You Are the Light of the World

You Are the Light of the World

Our scripture comes from the Sermon on the Mount just after the beatitudes and before Jesus begins detailing how his followers are to distinguish themselves from those who merely follow the law. For instance, “You have heard in the law that it is said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if a Roman soldier should force you to carry his pack one mile, prove to him that you are a person of love not hate by carrying it two miles. Give to him who begs from you and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.” So it is in the context of becoming the people of love and walking the second mile, that Jesus calls his followers to become the Light of the World.

Light has been a classic image of goodness and truth. From Psalm 43: Send out your light and your truth let them lead me. Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Light in the scriptures represents goodness and truth. We are called to be the people of goodness and truth like a light house on a dangerous coast in a dark and stormy sea, we can give light and direction to others who are trying to navigate difficult waters. And that reminds me of one of my very favorite illustrations of all time.

A naval officer full of himself was promoted to Captain and given command of the newest, fastest most powerful battle ship in the fleet. The Captain was on the bridge one night congratulating himself on his new command, when he noticed a light on his starboard side closing fast. Unwilling to give way to any other ship in the fleet the Captain asked the signalman to send a message to the light on his starboard to alter your course ten degrees to port.

To the Captain’s astonishment a signal was returned, alter your course ten degrees to port. The Captain asked the signalman to send a new message, “this is Captain Jones, alter your course 10 degrees to port immediately.”

The message came back, “this is Seaman Third Class Smith, alter your course 10 degrees to port immediately.”

Infuriated the Captain grabbed the signal light, and flashed the message, “I am a Battle Ship.”

The response came back, “I am a Light House.”

I like this illustration because we live in a culture of narcissism. So many people are running around flexing their egos and saying: “I am a battle ship.” And so often they end up running their lives on the rocks like the Costa Concordia. We live in a time, when many people especially young people are trying to find their way without a chart or a spiritual compass. They don’t have the slightest idea of where they are going, where they have come from, or how to get there. I am aghast by how little history our young people know.

I remember one of the parents at St. Paul’s Christian School asking me, “Now I’m a little fuzzy about history, did Vietnam come before or after the Civil War?” And we as church folks need to understand, many people in our culture have no spiritual background what so ever, they are functionally unchurched, and the only impression they have of religion comes from the judgmentalism of the religious right. And if all they know about Christian faith is what comes out of the religious right, anti-gay, pro-war, opposed to equal rights for women, opposed to evolution and science in general, no wonder they stay away from churches. We’re sitting here saying, “we’re not like that, come give us a try,” but many young people can’t hear us, because we are drowned out by the other angry, judgmental voices, who claim they represent the Christian faith.

If we at United church are going to be the light of the world, then we have to make a real effort to communicate. We have to learn to connect with and welcome people, who are not part of our faith community, young people who may have never been part of a church, some of whom may not know the first thing about either Christmas or Easter.

Beginning to learn to reach the unchurched, especially younger people, we have to acknowledge that our own members are no longer the primary target audience. A couple of months ago, when we were on vacation, Beth and I would tune in the news in the evening, while we were eating dinner. We normally don’t watch television. And advertisements would come on the T.V., and when they were over, we would look at each other and ask, “What was that about?” We didn’t get it. And that is because we are no longer the “target audience.” The people for whom the advertisements are designed are from a different generation, they speak a different language, and they respond to a whole different set of images.

We need to learn to think of ourselves like the Wycliffe Bible Translators who travel into remote areas, where they learn the language of a tribe of people and then translate the Bible into that language, so the people can learn about God in their own native language. In many cases these remote people do not have a written language, so the Wycliffe Bible Translators end up creating a written language for these remote peoples. Thus not only do they give the gift of scripture, they are also giving these people the gift of literacy. Let me note here that several of Bob Bergman’s family members are Wycliffe Bible translators, and you can ask him about it the next time he visits United Church.

You and I are probably not called to parachute into the jungle to translate the Bible for some remote tribe. But we are called to venture into the untamed, and foreign culture of unchurched young people to translate a progressive Christian message into language and images to which those young people can relate and understand. We can find out where to advertise and how to get our message across in ways that will catch their attention. We will have to learn to use smart phones and social media. We need to encourage the unchurched to come to the light of Christ to find themselves in relationship to God.

We can’t preach at the unchurched telling them all of the reasons they should be in church. For these unchurched people “shoulds” are about judgmentalism and that is exactly why they are not in church. Our message has to be winsome and welcoming. Winsome means charming, beautiful and joyous even humorous. Lillian Daniels provided us with a good example of winsome evangelism in her still speaking devotion on Tuesday this week:

On Sunday nights, our church houses and feeds about 60 homeless people in Pilgrim Hall through a program called

PADS. Sylvia, one of our church members who volunteers with the program, sent me this note:

“I was cooking for PADS this weekend – we grilled chicken and brats for the guests’ Sunday dinner. While I was running from grills to kitchen and back again, I was wearing my God is Still Speaking

“No Burnt Offerings” apron.

A couple of PADs guests stopped me to say they thought it was great – religious but funny, too. I happen to think that is a great way to sum up our denomination – serious about what needs to be serious, but always willing to lighten it up to get the message across.”

I thought this was an excellent testimony to the many ways in which we share our faith. Some people are comfortable with conversation, but that’s not the only way to communicate. In this case, by wearing her UCC apron, Sylvia was able to open up some meaningful conversations that would not have happened otherwise.

I have heard a lot of stories like this, from people who wear a comma pin or carry something that points to our church. Years ago when we began these devotionals, we came up with the theme “whimsical piety.” Another way to say it might be “religious but funny.” You can care about justice and still have a sense of humor. You can take God seriously but yourself less so. You can appreciate the weighty things and still be light in spirit. Welcome to the UCC, where God is still speaking.

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here, because God loves you. And here in this community of faith we will walk with you, pray with you and for you as you seek to chart your course in life. Come to the light.

Not only do we have to be winsome in our presentation of our faith, we also have to pay attention to verse 16 in our scripture: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God in heaven.” We have to embody our faith. Our deeds have to match our claims. We can’t just talk about welcoming, we have to do welcoming, invite people to lunch or dinner, feed people, move over and make room for people in our common life together. We also have to do mission. Jesus says to us, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked welcome the stranger. Our support of foodline, and habitat, and meals on wheels and the Huntsville Assistance program has to be visible, so others will find themselves drawn into participating in mission because of our example.

Be the light of the world. Do the light of the world, so others may see your good deeds and glorify God.

Advertisements

Lectionary August 2012 – May 2013

Lectionary August 2012 – May 2013

The Week of July 30 – August 5:  Tenth Sunday After Pentecost – John 6:24-35 – Bread of Life

II Samuel 11:26-12:13a, Psalm 51:1-12, Exodus 16:2-4, Psalm 78:23-29, Ephesians 4:1-16.

John 6:24  So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

26  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

27  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

28  Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

29  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

30  So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?

31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

32  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

33  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”

34  They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

The Week of August 6 – August 12:  Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost – Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 – Shaping Community   II Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31, 33, Psalm 130, I Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:1-8, John 6:35, 41-51.

Ephesians 4:25  Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

26  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27  and give no opportunity to the devil.

28  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.

29  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice,

32  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

5:1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

2  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The Week of August 13 – August 19:  Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost – I Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 – Wisdom Quest  Psalm 111, Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58.

I Kings 2:10  Then David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.

11  And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

12  So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established.

3:3  Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father; only, he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places.

4  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings upon that altar.

5  At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

6  And Solomon said, “Thou hast shown great and steadfast love to thy servant David my father, because he walked before thee in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward thee; and thou hast kept for him this great and steadfast love, and hast given him a son to sit on his throne this day.

7  And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

8  And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.

9  Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?”

10  It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

11  And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

12  behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.

13  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.

14  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

The Week of August 20 – August 26:  Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Psalm 84 – At Home With God.  I Kings 81, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69.

Psalm 84:1  To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. How lovely is thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!

2  My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

3  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at thy altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

4  Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, ever singing thy praise! Selah

5  Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

6  As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

7  They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

8  O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

9  Behold our shield, O God; look upon the face of thine anointed!

10  For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.

12  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in thee!

The Week of August 27 – September 2: Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost – James 1:17-27 – Be Love – Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 15, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

James 1:17  Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

18  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19  Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,

20  for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

21  Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

23  For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror;

24  for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

25  But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.

26  If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.

27  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The Week of September 3 – September 9: Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Mark 7:24-37 – Be Opened – Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm 125, Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17.

Mark 7:24  And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid.

25  But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet.

26  Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

27  And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

28  But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29  And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”

30  And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

31  Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis.

32  And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him.

33  And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue;

34  and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

35  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

36  And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

37  And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

The Week of September 10 – September 16:  Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Mark 8:27-38 – Who Are You, Jesus? Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 116:1-9, James 3:1-12.

Mark 8:27  And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”

28  And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.”

29  And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

30  And he charged them to tell no one about him.

31  And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32  And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33  But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

34  And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

35  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

36  For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

37  For what can a man give in return for his life?

38  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Week of September 17 – September 23:  Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost – Mark 9:30-37 – First in Caring – Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Jeremiah 11:18-20, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a.

Mark 9:30  They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it;

31  for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

32  But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.

33  And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”

34  But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.

35  And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

36  And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them,

37  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Week of September 24 – September 30:  Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 – Courage for Community – Psalm 124, Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29, Psalm 19:7-14, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50.

Esther 7:7:1  So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.

2  And on the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

3  Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.

4  For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.”

5  Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, that would presume to do this?”

6  And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was in terror before the king and the queen.

7  And the king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king.

8  And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.

9  Then said Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, “Moreover, the gallows which Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”

10  And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

9:20  And Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,

21  enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year,

22  as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending choice portions to one another and gifts to the poor.

Week of October 1 – October 7:  Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Mark 10:2-16 – Enfolding Love – World Wide Communion Sunday and Neighbors in Need – Job 1:1; 2:1-10, Psalm 26, Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 8, Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12.

Mark 10:2  And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3  He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

4  They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.”

5  But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

6  But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

7  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

8  and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

9  What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

10  And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

11  And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her;

12  and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

13  And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.

14  But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

15  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

16  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

Week of October 8 – October 14:  Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Mark 10:17-31 – What Must I Do? – Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16.

Mark 10:17  And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

19  You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”

20  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”

21  And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

22  At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

23  And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

24  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

25  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26  And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”

27  Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

28  Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.”

29  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,

30  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

31  But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”

Week of October 15 – October 21:  Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost – Mark 10::35-45 – Great Service – Job 38:1-7, (34-41), Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c, Isaiah 53:4-12, Psalm 91:9-16, Hebrews 5:1-10.

Mark 10:35  And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

36  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

37  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

38  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

39  And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

40  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.

42  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

43  But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

44  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

45  For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Week of October 22 – October 28:  Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost – Mark 10:46-52 – Take Heart – Job 42:1-6, 10-17, Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22), Jeremiah 31:7-9, Psalm 126, Hebrews 7:23-28.

Mark 10:46  And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.

47  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.”

50  And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus.

51  And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.”

52  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Week of October 29 – November 4:  Remembrance Sunday – Ruth 1:1-18 and Deuteronomy 6:1-9 – Wherever You Go – Psalm 146, Psalm 119:1-8, Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 12:38-44.

Ruth 1:1  In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.

2  The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.

3  But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.

4  These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years;

5  and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband.

6  Then she started with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food.

7  So she set out from the place where she was, with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

8  But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

9  The LORD grant that you may find a home, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

10  And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”

11  But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

12  Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,

13  would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.”

14  Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15  And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

16  But Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God;

17  where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.”

18  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Deuteronomy 6:6:1  “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it;

2  that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life; and that your days may be prolonged.

3  Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them; that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD;

5  and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

6  And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart;

7  and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

8  And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

9  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The week of November 5 – November 11:  Stewardship Sunday – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 – Risk and Restoration – Psalm 127, I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44.

Ruth 3:1  Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek a home for you, that it may be well with you?

2  Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.

3  Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

4  But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”

5  And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

Ruth 4:13  So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.

14  Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!

15  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

16  Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.

17  And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The week of November 12 – November 18:  Twenty-fifth Sunday After Pentecost – I Samuel 1:4-20 – Praise the Holy One – I Samuel 2:1-10, Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25, Mark 13:1-8.

I Samuel 1:4  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters;

5  and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.

6  And her rival used to provoke her sorely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.

7  So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

8  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

9  After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD.

10  She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.

11  And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy maidservant, and remember me, and not forget thy maidservant, but wilt give to thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

12  As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth.

13  Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.

14  And Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunken? Put away your wine from you.”

15  But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.

16  Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

17  Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him.”

18  And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.

19  They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her;

20  and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”

The week of November 19 – November 25:  Thanksgiving Sunday – John 18:33-37 – A Wise Reign – II Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18), Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1:4b-8.

John 18:33  Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

34  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

35  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”

36  Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”

37  Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Week of November 26 – December 2:  First Sunday of Advent – Luke 21:25-36 – Sign of Things to Come – Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, I Thessalonians 3:9-13.

Luke 21:25  “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,

26  men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

27  And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

28  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29  And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees;

30  as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.

31  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.

33  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34  “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare;

35  for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth.

36  But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.”

Week of December 3 – December 9:  Second Sunday of Advent – Luke 3:1-6 – Make Ready – Malachi 3:1-4, Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11.

Luke 3:1  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,

2  in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness;

3  and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

4  As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

6  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Week of December 10 – December 16:  Third Sunday of Advent – Luke 3:7-18 – Look Forward – Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7.

Luke 3:7  He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8  Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

9  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10  And the multitudes asked him, “What then shall we do?”

11  And he answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

12  Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”

13  And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.”

14  Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15  As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ,

16  John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

17  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18  So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

Week of December 17 – December 23:  Fourth Sunday of Advent – Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) -Moving with Mary’s Song – Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:46b-55, Psalm 80:1-7, Hebrews 10:5-10.

Luke 1:39  In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,

40  and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

41  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

42  and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

43  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44  For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.

45  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46  And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,

47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48  for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

49  for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

50  And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.

51  He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

52  he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;

53  he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

54  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

55  as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.”

Week of December 24 – December 30:  First Sunday of Christmastide – Luke 2:41-52 – Who Is This Child? – I Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17.

Luke 2:41  Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.

42  And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom;

43  and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,

44  but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances;

45  and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.

46  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions;

47  and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

48  And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”

49  And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

50  And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.

51  And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.

Week of December 31, 2012 – January 6, 2013: Epiphany Sunday – Matthew 2:1-12 – Where Is the Child – Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12.

Matthew 2:1  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,

2  “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”

3  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

4  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

6  ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”

7  Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared;

8  and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

9  When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.

10  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;

11  and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

12  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Week of January 7 – January 13:  First Sunday After Epiphany – Luke 3:15-22 – Affirmed by Love – Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17.

Luke 315  As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ,

16  John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

17  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18  So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

19  But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,

20  added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison.

21  Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

22  and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

Week of January 14 – January 20:  Second Sunday After Epiphany – John 2:1-11 – Extravagant Sign – Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, I Corinthians 12:1-11.

John 2:1  On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;

2  Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.

3  When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

4  And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

5  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6  Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

7  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

8  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it.

9  When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom

10  and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

11  This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

12  After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.

Week of January 21 – January 27:  Third Sunday After Epiphany – Luke 4:14-21 – Good News, Good Ways – Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, I Corinthians 12:12-31a.

Luke 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country.

15  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

16  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;

17  and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19  to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

20  And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

21  And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Week of January 28 – February 3:  Fourth Sunday After Epiphany – Luke 4:21-30 – Prophet on the Edge – Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, I Corinthians 13:1-13.

Luke 4:21  And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

22  And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

23  And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'”

24  And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.

25  But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land;

26  and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

27  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

28  When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.

29  And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.

30  But passing through the midst of them he went away.

Week of February 4 – February 10:  Transfiguration Sunday – Luke 9:28-43 – Astounding Glory – Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, II Corinthians 3:12-4:2.

Luke 9:28  Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

29  And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.

30  And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah,

31  who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.

32  Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

33  And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

34  As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

35  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

36  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

37  On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

38  And behold, a man from the crowd cried, “Teacher, I beg you to look upon my son, for he is my only child;

39  and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him till he foams, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.

40  And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

41  Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

42  While he was coming, the demon tore him and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

43  And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he did, he said to his disciples,

Week of February 11 – February 17:  First Sunday of Lent – Luke 4:1-13 – Wilderness Companions – Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Romans 10:8b-13.

Luke 4:1  And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit

2  for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.

3  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

4  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”

5  And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,

6  and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.

7  If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.”

8  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

9  And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here;

10  for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’

11  and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

12  And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”

13  And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Week of February 18 – February 24:  Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35 – Strong and Tender – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17 – 4:1.

Luke 13:31  At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

32  And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.

33  Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

34  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

35  Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

Week of February 25 – March 3:  Third Sunday of Lent – Isaiah 56:1-9 – Open Invitation – Psalm 63:1-8, I Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 131-9.

55:1  “Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

2  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness.

3  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

4  Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.

5  Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

6  “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;

7  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11  so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

12  “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Week of March 4 – March 10:  Fourth Sunday of Lent – Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 – Embracing Love – Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, II Corinthians 5:16-21.

Luke 15:1  Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.

2  And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3  So he told them this parable:

11  And he said, “There was a man who had two sons;

12  and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them.

13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.

14  And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.

15  So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16  And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.

17  But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!

18  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

19  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘

20  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

21  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;

23  and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;

24  for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

25  “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

26  And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.

27  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’

28  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

29  but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.

30  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’

31  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

32  It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

Week of March 18 – March 24:  Palm Sunday – Luke 19:28-40 – Into Jerusalem – Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14-23, Luke 23:1-49.

Luke 19:28  And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29  When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,

30  saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.

31  If any one asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Lord has need of it.'”

32  So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.

33  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”

35  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.

36  And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

37  As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,

38  saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39  And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”

40  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Week of March 25 – March 31  Easter – John 20:1-18 – Resurrection Joy – Acts 10:34-43, Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, I Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12.

John 20:1  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

2  So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

3  Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.

4  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first;

5  and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

6  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying,

7  and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.

8  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

9  for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

10  Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11  But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb;

12  and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

13  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14  Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

15  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

16  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

17  Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

18  Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Week of April 1 – April 7:  First Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 5:27-32 – Resurrection Witness – Psalm 118:14-29, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31.

Acts 5:16  The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

17  But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy

18  they arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison.

19  But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said,

20  “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

21  And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and taught. Now the high priest came and those who were with him and called together the council and all the senate of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

22  But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, and they returned and reported,

23  “We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside.”

24  Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.

25  And some one came and told them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”

26  Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,

28  saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

29  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

30  The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

31  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

32  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Week of April 8 – April 14:  Third Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 9:1-6, 7-20 – The Way Forward – Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19.

Acts 9:1  But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest

2  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

3  Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.

4  And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5  And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;

6  but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

7  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

8  Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

9  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10  Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

11  And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying,

12  and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

13  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem;

14  and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.”

15  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

16  for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

17  So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,

19  and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

20  And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Week of April 15 – April 21:  Fourth Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 9:36-43 – Life-giving Acts – Psalm 23, Revelation 7: 9-17, John 10:22-30.

Acts 9:36  Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.

37  In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

38  Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.”

39  So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.

40  But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

41  And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.

42  And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

43  And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Week of April 22 – April 28:  Fifth Sunday of Eastertide – Revelation 21:1-6 – Imagine – Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, John 13:31-35.

Revelation 21:1  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;

3  and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;

4  he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

5  And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.

Week of April 25 – May 5:  Sixth Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 16:9-15 – Disciples Together – Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 John 14:23-29, John 5:1-9.

Acts 16:9  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

10  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

11  Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,

12  and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days;

13  and on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.

14  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul.

15  And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Week of April 6 – April 12:  Seventh Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 16:16-34 – Breaking Chains – Psalm 97, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21, John 17:20-26.

Acts 16:16  As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying.

17  She followed Paul and us, crying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

18  And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19  But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers;

20  and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, “These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city.

21  They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22  The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.

23  And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely.

24  Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25  But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,

26  and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened.

27  When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.

28  But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

29  And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,

30  and brought them out and said, “Men, what must I do to be saved?”

31  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

32  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.

33  And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family.

34  Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.

Week of May 13 – May 19:  Pentecost Sunday – Acts 2:1-21 – Gathered and Scattered – Genesis 11:1-19, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17, (25-27).

Acts 2:1  When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2  And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

3  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.

4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5  Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.

6  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

7  And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

8  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

9  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

11  Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

12  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

13  But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14  But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.

15  For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day;

16  but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17  ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

18  yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

19  And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20  the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.

21  And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Week of May 20 – May 26:  Trinity Sunday – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 – Wisdom Calls – Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15.

Proverbs 8:1  Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice?

2  On the heights beside the way, in the paths she takes her stand;

3  beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:

4  “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men.

22  The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.

23  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

24  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

25  Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth;

26  before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

27  When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

28  when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

29  when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

30  then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

31  rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.


Rest

Rest

We are still in the midst of our Sabbath month here at the United Church of Huntsville. Life has slowed down. We are taking time from doing busy things to be human with each other and renew relationships. Actually given all of the illness we have suffered in the congregation we are most fortunate to be taking time away from projects and problem solving, so we can pay attention to people and our needs for care and rest.

Jesus understood the need for rest. Over and over again in the gospel story, Jesus retreated from the crowds to be alone and pray. In our scripture from Matthew Jesus had sent the disciples out on a mission to preach the good news, heal the sick and share with the poor. When they came back to Capernaum there were so many people clamoring to get Jesus’ attention they didn’t even have time to eat. So Jesus proposed to the disciples, that they should retreat to a lonely place to have time to rest, reflect and renew their spirits. This July has been a good chance at United Church to rest and renew before moving ahead.

While we are still in our Sabbath month I want to examine our scripture from Matthew, Jesus’ invitation to come to him to find rest. Actually, Matthew 11:30 is one of the sayings in the gospels some scholars believe is absolutely genuine Jesus material, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In First Century Israel that phrase might have been an advertisement for a carpenter. A yoke had to be strong for plowing, but the yoke needed to be as light as possible, so its weight did not wear out the oxen.

So let us reflect this morning on some of the ways Jesus proposes to give rest to all of us who are weary and burdened. First, allow me to lift up the blessing of Sabbath rest. We have trashed the Sabbath in our modern culture. We go, go, go twenty-four/seven, wear ourselves out, and wonder why we become sick. The Sabbath is supposed to be time set aside when we can stop and be human – do nothing – time to be with ourselves, our friends and loved ones and God. Keeping the Sabbath would be much easier, if everything stopped around us, but we live now in a world that never slows down. Stores are open all the time. Commerce never ceases. So Sabbath keeping is a spiritual challenge. The Sabbath is intended to remind us who we are. We are not beasts of burden, though in the law of Moses even donkeys and oxen are allowed a Sabbath, one day in seven without work. We are more than beasts. We are human. We share the joy and the responsibility of self-consciousness with God. We all need a few hours in a quiet place to rest, and to be aware of time, eternity and our place in the Universe.

An important adjunct to our Sabbath time is prayer. We pray on the Sabbath, and our daily prayer times are opportunities to have Sabbath moments throughout the week. The importance of daily prayer is it gives us time each day to be most fully ourselves. We live in a culture addicted to entertainment. We seek diversion. And a little amusement from time to time is a good thing. But we need to remember that entertainment is an escape, where prayer is a time of engagement with God, when we become most fully ourselves. If we are always working or entertained, we miss the engagement with self in relationship to the divine, when we become most fully human.

Another way Jesus offers us rest is to step off of the tread mill of consumption – I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go. We work ourselves to exhaustion to afford things we do not need. Or we make purchases on the credit card or borrow money to buy what we can’t afford, and then we have to work, work, work like we are in some kind of debtor’s prison. I hope after the crash of 2008 most of us as consumers have learned to spend less, save more, and pay down debt. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread – necessities – not tomorrow’s bread, or next month’s bread, or a new car, or a home full of furniture – daily bread. If we limit our desires to necessities, we can be so much happier and find the rest Jesus promises.

Henry David Thoreau in Walden advised his generation to simplify. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed and one hundred acres of land tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

Simplify, reuse, reduce, recycle. Live simply so that others may simply live. A first step in simplifying our lives is getting rid of much of the stuff that fills all of our storage spaces, and takes over our counters. At our house I know Murphy’s Fifth Law applies: “all horizontal surfaces pile up.” I read a story about a man trying to get rid of couch he no longer wanted. He put this perfectly good couch out of the curb with a sign that said “FREE,” but nobody took it. Then his teenage son thought of a plan, he put a sign “$50″ on it, it was gone the next day! Cleaning out our stuff, and then not replacing it is the beginning of simplifying. We can also eat more simply, eating less, eating fresh is another step in simplifying our lives, and becoming more healthy. Simplifying by spending less time glued to our televisions or our computer screens can also free up more time for exercise, prayer, meditation, conversation with friends all healthy activities that improve our health and the fabric of community around us.

We can reduce the business of our lives by scheduling fewer activities. Most of us are over scheduled. Our calendars are filled with dates, appointments, projects, tasks. Most of our lives would be enhanced by attending fewer events. But one of the drivers of our business is somewhere in our past there was someone who accused us of being lazy. Maybe it was a parent, a teacher, some authority figure who accused us of slothfulness, and so we run as fast as we can, keeping busy all the time in order to live down the accusations of laziness. God does not demand we be busy all the time. If we can identify that little voice in our head driving us to constantly do more, we can finally say, “no mother,” or “no father,” or “no Mr. Wagner, I don’t have to always be doing something to be somebody.”

In our scripture Jesus says, “My burden is light.” Jesus invites us to unburden ourselves. Thoreau painted us an image of people carrying tangible burdens, stuff, so allow me to invite you to try to picture what are the intangible burdens, the spiritual stuff you are carrying? Maybe there is a load of guilt you are hauling around on your back. Things you should have done, but didn’t. Friends you let down. Relationships you could repair but don’t. Promises broken, un-kept.

Guilt can drive us to do strange things. A story is told about a man who got tired of the buying and business of Christmas. All the frantic haste and the crass commercialism disgusted him. So, he decided not to go along with the crowd. Among other things, he decided not to send Christmas cards or buy Christmas gifts, feeling that the expense and effort were non-productive. For the first ten days of December he felt good about his decision. But then, as the mail brought him greetings from friends near and far, he began to feel more and more guilt about sending no cards. Finally, four days before Christmas, he couldn’t stand it any longer. It was too late for anything else, but he would at least send cards. He rushed down to the pharmacy and grabbed the only box of Christmas cards still on the shelf. He bought it, purchased stamps, rushed home, and addressed cards frantically all evening. He addressed 49 cards. He had one card left over which he tossed on the mantle. That very evening he drove down to the post office and mailed the cards.
The next day he was strolling through the house and happened to see that extra card on the mantle. Suddenly it occurred to him that he had addressed and signed all those cards but had not actually read what the card said. So, he grabbed the card and took a look. This is what it said:
“This cheery card has come to say: A gift from us is on the way.”

I don’t know what guilts you carry. But I do know Jesus invites us to put them down and receive God’s forgiveness. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And note there is a second half to that request, as we forgive our debtors.

Some of us are carrying around grudges. People who have hurt us we refuse to forgive. Mistakes others have made that have harmed us. Insults, affronts, abuses we have suffered that can still stir us to anger, when we remember. So much energy we waste on unresolved angers. Life is too short. We need to be able to put down those burdens down and move on. When we hold a grudge it is like giving other people free rent in our heads. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. And the reward for laying down our grudges is it frees us from the poison in our own souls, and it allows us to let go of our guilts. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those you trespass against us.

The other major burden we carry is fear. Especially right now we have many anxieties about the economy and money. What will I do, if I can’t find a job? Can I help my child through school? Can Iafford to retire? Will I have enough? Many of these anxieties are very real, and I don’t want to discount them. Jesus asks us to pray. God cares for us. God will provide. God’s providence may not come in the form we expect or would prefer, but God will take care of us. The birds eat, the lilies grow, God loves us.

Underneath all of our fears is the fear of death. Death is real. It comes to all of us. Death can be an oppressive burden until we allow Jesus to help us lay it down. With death we have a choice. We can choose to believe that when we die, that’s it. Life sucks and then we die. Or we can trust a different instinct.

Allow me to ask you to remember someone you have loved deeply who has died — maybe a good friend, a partner, a spouse, a parent, a child. Now let me ask you, have you ceased to love that person after their death? Love survives. Love goes on. Love never ends. Love wins. God is love. God never ends. God wins. And as Paul said, nothing in all creation, not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Given a choice what do you want to believe? Choose love. Choose life. Let Jesus help you lay your burdens down. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”


Stained Glass Wounds

Stained Glass Wounds

One Thursday night during our discussion around the sharing table, Marilyn Puett contributed this observation: “wounds made with stained glass heal only very slowly if at all.” “Stained glass wounds” captures a truth I have observed in my ministry. So many Preacher’s Kids abandon the church, because they have suffered emotional wounds caught in the crossfire of abuse intended for their clergy parent. Again and again I have heard horror stories about the treatment of people by churches, when they finally had the courage to embrace their sexual orientation, or how they were shunned, when they got a divorce, or the nightmare of people who have been sexually abused by clergy. I hear the echoes of emotional wounding, when people say, “I am a recovering Catholic, or a recovering Baptist, or just a recovering church person.” I remember the title of a book published in 1970, The Churches and Cruelty Systems, by J. Edward Carothers, he noted so many wounds are inflicted in the name of religion or as the result of life in community in the church.

How does it happen? How is it that an institution dedicated to following in the way of Jesus the prophet of love, the great healer, the advocate of peace ends up inflicting so many wounds upon people? To be fair we should note that Christian faith is not the only religion that has been used to persecute, destroy, or wound people. Islamic cultures are full of torture and abuse in the name of religion – whippings, stonings, beheadings, executions. Hinduism’s caste system institutionalizes discrimination and abuse. While Jews have historically been the victims of persecution and abuse, especially at the hands of Christians, if you can find a Jewish friend who will speak honestly, you will discover that the intrigues and power politics in synagogues rival anything in our churches. I recall that Rabbi Ballon at one point in his ministry was so beat up and wounded by the synagogue he was serving, he left the rabbinate and sold insurance for a while.

So I am not singling out the church as the only or even the worst example of cruelty in the name of religion, but we certainly have more at stake in addressing our own issues, rather than the problems of other religions. So, why are there so many stained glass wounds?

First, we can acknowledge the church is a human institution. We hope and pray the Holy Spirit is present among us at least once in a while, but God has given responsibility for the church to us. You may have noticed God does not make regular deposits into the church’s checking account. God does not go out and share the message of Jesus with other people for us. God does not guarantee the church will not make mistakes, nor does God guarantee that if we sit and do nothing, the church will survive. The community of faith that follows the way of Jesus is our responsibility. It’s up to us, God doesn’t have any plan B.

The church then is a human institution and as such it is a sinful institution. All of the worst aspects of human nature can be found in the church: greed, lust, envy, pride and in particular desire for power – power of control, power over others, power for the sake of power – all of the human attributes that drive the foundation of Empire.

The way of Jesus undermines Empire. The church originally sought to subvert and convert the Roman Empire. Instead of pride the way of Jesus sought humility. Instead of greed the way of Jesus taught people to share. Instead of power over others the way of Jesus sought to set people free. But as the way of Jesus grew in popularity, and as the Roman Empire discovered they could not stamp it out, the Empire tried to reach an accommodation with the church. And the church thinking they could sleep with the devil and still remain innocent, found themselves under the Emperor Constantine coopted and taken over by the Empire.

So the church defined faithfulness as adherence to a creed, rather than loving your neighbor and caring for the poor. That’s how the church sponsored the Inquisition, the Crusades, and ecclesiastical infallibility. Maybe they should have consulted Snoopy about theology. The money and power of Empire were just too tempting, and the church sold out.

Since the first Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. the church for the most part has served the purposes of Empire rather than the way of Jesus. There have been notable exceptions in history, when individuals or movements within the church have recalled the church to greater faithfulness to the way of Jesus. The Desert Fathers who sought lives of poverty and prayer to escape the corruption of their time lifted up an alternative life style to the decadence of the church under the Empire. St. Francis of Assisi recalled the church to poverty, humility and faithfulness serving the poor in a time when the church had become rich and powerful and had abandoned the impoverished. The Protestant Reformation sought to strip the church of much of its wealth and power in a return to the way of Jesus. The abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the Social Gospel movement, all growing out of the church in the Nineteenth Century, were efforts to subvert the culture of wealth and Empire and establish greater justice in the name of Jesus.  In the Twentieth Century Dietrich Bonhoeffer led the Confessing Church in Germany opposing Adolf Hitler and was martyred for his faith.  Martin Luther King compelled by the love of Christ opposed and subverted the culture of racism in America, and he was martyred for his faith.  Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandella led their people in an epic struggle for freedom, justice and forgiveness in South Africa and became one of the most notable examples of applying the way of Jesus to social change.  The Jesus movement from time to time lifts up heroes of faith, challenging and subverting the oppression and values of the dominant culture , but all too often our faith communities simply roll over and serve the values of the dominant culture.

Many of the wounds inflicted in the name of the church are driven by egos fighting about who is going to be in control, or who has the right belief, or what faction is going to dominate the governing board. Again and again we need to hear Paul’s words from our scripture: 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and gossip and slander be put away from you, with all malice,

32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I am reminded of a story about two older people attending a revival. When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, the two people sitting in the front row cried out at the top of their lungs… “AMEN… BROTHER!”
When the preacher condemned the sin of stealing, they yelled again…. “PREACH IT REVEREND!”

And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying…. they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON BROTHER…. TELL IT LIKE IT IS…..AMEN!”
But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two people got real quiet and one turned to the other and said, “Now he’s quit preaching and gone to meddlin’.”

Our scripture this morning reminds me of a story about Reuben Sheares one of the saints of the UCC. Rose knew him, because he was a Talledega College graduate. Reuben had served as the director of the Office for Church Life and Leadership of our denomination for 15 years, when he accepted a call to become the Pastor of the influential Congregational Church of Park Manor on the south side of Chicago. Park Manor’s previous pastor had left under a cloud of gossip, innuendo, and general hostility.

In the United Church of Christ, when a minister is installed other people lead the worship service except for the benediction, that is performed by the person being installed. So when Reuben stood up to give the benediction, he was carrying an open Bible. And he said, “I was just looking at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and allow me to read from chapter 4 verses 31 and 32: 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and gossip and slander be put away from you, with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

When Reuben had finished reading that scripture he looked up and eye balled the congregation. People squirmed uncomfortably in their pews. Reuben then proceeded. “There has been bitterness in this congregation. There has been gossip in this church. There has been slander and malice among you, and it stops now!”

Again he eye balled the congregation. Then he proceeded. “It stops now, and if you want to do that, you go down the street, but not here.”

Again he eye balled the congregation. You could hear a pin drop. And slowly people began shaking their heads in acceptance. Then Reuben proceeded with the benediction.

Probably only Reuben could have gotten away with that. But every once in a while we church folk need someone to take us up by the scruff of the neck and give us a good shake. Even though we have been called to follow the way of Jesus, we often fail to reflect the love of Christ. We allow our bitterness, anger, hostility, our prejudices, our ego driven selves to wound others in the Body of Christ – stained glass wounds.

We need to understand we will always struggle to follow the way of Jesus. Paul wouldn’t have written what he did if there had not been problems in those early churches. Too often we idealize those early followers of Jesus and call them saints, but they were just as sinful as we are. So since we are not perfect, let us remember Paul’s words: be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


Reach Out and Take God’s Hand

Reach Out and Take God’s Hand

I don’t know about you, but I am not as regular or disciplined in my prayer life as I think I should be. I think I manage to pray just about every day, but never on a schedule, usually in odd left over moments, when the inspiration strikes me. I sometimes chide myself, that if I only give God the odd left over moments I should not be surprised if God gives me her odd left over attention. And yet despite less than a faithful prayer life, God has always been faithful, when I have been in need. Like during the bus accident when the ICE clergy were traveling in India. And allow me to share with you Rabbi Miller’s account of the accident, because he wrote so eloquently.

Today was a bad day. Our mini-bus driver drove recklessly and involved us in a head on collision with a bus. He tried to pass a standing bus on a blind curve, and drove smack into another bus traveling straight at us. Thankfully, none of our group was hurt too badly. I understand that some from the other bus were taken to the hospital, but none in ambulances. We are bruised and cut some. Our entire group has been a comfort to each other. I consider us extremely fortunate. Nothing for us but scrapes. Although our driver was at fault, we were going slowly enough that we saw it coming. The half second of anticipation was the most terrifying half second of my life. And we were going slowly enough that, although thrown from our seats, nobody was thrown from the vehicle.

I have never before been involved in an accident of this type. I don’t want to do it again. It was horrible. After we assessed our cuts and bruises, I sat in the back of the minibus and cried and prayed. I had been delivered from injury and death. I was overwhelmed with emotion and the presence of God. It was not as though God protected me or that God had caused the accident. It was that God was with me, and that I was not alone.

We came to India to study religion and learn how people experience God. Today God was with us. We are not alone. We came to find God. But God found us. God does not leave us, even in our moments of terror. No matter where are, with God there is no exile. God does not leave us. Sometimes we learn blessed things the hard way.

Sometimes we learn blessed things the hard way. God is always with us. All we have to do is reach out and take God’s hand. And that reminds me of something I heard on NPR. The host was interviewing Christine Quinn Speaker of the New York City Council about Faith and Politics. And she was asked about her grandmother who was a survivor of the Titanic.

Her name then was Nelly Shine. She was a teenage girl. It’s not

100 percent clear ’cause she lied about her age most of her life. But let’s say she was 18, but we don’t really know. And she came from a big family in County Cork, Ireland. And her parents were dead and her sister had too many people to take care of and not enough money, and said that – said basically, Nelly, you have to go to America to be with your brother and cousin. So, my grandmother very quickly got a ticket in steerage, third-class, on the Titanic. Story goes she was the last one to get on the last lifeboat and made it off alive. She was quoted as having said when the other girls dropped to their knees to pray, I made a run for it.

I told a priest that story and kind of cheekily said, well, I guess my grandmother knew there was a time for praying and a time for running. And he very wisely responded and saying, no, your grandmother knew you could pray while running. And I think that’s a much better outlook on her and on the moral of that story.

Maybe I need to cut myself a little more slack and think of myself as praying while running. Sometimes, however, we need Sabbath time. We need to stop what we are doing for our own sakes, to rest and breathe and come into God’s holy presence to pray. When we go, go, go all the time, we wear ourselves thin, stress takes over and bad things begin to happen in our bodies. I overeat to compensate – not good. When I don’t reserve some Sabbath time, the stress of too much business overwhelms me, I don’t sleep well, I start forgetting things, and sometimes I even lose track of God in my life. Fortunately God doesn’t lose track of me. Bidden or unbidden God is present, and all we have to do is stop reach out and take God’s hand.

Scott Peck in his book What Return Can I Make suggests we all need to repent, to turn from the business, the self-centeredness, our obstinate insistence on our going it alone, to turn around and walk with God. Peck asks the question, “who were we walking with before we repented?”

“No one, we were walking alone because we liked it better that way.” Because then we were in control, and we didn’t have to listen to anyone including God. One of the problems with pastoring a congregation with really bright people is so many of us subconsciously believe we don’t really need God’s guidance. Proud of how smart we are we don’t pray with any regularity. Don’t call us God we’ll call you.

“Oh send out your light and your truth let them lead me.” Thank you very much God we will lead ourselves. At the age of seven Robert is becoming restive at times about holding his Poppie’s hand. He wants to go where he wants to go, when he wants to go, and do what he wants to do – unless it’s dark, then he’s right beside old Poppie. At some level we are all seven years old. We want to be independent. Holding hands with God can feel like a restraint rather than a support. We are restless with restraint.

While Robert was here in Huntsville we were working on learning to swim and to read. One night down at the pool he was putting his face in the water and kicking his legs in the shallow end, but he was still afraid of the deep end. So, I finally tucked a flotation noodle one under each arm pit, and began to pull him around the pool. At first he was nervous asking me not to let go especially when we would wander into the deep end of the pool. But slowly I loosened my grip on the noodles, and finally he asked me to let go, and soon he was kicking and propelling himself all over the pool without my help. As he was propelling himself on his own, he was yelling, “I’m flying, I’m flying.” Like Robert many of us long to fly. We long to soar with the freedom of our own choices, navigating our own path. And that is O.K. with God. Though sometimes it is good to check in occasionally, and we always need to remember, God’s hand like Poppie’s is never far, when we reach out for support.

Martha Grace Reese who wrote Unbinding Your Heart, serves as a church consultant on evangelism. She describes that most church committees approach evangelism as if it is a problem to be solved. When she meets with a church evangelism committee, they have all kinds of “good ideas,” and they are ready to get started on an action plan. So she asks them to covenant with her to do nothing but pray for three months. The members of the committee are to covenant to pray each day for at least 30 minutes, and then they are to meet weekly to pray together for an hour. She says, that after two weeks she will meet again with the committee, and they thank her profusely and tell her about all the good ideas they have come up with through prayer, and they want to get started implementing them right away. But again she reminds them they have covenanted to do nothing other than pray for three months.

Martha explains that what happens after three months of prayer is the committee discovers all kinds of things beginning to happen around them, they didn’t initiate. In addition people learn that evangelism isn’t a problem to be solved, rather evangelism is a spirit that is cultivated through prayer. I am hoping when Eddie Colf and Jim Norris lead an Unbinding Your Heart group in August, that we at United Church might begin to learn that lesson. We tend to be problem solvers – engineers. But the transformation we need at United Church is a transformation of the spirit, a transformation that comes through prayer. “Oh Lord, send out your light and your truth, let them lead us.”

Remember, no matter how we have neglected the life of prayer, when we reach out to God prayerfully, she will take us by the hand and lead us. And when we allow ourselves to be led all kinds of things will begin to happen around us, miraculous manifestations of God’s grace.

From Psalm 145:   

“God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit . . . the trademark on all God’s work is love. God’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.”


Jesus and Ayn Rand

Jesus and Ayn Rand

When I was in High School, Ayn Rand was a very popular author among young people, especially white, bright and talented adolescents. Her novels the Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged, were very popular and since Rand worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, she wrote the screen play for the film version of her novel Fountain Head. Since I had made a personal spiritual commitment to the way of Jesus during my confirmation I found myself almost diametrically opposed to Ayn Rand’s philosophy she called objectivism.

I don’t want to go into a full explanation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but I would like to lift up some of her ideas I find most objectionable, and I feel are most in contrast with the way of Jesus. Rand believed reality is solely made up of concrete objects, our perceptions and thoughts about those objects, and reason. She had no room for feelings in her reality. She also had no room for God or the divine, or any form of religion or mysticism in her thought. Rand also taught that the highest good was the pursuit of one’s own self-interest, as exemplified by this quotation from her book, Philosophy Who Needs It? “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that people have to reject.” She again reiterated her commitment to selfishness in her book The Virtue of Selfishness: “Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest—or of rational selfishness.”

It seemed to me even as a fourteen year old that a good summary of the way of Jesus is “love God, love your neighbor,” and Ayn Rand is sort of diametrically opposed to the way of Jesus. So why should we even consider the philosophy of Ayn Rand in church and on Fourth of July Sunday? Ayn Rand and her “Virtue of Selfishness” have once again become part of our national political discourse. Prominent members of Congress have posted on their websites that Ayn Rand is their philosophical hero, and they have encouraged their staffs and their supporters to read Ayn Rand as a theoretical model for understanding national policy and the debates over the national budget.

The re-emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy as part of our national political discussion surprises and disturbs me. While we try to avoid political partisanship in the life of our community of faith, I believe people dedicated to the way of Jesus can still participate in our national political dialogue especially about issues of public policy concerning the poor and the marginalized in our society. Pippa has been faithful about lifting up for us the affects of Medicaid Budget cuts on the impoverished, especially children who are poor. Because our congregation has a commitment to the mentally ill we have also lifted up the affects of public policy on the mentally ill. I believe as followers of Jesus we can bring an important perspective to the national dialogue about loving our neighbor, when there are those in Congress who are advocating for “rational selfishness.”

Loving our neighbors means being willing to share. As Jesus said, “when everyone shares, everyone can have enough to eat.” Or as Mahatma Gandhi said, “live simply so that others may simply live.” We are living in a very, very selfish culture. The income gap in our society is growing and many of our richest citizens engage in lavish life styles, while the working poor find themselves unable to afford basic necessities even while working forty and fifty hours a week. As more employers drop health care as a benefit, health insurance and health care becomes unaffordable for an increasing number of people including some of our own members. Pippa’s blog has provided documentation about people who are dying for lack of appropriate health care. I hope and pray I will not be called upon to conduct a funeral for a member of our congregation who has been unable to afford a crucial medication or surgery. The Deacons have helped some people with medications and medical treatment, but the Deacon’s fund will only stretch so far.

I am concerned Ayn Rand’s objectivism has been resurrected in order to justify a segment of wealthy people, who selfishly do not want to help others. That reminds me of an old story about a young volunteer who went to call on a wealthy and miserly member of the community to ask for a donation to the United Way.

“Mister Smith, I was asked by the fundraising committee to call on you as a responsible and prosperous business owner of our community to make a donation to support our community’s United Way,” began the young volunteer.

“Well,” interrupted the miserly Mister Smith, “does your committee know that my nephew is an invalid with no means of support?”

“No,” replied the volunteer.

“And does your committee know that my mother is in a very expensive nursing home?” continued the miser.

“No sir.”

“And is your committee aware that I have three employees with catastrophic health problems?”

“No, I’m sorry we didn’t know.”

“Well, if I’m not helping any of these people, why do you think I would give to your United Way?”

The way of Jesus is not opposed to capitalism. There is a difference between free enterprise and selfishness. A couple of years ago our Monday Bible Study read a book entitled Moral Capitalism. Allow me to share several important points from the introduction to Moral Capitalism.

Capitalism seems to be the best economic system for promoting the general over all prosperity for everyone. But can it be made to work ethically and morally? This book presents a case for how capitalism can be both moral and ethical and promote the general welfare.

To sustain our profits over time, we need to replenish the capital we invest in the business. That capital comes in five different forms: social capital, reputational capital or “goodwill,” finance capital, physical capital, and human capital. These forms of capital are the essential factors of production.

Social capital is provided by society; it is the quality of laws, the cultural and social institutions, the roads, ports, airports and telecommunications, the educational achievements, the health and value environments that encourage or discourage successful enterprise.

Reputational capital adds value to a business by attracting and keeping customers, employees, investors, and suppliers. Finance capital is the classic form of capital: access to money. Physical capital is land, plant, and equipment. And human capital embraces the quality, creativity, loyalty, and productivity of employees.

When a business contributes to social capital, it is acting responsibly and ethically. When a business invests in its reputation, it better serves the needs of consumers and meets the expectations of society. When business invests in its human capital, it provides better lives and working conditions for its employees.

The problem we are facing in the second decade of the 21st Century is a reckless pursuit of self-interest without an appropriate appreciation of the general welfare. Our scripture from Paul lifts up the need to be concerned for others as well as self. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty egotism, but with humility regard one another to be as more important as yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The way of Jesus calls upon us to be mindful that we are all in this together. If I prosper at my neighbor’s expense, sooner or later we will all lose. If I grow rich by polluting the environment or exploiting my neighbor, then I have stolen my wealth by sacrificing the general welfare for my own selfish ends.

The widening disparity in incomes in our society suggests a possible structural problem in our economy that may result in everyone losing as our middle class is impoverished.

In addition if I prosper, by the grace of God, then Jesus asks me to share with my neighbor who has not prospered. There is no shame in making money, or investing resources wisely, or being rewarded for entrepreneurship, only remember the poor, share, and consider the interests of others to be as important as our own.

As we prepare to celebrate our national Holiday of the Fourth of July, allow me to read the preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I believe a philosophy of “rational selfishness” fails to establish justice or promote the general welfare. As for me and my house we will follow in the way of Jesus.