May 17

Acts 16:11-13

“When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.” vs. 13

When Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi after crossing the Aegean Sea there wasn’t an established synagogue but there were some Greek women who were God-fearers, i.e. they had been attracted to Jewish teachings but had not become converts. Paul found them by a river near the city on the sabbath and reached out to them with his Christ story. One of them, Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, received what he said with eagerness, and, together with her household, was baptized. Presumably a long period of instruction was not necessary at that time! She was so moved that she invited Paul and the men with him to come stay at her house–and they did it. Unfortunately, we don’t know more about Lydia, but we do know that the little congregation that grew up in Philippi likely was centered in her home. Paul was so proud of those people and even wrote a love letter to them while he was in prison. It’s likely no accident that this faith community, known for its generosity, was led by a well-established business woman. Lydia is honored in the church as the first European convert and her influence over the centuries has been enormous. What a blessing it is when women are not only seen as servants, but as leaders! 

Thought for the Day: How might a woman’s style of leadership be different?

May 16

Acts 16:9-12

“During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” vs. 9

When Paul began his missionary journeys he didn’t have an outreach plan or an executive assistant. Guided by the Holy Spirit he flew by the seat of his pants, moving from one city to the next, totally dependent on the hospitality of strangers. Most often he would seek out the synagogues of the Jewish diaspora and proclaim the good news to those who knew the scriptures. Sometimes he was received with joy–often he met resistance. His model is a good one for us. Oh, we’re not called to wander about like college students on spring break, but we should expect that the Spirit of Christ will be with us each day offering spur of the moment mission opportunities along the way. When we can live with a spirit of expectancy we will not be surprised by what we encounter. Some days it leads to real adventure and we do or say things totally outside our comfort zone. Occasionally, as with Paul, the inspirations come to us in meditation or prayer–or even in our dreams. We might surprise folks or get strange looks, and some will be resistant to our words of kindness or acts of empathy, but always we will have the sense of full involvement in the mission of Christ. And ultimately, it really is fun when we get off the sidelines and into the game. It’s a great way to live!

Thought for the Day: What happens when I am spontaneous in my mission?

May 15, 2022

John 13:31-35

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” vs. 34

It’s back to basics today. Jesus was leaving the disciples and he knew they would miss him–he wouldn’t be teaching or guiding them any longer, and they would struggle to know what to do. So he makes his final instruction as plain as he possibly could and his words have echoed through the centuries. “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This is it folks! This is all we need to know to live full, joyful, and productive lives in this world. There’s no secret, no special handshakes or rituals, no particular theology to adopt! We have one commandment–and that’s it! So why is life so hard? There’s only one answer–too many are unwilling to do the one thing Jesus asks them to do. It really is a shame! Because some people have dared to try! They have loved everyone who comes into their lives with self-giving sacrificial love, the same style of love Jesus demonstrated while he was with us in the flesh. And the results have been astounding! Circles of caring have followed these folks all the days of their lives and they have known intense joy and peace. Oh what blessings come our way when we dare to be obedient to the love commandment! It’s like heaven on earth–actually, it is heaven on earth!

Thought for the Day: What keeps me from loving like Jesus loved?

May 14

Revelation 21:5-6

“Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” vs. 6

Whatever else we might say about the writer who gifted us with the book of Revelation, he definitely had a sense of God’s majesty and glory. He knew that the Great Mystery was the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All things have their origin in God and owe their continued existence to the sustaining and indwelling presence of God. There will never be a time when God is not! As humans we can mess around with the earth and stir things up to our heart’s content, but God will always be in all and through all. Sometimes we may not feel that Divine Presence, it’s easy to imagine that we are alone and that the world is sucking us dry with every kind of hurt and concern. But somehow we keep going, and in our thirst we are sustained by the water of life as a special gift from the God who gave us existence. It flows into our lives when we least expect it and when we need it the most. Out of nowhere we stumble across the springs of the water of life and drink deeply to quench our thirst. This is the Living Water that Jesus spoke of–and best news of all, it’s all a gift!

Thought for the Day: When have I found living water?

May 13

Revelation 21:1-4

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” vs. 1

Events of the past months have reawakened the fear of atomic war in the hearts of people. It seems that even in these “enlightened” times there are those who would willingly wreak havoc and destruction on their fellow human beings. Some believe that as weapons become more deadly, life on the earth will come to a fiery end in some great human-caused apocalyptic explosion. A few even believe that the final battle will be at a place known as Armageddon. In contrast to such notions the visionary, John, paints another picture. He saw a new heaven and a new earth, and said that the holy city, the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven, and that God will dwell among humans, and there will be no more tears or death anymore. While not everyone is comfortable with such imagery there is great appeal to the notion of a new creation, one in which humans would love one another with love and compassion and that war would be no more. We may never see Jerusalem descending from the sky, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could at least experience re-creation and begin to live into the image of God that is a part of our genetic heritage? Even if that’s only a dream, it would mean total restoration and cleansing for all peoples and nations–and that is certainly something we can all aspire to!

Thought for the Day: What’s my vision of the future?

May 12

Psalm 67:3-7

“The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.” vss. 6-7

There is no doubt that as inhabitants of the earth we have been blessed by God in unbelievable ways. There are now more than 7.7 billion people in the world and every day all those persons have to be fed, clothed, and housed–and all the resources come from our Creator and Sustainer. All of them! Our little minds can scarcely imagine how that can be done–just think of all the grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, fish, poultry it takes for just that one day! The psalmist was right–we have been blessed! And we even dare to hope that we will continue to be blessed. Sometimes that seems a tenuous thought given our enormously wasteful ways. Will our profligacy catch up with us? How long can a few people continue to amass fortunes while others go without? Fortunately there are many people who are concerned with the stewardship of the earth’s resources. They’re spending their lives developing new and better ways of using water and land for prudent production. While the earth can easily produce enough food for all to eat and be satisfied, we’ve had a dickens of a time with distribution–there’s a powerful tendency to hoard and not share. We’ve been around for a long time now, we’ve learned a lot about crops and technology, perhaps someday we will also learn to ensure that everyone will have enough of everything!

Thought for the Day: Are the earth’s resources finite or infinite?

May 11

Psalm 67:1-2

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.” vss. 1-2

The psalmist believed that if the Lord would continue to be gracious to Israel and shower blessings on the people, it would be a witness to the nations of God’s favor. Perhaps, he reasoned, they would be so impressed that they too would begin to praise the Lord. It’s a nice thought, but the nations have proved to be a fickle lot. They seem to be a lot more interested in waging war than in offering praises to God–in the United States during World War II those two thoughts were even combined in the patriotic song, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” In recent weeks we’ve been reminded of the thirst for violence that can capture a nation’s psyche. It’s baffling to see how quickly humans resort to killing and bloodshed to resolve conflict. Even religious leaders have gotten caught up in the fray–they seem to relish putting the divine stamp of approval on the most horrendous acts and imagine that God favors their nations missiles. Followers of Jesus are left aghast at what is happening. Some even feel that thirst for violence rising up in their own hearts! Prayers for peace seem ineffectual. At best we find ourselves reaching out to victims, binding up wounds, and welcoming refugees. Oh that God’s ways of grace and love would be known among the nations! Please, God, let it be so!

 Thought for the Day: Will wars ever end?

May 10

Acts 11:11-18

“When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’” vs. 11

Luke leaves us with the impression that this one conversation was enough to change the minds of the Jerusalem believers and open their hearts to the uncircumcised. Of course we know from Paul’s letters that it took years for the gospel to be seen in an inclusive way. Judaizers dogged him throughout his ministry. Some would even say that we still haven’t figured out how Jews and Greeks, slave and free, male and female can be one Body in Christ Jesus. We pay lip service to the concept, but the reality has been more difficult. It’s rare to find congregations without racial disparities, and many still operate under patriarchal systems. In order for us to realize the vision of unity that we have in Christ we will first of all recognize that human differences make absolutely no difference in the eyes of God. Luke was right! It is God who gives to whomever God wishes the repentance that leads to life. And since God calls the shots we will have brothers and sisters of every size, shape, and color. And because they belong both to Christ and to us we are called to affirm them as they are, and not ask them to just “fit in.” 

Thought for the Day: Do I belong to my congregation or am I just fitting in?

May 9

Acts 11:1-10

“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’” vss. 2-3

Oh how hard it is for the community of faith to actually practice inclusion! In Peter’s day the circumcised believers found it impossible to believe that the uncircumcised could be included among the faithful. When word came to them that Peter had been seen having table fellowship with Gentiles they were appalled and asked him for an explanation. While we now have no trouble with the uncircumcised, we have a multitude of other reasons for breaking fellowship with other believers. In recent years hundreds of congregations have been splintered by issues related to sexuality. While those differences have led to the breaking of denominational ties, it’s the political differences that have proven to be devastating for congregations. For one reason or another believers have found it increasingly difficult to be in communion with those having different political convictions. Many have felt excluded or discounted, and have found it easier simply to leave for communities where their views are accepted. Sadly, too many have just dropped out of church altogether. How blessed it is when we can simply celebrate the unity and the diversity that we have in Christ Jesus. Such a community of faith is truly a taste of heaven on earth, and an antidote to the horrible divisiveness that is tearing our society apart on every level.

Thought for the Day: How can congregations promote both unity and diversity?

May 8

John 10:27-30

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” vss. 27-28

We’ve entered into the primary season in our election cycle and politicians of every stripe are spending millions of dollars to craft messages that they believe will attract the most voters to their cause. Sometimes the process isn’t pretty. It doesn’t seem to be necessary for the politicians to actually believe what they promise–most switch their positions regularly–but they really do have to know their audience. Some are quite good at what they do. They know their sheep, and their sheep follow them! But none of those campaigners are the Good Shepherd! They offer what they think people want, but only Jesus can give eternal life. He’s not a liberal or a conservative, but he is authentic, and he always keeps his promises. The life he offers begins now and is founded on steadfast and selfless love. Those who hear his voice and follow are led into communities of faith where hope and joy abound. They find fulfillment in serving as the hands and feet of God and reaching out to the helpless and the poor. And the best news of all is that this life can never be taken away from them. As Jesus puts it, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” It’s fine for us to be interested in politics and even vote in primaries, but no politician will ever know us like Jesus does!

Thought for the Day: How are voters like sheep?