May 27

John 20:19-20

“After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” vs. 20

Luke tells us that after the resurrection Jesus was revealed to two of his disciples in the breaking of bread. John, on the other hand, reports that Jesus was known to the disciples in the revealing of his scars. These two very different stories are a great gift to us as we struggle to see Jesus in our time and place. Luke’s story quite naturally points to Holy Communion as that place where we can be assured of encountering the Risen Christ. John however points to Jesus as the Wounded Healer and implies that deep knowledge of another person can only come in those moments when scars are acknowledged and revealed. For many that’s a strange notion. We do our best to hide our flaws, defects, and scars in our relationships. We’re afraid that if others saw our wounds they would be repelled and perhaps avoid getting close. Of course it’s the exact opposite that is true–strange as it may seem, when others see our scars they are drawn to love us more deeply. It’s at the point of our woundedness that true intimacy even becomes possible. It’s in our wounds that people can see us as we really are–it’s in our scars even that people are drawn to see the Christ in us. And when that happens, there’s rejoicing all around.

Thought for the Day: How do people react to my scars?

May 26

1 Corinthians 12:11-13

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” vs. 12

It seems that Paul had no difficulty believing in the resurrection. All he had to do was consider that little congregation in Corinth that was so dear to him. In them he saw Christ, the same risen Lord Jesus Christ who had called him into ministry on the road to Damascus. And they had been gifted by the Holy Spirit for ministry just as he had, and all of them, though many, were now one body. They, together with all believers, were the living resurrected body of Christ in the world. And so it is with us! Now that’s easy to say. In fact we even have hymns that celebrate our unity in Christ–and we love to sing them. But oh what a hard time we have had in making it a reality! On every level, from small group to congregation to synod to denomination, we allowed our differences to dominate our life together. Again and again, we’ve argued, bickered, and separated on the basis of every conceivable notion of pride and superiority. And every time that happens the precious body of Christ is wounded–but never beyond repair. The Holy Spirit is a resilient healer and uses us in spite of ourselves for the sake of the good. And what a blessing it is when we finally surrender to the Spirit’s leadership and begin to actually live as one body.

Thought for the Day: Where do I see unity in the Church?

May 25

1 Corinthians 12: 3-10

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” vss. 4, 7

We don’t hear much talk of the “common good” in this competitive and acquisitive culture that now dominates our country. Rather than working for the benefit of the community, politicians and influencers alike have become fixated on those things which bring prosperity to their particular parties, especially when their efforts result in personal gain. There probably isn’t much we can do about those who are so practiced in the art of manipulation, but that shouldn’t keep us from using the many gifts of the Spirit in pursuing the common good. Paul even says that the whole reason the Church has been so richly gifted is so that all can be showered with blessings. And make no mistake about it, he’s not just talking about spiritual matters. In his letter to the Romans he specifically mentions generous giving as one of the Spirit’s gifts. All the spiritual and material gifts that we have received from God by whatever means, are to be used for the benefit of others. In fact, Paul told the Philippians to look first to the interests of others! Admittedly, this will never fly as a political platform, but there’s nothing to keep faith communities from working for the common good. This is what we’re all about. It started with Jesus, continued with Paul, and is at the core of every Spirit-centered person’s life.

Thought for the Day: What is the common good in our country?

May 24

Psalm 104:31-34

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.” vs. 33

The psalmist didn’t know how many more years he would have to enjoy God’s marvelous creation. None of us do! In our early years we assume that there’s a lot more time allotted to us–some even appear to believe that they will live forever. There’s not a hint in their talk or demeanor that there’s any ending in sight. Most are smarter than that. We know that aging will be a part of our future, and some even plan for spectacular adventures in those golden years. Now the psalmist likely wasn’t planning for any cruises, but he did have a plan that any of us could emulate. He had determined that as long as he had being he would be singing praises to the Lord for the wonder of having gotten to enjoy life in this universe. All of us know people who have made this same choice. We see them as they age, and even though their bodies begin to wear out, they never lose their sense of joy at being alive. Their “joie de vivre” is contagious and they inspire all they encounter. They know the world won’t last forever but they’re discovered peace and contentment. Would that this is how it could be for us all! The world already has enough grumpy old folks!  

Thought for the Day: What can rob people of their “joie de vivre”?

May 23

Psalm 104:24-30

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” vs. 30

The psalmist likely had a different worldview than most of us, but he believed with all his heart that the fingerprints of the Lord were everywhere, and were quite obvious to  discerning eyes. All things from great sea monsters to tiny hummingbirds owed their existence to the breath of God. And year after year, as one season rolled into another, the hand of the Lord was there to renew, refresh, and restore the face of the earth. It’s that perspective that can easily be obscured in our fast-paced lives. We try to do so much and end up being overwhelmed by our deadlines and unforgiving calendars. Some days it feels as though there isn’t even enough time to breathe, and we can’t be blamed if we fail to notice the natural wonders on display all around. What blessings flow our way when life slows down and we have the time to observe and rejoice at God’s handiwork! A seamless continuity of being has been woven into the universe and all things have a place in the economy of the whole. And the more we know, the more wonderful it becomes! Of course there are some who say that it all an accident, but that’s really not very inspiring! How much better when we can rejoice in the creation and praise God for the delight of it all!

Thought for the Day: What moments in creation give me great joy?

May 22

Numbers 11:24-34

“But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’” vs. 29

According to the book of Numbers Moses was feeling the burden of leadership in the wilderness and complained to the Lord. He was instructed to gather 70 elders from among the people and the Lord put his spirit on them and they then began to prophesy. But then two who were not among the 70 also received the spirit and prophesied–and Joshua was angry. Now he may have been the first to worry about such things, but he wasn’t the last. Proper credentialing is still a big concern among God’s people. Of course there is a need for order in our communities of faith, and proper training is always important for those we appoint to be leaders in the church. But certainly we should have learned by now that the Spirit of God goes where it wills, and sometimes the Spirit rests on those who seem to have no credentials at all–they may not even have been to seminary or studied Greek! That’s why discerning the Spirit can get a little tricky in our congregations. While all are filled with the Spirit we don’t all have the same gifts, and it’s not always easy to match the person with their calling. And whatever process we use it’s helpful to remember that the Holy Spirit usually colors outside the lines.

Thought for the Day: Why should pastors be ordained?

May 21

John 17:6-11

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” vs. 11

We know that a sense of unity is integral to any successful marriage. Not only is it scriptural but references to the importance of “two becoming one” are also heard at secular or non-religious weddings. Of course saying it is one thing, but actually living that way can be enormously difficult to pull off. But Jesus didn’t just hold up such unity as an aspiration for couples, John reports that he wanted his disciples to think of themselves as one–they were to have the same unity with each other that he had with God. And they really didn’t have an option. Jesus had called them into one body through the gospel, just as the Holy Spirit has called us through the gospel and formed us into the Body of Christ. We are the Communion of Saints, a worldwide community of believers, and our unity is what gives us strength and security in this fractured world. And just as couples struggle to be one in their marriages, even small faith communities have a tough time with unity. We all know the ugly stories and have seen the breaking apart and splintering of congregations. And every time that happens, the Body suffers, and our communal mission is damaged. But miracles happen! Marriages can be saved–and praying faith communities can be restored!

Thought for the Day: How unified is my faith community?

May 20

John 17:1-5

“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” vs. 3

It’s not unusual for believers to think of eternal life as the new life that awaits them after death. And sometimes they then wonder what they’ll be doing with all that time on their hands. After all, singing in a great heavenly chorus could be fun for a while, but imagine doing it for all eternity! John resolves that difficulty in today’s passage where eternal life is defined simply as knowing Jesus Christ, the One in whom the only true God has been revealed. We can have eternal life now and forever in Jesus, and it doesn’t involve doing anything or even going to a place called heaven. Knowing is the word scripture uses to describe the most intimate of relationships, that connection where two become one. It’s a merger of selves, a union in which the one is absorbed in another, and yet remains two. It’s what we strive for in marriage. Imagine having that kind of relationship with Jesus Christ! That’s eternal life and it can never ever be taken away from us. Can we really know God in such a fashion? It almost seems impossible, yet all of us have witnessed that kind of intimacy. Often we sense it in a married couple, we see it among the faithful as well. We see it in their gentle humility and loving eyes, their peaceful manner and freedom from anxiety. And now we know why. They have eternal life!

Thought for the Day: With whom do I have intimacy?

May 19

1 Peter 5:6-11

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” vss. 6-7

One of the frustrating things about the myriad of problems facing humanity is that there is little that any of us can do to fix anything. In general all the ugly things plaguing the world are systemic issues, and it’s demonically difficult to change systems. And yet if systems are not changed problems like war, poverty, hunger, terror and  famine will continue unabated. Again, the issue is not new. Peter was very aware of systemic evil and was hard-pressed to find a word of comfort for his friends. The thoughts that he came up with still make sense. He told his readers to humble themselves, and recognize that everything was not up to them. That’s good to know. We can do only what we can do–and that will be enough. Ultimately, because God is God, goodness will win the day. In the meantime humility will be our most important attribute. None of us have all the answers, and the answers we have will often be wrong. So instead of worrying about being right, it’s best to simply muddle along, pitching in when we can, and continuing to trust in God. Collectively, in our little faith communities, we can make a difference for good, and one day in due time, God will exalt us.

Thought for the Day: What is a system? How do they go bad?

May 18

1 Peter 4:12-14

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” vs. 12

From the beginning people have tended to believe that if they began to walk in the Way of Jesus, life would be immeasurably better for them. That’s not a surprising assumption because often that’s what they’ve been told. But Peter was not that kind of teacher. Instead of promising wealth and health he told his readers not to be surprised when life brought suffering and pain. That’s how it was in the first century and that’s still what we experience. Oh, we may not be arrested and beaten in the course of daily living, but there’s still plenty of ugly stuff that can catch us unawares. It’s happened to nearly all believers. We can cruise along merrily for a long time and then be ambushed by death, divorce, job loss, cancer, alzeimher’s, or some other fiery ordeal. Peter called those moments tests, times when we wonder if there is any benefit in believing at all. We should know that those tests do not come from God, even though there are some that say they do. Such a notion is completely antithetical to the picture of God’s unconditional love that is revealed in Jesus. Yes, bad times come, and we should not be surprised when they do! And they do test us, of course they do, but such suffering is a part of life in Christ, and it always makes us stronger.

Thought for the Day: What is the biggest test for my faith?