The Wounded Healer

(A nod to Henri Nouwen for today’s use of the phrase “Wounded Healer.” Thank you for the gift, Nouwen, of this concept. My reference to this work is implied in today’s post.)

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S (Scripture): Acts 13:26 [Paul said:] “Brothers, children of Abraham’s family, and you Gentile God-worshippers, the message about this salvation has been sent to us. 27 The people in Jerusalem and their leaders didn’t recognize Jesus. By condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Even though they didn’t find a single legal basis for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they finished doing everything that had been written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead! 31 He appeared over many days to those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people.

32 “We proclaim to you the good news. What God promised to our ancestors, 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it was written in the second psalm, You are my son; today I have become your father.

O (Observation): Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch, and Paul is describing to the God-followers there God’s salvation for the world. Paul hopes to convey to Jews and Gentiles (“children of Abraham’s family, and you Gentile God-worshippers“) that the salvation we all seek – and that God promised Israel – has come to fruition in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection matters as a fulfillment of what God promised and establishes hope for all people.

A (Application): Even when all the world rejects Jesus, God embraces him. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to think that God embraces us in our time of need. Anyone who turns to God in time of need can expect some sort of response – directly, indirectly, a sign…something.

Practicing listening to God’s voice and training your eyes to see what God is up to can take a lifetime. The people of Antioch need Paul to help them see what God was up to.

Now, you and I are to help others receive the Good News: hope for the hopeless, healing for the wounded.

P (Prayer): Lord, Heal us…that we might become wounded healers. Amen.

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Theology of the Cross (Part 2)

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S (Scripture): Psalm 10

17 

Lord, you listen to the desires of those who suffer.

    You steady their hearts;

you listen closely to them,

18 

    to establish justice

        for the orphan and the oppressed,

    so that people of the land

        will never again be terrified.

O (Observation): God’s presence in the midst of suffering is never in doubt. God hears the cries of those who suffer…of those who have no one else to listen.

God’s concern will be to bring justice…at least, that is the hope of those who follow God.

Jesus would one day find himself suffering, too. With no powerful people on earth to defend him. He would rely fully on God, and no one else. And God would see him through. And the Spirit would burst forth!

A (Application): Our hope rests not in commanding God to come to our aid or by outsmarting or out-resourcing our enemies. Rather, we will lean solely upon God’s version of justice.

For if we seek justice on our terms, and we get it wrong…then what? We can still act, but we do so humbly and with prayer. We submit to God getting things right. We submit to listening to God’s voice. We submit to taking action based on what God speaks to us. We submit to the Spirit’s guidance.

May our response be God’s will and not our own.

P (Prayer): Lord, hear us. You will. Amen.

Is God Here in Difficult Times?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 143

1

Listen to my prayer, Lord!

Because of your faithfulness, hear my requests for mercy!

Because of your righteousness, answer me!

2

Please don’t bring your servant to judgment,

because no living thing is righteous before you.

3

The enemy is chasing me,

crushing my life in the dirt,

forcing me to live in the dark

like those who’ve been dead forever.

4

My spirit is weak inside me—

inside, my mind is numb.

5

I remember the days long past;

I meditate on all your deeds;

I contemplate your handiwork.

6

I stretch out my hands to you;

my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you.

O (Observation): The author is in the midst of a most difficult circumstance. They realize their lack of control over the outside circumstances, and life is dry and numb.

Does this mean the author is not faithful? Does this mean the author doubts? Does this mean the author was unfaithful and caused this harm to himself or herself?

A (Application): So often, we think that blessings come in good times when we are faithful, and bad things happen when we are unfaithful. That correlation cannot be more wrong.

Sometimes, faithful folks encounter difficult times and good things happen to us when we are doubting God and others.

The psalmist gives us space to be in the midst of difficult circumstances and still feel like God is still present. Even though things aren’t going our way, we can still trust in God to be with us and walk us through the challenges.

This can look like a friend being with us, or a pot of soup being brought over on a cold day.

Be on the lookout for signs of God showing up where we least expect. Especially in our times of challenge.

P (Prayer): God, we are challenged, but looking for you. Amen.

Advent Psalm

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S (Scripture): Psalm 139

11

If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me;

the light will become night around me,”

12

even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!

Nighttime would shine bright as day,

because darkness is the same as light to you!

O (Observation): The psalmist hopes for the Lord to be the light in the darkness.

This comes to ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus entering humanity.

A (Application): Jesus is the light in our darkness. This is what Advent is about: expectant hope. We pray that Jesus – the Light of the World – come.

How are you showing a posture of hope this year?

P (Prayer): O come, o come, Emmanuel. Amen.

Expect the Unexpected

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S (Scripture): John 20:Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” 3 Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb.

O (Observation): Confusion! Holy confusion. What was going on? Jesus was dead, that much was known. Mary and others expected Jesus’ body to be there. Instead, she is confronted with an empty tomb…stone rolled away.

Perhaps he’s been taken away???

A (Application): The moment before a significant breakthrough can be full of fear and worry. We all know that Jesus has risen, but those first few moments for Mary and the rest would have been totally disorienting. And the only thing they can think of is this: Jesus’ body was taken, maybe even to be desecrated.

What might this teach us about our hopes and dreams? Perhaps we don’t know exactly how things will turn out. Perhaps we will be surprised or fearful. No matter the circumstances, we can remain hopeful.

When night draws in and we fear the worst, perhaps we can step back and see how God may be up to something bigger and better than we could have ever expected.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us into an everlasting hope, leaning on the work you do in our baptism. Amen.

Helping Others Helps You!

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S (Scripture): Psalm 130

5

I hope, Lord.

My whole being hopes,

and I wait for God’s promise.

6

My whole being waits for my Lord—

more than the night watch waits for morning;

yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

7

Israel, wait for the Lord!

Because faithful love is with the Lord;

because great redemption is with our God!

8

He is the one who will redeem Israel

from all its sin.

O (Observation): Once again, a Psalm brings forth hope and comfort in the midst of distress. God is watching over us. God will redeem our situation!

A (Application): A little bit of hope goes a long way. If you are feeling hopeless as Thanksgiving approaches, please pick up a phone and call someone…send an actual card…send a text or a tweet or a FB post. Go out and cook a meal for someone else! Help others know that you care about them.

Hopefully, you caring for them will return as a blessing to you. Whether or not they have acknowledged the note, perhaps you can be satisfied that you led the way. Maybe that – along with God’s presence – will give you hope this week.

(See y’all next Monday! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P (Prayer): Lord, we are thankful for what we have. Help us to let others know that we care for them – family and strangers alike. Amen.

Walking through the Drudgery

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S (Scripture): John 14:15 [Jesus speaks to the disciples] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.”

O (Observation): A table of friends gathered. They have just shared a meal and watched their leader – the The Word made Flesh – bend low to wash their feet. They heard their leader speak to them about how he would soon be gone, and how terrible circumstances would become.

And so, in this moment of uncertainty, Jesus provides a ray of hope: the Comforter will come. The Spirit. The Advocate. The Comforter.

This Spirit would guide them after Jesus’ departure from this earth.

A (Application): I very much needed this word of hope today. Sort of down and out kind of day for me. The cold and damp weather has gotten me down. I’m a person of deep empathy, so the wildfires and mass shootings have got me down.

But with this devotion I’m reminded to put one foot in front of the other today. To plan now for future happenings and joys.

In the meantime, I will remember that the Comforter is with me and will be with me.

May this Comforter be with you this day, too!

P (Prayer): Lord, you bring to me hope and happiness. Lift me this day to know that you always walk with me. Amen.