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:  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.


Blessed Are Those that thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” - Matthew 5:6

Hunger and thirst are only experienced in the absence of food and drink. And when there is an absence, when we are hungry and thirsty, it is difficult to want anything else. It is impossible to deny what we are: hungry and thirsty.

Strangely, the absence of righteousness is not the same. Perhaps it would be if we had not numbed ourselves into believing that it is not possible to be filled. We question whether righteousness is even possible. We joke about our lack of righteousness... even reveling in the degrees and nuance of its absence. When either a prophet or a fool (and, really, who can tell the difference) speaks of righteousness, we stone them from our minds. We debase them in our relationships. We remove them from all consideration. 

I think I know why we do this. I think it is because we don’t really believe hunger for righteousness is a hunger that can be filled. We are not righteousness, that is fairly obvious to most of us (at least those of us who will even consider this devotional). Nothing in our world seems all that righteous. It is easier to believe that righteousness doesn’t exist than to hunger for food that we will never taste… thirst for drink we will never touch.

In our text, Jesus asks us to dream. Jesus asks us to rebel against our disbelief. Jesus asks us to hold onto a deeper vision of right: right relationship with each other, right relationship with ourselves, and right relationship with God. He points us to rightness that becomes being… righteousness. If you allow him to lead you in that train of thought, a faint hunger appears. The dryness of our spiritual mouths becomes apparent. 

Yet, Jesus does more than ask us to dream. He speaks. He is. He asks us to believe that who he is and what he has done – on the cross, the tomb, and his Spirit fire – will fill the absence and enliven the dream. In knowing the hunger and thirst and Jesus, we will be filled with righteousness.

Jesus, we ask that you give us hunger and thirst for righteousness. We ask that you open our eyes and give us the courage to face the absence of righteousness. Then come to us… meet us in our need. Fill us that we might speak and live as… righteous. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Blessed Are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”. - Matthew 5:5

When we first began this sermon series on the opening to the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, this verse stood out to me. In the introduction sermon, I admitted that I don’t get how meek can be something God calls blessed. After the sermon, a friend of mine came up to me and agreed. 

“I’m not sure how it is possible to make that one make sense,” he confided. 

So much of our lives seem to be fighting for the opposite of meekness. We strive for respect, safety, power, and the right to a voice. Weakness and passivity are the road to failure in business, in relationships, in parenting, in self-esteem, in just about everything.

But what if meekness was not about lack of respect, safety, power, or voice? What if meekness was simply the absence of fighting for these things? What if the meek that are blessed are those who do not need to fight because they trust their blessedness… their inheritance is in God’s hands?

All the sudden, meekness is not to be avoided. It is the life where there is freedom from the need to control or prove things. It is the life of freedom to partner with God. The meek are not worried about grabbing their part of the earth because they are already assured of their inheritance of the whole thing in God. The meek are free and flexible to find and pursue God each step of the way.

Put that way, the meek in Christ are among the most blessed.

Jesus, we confess the ways we are bent toward pride and power and greed as ways of being secure. These words on meekness challenge the very core of this. Help us to begin to see the ways that we are already secure in you. Thus freed, show us how to be both blessed and a blessing in the freedom of meekness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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