In Due Season

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S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes 3:

1

There’s a season for everything

    and a time for every matter under the heavens:

    a time for giving birth and a time for dying,

    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,

    a time for killing and a time for healing,

    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,

    a time for crying and a time for laughing,

    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,

    a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,

    a time for searching and a time for losing,

    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,

    a time for tearing and a time for repairing,

    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,

    a time for loving and a time for hating,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

O (Observation): King Solomon (supposed author of Ecclesiastes) sought wisdom from God – above all else. God granted Solomon wisdom – a double-batch of it, since he didn’t request strength or riches.

Solomon seems almost morose. Like life isn’t worth living after all. What’s the point? You live, you die. And what is different? Almost like asking: “So, universe…now that Michael is gone…what’s different?” The universe says: “Um…who’s Michael?”

A (Application): Maybe Solomon’s take was different. Maybe Solomon’s main learning was this: don’t take yourself too seriously, and enjoy life!

All things will happen. We don’t know when or how. Just don’t think the world revolves around you. Good will come and good will go. Bad will come and bad will go. But God will remain. God will see us through it all. For God dwells with us.

In the meantime, be excellent to each other!

P (Prayer): Lord, remains with me / us. Amen.

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One in Christ

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S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 1:21 God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ and who anointed us. 22 God also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.

O (Observation): Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. He is reminding them – once again – of their being “in Christ” together.

Paul really taps into the sense of oneness. He picks up on Jesus’ notion that as the Christ freely dwells in each believer, they act as if they are one! Living in different cities? Still one! Former Greek or former Jew? Still one, in Christ!

This means that they can be free to share with one another and welcome one another should they travel. Or share financial obligations.

A (Application): How many of us sense the Oneness? I fear many of us are so individually minded that we have a hard time sensing the oneness.

I have to look out for me and mine. That is a survival instinct that all of us have. But we are also imbued with a sense of oneness through being in Christ together.

Jesus is the foremost example of what it means to be in Christ. He shows forth the full expression of Christ: chosen, gifted, servant, loving, beloved.

We are all given these same gifts. Or we can stifle these gifts.

When we share, when we love, when we allow ourselves to be cared for…we are showing how we are in Christ with one another.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us of our oneness in you…amen.

Stewardship: Faith and Science

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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.

Some Questions Don’t Need an Answer

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S (Scripture): Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

Who is this darkening counsel

    with words lacking knowledge?

Prepare yourself like a man;

    I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me.

The establishing of order

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?

    Tell me if you know.

Who set its measurements? Surely you know.

    Who stretched a measuring tape on it?

32 

Can you guide the stars

at their proper times,

    lead the Bear with her cubs?

33 

Do you know heaven’s laws,

    or can you impose its rule on earth?

34 

Can you issue an order to the clouds

    so their abundant waters cover you?

O (Observation): WOW! God isn’t mixing words here. God has silently listened to Job’s complaints over what he’s lost and how righteous he is. God silently listened while Job’s “friends” try to convince Job that he must have done something wrong and God is punishing him for it.

In the end, here, God isn’t defensive…rather, God is angry that both Job and his friends are complaining like they have absolute wisdom and power. They don’t!

Who formed the earth and all that is in it!? God!

Who is all-knowing!? God!

Not Job. Not Job’s friends.

A (Application): How often do we think we have discipleship and being a follower of God all figured out? How often do we use logic to answer questions of faith and discipleship?

So much of what we go through in life, we feel like we need to label it as a result of something we or someone else or God “did.” Like we need an answer for everything.

In science, I can understand the desire and drive for answers. But for faith, we must sometimes let the reason “why?” sort of just remain unanswered and be content with our situation. Perhaps a reason or thought will come. Ok. But don’t try to tear down heaven and earth to find the answer.

Sometimes the silent mystery is just fine. Sometimes the answer to “why?” is a tension to be managed, rather than a problem to be solved.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to just let some questions remain unanswered. Amen.

Unity with God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 56

All day long [my attackers] frustrate my pursuits;

    all their thoughts are evil against me.

You yourself have kept track of my misery.

    Put my tears into your bottle—

    aren’t they on your scroll already?

O (Observation): Countless times have God’s faithful shared their fears and worries with God. And countless times, God’s people trust. God knows the fears of the author of this psalm.

For God has captured all the author’s tears…God has recorded them…stored them…

A (Application): God knows our sadness and frustrations and fears.

What if salvation was more about God knowing us, and journeying with us, rather than helping us to desire to be removed from this world?

What if salvation is God helping us to become one with God for now and eternity? After all, God knows our inmost parts and worries and fears. God counts the number of our tears. In coming to us, putting on flesh, we know that God knows our very selves.

And God knows the worst…God knows death…and has overcome that separation we experience from God. Easter is about celebrating that God is with us, even through death and hell.

What weighs you down this day? How can knowing that God counts your tears help you in your journey?

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in you. Help us to know that you hear our suffering and cries and tears. Amen.

Unity with God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 56

All day long [my attackers] frustrate my pursuits;

    all their thoughts are evil against me.

You yourself have kept track of my misery.

    Put my tears into your bottle—

    aren’t they on your scroll already?

O (Observation): Countless times have God’s faithful shared their fears and worries with God. And countless times, God’s people trust. God knows the fears of the author of this psalm.

For God has captured all the author’s tears…God has recorded them…stored them…

A (Application): God knows our sadness and frustrations and fears.

What if salvation was more about God knowing us, and journeying with us, rather than helping us to desire to be removed from this world?

What if salvation is God helping us to become one with God for now and eternity? After all, God knows our inmost parts and worries and fears. God counts the number of our tears. In coming to us, putting on flesh, we know that God knows our very selves.

And God knows the worst…God knows death…and has overcome that separation we experience from God. Easter is about celebrating that God is with us, even through death and hell.

What weighs you down this day? How can knowing that God counts your tears help you in your journey?

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in you. Help us to know that you hear our suffering and cries and tears. Amen.

God – not Guns – Will Save Us

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S (Scripture): Psalm 46

1

God is our refuge and strength,

    a help always near in times of great trouble.

That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,

    when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea,

    when its waters roar and rage,

    when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. Selah

There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city,

    the holiest dwelling of the Most High.

God is in that city. It will never crumble.

    God will help it when morning dawns.

Nations roar; kingdoms crumble.

    God utters his voice; the earth melts.

The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!

    The God of Jacob is our place of safety. Selah

Come, see the Lord’s deeds,

    what devastation he has imposed on the earth—

    bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world,

    breaking the bow and shattering the spear,

        burning chariots with fire.

10 

“That’s enough! Now know that I am God!

    I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”

11 

The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!

    The God of Jacob is our place of safety. Selah

O (Observation): Images of chaos and insecurity are all around the psalmist. Yet something brings safety and comfort:

God is our refuge and strength,

    a help always near in times of great trouble.

Whether the seas are rising, the mountains around us are crumbling, or we are under threat of attack, God has spoken, is speaking, and will speak.

Which God, you ask? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The one who claims us, the one who makes war to cease.

Our God is our Mighty Fortress.

A (Application): If you are familiar with Lutheran hymnody, you will no doubt recognize the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” which I jokingly refer to as “The Lutheran National Anthem.” I don’t denigrate the song. It is beautiful and a good reflection of Psalm 46, which Martin Luther May have used as inspiration for the nature of this hymn.

Many images from scripture are present in this hymn, but as I focus on this psalm this morning, I am reminded of the power of God over evil, ultimately.

We see historically black churches burned just recently this year (2019), all in one Louisiana parish. We have seen attacks on mosques and synagogues, active shooter situations at concerts and schools. These are the waters rising around us. Chaos pursuing us.

What do we do?

Many believe the solution is more violence, more guns. Yet this seems counter to the message of Christ.

Our God will equip us and give us what we need, ultimately. I don’t know that path, nor the means by which this will take place. But violence begets violence. This is hard to reconcile. I don’t want innocent people to be hurt, so I want to see security. Maybe that is part of the solution, but the biggest role my faith has in my life is that I will not fear. We can prepare for the worst, but I will not…I refuse to live in fear.

My God is the one who speaks and the nations melt. I will trust in God, not just guns.

I will trust that God will work in and through leaders and those trapped by evil to help the good come out of our humanity. It will be God, not guns that save us.

P (Prayer): Lord, clear our hearts and minds to make us new, to make us whole. Amen.