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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.”…

5b Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.

6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

8 Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9 So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10 Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”

“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”

“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”

12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

O (Observation): Anointing. That’s a really big deal in the Old Testament! That means you are selected by God to lead God’s people. The anointing with oil is an outward expression of God’s Spirit moving into someone’s heart, mind, and soul. It’s like a baptism. The Spirit “moves in,” so to speak.

And note that God looks upon the heart, not just outward appearance. To some, that inward look brings fear; to others, that bring hope : )

A (Application): So it’s no secret that I’m not the wisest or best looking or most charismatic member of the body of Christ. (Shocking revelation, I know.)

So to hear that God looks upon the heart is both a joy and a fear, with the joy WAY outweighing my fears.

As I discern my place in God’s Kingdom, I see lots of ways that I fail. Yet, the failures are a mix of things: failure to God, failure to self, failure to family, failure to congregation I serve. And yet, more often than not, those fears are unfounded. And as God’s Spirit dwells within me, and as I think back to the fact that I was once marked with oil on my head, I am given all the grace I need.

I know that in my baptism God started a calling in me to love God and neighbor. I will rest in that assurance, and do my best to let God take away my fears. I will lean into my anointing.

P (Prayer): Moving Spirit, guide me…point out the grade all around me. Amen.


Don’t Waste My Time (or Money)

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S (Scripture): Matthew 26:6 When Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease, 7 a woman came to him with a vase made of alabaster containing very expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ head while he was sitting at dinner. 8 Now when the disciples saw it they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9 This perfume could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She’s done a good thing for me. 11  You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. 12  By pouring this perfume over my body she’s prepared me to be buried. 13  I tell you the truth that wherever in the whole world this good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

O (Observation): Jesus is inching ever closer to his death. His remaining time on this earth is therefore very precious, indeed. As this woman comes and pours oil on his head – essentially anointing Jesus – criticism comes from the disciples. They are lost on the meaning of this wasted expense.

Jesus reassures the disciples that this moment is precious, and that they are not ignoring the poor in this moment…rather, for this moment…they will turn their attention to Jesus…and in the very near future, they will continue to care for the poor.

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15:11…

Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.

Notice that Jesus quotes a text that commands God’s people to be generous to the poor and needy. Jesus is not dismissing the disciples from caring for the poor forever. Jesus is not throwing up his hands in exhaustion or frustration. He is simply pointing to this one moment. Sort of like saying, “Look. As soon as I am gone, you will continue to serve the poor and needy.”

Jesus does not give up…but merely embraces his anointing and calls on the the disciples to “be” in the moment with him…this moment leading up to his trial, and pending crucifixion.

A (Application): How often have we used this verse from Matthew to give up on caring for the poor? How often have we quoted Jesus and say, “Look! Even Jesus recognizes that we will always have the poor. So…what really can we do? We can’t be bothered or feel guilty when we see poor people. They will simply always be.”

Well, looking at Deut 15:11, we might think otherwise. The disciples would have known the Scriptures by this point, and I think we can assume that the disciples would know the rest of the verse Jesus was referring to. Yes, we will have the poor – due to our brokenness – but that we will also have to do something for and with the poor.

Not only is this verse from Deut significant the whole chapter of Deut 15 is important ! It’s all about the Jubilee – the year of the Lord’s favor in which debts are supposed to be forgiven… which could be part of the cause for those who are poor.

So, when folks quote, “the poor will always be with us…” ask what they mean by that. Are they shrugging their shoulders? Or are they hunkering down to help find root causes of the suffering of so many…as they pursue solutions and justice for all?

Jesus is heading into a time of great trial and suffering. Jesus is headed to us free. And even though we have freedom, sin still weighs me down. We will always have sinners with us – myself included – so this side of Kingdom come, I will need forgiveness and I will need to forgive others. I cannot throw my hands up and just accept sin. Rather, I will seek repentance all of my days, and seek God to grant me the strength to forgive others just as I have been forgiven.

P (Prayer): Lord, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Amen.

When Loving My Neighbor Gets Lost

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S (Scripture): Matthew 25:1 Talking with his disciples, Jesus said: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. 4 But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil.

5 “When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’

7 “Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’

9 “But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut.

11 “Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’

12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore, keep alert, because you don’t know the day or the hour.

O (Observation): Jesus has been talking with the disciples about what the end of time would look like…what the coming of the Kingdom would entail. Much of what he says comes from his experience with the Pharisees. The Pharisees and religious experts have tended to focus on strict adherence to the belief system they created, and lean less on living out their belief system.

Living out the Commandments God gave the world would look and sound a lot like what Jesus did and said. Striving for life aligned with God’s purposes is the point: be doing the work of God…which looks and sounds like Jesus. This is being ready for the groom.

A (Application): How much do we focus on belief over practice in the Church? We need beliefs to guide our practices, but as post-Enlightenment people, a people focused on dualistic thinking (right OR wrong, true OR false), we feel the most important thing will be belief. Why? Because we believe that gets us into heaven. I think (through this parable, Jesus challenges that belief that belief alone is what is needed.)

If we believe in Jesus as Lord, that’s like a switch that automatically means we are going “up” instead of “down.” One problem with this dualistic approach is that my neighbor in need is ignored.

If my faith is solely focused on my own personhood and salvation, then what do I make of my neighbor? Well…that’s complicated.

First, that person needs to subscribe to my understanding of salvation (remember, dualistic mindset and faith.). So I will speak to that person in such a way as to invite them to believe what I believe or be shamed.

Second, loving neighbor looks like this: tell them that the thing they are missing is Jesus, rather than inviting the other to “check out what I believe.”

The way something is said is important. If I tell you what I believe as, “Duh, of course this is the only truth,” then you lose people.

I would propose another tactic: burn your lamps and grab some more oil now. Pray, worship, give, develop healthy friendships, serve your neighbor, read Scripture. Allow your interactions with your neighbors to be filled with grace and mercy. Let that space between you be a place where the Spirit connects you.

If the door opens for that person to invite you to share your own faith story, move into that conversation. If not, then don’t.

But in all things, show love for neighbor.

P (Prayer): Lord, clear the path for us to love and serve our neighbor. Amen.