow, I come back to these verses from Ezekiel.  

Will God visit the repercussions of our sins upon our children?  I think not.  

Does sin exist?  Yes. It does. But we are not to blame our parents or grandparents.  God gives each new generation a fresh start.   And in baptism, God looks on us and starts with: “You, my child…you are me daughter / my son, with you I am well-pleased.”  

We are brought into a relationship with Christ, with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who wishes LIFE for us, not death.  We can look at the world around us and see how we can participate in bringing life and sustenance where death and devastation have taken place.   We can do that, because God equips us to do that work.  And some times, rather than caring for our neighbor, or creation, we will be the recipients of the care of others.

Christ’s death and resurrection  allows us the space to seek forgiveness and for each new generation to start fresh.  God’s grace brings us wholeness and life.  God’s grace exchanges our failures for an abundant life. 

In that abundance we can reach out and care for our neighbor.  Instead of asking “why” this disaster happened, we are free to ask “what can we do to help?”

Here is one way to help…through the ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response.   You can Pray, Give, and Connect.  I hope you do.  

P (Prayer): Lord, your grace washes us clean.  You transform our failures into ways that we can reach out to help our neighbors.  Please be with all who suffer from the floods in South Carolina, and wherever floods devastate.  Amen.