Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday, 4/20/14

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-14 (p) Isaiah 51:9-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 148, 149, 150
Gospel: John 1:1-18, 20:19-23, Luke 24:13-35
Evening Psalms: Psalms 113, 114


DEVOTIONAL


Fire.

For many centuries, the primary sign of the Resurrection was the Easter Fire.   Before lilies, eggs, and butterflies, it was the central symbol of Easter. The Fire was the Light of Christ come into the world, which the darkness cannot overcome.

That’s why we, like so many churches throughout the world, start our celebration of Easter by igniting a bonfire lit in the tomblike darkness and cold of the night. “The light of Christ,” we’ll sing; and then, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” To which the congregation exclaims, “He is risen indeed!”

But the light of Christ does not just burn in Easter Fire; it burns also in us. So it is that two of the earliest Christ followers comment to each other after walking with Jesus on the road, “Were not our hearts burning within us!” (Luke 24:32)

This is one of the simplest reasons I follow Jesus: He makes my heart burn within me. He consistently helps me see my best and truest self. He reminds me of what life can look like when it is lived well. Though we often think of faith as an intellectual exercise, of believing certain doctrines, I have found it to be a far more visceral thing. It is the passion that bursts into brilliant flame within us, fueling us on, as Jesus calls us into a future of such bright hope and possibility.

Two thousand years after Jesus rose from the dead, the Easter Fire still burns. May it burn in you. May it burn in me.

Amen.
CRM


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 3:37-58
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 88
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16, Romans 8:1-11
Evening Psalms: Psalms 27

DEVOTIONAL


Throughout Psalm 27 the author cries out to God for help. God hear me! God listen to me! God save me! These are all very real experiences of life. We can connect with the emotion of this Psalm as if it was written yesterday and not over 2,000 years ago.

My favorite part of the whole passage is the psalmist’s invitation:

“One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord....”

The author is requesting a closer connection to God. And not just a glimpse of God but rather to actually live in God’s house and to behold the beauty of the Lord! This is quite a bold statement. If you have trouble or a need you can go to God with it. God is our shelter and protector. He literally dwells with us and within us.

As we move through this Holy season of Lent, reflecting on penitence and our sins can be very heavy. Many of us may feel like we have 40 days where we spiritually beat ourselves for not “doing what we should” the rest of the year just so we can make it to Easter. What if instead we chose to be rigorously honest with our God just like this psalmist does? This is our opportunity. The God of the universe is ever present to guide us. If we take a risk and ask “Teach me your way, O Lord” or choose to “wait on the Lord” we may be surprised by the response. For it is in the process of seeking God that we learn how to connect with God and that God is always present to us.
MP


Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33
Morning Psalms: Psalms 22
New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10-20
Gospel: John 13:36-38, 19:38-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 40:1-14, 54

DEVOTIONAL


Nietzsche said, in a bold claim of nihilistic atheism: God is dead.

Today, that is true. Jesus is dead. His mission is over, and his corpse is placed in the closest tomb, to do what corpses do—cease to exist.

In today’s Gospel story, our Messiah, our God-made-Man, Jesus Christ, has been murdered. His followers have fled. Not a single disciple stayed to care for his burial. Instead, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take care of his burial. This story stirs up doubt and the terror in me that comes with the great existential fear of, “If I die, will anyone care?”

When I was serving as a chaplain in a hospital, we had a young man come into the trauma center. He had been attacked at a family party, presumably by a family member. The young man was unresponsive at the scene, but needed to be brought to the hospital where he could be pronounced dead. As I waited with the officer who had arrived with the body, we received a phone call -- no one would be coming to identify or claim the body. I was shocked. Something deep within me cried out at this injustice, to die alone, your body unclaimed, family and friends rejecting you in death!

Yes, people die every day. Alone. This is part of being human. We are finite, decaying, all slowly marching to our existential zero.

However, Nietzsche got it wrong. God is not dead.

God died.

And in two days, we are going to be surprised at how even death itself is not strong enough to overcome our God. And, because of our God, no one ever really dies alone.

On this Good Friday, remember that we have a hope. A hope that looks death in the face and says, “You have no power left.” A hope that says that even in the darkest of human moments, even when hope seems lost, we have a God who has been there, who has done that, who has come out on the other side. We have a God whose love has conquered even His own death.
BM


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
Morning Psalms: Psalms 102
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32
Gospel: Mark 14:12-25
Evening Psalms: Psalms 142, 143

DEVOTIONAL


“Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen oracles for you that are false and misleading.”
Lamentations 2:14

This verse calls the people of Jerusalem to task for allowing themselves to be misled by false prophets who proclaimed false visions that the people were only too happy to accept. Those prophets did not expose the many iniquities of the population that eventually brought that once great city to total ruin. How painful that must have been to GOD. He gave his chosen people the best of everything and asked only that they obey his law. Instead, they listened to others who told them things more pleasing to their ears. How quickly they forgot!

Reading this passage in Lamentations made me think about the many false prophets I’ve seen in our society. It seems so easy to idolize those perceived as smarter, better, richer, or stronger, especially if you or I hang on every word they say and scrutinize every action they take, or if we want to look, sound, and act just like them. If I allow it, those prophets/idols will lead me down a golden path that will surely turn to dust. Their visions will likely grow glitzier and more bizarre to keep my attention focused squarely on them, until finally they become so outrageous that I’ll wonder what I ever saw in them to begin with and look for someone else to follow. What a world we could have if we listened only to our true prophets.

LORD, thank you for being ever faithful and giving us strong, sure directions for our lives. May we focus on You and reject the words of those who would lead us astray from your path – the only true one to the final prize of Salvation.
DJB


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 2:1-9
Morning Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
Gospel: Mark 12:1-11
Evening Psalms: Psalms 74

DEVOTIONAL


Most of you have heard Father Rob speak about his fishing experiences, so I thought I would tell you my fishing story. It took place when I lived in Minnesota. We were invited to go ice fishing – for those that may not realize it – this is done on a frozen lake. The lake becomes a village, complete with heated houses and vehicles. In my mind, that was insanity -- ice and heat do not go together! Well, we went anyway – “for the experience.”

In Psalm 55, the psalmist tells us to cast our cares on the Lord and He will sustain us. Yet, I am often slow to cast my worries, fears, and concerns on Him. Sometimes I choose to rely upon my limited understanding, even though I may find the image of throwing away my worries, fears, and concerns comforting.

That is exactly what I did on that ice fishing trip. At first, I was consumed with my thoughts about heat melting ice. Eventually, I was able to trust the expertise of our hosts and calm down, and as Father Rob has done many times (literally as well as metaphorically), I joined my family in ‘casting’ my line into the water that day, in anticipation of an adventure. Needless to say, the frozen lake was able to sustain all the people, shelters, cars, trucks, and snowmobiles. It really was “an experience to remember!”

Just as the ice was strong enough, so, too, is God strong enough. He is able to sustain all of our concerns, fears, worries, and “then some.” There is nothing that He cannot handle.

Dear Lord, I pray for the strength I need each day to “Cast [my] cares on the LORD…”Amen.
SWG


Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 1:1-2,6-12
Morning Psalms: Psalms 51:1-18
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7
Gospel: Mark 11:12-25
Evening Psalms: Psalms 69:1-23

DEVOTIONAL


When I was a young boy, about six or seven, I had a babysitter named Michael. Over winter break one year we decided to go sledding with a bunch of his friends. I felt so grown up and so cool hanging out with all the big kids. We ended up sledding in a massive open area that was connected to a hill in his back yard. It was bordered on both sides by trees which were painted white with snow, except for one. Off to the right, one small tree stuck out.

Almost everyone else had gone, and I was ready to prove that I belonged with them. I was ready to be a big kid! I hopped onto my sled and got ready to go. Right before plummeting down the hill, I felt Michael kneel next to me and say, “Zack, make sure you steer left so you don’t hit that tiny tree on the right.” I nodded and took off. In what seemed like a split second, I hit a bump, flew off my sled, and slid across the snow…straight into that small tree – feet first! Not only did I hit the tree, it split me right up the middle. The next thing I know is I’m looking up at the sky and crying that “My boy parts hurt!!” And before I knew it, I was in my mom’s arms. Michael had carried me home while I was too busy crying. Soon, I was enjoying hot chocolate and cartoons.

Mark 11:22 tells it to us straight:
“’Have Faith in God,’ Jesus answered.”

Trust that God is working for your greater good, even when you take a tree to your boy parts. You might not be able to understand it at the moment, but trust that, soon enough, you’ll be on the couch watching cartoons while drinking hot chocolate.
ZJR


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9-12, 12:9-11, 13:1, 7-9
Morning Psalms: Psalms 24, 29
New Testament: 1 Timothy 6:12-16
Gospel: Luke 19:41-48
Evening Psalms: Psalms 103 

DEVOTIONAL


What is striking for me about today’s gospel passage is the range of emotion that Jesus feels – he goes from weeping to anger. He cries knowing that so many people are not accepting him for who he is, and the judgment they will suffer as a result. He goes from that to being angry because, at the temple, people are taking advantage of one another in the name of God.

It makes me wonder what God thinks and feels now -- today. I wonder how God feels when he sees the state of the world, what we’ve made of it, and most importantly, how we treat one another? I often think about God as “judge;” I don’t often think about God having an emotional life. But Jesus, being God, shows that possibility.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8)

So I ask myself: How do I treat others? Do I love my neighbor in the way God desires? Do I show kindness, do justice, and walk humbly in this world? When God looks at how I live my life and my relationships, how does it make Him feel? It’s different to think about God in this way. Yet, I want my life to honor God, and I want to be the best example of God’s love that I can be for my family and for my community. I often make mistakes and get wrapped up in my own life. I hope, by remembering this aspect of God, that when He looks at how I treat others, God will smile.
ASCM


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 10:21-11:8
Morning Psalms: Psalms 137:1-6, 144
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
Evening Psalms: Psalms 42, 43

DEVOTIONAL


“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under him. “
Psalms 144: 1-2 (RSV)

I am walking to my car after a long day at work. Slowly my mind is switching gears from work-mode to home-mode. What shall I prepare for dinner? Do I need to stop anywhere on my way home? Did I leave that last load of laundry in the dryer? My phone buzzes with a text message and distracts me from my mental checklist. The message from my husband states that he is in the local emergency room. Suddenly, nothing at home matters, and I am singularly focused on getting to the hospital and overseeing my husband’s care.

Living with chronic illness is similar to fighting a war. You must be ready to go into battle at a moment’s notice. Over the years we have spent a significant amount of time in hospitals. My ‘job’, whether our battle is in the emergency room, the ICU, or a doctor’s office, is to be my husband’s advocate and to gain the knowledge I need to care for him once he is home again. I am thankful that I have a healthcare background, but I have learned medical skills far beyond anything that I was taught in pharmacy school.

The physicians, nurses and other personnel take great care of him during this hospital stay, and after about a week he is ready to recuperate at home. We are hopeful that the next battle won’t be for quite some time. I am thankful that the Lord trained my hands for this war.

Lord, help us to trust that You will provide us with the tools we need to deliver us from our battles. Amen.
MP


Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 9:13-35
Morning Psalms: Psalms 22, 95
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
Evening Psalms: Psalms 141, 143:1-11 

DEVOTIONAL


“Jesus said to the twelve, ‘the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’”
Mark 10:33-34

What if I had been one of the apostles? Would I have heard Jesus and understood what He said? Or would I have missed the message as they did and heard only what I wanted to hear?

What about now? I sometimes wonder if I hear God when He speaks to me. Do I even recognize His voice?

“Hear what you want to hear.” That is the tag line in a TV commercial for the popular headphones, Beats by Dre. As San Francisco 49ers QB, Colin Kaepernick, enters the stadium of an opponent, the home team fans hurl insults his way. To block that out, he puts on his Beats by Dre to hear only what he wants to hear –music, not the screaming crowd.

I recently attended a meeting at St. Matt’s to present information on an adult mission trip opportunity that we could possibly pursue later this year. Quickly, the meeting shifted from, “Here is some information on a mission opportunity,” to “Pat, when can you lead this trip?” I wanted my Beats by Dre, as this was not the message I wanted to hear. I had absolutely no intention of leading a mission trip; I was just trying to be helpful! But afterward, I realized that maybe God was speaking to me, putting one of His desires on my heart. I have since shifted my thinking and will now make every attempt to free up time in October to lead that mission trip. With God’s grace, I will no longer limit myself by “Hearing what I want to hear.” Instead, I will try to actively listen for the voice of God, with or without my Beats by Dre.
PP


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 7:8-24
Morning Psalms: Psalms 119:145-176
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6
Gospel: Mark 10:1-16
Evening Psalms: Psalms 128, 129, 130

DEVOTIONAL


Five years ago, my wife and I were married in a wonderful ceremony at St. Matthew’s Church. However, it was not the first marriage for either of us. When my first marriage was clearly not working out, I struggled with this Gospel, especially with Verses 11 and 12. I recall sitting in church on a Sunday morning, not knowing what to do -- and the topic of the sermon was divorce. The seminarian who delivered the sermon was struggling with the question of how God feels about divorce in our society; he essentially said that God doesn’t like divorce, but that He understands. His heart breaks for us, but His grace can help overcome the pain and the “hardness of heart” that is inevitably present with divorce. God’s grace helped me move forward and take some time to heal. Eventually, He led me to a wonderful woman who became my wife in that ceremony five years ago, surrounded by family and friends, and clearly in His presence.

While the first part of today’s Gospel is a tough read, the second part about receiving the kingdom of God “like a little child” is a wonderful analogy. Many of you may recall that five years ago, at St. Matthew’s, we were ramping up a building program. We wanted to expand our church building —and eventually we did. The “making space to share” program resulted in our larger parish hall and more classrooms. And on Sunday mornings, we seem to have more people, especially more children! They are so full of joy and wonder. They are a blessing.

Dear Lord, please bless the children and all the people in our community and throughout the world. Help us come into your kingdom “like a little child,” full of joy. Please give us the grace to soften our hearts, to heal old wounds, and to live a life of knowing and sharing your love. Amen.
JM


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 5:1-6:1
Morning Psalms: Psalms 121, 122, 123
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 14:20-40
Gospel: Mark 9:42-50
Evening Psalms: Psalms 124, 125, 126, 

DEVOTIONAL


I am not particularly well versed in the Bible. I grew up learning all the basic bible stories, attending church every Sunday, singing in the choir, and even teaching Sunday School. I even attended a few Billy Graham conferences. Mostly, I relied on our minister to explain the bible readings in his weekly sermon. Life was simple and good, and I considered myself a pretty good person and Christian.

It was not until years later when a series of events and crises entered my life that I found myself talking to God, looking to the Bible for answers, and praying. I could have easily fallen into a black hole when my marriage broke up, or when I found myself alone to raise 3 small children (ages 3 months to 7 years) with no family nearby, or when my son passed away. I prayed for strength and patience to get me through each day. In Exodus 5:1 - 6:1 the people of Israel faced many hardships; their faith was challenged over and over again. Reading that passage helped me understand that God did not promise an easy life – not to the people of Israel, and certainly not to me. But what He does promise is that He will be with us through each and every crisis. Through His grace and mercy, the Israelites survived their journey out of Egypt, and through His grace and mercy, I am surviving my journey through Life. Many people wear crosses or crucifixes around their neck. I choose to wear a heart-shaped pendant with footprints on the sand. On the back are the words, “When you saw only one set of footprints it was then that I carried you.”

Dear Lord, I pray that You grant us Your grace and mercy when we face a crisis in life. I pray for the faith we need during such moments to realize that Our Lord and Savior is carrying us. Amen.
WS


Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday, April 07, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 4:10-31
Morning Psalms: Psalms 31
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 14:1-19
Gospel: Mark 9:30-41
Evening Psalms: Psalms 35

DEVOTIONAL


Today's Gospel reading takes me back to a blazing hot hilltop outside Port-au-Prince, where a little boy is perched on top of a dirt embankment overhanging the path between a work site lower down the hill and the supply yard above. I walk up, saying something like, "Hey kid, let's get down from there before you break something.” The little boy extends his arms and half-falls, half-jumps into my arms. Then he is squirming to the ground, which turns out to be a good thing because I need my hands free to catch his little sister who has been watching and decides to join the game. I didn't realize we were playing. Next, here comes another little girl, followed by the original jumper. I might have been there 'til dinner time, but someone called me to return to my place in the bucket brigade passing supplies down the hill. Then one of the older kids interrupted the line headed up the embankment with mock stern instructions for me to stop fooling around.

At that moment, I wasn't feeling too guilty for accepting a momentary diversion from hard work; but a little mild self-reproach, plus the need to pay attention to the task at hand, kept me from thinking about what had just happened. Now, I think that God was trying to tell me something that day, and it's a lot like what Jesus was saying to the disciples when he embraced the little child as the embodiment of the humble, trusting spirit in which man finds God: I need to be present, and paying attention, not distracted by concerns about appearance, status, or prestige, when God comes flying at me in whatever form He chooses.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we might not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose.
“A Collect for Grace” - Book Of Common Prayer, p.100
FB


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday, April 06, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 3:16-4:12
Morning Psalms: Psalms 118
New Testament: Romans 12:1-12
Gospel: John 8:46-59
Evening Psalms: Psalms 145

DEVOTIONAL


I am writing this on Martin Luther King Day. Maybe because it’s this day, maybe because of Rob’s powerful sermon on Martin Luther King yesterday, maybe because these things have been on my mind a lot lately: Every passage in today’s readings made me think of Martin Luther King and the struggles of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. It wasn’t bad enough that it took a hundred years of struggle to get to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If we’re honest, truly open-eyed honest, these struggles continue – another fifty years later! From my limited perspective, there have been improvements. But this makes the prejudice less obvious, and thus more insidious and likely to continue. And the sad thing is, we all suffer for it. But I digress.

Among other things, Fr. Rob spoke about King’s last Christmas Eve sermon. In it, I heard and felt the strength King pulled from knowing the Lord. I’ve always admired his ability to fight on a non-violent basis despite the things “mere mortals” did to him and to his people. And yet, he and they kept on fighting the good fight. Would I have had the strength to do that? Fight alongside him? Do I have that strength today? I’d like to think so, but I would probably need the constant reminder from Psalm 118:

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies….The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

King knew this so deep in his heart. I hope I can know it as deeply.
LL


Saturday, April 05, 2014

Saturday, April 05, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 2:23-3:15
Morning Psalms: Psalms am: 107:33-43, 108
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel: Mark 9:14-29
Evening Psalms: Psalms 33

DEVOTIONAL


“When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’”
Exodus 3:4

I have never seen God through a burning bush. Sometimes I think that those in the Bible who heard the voice of God or who had face time with Jesus had it so much easier. Although I believe I have seen God at work in my life in many ways, those messages can be subtle, hidden by the evil that tries to make sure I don’t get those messages. Maybe the Bible can be my “burning bush,” a tool to help me hear the voice of God even through the voice of evil.

Moses had the burning bush, but as he walked away from it, he doubted his ability to do what God called him to do. Doubt happens to me on a daily basis. But God told Moses, “I will be with you.” That’s it. God is with me -- every minute of every day. Moses basically said, but God, look at what you have to deal with and God said, this will work. How is this any different in my life? I should be able to read this story in the Bible and apply it automatically, right? Well, it’s never that easy. Life gets in the way. Actually, I should say that evil gets in the way.

Today’s passage from Mark has a similar message. There is a boy who is possessed by an evil spirit. The father tells Jesus that he believes Jesus can save the boy, and Jesus does. I believe there is no difference between that evil spirit and the evil that is around me all day long trying to take me off task.

My prayer for this Lent is that I practice using my Bible to help me acknowledge that I believe -- so that I may be shielded from the evil that waits for me to stumble.
VAN


Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 2:1-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 102
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3
Gospel: Mark 9:2-13
Evening Psalms: Psalms 107:1-32 

DEVOTIONAL


“Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: ‘Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile…’ A Levite woman… became pregnant and gave birth to a son... she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.”
(Exodus 1:22; 2:2-3)

The woman in this passage, who saved her son by placing him in a basket along the river’s edge, was Moses’ mother. The baby was Moses. Re-reading the story brought back fond memories of the wooden cradle my brother-in-law, Jim, made for his first child, Amy, in 1978. The cradle has held nine babies in our family over the years -- six girls and three boys -- including Beau and Allison. It’s built of sturdy pine and is beautiful in its simplicity. One meaning of the verb ‘to cradle’ is to support protectively or intimately. To me, that wooden cradle epitomizes a father’s love – a small, cozy bed, crafted by his own hands, where a baby can sleep feeling safe and protected.

As a parent, I have always instinctively wanted to protect my children, both from physical harm and from the emotional pain and disappointment that life sometimes brings. Just as God saved baby Moses to fulfill His plan, I know He has a plan for my “babies.” In the meantime, with God’s help, I’ll be like the cradle, sturdy and true, supporting and protecting them to the best of my ability.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and for all You do to love, support, and protect us.  Amen.
JP


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thursday, April 03, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 1:6-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 69
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Gospel: Mark 8:27-9:1
Evening Psalms: Psalms 73

DEVOTIONAL


“…God has so arranged the body…that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
1 Corinthians 12:24-26

Recently, during Sunday School, one of the middle schoolers really moved me with this note: “If you are a part of a congregation and you are suffering, the congregation will suffer with you.” This, at its core, is why I’m a Christian and an Episcopalian. We are one community. When one of us suffers, we gather together and pray as an entire community. When one of us succeeds, gets accepted into college, gets a new job, sings a solo, or has some sort of exciting event happen, even if it’s simply making a new friend, we celebrate and build up that person. Every Sunday, after comforting or celebrating with my church community, I come away with uplifting thoughts that last through the week.

I continually work with God to be open to our community’s love and support. I’ve always tended toward being in control of myself and, as much as possible, my surroundings. I’ve never gotten drunk, never done drugs, never really done much of anything where I could lose control and possibly do things I’d regret later. I was always the guy you wanted at a party, since I’d be the designated driver. (Truly, people do weird stuff when they’re drunk and someone else is driving them home.) While it is great to stay in control, I find it’s also difficult to open myself up to the love and support of others. It’s so easy to answer the question, “How are you?” with, “I’m fine.” It’s incredibly difficult to actually seek someone out, tell them I am hurting, and hope that they have some words or a touch to comfort.

God, help me trust Your presence through my community’s love and support. Teach me to lose control so that I can find a place for the vulnerability to accept comfort and celebration within my church community. Amen.
TL


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Genesis 50:15-26
Morning Psalms: Psalms 101, 109
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel: Mark 8:11-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 119:121-144

DEVOTIONAL


There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

In my life, there have been times when I’ve felt pulled to go in one direction when all logic pointed the other way. Usually, I followed logic, but only to find detours bringing me back to that same starting point.

Three years ago, it happened again. I was at a crossroad -- asked to serve on the Vestry. Logic told me to say NO! I am not a leader and I feel uncomfortable asking people to give anything, let alone to give of their time. I can’t do my own finances, how can I be in charge of a budget? My calendar is a mess; you want me to manage 36 months of events? Then I asked, “God what will you have me do?” Strangely, God sounds an awful lot like Father Rob. Truth be told, I had been gaining the necessary skills over the years. I just needed to learn to trust God, to trust that He would provide -- and He did.

Sometimes my gifts are pretty clear, but when I get distracted, my vision becomes blurred, and I struggle. I believe the struggles I’ve encountered through the years were merely course corrections to God’s plan. In hindsight, it all makes sense, and the signs couldn’t have been clearer. I am eternally grateful that God did not take “no” for an answer from me and that I have had the opportunity to serve Him through the St. Matthew’s vestry.

Heavenly Father, I pray that You will always clear my vision so that I may follow the path You would have me follow in using Your spiritual gifts to touch the lives of others. Amen.
HL


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

READING


Old Testament: Genesis 49:29-50:14
Morning Psalms: Psalms 97, 99, 100
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Gospel: Mark 8:1-10
Evening Psalms: Psalms 94, 95

DEVOTIONAL


In reading Mark 8:1-10, which describes how Jesus fed a crowd of 4,000, it occurred to me that those present were so filled with what He had to offer that they weren't concerned about eating. Their focus was on Jesus.

As I reflect on these past few years, I believe my focus has been on consumption.   It seems that I'm as guilty as anyone in how deeply connected I am to consuming. What shall I eat? How much? What kind of food is best? Worst? And that's just food! Like most people, I also concern myself with consuming books, movies, T.V.,  social media, and sports (well, sometimes).

It's a fact of life that we have to eat and that we need to occupy our minds. I'm not saying it bothers me that I enjoy the things of this world. It's just that I know God wants to fill me up in other ways, and I don't seek Him out the way I do the latest Netflix series, or best seller novels, or the best way to cook a meal that's tasty and low in calories. In fact, the more I concentrate on consuming the things of this world, and the less I concentrate on filling my life with God, the emptier I end up feeling in the long run.

For me, it all comes down to habits. I have a habit of planning good foods to eat. I have a habit of exercising regularly. But I haven't formed the habit of reading God's word and praying to Him daily. It all seems so simple to do, but it will take concentration and effort from me and guidance from Him to rearrange my consumption priorities and practices. Fortunately for me and the rest of us earthly consumers, the Lord is willing to wait for that change. And that makes all the difference.  
KB