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.

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God…Are You There?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 106

3 

The people who uphold justice,

who always do what is right, are truly happy!

4 

Remember me, Lord, with the favor you show your people.

Visit me with your saving help

5 

so I can experience the good things your chosen ones experience,

so I can rejoice in the joy of your nation,

so I can praise along with your possession.

O (Observation): This author wants to praise God just like everyone else. What’s stopping him? Why is she worried about being able to praise God?

Maybe this is it:

I want joy and I want God to show up! You’re there / here…right, God?

A (Application): Isolation…Worry…Fear. These things are real. We all experience them in some way. Some experience this in a very real and traumatic way. Some folks can just handle it and go on. This doesn’t make one of these groups better than the other…just different.

Let us be watchful and walk alongside the hurting ones.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you are indeed with us every step of the way. Amen.

My Personal Hell

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S (Scripture): Psalm 86

11

Teach me your way, Lord,

so that I can walk in your truth.

Make my heart focused

only on honoring your name.

12

I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,

with all my heart,

and I will glorify your name forever,

13

because your faithful love toward me is awesome

and because you’ve rescued my life

from the lowest part of hell.

O (Observation): Recognizing God’s hand is a powerful thing. Knowing that the pit / hell can feel all encompassing, the psalmist is relieved to know that God still pulls her out of that situation and into a new way.

A (Application): My personal hell is nothing compared to what many have had to go through in their lives…but I still have a personal hell: self-doubt, feelings of being a failure, lack of self-discipline. And yet, God keeps finding ways to pull me out of my hell. God surrounds me with people who see the beauty in me, the strength in me, the calling of the Spirit in me. And even though I just used the word “me” 4 times in that sentence, I know it’s not about me, but about how God desires to work through me.

Step One, on a daily basis, I seek God to pull me out of my personal hell…to remind me that I have been set free!

Step Two, I wonder how God will wake me up to my purpose every day.

Third, I go out and do my best for God and for neighbor – and some days I get it right and some days I fail. But then, I go back to step One : )

P (Prayer): Lord, make me an instrument, a vessel of your grace…helping to pull others out of their personal hell today…to show them that you have a purpose for every one of us. Amen.

“How Do I Look?”


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 15:35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another.

O (Observation):  Paul spends some time explaining the afterlife.  What will our bodies be like after we die?   What will we be like in the resurrection?

Paul uses the metaphor of the seed.   The seed must die in order for it to become a plant.   The form will change from one phase to another.  So, too, will our bodies be changed from an earthly form to a spiritual form.  

A (Application):  We place a lot of emphasis on image in this world.   Our weight, our skin, our height, our clothes, our cars, our homes, etc.   We have a bit of an illness as an American society regarding our consumption of products and services regarding our image (of body and property).   

We should take care of our bodies and treat them as temples (as we believe the Spirit dwells in us).   Yet we should not be obsessed based on what other people think.   What others think should not drive our consumption of these goods and services.   

In the resurrection, we will be given a new framework in which we will live and move and have our being.  The earthly form will be no more.  The form dies.   But we will be brought into a heavenly form, perhaps that of Jesus’ form when he appears to the disciples after his resurrection.   (Yes, this is conjecture…but this is the only scriptural witness we have of a post-resurrection body.)

We don’t fully know what that heavenly body will be like…but we will let go of the earthly body.  We will move on.   

And maybe we will look back and say:

“How silly we were…to worry so much…about so little a thing as our image.  We were always made in God’s image.   What more did we need?”

P (Prayer):  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we give you thanks for making us in your image.  Amen. 

Doubt and Worry is Okay


S (Scripture): Psalm 56
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me; all day long foes oppress me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many fight against me.
O Most High, 3 when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?

O (Observation): Trusting in the Lord is a hallmark of our faith.  When the Israelites were downtrodden and disoriented, they trusted in God for comfort and guidance.   

A psalm like this is borne out of a people who have known strife.   And yet, in the midst of their troubles, they rely on their faith in the Lord to carry them through the day. 

A (Application):  We have a hard time dealing with the struggles of the world around us.  Sometimes it’s a thing that happened to us directly: sickness, worry, fear.  Sometimes the thing happens to a loved one: death, disease, moving away.

In all cases, we can wonder and doubt along with the author of today’s psalm.  And we do not have to fear that our worries or doubts will cause God to push us away.  In fact, God blesses the broken and contrite heart.  

So fears, worries, doubts…these do not mean our faith is weak.  Indeed, our weaknesses are exactly where God plans to meet us.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, meet us in out weaknesses today.  Amen. 

Jesus, Worry, and Faith

  S (Scripture): Matthew 6:25
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?

31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

O (Observation): Jesus is in the midst of his Sermon on the Mount. He is giving instruction to his followers.  He is laying out a new ethic for living.  

As followers of Christ, we will focus on different things than those who do not believe.  Part of this change is not to worry about our day-to-day sustenance, what we will wear, what we will eat.  

Those who do not believe worry.  Those of faith don’t. 

A (Application): This is another one of those texts Jesus lifts up that stretches us.  We have to worry a little, so we don’t starve…but then…Jesus has a point.   

Have you ever reached a point where you wondered how you would make it through the next day?   How you would survive?   How you would make your next payment on your home?  Or electricity?  

This happens.  And recently, our congregation had a chance to help a family pay for their electricity deposit for their rental home.  We were able to help them out.   They now have electricity and can heat their home in the winter time. 

Quite often, God chooses to work through those around us – through people we know and some we don’t.   But God provides.   And with this in mind, we need not worry. 

Our congregation has made it through some lean times, too. And yet we march forward trusting in the Lord, who continues to carry us forward. 

When has someone helped you out?  When have you helped out someone else?  When have times been so tough that you weren’t sure how to take a next step?

P (Prayer):  Lord, please continue to provide for us and through us.  Help us to use the things we have been given for the sake of others.   Amen. 

My Worries…Your Worries

  S (Scripture): Psalm 119

49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.

50 This is what comforts me in my trouble, for your promise revives me.

O (Observation): The psalmist worries about the dangers surrounding him, but recalls the stories of God’s faithfulness to God’s people.  

A (Application): The trials of our lives can get the better of us. Here are some examples of things going on in the lives of people I know:

  • Mother enters hospice care
  • Father passes away
  • Family faces financial difficulty
  • Car broke down, needs a ride to work and to drop off daughter to daycare 
  • Family member shows up unexpectedly, and needs a place to live 
  • Homeless man and his dog need a ride to Atlanta (from Nashville)

Some of these are more trivial, some, more serious.  But when trouble comes our way, we can lose sight of the hope of The Lord who has made a promise to us to be with us. 

From a global perspective, these issues I posted above may not seem as bad, but the struggles are real. Perhaps being exposed to more global news and mission work will help me and my congregation understand a little more deeply the needs of others in this world.  And maybe, we can realize that God’s promises to us just might help us to worry less about our problems and think a little more about our neighbor. 

What mission trips have you been on that have enlightened you?  What are your worries this day? 

P (Prayer): Lord, make us look to your promises and to see how those who live in poverty might know and experience your promises.  Amen. 
p.s. Consider supporting ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission.   These young adults become great witnesses for those who cannot go and do mission work themselves.