Monthly Archives: July 2016

11th Sunday After Pentecost, July 31, 2016

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 107:1-9, 43, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

Existentialism (a 20th-century philosophical movement) expresses what King Solomon (the writer of Ecclesiastes) discovered many years before: It’s hard to find any intrinsic meaning or purpose in this universe! All is vanity!

Like Solomon, even the wealthiest and most successful men and women of today, in their quiet moments, feel what Solomon felt: A void in life that only God can fill.

Colossians 3:1-11

Paul’s letter to the Colossians confronts the philosophy of Gnosticism, a teaching that matter is evil and that true freedom can only be experienced through “gnosis” (knowledge). Paul stresses that God has entered the material world, and in a real human body, won our salvation.

He stresses that we are “raised with Christ” (vv. 1-4) and we are to “put to death” the sins prevalent in our sin nature (vv. 5-8), and to “put on” a new “self,” renewed in God’s image (vv. 9-11). How we live in our body does make a difference. True spirituality is living a human life – on this earth – in union with God.

Luke 12:13-21

One of the expectations of Rabbis (“teachers”) was to adjudicate matters of dispute in accordance with rabbinical law. Jesus refuses to be involved in the quarrel. However, he offers a parable to stress a reality: A legal judgment does not have the ability to resolve greed or anger in one’s heart.

What’s Your Net Worth?coins

We do it more than we realize. Without even considering it, we measure a person’s worth – our worth – by the numbers in a checking account. The size of someone’s investment portfolio determines the amount of time we invest into him or her. We look at a profit and loss statement and assign value to someone based on the numbers at the bottom of the page.

Today’s readings point out that the bottom line isn’t always the bottom line. King Solomon and Jesus both remind us that for all our toil and labor, we leave this world with empty hands. What joy awaits us when we choose to invest into what’s truly important – truly eternal. As the demands of life pull at you for time and attention, ask yourself this: “Does this investment contribute to my spiritual net worth? Is what I’m doing today yielding rewards in God’s economy?”

Prayer for Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost – Merciful God, open my eyes to see the eternal value in my daily decisions and discussions, guiding and governing my thoughts and actions; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

10th Sunday After Pentecost, July 24, 2016

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19), Luke 11:1-13

Genesis 18:20-32

Abraham is sincerely concerned for the innocent. His prayer is predicated with the conviction that the Judge of all the earth would certainly do what was right and that God would not slay the righteous with the wicked. His intercession was successful. He got all for which he asked. As a matter of fact, Abraham quit asking before God stopped giving. If Lot had won his own family plus only two neighbors, God would have spared Sodom.

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

At the time of Paul’s writings to believers in Colossae, Gnostics (those who taught that matter is evil and true freedom is found in knowledge) claimed access to a superior knowledge. Paul countered this teaching by admonishing followers of Christ to remain rooted in the Lord (vv. 6-7). He then lists a series of warnings: Spiritual reality is not to be found in “deceptive philosophy,” but in union with Christ – in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (vv. 8-15).

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus teaches that prayer grows out of personal relationship (vv. 1-4), requires persistence (vv. 5-8), and can be offered in complete confidence in God’s love (vv. 9-13).

Holding Bread

In the days and months following World War II thousands of children found themselves living in orphanages throughout Europe. Although these children now had shelter and enough to eat, they would wake in the night, terrified of not having enough. Inconsolable in their fear, the workers at the orphanages struggled to help and comfort these children.

Finally, the workers began putting the children to bed with a piece of bread. This bread was not to eat; it was bread to hold. When the children would awake in the night, their “holding bread” was a tangible reminder that there would be enough for the day ahead – enough to eat, enough shelter, enough love, enough hope to begin again. Over time, their fears subsided and the children learned to trust once again.

We are a lot like those children. In the midst of evil, how can we be sure of God’s justice? In the face of our sinfulness, how can we be sure of God’s loving forgiveness? And in the midst of life’s hardship, how can we be sure of provision?

In the Eucharist, God gives us “holding bread.” We hold the bread in our hands and remember His body, broken for us so we may know healing. We drink the cup and remember His blood shed for us so we may know salvation. And we pray as Christ taught, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” remembering that in Him, there is enough.

Prayer for Tenth Sunday After Pentecost – Almighty God, in you I am protected, strengthened, and made holy. Through your grace, help me to see in all things temporal what is eternal, so I may share in your everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

9th Sunday After Pentecost, July 17, 2016

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42

Genesis 18:1-10a

It was considered a good deed in biblical times to feed and house strangers. Abraham knew nothing about these visitors… their nationality, destination or mission. They had arrived unannounced and at the most inopportune time of day. Yet Abraham rolled out the proverbial red carpet for them. He ran to them, eager to extend a welcome. His courtesy was instinctive. Little wonder, then, that the apostle used this incident to encourage Christians to give themselves to hospitality (Heb 13:2).

Colossians 1:15-28

The Jesus Paul describes is the One in whom we find redemption and forgiveness; the visible manifestation of the invisible God… the heir of all creation (v. 15). As the creative force in all creation, Jesus not only made all things but His power holds all things together (vv. 16-17) He is the source of reconciliation for all humankind (vv. 18-20).

For Paul, to share the great mystery of the Gospel: that this glorious Christ now takes up residence in the believer and is Himself the hope of all the glorious things that await you and me here, and in eternity, is worth accepting any personal suffering that may occur.

Luke 10:38-42

Someone summarized the story of Martha and Mary this way: “Just a casserole, Martha… not a smorgasbord.” Love for God is expressed best in listening and responding to Jesus’ words, not in busily doing “for” Him.

Held

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, offers some of the most comforting words found in all of Scripture when he reminds us “…in him all things hold together.” In what is visible and invisible, meek and mighty, Christ is the source that binds together even the tiniest of details. Nothing escapes him – nothing is beyond him.

And yet daily life can often cause us to feel as if we’re coming apart at the seams. We lose sight of what’s important. Martha certainly felt that way. Jesus was coming! To her house! To eat at her table! It called for the best food available. The best china. The finest linens. Jesus was perfect – their time together had to be perfect, too. But in her desire for perfection, Martha missed relationship. Jesus didn’t desire her attempts at perfection. He wanted her time… heart… love.

In our “doings” for God, we often overlook “being” with God. Our desire to give God our best devolves into perfectionism and we come undone. We become frustrated, angry, disappointed. Sound familiar? Take a cue from Mary and sit quietly at the feet of Jesus. In His words – His love – find yourself “held together” and healed.

Prayer for Ninth Sunday After Pentecost – Merciful Father, in weakness and ignorance I too often reach for what is good rather than what is best. In your mercy, hold me together, allowing me to know the joy of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

8th Sunday After Pentecost, July 10, 2016

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 25:1-10, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Moses has previously described the nature of covenant relationship with God (chapter 29) and reminded them that should they decide to accept the covenant, they will be the people of the true God (29:9-15). As long as Israel remains faithful to God, or when future generations turn back to Him after they stray… God will restore and bless them (30:1-10).

Like Israel, we too must continually choose between God and emptiness; blessing and disaster; life and death. What’s your choice?

Colossians 1:1-14

False teachers in the region of Colossae acknowledged the eminence of Christ (that He was a great man), but they failed to recognize the preeminence of Jesus (that He is supreme). They taught of a mystical “fullness” that their followers would gain.

Paul, however, stresses the preeminence of Christ and teaches that every believer in Christ can be filled with knowledge of God’s will and power to walk in a way that pleases God. Because Christ is Supreme, we can bear fruit, understand His Word, know His glorious power, and experience all of this daily.

Jacopo_Bassano_-_The_Good_Samaritan_-_Google_Art_ProjectLuke 10:25-37

The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that love for God and neighbor requires unlimited commitment to meeting needs. Seeking to justify himself, the lawyer asks the question: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus defines “neighbor” as any person in need… even if he is a member of a race that is a traditional enemy!

Doing the Next Thing In Front of You

Like the Israelites in Deuteronomy, we often make doing the will of God harder than it is – something beyond our grasp. We want someone else to go up to heaven and bring it down to us. In this way, we can somehow avoid personal responsibility. Like the lawyer speaking to Jesus, we look for ways to justify our lack of action and obedience.

But today’s readings remind us “the word is near… in our mouths and hearts for us to observe.” And the words of Christ cut through our excuses, calling us to love whoever is in need. Living out the will of God is often defined in how we do the next thing in front of us… make the next right choice… love the next person we meet. It is in our choices of how we respond to daily situations that faith is melded and molded – and the love of Christ is revealed.

Prayer for Eighth Sunday After Pentecost – Almighty God, too often I fail you in what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone, not loving you with my whole heart, or my neighbor as myself. Give me your grace to perfectly love both you and my neighbor; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

7th Sunday After Pentecost, July 3, 2016

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30, Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman’s resentment of having to dip in the dirty Jordan River reveals his arrogance and pride. It is quite human to want a God who marches to our tune, rather than be willing to submit and follow His desire. Yet, without submission to God’s command, we inevitably are left to our own demise.

Galatians 6: (1-6) 7-16

Paul’s exhortation reminds us that as a follower of Christ, we bear a responsibility to and for each other (vv. 1-5), as well as those who serve full time among them (v. 6). We’re also reminded that the choice we make, whether to please the passions of our sin nature or to please the Spirit, will have direct impact on our lives now, and in eternity (vv. 7-10).

He stresses that the importance is not whether one is circumcised or uncircumcised, but that we are a new creation in Christ (vv. 11-16)

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Jesus’ ministry has taken him from Galilee into Judea. He is sorrowful over the cities where He has preached and been rejected (vv. 13-16). Although his messengers (those he had sent ahead of Him) rejoiced over the fact that even demons were subject to them, Jesus’ joy is centered in those who have chosen to believe in and follow Him.

Wade In the Water

Admit it. We want more – we want it bigger and better. We focus on what’s flashy and showy. We’re not afraid to stand up and stand out in the crowd. And we’re certainly not afraid to tell it like it is. Today’s readings remind us that nothing is new under the sun. And for all our modern advances, we’re a lot more like Naaman than we care to admit.

NaamanTo become clean, Naaman would have done anything, no matter how hard, difficult, or painful. Anything, that is, except humble himself… do what he was told… listen and obey. Naaman wanted to be noticed. He wanted to be cleansed because of who he was and his importance. Capable of ruling armies, Naaman was incapable of ruling his own ego.

To experience God’s healing, Naaman had to choose between the headiness of his position, power, and authority and being humbled. He had to lay aside his visions of great signs and wonders accompanying his healing. He had to choose to practice obedience in even routine matters of where to travel and where and how to wash.

What do you choose? Are you willing to be humble – and humbled? Are you willing to change the way you do everyday life? Are you willing to leave your ego at the riverside and wade in to the hidden currents alive with God’s healing and refreshing?

Prayer for Seventh Sunday After Pentecost – Gracious God, you humbled yourself by coming to this earth to give me life. Help me to humble myself so that I may fully experience your life in this world and the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C