Monday Message

The Monday Message offers a chance to further reflect on the Sunday sermon.  This email based devotional is designed to help us continue to wrestle with God’s Word during the week. If you are not receiving this message you can sign up here.

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Summer Stories: The Call of Abram

1The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will showyou. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. -Genesis 12:1-5

There are definitely moments in our Christian walk where God instructs us to stay and remain somewhere for a while in order to rest or recover. But where God truly shows up and is present with his people is in the “Go.” He tells Abram (later to be renamed Abraham) to leave the comfort, stability, predictability and safety of the his own land, and is instructed to “Go.” In the same manner, at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructs his disciples to “Go” and make disciples. 
When we venture outside of our comfort zones. When we enter into new places. When we go somewhere unfamiliar. When we are sometimes even forced into new territory, it is in those places – in the midst of us being on the go – that God shows up. God shows up to help us, and support us, and help us work through the challenges that are in the new places. And in the process we grow and learn and mature and see more of Him. 

So as God shows you new places to go – new adventures to embark on. As you “GO,” may you be encouraged that you are not alone in your new travels, and it is precisely in those places that God watches and is pleased as we grow and learn and ultimately look more like Christ in the process. So, “GO!” in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit this day. Amen. 


Summer Stories: Cain and Abel

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  - Genesis 4:9
If you know the story around this quote, then you know that Cain knows where Abel is. God knows where Abel is. Cain should know that God knows that Cain knows where Abel is. Even so, God asks Cain where he is. Even so, Cain lies: “I don’t know.”  
In order to understand what is happening in this interaction, two questions need to be asked. First, why does God ask what he already knows? Second, why does Cain lie so obviously to God? 
The more complicated question is why Cain lies. It is a question that exposes all of us. It exposes us because we all use lies… believe lies that we think protect us. Usually, our lies aren’t obvious. They take the form of narratives. Likely, Cain built a narrative where he believed that his conflict with his brother wasn’t his fault. It was Abel’s fault. It was God’s fault. God and Abel had conspired against him first. He was simply protecting himself from their unfairness and ganging up against him. In that narrative, he is not his brother’s keeper. In that context, God is not to be trusted with truth that God will just use against him. 
A theologian named Miroslav Volf noted: “Sin is not so much a failure of knowledge as a misdirection of will which generates its own counter-knowledge.” What he means by that is that sin is rarely intentionally choosing the wrong thing. More often it is interpreting things wrongly to justify what we want, what we believe, or what we’ve done. 
Cain’s lying was his attempt to live from a counter-knowledge that justified him. 
Now it is easier to understand why God asked a question he already knew the answer to. God was inviting Cain into a shared narrative. God was giving Cain an opportunity to work through what was true about God, about Cain, and about life. God wanted to hear Cain’s perspective, his pain, his lament, in hopes that Cain might also begin to more clearly see God. God was inviting Cain into a place where redemption was possible.  
Here is why this is helpful to us. Each one of us live by self-protective narratives. These are the narratives that allow us to justify sins as common as anger or as diabolical as racism. They provide space for us to dismiss and devalue others. Every one of us struggle with these narratives. But if we listen, if we incline our ears to God, we begin to hear his questions. We begin to hear his invitation to trust and to open our narratives so that God can lead us into healing, into redemption, into forgiveness, and into truth. 
Dear Jesus, we confess that we are not aware of where our narratives are false. But we do realize the ways that anger and hatred and dismissing our brothers and sisters creep into our lives. Help us to hear your questions. Help us to trust you enough to listen. We place our lives in your hands to lead us into healing, reconciliation, and truth. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen. 


Summer Stories:  Creation

31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 1:27-28

For the second summer in a row, we have decided to look at Bible Stories that we tell our children in Sunday School. Many of these are stories that we have allowed to stay children’s stories in our memories and imaginations. Our intention is to listen to them again with all of the cynicism, wisdom, and experience that our years have given us.
This Sunday, we started at the beginning. We looked at the poetic rendering of the beginning of things found in Genesis 1. This is a text that typifies the “children story” vs. “adult belief” divide. Where our children can listen to this story with wonder, we often find ourselves pitting our Sunday School teachers against our high school science teachers. As a result, the story gets twisted and crushed under the answers we demand from it.
Step out of that conflict and re-read the story! Try it. Read Genesis 1. I’ll wait.
Do you see what it is trying to say to us… even to the adults in the room?
The text isn’t trivia. It isn’t just giving a theory about how things came to be. It is linking how those things came to be with God. The importance of the text is the glimpses it gives to us: glimpses of what God thinks, what God intends, who we are, who everyone else is, and what everything else is. The text is connecting all of those things with God. And what is God’s intention in all of these things? Goodness. It is good.
Now, as we read this, we may be able to agree with it. We may see it and can sing out in praise. But to many of us, it seems a bit of a stretch. All we can do is shake our heads because of how far things have all fallen from everything being good. Wherever we are, this text speaks to us.
This text tells us that God’s intention for all things is good. God’s heart is for good. This text invites us into this. Maybe things have gotten so not good because this story is an invitation. Maybe it being only an invitation is why people can be so cruel. Maybe that is why the earth is so polluted and abused. But that doesn’t change the invitation and the intention in this text. There is still an invitation to enter the good that God intended. There is still God’s intention and he has not given up on his dream for good.
This is the gospel. God’s intention has second wind in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to re-create, to redeem. The wind blows once again as the Holy Spirit. They will bring to pass God’s intention for all things… for us. In this story, we are invited to be part of the good that is still there, that is reflected in us and in our neighbors, that is reflected in the sun in the sky and the light separated from darkness, that is reflected in Creation.
It is good. It will be good. We are valued and invited to be part of it… to reflect the good of the God who created all, who redeems all, and who will recreate all for good.
Jesus, we confess that skepticism builds the more we experience the way this world you created works. Even so, we ask that you help us to see the good of your intentions for us and for our world. Help us to be people who can see your heart for Creation. Then give us the courage to be the image of Your heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Stewards of Time

“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.”

Exodus 20:8

One of the most difficult places for us to steward our resources has to do with our time. The demands of life seem to outstrip the time we have to meet them. When we do have space, too often we end up consuming it frivolously.
In this verse, God steps into our time stretched lives in a way only God can do. It is the fourth of the ten commandments and thus has a bit of weight to it. But notice that weight doesn’t begin with the words “Don’t do this” or “You should do that.” Instead, it begins with the word “remember.”
Remember the Sabbath day. Remember is an empowering word. If you think about it, remember is a word of distraction. It is a word that calls our focus to something that is not right in front of us. Whatever the normal pattern of life at the moment, let it be broken by remembering.
If I were to remind you that it was a loved one or best friend’s birthday, you would be thankful. You would know that this is not a normal day. It is a day worth celebrating! We should go out to eat! No leftovers tonight!
God is saying to us here: I know that there are tons of things swirling around you right now. I know that you feel like you will never get done all the work that needs to get done. But remember the Sabbath day. And that remembering points us to God. It points past the normal anxieties and priorities that clamor for our attention. It offers to break our patterns.
When we steward our time past the push and pull of life… to be present to God… we step past anxiety and worry and fear and pressure and deadlines into holiness. That time of transcendence changes the time that we give. Then we begin to hunger for the rest that we can only find when we remember.
Jesus, you know the pressing and the pulling we feel from our schedules. You know the weariness we feel trying to do all that is asked of us. You also see the myriad ways we allow that busyness to steal from you the time we could be… should be spending upon you. Whisper to us this moment to remember. Break us from the tyranny of the things going on around us and teach us to rest in you. Thus rested, allow us to live anew into the things required of us today. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Standing Out in Our Hunger

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Matthew 5:9

Not long ago, there was a violent and bloody stand-off between the Israeli military and Palestinian protesters. The news showed smoky pictures of passion and violence. The enmity between the two groups runs deep with mutual threats at eradication and dehumanization.
During the time of Jesus, things were not much different. The Jewish people hated the Roman powers that occupied their land. The passion for revolution was barely hidden under the skin of every person Jesus spoke to.
In fact, this conflict was wrapped up in the idea of Israel being the children of God. The people of Israel believed that their special relationship with God was the foundation of their right to revolt against Rome. So, when Jesus opened his mouth, most were expecting, hoping he would affirm their enmity. But Jesus did not.
Instead, he identified children of God with peacemaking. Those who most closely identify with and live from their relationship with God will bring peace and wholeness of relationship. This walk of counter-cultural peacemaking is the path of being blessed by God.
That kind of political violence seems worlds away from most of us. And yet, we have been slowly nurturing a polarized and angry political climate of our own. We do little to try to understand the people who line up across from us. While we might not throw stones or shoot guns, we certainly do damage to our souls with our dehumanizing thoughts, words, and tweets.
In this text, Jesus is calling Christians to be different. Instead of taking on a mantle of defending a position or ethic or policy, we are to be peacemakers. We are to be people interested in the holistic connection and reconciliation of people. We are not simply to be peacewishers or peacewanters who desire peace from a distance. We are to be people who step out of our polarized tribes and make peace with our lives, with our relationships, with our listening, with our learning, with our loving, and with our presence.
We are to make peace because we are children of God by the peace made for us in Jesus Christ.
Jesus, thank you for being the one who made peace between me and God. Thank you for the ways you have restored my chance to be in relationship with you. Flood me with this peace so that I begin to desire it for those around me. Show me how to step out in little ways today to make peace. Show me how to craft my words, my actions, and my courage so that I embody the very peace that has been given to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.