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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Tuesday
Sep112018

Ruth Part Three

9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.” 
Ruth 3:9
 
The story of Ruth is replete with tension. It is a story from the perspective of widows at a time when women had little voice in society. It is a story from the perspective of the poor in a town with no government sponsored safety net. It is a story from the perspective of a foreigner in a community identified by clans and tribes and families.
 
But nowhere is the tension higher than in this sentence in Ruth 3. Ruth identifies herself as a servant. In truth, she is poor, a widow, and a foreigner. She has entered into the intimate presence of one who is the opposite of all of those things. She has exposed her vulnerability and grasped the reins of her own life. Instead of waiting and listening as was expected, she spoke her need and her desire. I am your kin. Take care of me.
 
Each of us finds ourselves in tension in life. Seldom do we find ourselves with the courage to step into the tension like Ruth. Perhaps this is wise. There are not many places like Boaz in life that receives our vulnerability and our voice. That is the tension.
 
Why does Boaz receive Ruth? We immediately suppose the answer to be linked to his own desires and his own needs. But the rest of the text resists this theory. Instead, Boaz speaks readily of God and the worthiness of Ruth. Boaz’s receptivity flows from his own understanding and experience of God and his understanding that she is his kin. He does not identify her as poor, widow, and foreigner. He identifies her as connected to him.
 
This is where this text immediately challenges us today. It challenges us to identify people by their connection to us in God. When we are in the position of Ruth, we must ignore the voices that belittle and sideline us. We are worthy of connection and care. When we are in the position of Boaz, we must resist the temptation to define ourselves by the gifts God has given us. Rather, we must grasp the opportunity to testify to our connection by using those same gifts!
 
Jesus, your Scripture testifies that in You, we are kin (Ephesians 3:15). That is not an idea that is readily acted on by the world around me. Grant me the courage of Ruth today to both be vulnerable and courageous. Grant me the humility and awareness of Boaz. Help me to live into the connectedness that you have placed around me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Monday
Aug272018

Ruth Part Two

10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Numbers 20:10
 
Many years ago, I visited with some young married friends of mine in a bar in Alabama. In a corner booth of the darkened bar, I found myself engaged in an impromptu counseling conversation. They argued with passion about the way toilet paper was replaced in their bathroom. It was with difficulty that I tried to help them see that their disagreement wasn’t really about toilet paper.
 
One of the mistakes we often make in conflict is pretending that we are primarily rational. We ignore the ways that our emotions rush into our conflict demanding to be heard. We continue to talk about toilet paper instead of acknowledging that what we most need is to be heard, to be loved, to apologize, and to forgive.
 
In our passage this Sunday, the people of Israel confront Moses on the rational grounds that they were running out of water. But the quarrel quickly spills over the boundaries of logic. They unfairly question whether Moses’ leadership was from God. They denigrate the ways that he has provided for them. They spoke longingly about the time before Moses when they had pomegranates to eat.
 
At this point, Moses becomes the focus of our story. He brings the entire experience to God. God responds with a powerful affirmation of God’s presence. No matter the accusations, God affirms that God indeed was near to Moses! On those grounds, he empowers Moses provide for the people of Israel by bringing water from a rock.
 
Could Moses rest in who he was to God? Could he forgive the unjustified accusations? Could he bring the people back to a place of their common need for water? Could he heal the rift by standing with the people and receiving the provision of God?
 
As you can tell from the verse we have chosen for our meditation this morning, Moses failed. He chose instead to use God’s provision of water to win in his argument with the people who rebelled against him. “You, rebels! Why should we miraculously provide water for you?”
 
God provided water that was meant to be for Moses with the people of Israel. Instead, the water God provided was received by Moses while he was still set against the people of Israel. Water meant to bind and heal as well as slake thirst was unable to do all it was intended to do.
 
Jesus, you know the places where we are at odds with one another. You know the accusations and attacks upon us. You know our need. You know where our hearts are stone against one another. We recall those experiences… those people before you now. Come, Lord Jesus. Bring forth the Water of Life (John 4:14) even now within these places of stone. We ask you to lead us into healing and wholeness, reconciliation and peace. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday
Jul232018

Summer Stories:  Forgetfulness

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” – Joshua 4:1-7

As I get older, I realize that I am forgetting things more often. I forget where I put my keys. I forget what kind of chips each of my kids does not like in their lunch. I forget dates. I forget times. I forget. Thankfully the people around me are either filled with a lot of grace or just as forgetful as I am ….Or both maybe?

Forgetfulness is not something new as we see if the passage above. Joshua has just led the people of Israel out of the desert where they have been wandering for the 40 years, and into the land that God has promised them. They have waited an entire generation to get to this place, and the first thing God wants them to do is to set up a Memorial? So let me get this straight…. God enlists Moses to lead the people out of Egypt away from Pharaoh. As they are being chased, he makes a way for them to pass through the Red Sea, and then uses that same escape route to bring Pharaoh’s army to its demise. God provides manna, water and the Law while they are in the desert, and now they have finally been led to leave the desert and into the promised land – and God wants them to set a way for them remember? You really think they’re going to forget?

Simple answer – yes. We forget all to easily. We need to be reminded. We need to be reminded of the ways God has been faithful in our lives. The ways He has provided for us in our time of need. The way healing has come when it didn’t look like there was a chance. The way God provides great an influential people in our lives to encourage us and cheer us on in the tough times and to cry with us when the times are challenging. And we live. And we go into the next day. And somehow…. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, we forget.

The stones are there to be a reminder not only to this generation but for us to teach the generations to come. God is faithful – all the way to the point of dying so that we might have life. And so it is for us to remember. How are you reminded? What are the ways that you try to avoid forgetfulness? Are there new practices to adopt in order that you might remember all that God has done? Think about that and see what you can do to be a better rememberer.

 

Monday
Jul162018

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. 

Monday
Jul092018

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.