Living Sacrifices

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S (Scripture): Romans 12:1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

O (Observation): Whether one subscribed to giving sacrifices to God – or not – one is now called upon to give one’s own life as a sacrifice…a LIVING sacrifice. Every action taken is to give thanks to God. Just like a sacrifice would be used.

This changes what we do. Our minds – transformed through renewal (God’s doing?) – affect our actions. It’s a repeat of “repent and believe.” That phrase starts with God’s people having their minds renewed, which leads to living into a new belief: that God’s people are one in Christ Jesus.

A (Application): How many of us love as if we are living sacrifices? Are we a pleasing gift to the Lord? I have my days and moments when I can say boldly and confidently, “Yes!” Equally, I can find days and moments when I hide in shame.

We all do. We have these moments where God’s Spirit shines brightly through us, and then we don’t.

So, we live lives seeking to be healed and to seek forgiveness from one another. This reminds us of our humility. Out of our humility, we come to God, broken and weak. And we are renewed as we remember the waters of baptism flowing over us…as we remember that we are part of something bigger (the body of Christ).

May we see that our lives are not our own, but God’s gift to the world. May we live into these roles of living sacrifices, for the sake of the world.

P (Prayer): Lord, protect us and heals and make us whole. Amen.

Looking Backwards to Look Forward

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S (Scripture): 1 Peter 2:4 Now you are coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone. Even though this stone was rejected by humans, from God’s perspective it is chosen, valuable. 5 You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Thus it is written in scripture, Look! I am laying a cornerstone in Zion, chosen, valuable. The person who believes in him will never be shamed.  7 So God honors you who believe. For those who refuse to believe, though, the stone the builders tossed aside has become the capstone. 8 This is a stone that makes people stumble and a rock that makes them fall. Because they refuse to believe in the word, they stumble. Indeed, this is the end to which they were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. 10 Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

O (Observation): Peter lets God’s people know that they have hope in Jesus Christ, because Jesus has set them apart for God’s work in the world.   Rejection may be part of the results of the work, but they are to press on, since Jesus has already given them mercy to carry on.   

Many will not believe, but God’s people are to carry on and to share how God brought each of them from darkness into the light.  

A (Application):  At a recent retreat I attended, Pr Mark Hanson – former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA – taught us about “cairns.”   A cairn is a human-made pile (or stack) of stones.   The purpose of cairns is diverse, but he highlighted this purpose: to mark a significant moment in history.   

Jacob sets up a pile of rocks when he sees angels ascending and descending in a dream.  Joshua and crew were instructed to set stones in the middle of the the riverbed of the “temporarily dammed Jordan River” when they crossed into the Promised Land.   These cairns mark significant life-giving moments in the history of God’s people. 

In what seemed like a moment of defeat, a rock was placed in front of a tomb.  What was a marker of death became a marker of true life!

Seeing a cairn in this light can serve two main purposes: as a memorial, or as a sign pointing to a new future.   If seen as a memorial, we lock in the past and focus on nostalgia…a yearning for what was…idealizing an unattainable past.   If seen as a sign pointing to the future…we open up some wonderful possibilities!

When a cairn is seen as a sign pointing to a new future, we move from simple nostalgia, to memory that builds confidence for the present and future.  Looking back in order to look forward.  This brings us hope.  We can look back and see where we’ve been, and we can look at those markers and see how God was active in our lives.  That gives us hope for the present and future.  

After all, we are LIVING stones.  We can share stories of where we’ve been.   We can focus on where we are going.   We can be the markers for future generations.   And so we begin, anew, today!

What stories from our past will give us confidence that we can weather the storms of today???

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in your word.    Point us to past seasons so we can see where you acted with us, for us, in us, through us. Amen. P

A Living Letter

  S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, 3:3 revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.

O (Observation): Paul makes a distinction between a reputation on paper versus a living testimony.  Paul suggests that he and his followers do not need any kind of written testimony of their Gospel message, because they have one another, and The Gospel written on every one of their hearts. 

Paul compares members of the body of Christ to letters written by fellow members of the body of Christ written by way of the Spirit, delivered by one another to one another.  

A (Application):  Great metaphor. The impression each believer leaves on each other gets written into their very DNA.  As a letter-writer leaves a bit of themselves in the letter, so too, do we leave a bit of ourselves with one another after we spend time together. 

As a church, we must be careful what we measure, because we ultimately value what we measure.  If we only measure butts and bucks (attendance and offering) we only value those things.  That’s not necessarily the Gospel.   

What if we measured the number of households that hold daily devotions or spend time in Scripture every day?  

What if we asked how many people are you mentoring in the faith (or conversely, do you have a spiritual mentor)?   (Or, are you being mentored AND mentoring others?)

What if we asked people about where their strengths lie: between spending time with God, disciples, or the community?  What is their weakest area?  Why?

These are questions that get to the “heart” of Paul’s words.  Knowing butts and bucks doesn’t always get us there.   The fact that we are living letters means that we will bear fruit, fruit that will last.   That means we will struggle with our faith journey, with reproducing a disciple-making culture, and with being a living letter for Christ. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see our lives as gifts from you.  Help us to know that we are living letters, informed by those who have come in the faith before us.  Helps us to see that we will write the living letters of the future.  Amen. 

Feeling all Dried Up


 S (Scripture): Job 14:7 Job speaks: “But there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.
14:8 Although its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump begins to die in the soil,
14:9 at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a new plant.
14:10 But man dies and is powerless; he expires – and where is he?
14:11 As water disappears from the sea, or a river drains away and dries up,
14:12 so man lies down and does not rise; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
nor arise from their sleep.”

O (Observation): Job is quite convinced that nothing can be worse than what he’s going through right now.  As he sees it, trees are better off than a person…surely a tree will have new shoots to spring up.  But a human?  Nope. No such hope. 

This is such a low point.   I have a hard time imaging this low. 

 Job is still trying to use logic to get to a point of understanding.  At this point, this task seems impossible.  The more he searches for a reason for this suffering, the more he searches for hope, the further he falls into the throes of despair.  This is difficult reading, indeed. 

A (Application): Talk about total depravity.  This image of a dried up river bed makes my mouth feel like all of the moisture has been sucked dry…like waking up in the morning with a dry mouth.

One time have I felt such a low…I was interviewing for a position as a pastor, and the whole thing went sour.  I couldn’t find the words to who I am, or what God has called me to be.  I stumbled all over myself.   It was bad…and I felt like a dried up river bed.  Hope was lost. 

I had a good friend/mentor who helped me work through the feelings and layers of self-doubt.  He reminded me that my one-ness with God was important…not some interview or position.  He reminded me that my identity was wrapped up in my baptism.  (A great way to combat being all “dried up,” no?)

As I further explore what it means to be a child of God, a part of the body of Christ, I see Jesus as my life source, as my living water.  

What is making you feel all dried up and without hope today?  I invite you to take a look at who and whose you are today.  Come, allow the Lord to care for you.   Let the Lord do a work in you and through you. 

P (Prayer): Lord, sometimes we just can’t see beyond his moment, this Pit, this circumstance.  Guide others to bring us along.   Give us something to learn while in the Pit. Bring us living water, that we may never thirst again.  Amen.