Are We There Yet?

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S (Scripture): Matthew 24:32 Jesus said to the disciples: “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. 34 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.”

O (Observation): The community of believers are growing restless in terms of seeing the Kingdom come. They believed that they would see The End and the fullness of God’s glory in the Kingdom Come.

So, Jesus gives them some context: Others will come and say they are me, but they won’t be me; all are encouraged to endure any suffering done on account of Jesus’ name; the heavens will shake; a trumpet will sound. All of these will take place. You won’t miss it!

And in the meantime, says Jesus, stay alert. You keep an eye on the fig tree; so, too, keep an eye out for my return. Be alert. Be ready.

No one knows when this will all occur.

A (Application): We are not happy without deadlines. Well, some folks are happy with no deadlines…no deadline, no pressure…but also, no results.

With a deadline, we at least know what we are working towards. Now, we may not complete the project, but at least we will have this outside force (the deadline) on which to base our current activity: if the deadline is soon, we ramp up activity…if the deadline is far off, we can wait and relax.

Jesus is preparing the people in Matthew’s community to be ready at all times! They do not have a deadline (we do not have a deadline), but the signs will appear…but even with their appearance, no one knows exactly when all of this will usher in the Kingdom.

So, like we tell our children, get the chores and such done now. Completing those chores now mean more opportunities later on for us to serve or relax or embrace life or a new project.

Let us be ready. Let us be about the work of the Kingdom: using our gifts where the world needs them. Let’s do this until Kingdom come.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that we are always working towards the good of the world, regardless of the timing of your coming again. Amen.


Equal Pay, Unequal “Work”

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S (Scripture): Matthew 20:1 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ 5 And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

7 “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ 9 When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

O (Observation): Jesus’ big challenge with God’s people was helping them to understand that their “privilege” as descendants of the Hebrew people did not necessarily give them an advantage over all other people who started understanding that God was for all people.

If non-Jews wanted to follow God, and their households wanted to follow God, then the Jewish people who “have been laboring all day in the hot sun” should not complain or be jealous of those who “worked on hour.” They will both receive the same salvation…the same grace.

But the jealous ones don’t see how this is fair…

A (Application): When newcomers come to our congregation, you can tell the joy and zest that comes with their involvement of current ministries and their excitement of starting new ministries. This is not the case in every congregation, but we do a fairly good job of bringing new folks on board and embracing them right where they are. We encourage them to apply their gifts to our various ministries.

Sometimes, the biggest zest for new life comes from newcomers. However, those who have been present “all day” have a lot of wisdom and know what it’s like to be out all day. They’ve seen the history of the place, and they have the opportunity to learn how God is doing a new thing in our church body.

The work of both the newcomer and the long-timer are of great value. We need both so as to better share the Good News. Let us not to turn to jealousy, but joy!

P (Prayer): Lord please see my life as one in which I can embrace the newcomer and the long-timer. Amen.

Work and Rest

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S (Scripture): Psalm 127
1 Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
the guard on duty is pointless.
2 It is pointless that you get up early and stay up late, eating the bread of hard labor
because God gives sleep to those he loves.

O (Observation): Pointless. That’s the common thread of this psalm. The people of God strive for so many things (building houses, protecting, overworking). The point the psalmist is making is that all of this labor is done in vain if not done “in the Lord.”

The Lord is the key to all of the work and rest that lies ahead for God’s people.

A (Application): I hope you hear the Word today, especially when it comes to work and rest. That is a HUGE issue for us in America in 2017.

I remember going to hear a speaker back while I was in college. His motivation was this: the person who works 60 hours per week will do more and make more money than the person who works 40 hours per week; and the person who works 80 hours per week will make more than the person who works 60 hours per week.

That never sat well with me. Now I have a clearer understanding of why it didn’t sit well: God gives sleep to those he loves.

Lots of other scriptures support the balance of work and rest, and today’s Word is of importance. Getting up too early or staying up too late (in order to be more productive) is silly, it’s pointless. You work at like 50% efficiency when you’re tired and need sleep. So sleep!

I understand we all have deadlines, but don’t let staying up late and getting up early be the norm. Don’t let that lifestyle be the default for your production in this world. You will cause damage to your life and your loved ones when you go down that path.

Embrace the sleep God gives you. Turn it all over to God. Rest your weary mind.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us in our work and our rest. Amen.


Work?  Rest?  Yes!  In a Rhythm…

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 6:1 So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word. Let’s not lay a foundation of turning away from dead works, of faith in God, 2 of teaching about ritual ways to wash with water, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment—all over again. 3 We’re going to press on, if God allows it.

O (Observation):  The author is concerned that once the believers learn the basics of their faith in Christ, they will stop pursuing God’s call for them in the world.   That if they stop after the basics, they will find further challenges and not meet them.   The author is saying that if they turn from their disciplines of learning and living out their faith, they will be challenged to find the time or effort to keep on learning and living out God’s calling for them.  

They need to press on. 

A (Application):  But how much is too much?  Is too much Gospel a thing?   Are we offended by the Gospel call?    Sometimes we are.  Sometimes we can only handle so much as individuals…as faith communities.     This tiring should not bring shame, but neither should it bring disdain.  

Every healthy organism finds a rhythm of rest and work.   When God calls God’s people to get to work, they do so, or miss an opportunity.   When God calls people to rest, they should, lest they have no energy to do the work they will be called to do down the road.  

Every group must discern the right time for work and rest.  Whether to be out front, in the middle, or in the rear.   There is a time to be in each of those places.   

Sitting back…saying nothing…doing work…sharing the story…  we have lots of options.  

You have lots of options.  

What will you do, today?

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us wisdom to discern what to do when.   Amen. 


Theology of Work

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S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes 5:13 There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 15 As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. 16 This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? 17 Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment.

18 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

O (Observation):  Solomon has seen what wealth can do to a person.  Wealth can turn a person inward, caring only for himself or herself.   To what end?   To a cold and lonely end.    When a rich person dies, that person cannot take their earthly goods with them.   Toiling is not bad…but if one toils to gain more things…one does so in vain.  

But Solomon gives us another view of toil: joy in contentment.   Brooding over the work gains nothing.   Instead, find the work God has called each to do, and in that, find joy!

A (Application): I continue to be amazed at our capitalistic society in the US and the growing discontent we have in our lives.   The gadgets and gizmos and vacations we all desire can drive us away from contentment and towards a poor view of our work:  work = money for stuff.   

The joy of work gives us purpose and a way to contribute to society.   The wonderful part of capitalism is the opportunity to explore any of your callings and to seek to be paid for it.   However, the downfall of capitalism is that those who cannot work, or those who cannot see work as something to be enjoyed decide that they don’t fit in, and thus, end up on the streets or living off of handouts.  

I pray that everyone find the inherent dignity in all of humanity.   I pray that everyone find the calling God has instilled in them.  I pray that we are all compassionate enough help those whose work does not allow them enough pay to live on their own.   

I pray that we all enjoy our work for the sake of bringing God glory!

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to be thankful and grateful for our callings in this world!  Amen.


Who is Setting the Pace for You?

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S (Scripture):  Luke 24:28  As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

O (Observation):  This text comes not from the Daily Moravian texts…but this is the Gospel text assigned for Sunday, April 30, 2017.   

These two followers of Jesus received news of Jesus’ death.  They are despondent and downtrodden.   On their long walk back home, the resurrected Jesus comes alongside these two men and asks what is troubling them.  They share that Jesus has suffered and died, not recognizing this stranger is Jesus himself!   Jesus reminds them of the salvation stories, starting with Moses and the prophets…on to the current day.  But these followers still don’t quite know what to make of this stranger…(who just happens to be the resurrected Jesus!).

Not until Jesus breaks bread with them is he revealed to them, fully.  Their “eyes were opened and they recognized him.”  Then he left…vanished.   And the disciples realize that Jesus was there in their midst, the whole time.

A (Application):  We don’t always get it.  We don’t always get the fact that Jesus is journeying with us.   The world around us is constantly challenging us.  Kids’ sports practices.  The latest gadget.   The dwindling bank account.   The competition to succeed.   The race to the top.   The need to meet the quotas.   The rat race….over and over and over again.

Breathe.   Just breathe.   Let today be the beginning of something new…a break.   Just for a few minutes…just for a day…maybe for a  few days.   Re-charge.

While you are resting…maybe you will have a chance to recognize God’s presence in your midst.   While we are running, we have a hard time catching our breath or noticing what God is up to in our lives.

You need some downtime to sit, break bread with others…and notice that God is here.  Now.  In your presence.   Do this “rest” thing with someone you love and trust.   See what happens.

Then…get back at it.   Go on.  But now, know that God is with you.  That will change your whole outlook on the race you are running.   You will no longer be running the race for yourself…you will realize that you are not running alone.  You will see that God is with you on your journey…let God set your pace.

P (Prayer):  God, slow us down…pace us…let us know your presence is real.  Amen.


Even Me?

S (Scripture): Acts 4:13 When (the rulers, the elders, and the experts in the law) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus.

O (Observation): After having healed the lame man, the leaders of the church had a hard time figuring out how to control Peter and John.  They don’t necessarily deny the fact that a miracle took place, they just don’t want Jesus’ disciples gaining popularity over the leaders of the church.

The major threat seems to have been the fact that Peter and John are ordinary folks who did not study the Scriptures or the law as much as the scribes and elders had.   That meant that their position of power and privilege was no longer secure…not if these ordinary men could do miraculous signs in Jesus name.  No longer would people need to spend their whole lives studying scripture and the law in order to do God’s work.

A (Application): Who can God work through? Who does God work through? Is it helpful for the church to have pastors and bishops? I think so. But do we sometimes get caught up in the idea that pastors and bishops are the only ones doing God’s work?   Yes!  Absolutely!

God’s work is done through the body of Christ and in many, many other ways.   The joy of today’s text is that we don’t have to have seminary degrees or even a long resume of good deeds in order to do good this day!

Take a step back and think about what you’re feeling.  Let that feeling be shaped by God’s good will towards others.   Let that feeling win out.  Find a way to let that good feeling manifest itself in some positive way towards another person this day.  

Enjoy the fact that God can and does work through so many of us.    Yes, that includes you.  

P (Prayer):  God, continue to do a good work in me and through me.  Amen.