Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
The Gospel of John begins with this announcement that in the beginning was the Word. God spoke creation into being. Christ is the Word through which comes life and the light of all people. In our homes or apartments, in our places where we are hunkering down to be safe and to protect our neighbors, the light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Wherever you are, remember that the Word is with you and the Light surrounds you. May you be uplifted by this video that was shared with me this week. We are not alone.
Tune in for worship Sunday at 10 am or anytime after on Facebook or on our website, www.wesleypark.org. Remember the church in your prayers and in your giving. Thank you for being faithful by watching over one another in love.
Daily Lectionary Reading for Year A
I have been thinking about how this time apart is changing us. I know it's only been a week, but we have been suddenly thrown off our regular path and now find ourselves more isolated than before. I imagine David knew what it was like to be alone as he worked as a shepherd. There must be an intense sense of being far removed from all others as the shepherd watches over the sheep. A shepherd has time to focus on the responsibilities of protecting the sheep from harm. But also, a shepherd has plenty of time to dream and wonder. When you are in these alone times, imagine sitting beneath the endless starry night as a shepherd. What do you see? What do you feel? Do the words, "I fear no evil," rise as a whisper in the night? Do you get a sense that you are alone, but you are really never alone?
1 Samuel 15:22-31
One of the most straightforward definitions of sin is turning from God. The story of King Saul is the personification of this. There is vanity, and there is a heightened sense of privilege. Saul loses sight of God. That's a scary feeling, isn't it? It's one thing to make some mistakes along the way, but it's another thing altogether to slip away from God. Saul is not unlike many powerful people. He tries to say all the right things and repair the damage he has caused; he is willing to lie or sweet-talk or do whatever it takes to hold onto his power. But God knows he has turned away. God knows Saul's heart. There is no going back for Saul. There will be a new King. Lent calls us into a time of confession. Can you pray honestly and openly with God, confessing the ways you have turned and felt lost? God knows your heart. Can you allow God's love to help you find your way again? Who is the Samuel-like figure in your life helping you understand things about yourself you might never have grasped before?
Ephesus. The Apostle Paul with Priscilla and Aquila visited this port town, located on the western shore of modern-day Turkey. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is believed to have died there, along with John. Ephesus was a major Greek city, which then came under the rule of the Romans. It was the city of Artemis, the revered Greek goddess. Ephesus was also a major port city. People from all around the region came through Ephesus to trade. It was a complex city full of powerful influences. Paul's letter to the Ephesians sought to strengthen their resolve. Hold fast to what is good. Once you were darkness, but now you are light, writes Paul. How do you overcome the powerful influences all around you and reshape your life to follow Christ? What are some of the complex parts of your life and surroundings? How can you best understand this complex world so that you can grow on your journey of faith?
Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
Rev. Adam Hamilton joined others in suggesting that in the 20 seconds we are supposed to spend washing our hands, we could wash our hands while saying the Lord's Prayer. Those familiar words bring comfort and strength throughout our lives. We need precisely that today. If you wanted to scrub for a few more seconds, perhaps include the time you dry your hands, it takes about 35 seconds to recite the 23rd Psalm. Allow the good shepherd to guide you through the valley, to drink from the still waters, to rest in the green pastures. Do you think you have time during these days apart to memorize Psalm 23 and ponder what it means for you?
1 Samuel 15:10-21
God has high expectations for all of us, but especially for our leaders. God expects leaders to be faithful and just, trustworthy and benevolent. When Saul erects a monument to himself, we join with Samuel and wonder wherein lies his priorities. And when King Saul allows people to bring home the spoil from battle, God is angered. Saul tried to justify his actions. The best sheep and lambs were brought back to be sacrificed to God. Fair or not, God demanded one thing, and King Saul decided to deliver something else. What kinds of characteristics do you think God desires in powerful people? Can you pray for leaders who make decisions that affect people and the world?
Rules for the new life: Be honest with your neighbor. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not make room for the devil. Labor for what you have. Share with the needy. Build others up. Be kind to one another. Be tenderhearted. Forgive one another, as Christ has forgiven you. We are going to come out of this wilderness time at some point. Perhaps we are learning how to live with one another in new ways. How has this time apart taught you how to live in harmony?
Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
It boggles my mind that it was just one week ago when we began to put into action an unprecedented response to something we were learning about, the coronavirus. I struggled with the thought of asking people not to gather for worship. How would we find our way as a community of faith? Where would we go for spiritual and physical support? What if the church faded from the congregation's heart, and people stopped supporting the vital ministries of Jesus Christ at Wesley Park? While I understood the need to protect one another, I had some anxiety-filled dreams last week. These are distressing days.
All three readings today seem to speak to people who are in distress. In Psalm 81, the people call out to God in distress, but they do not listen to what God has to say in reply. Jeremiah confronts the people who abandoned God when times got difficult and instead started to worship other gods. And, in John, some feel threatened by Jesus, doubt he is the Messiah, and vow to take his life.
Consider the image from Jeremiah 2:13. "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water."
When times are challenging, and we thirst for healing and hope, we need the Living Water. Our faith becomes the source of our strength. And, we need containers that can hold the water we need to survive.
In the weeks ahead, we will focus on the stories of the Wesley Park staff. Eric Terry, Jane Ellen Johnson, Sara Kropp, Nolan Warner, and Marie Cribari are not only incredible people but also help us to carry the Living Water. They are all at work, helping us to stay hydrated. Some things they are doing are obvious. Others are much quieter. They are committed to helping us all through this distressing time.
Please keep the staff in your prayers. Do all you can to stay connected as a church. Use this time in prayer and study. We are literally in the wilderness of Lent. How are you remaining open to the Living Water? How can you help to support those who are working to make sure our cisterns are sound?
Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob. (We will take a look at Jacob in the next reading.) This Psalm recognizes our stubborn hearts but appeals to our greater nature. How significantly would our outlook change if we were less set in our ways and more open to singing aloud to God our strength? Marilyn Knapp has had quite a year. She was in an accident that resulted in serious injuries and months of recovery. She is at home now, with home healthcare. The healing process continues. In her special way, she offered this song to God our strength. Marilyn said, "In these dark and gloomy and scary days, imagine taking a bunch of colorful paint and transforming everything into a bright and colorful world. Cherish the sunrises and the sunsets." How can you paint the scene outside your window today? How will you sing aloud to God our strength, and have hope?
Yesterday's reading focused on Isaac and Rebekah. They would marry and have twins, Esau and Jacob. Their brotherly story is one of jealousy, power, conflict, and kinship. Rebekah helped Jacob, the second twin born, receive the inheritance from an aged and blind Isaac. Jacob's name means Israel and is the path through which the Israelites trace their heritage. (Shout for joy to the God of Jacob.) In the reading for today, Jacob meets members of his family who are shepherding their sheep. Included in this group is Rachel, whom Jacob will eventually marry. If you are watching movies while you are stuck at home, imagine the cinematic drama of verses 9-14. The kissing, the weeping, the embracing, the rejoicing are filled with emotion. You get a sense that the scenes to come are going to be filled with similar drama and surprise. What has been one of your favorite movies? How would you film this scene if you were a director, or if you were part of this drama?
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
You got to love the double-negative. Or, perhaps you never should not appreciate a double-negative. The point is, always remember that we are all connected through our common heritage of God's grace throughout all of time. What a timely reminder as the world comes together in this current crisis. What stories of hope in the midst of struggle are you noticing? Would you be willing to share stories of grace and strength with the Care Connection? Perhaps these stories from StoryCorps can lift your spirits in this time of social distancing.
Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
Stubbornness. No matter what anyone says, I will do it my own way. God understands that we have these stubborn hearts sometimes. God seems to know that it will cause us undue suffering and unneeded strife. And yet, God still loves us through the problems of our own making. Is there a way you can think about your stubborn mind and the consequences of pushing back against God who wants to care for you?
What a story in Genesis today! After Sarah dies, Abraham wants his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant prays that God would send a sign, and God sent Rebekah. Not exactly the way that people generally meet and fall in love today. But, perhaps we can appreciate a covenant made, and a willingness to seek and trust, and a connection that will come to dominate the furthering story of God's people. When have you set out on a journey with complete trust that God would show you a sign? When has it seemed as though God put people in your path who have changed your life forever?
A short letter that focuses on love. What is love? Love is walking in the commandments of Christ. What a helpful reminder, to focus on love these days. And, to send someone a letter. We need to find new ways to stay connected to one another, maybe for quite a while longer. Letters, emails, phone calls, and video chats can be the outward and physical signs of our inward and spiritual connections. God bless you as you strive to walk in love.
Daily Readings for Lectionary Year A
Jesus leaves the Judean countryside and heads for home. There are controversies swirling beyond his control. As Jesus makes his way home he chooses to journey through Samaria, which for some was an area that was avoided due to long-ago conflicts. He comes across Jacob's well, a physical reminder of God's providence for Jacob named in Genesis 33. Perhaps there was some comfort there for Jesus as he traveled home. He was tired. Yet, God would help him find his way as God had done before, as God continues to do today.
In the midst of this unsettled time, when we have been asked not only to go home but to stay home for the safety of our community, how is God reminding you that God will help us find our way?
Yo-Yo Ma posted a gift online yesterday. He wrote: In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort. The first of my #SongsOfComfort: Dvořák – "Going Home”
Antonin Dvorak was a Czech composer who came to New York City in 1893 and wrote this song of what it feels like to think of going home, of making a new home, of finding our way when things are unsettled. May this song be a comfort and a guide in the days to come.
I would like to send out a short reflection and prayer during our time in the wilderness. I want us to encourage one another. Yes, there is a good reason for social distancing. But, perhaps there is also a good reason for spiritual closeness. I will focus on the Daily Readings for Lectionary Year A. Feel free to follow along or share your insights.
Call someone on the phone so they can connect to someone and perhaps feel less alone. Let them know that on this day you are making a joyful noise to the Lord!
Erin Vanderlaan was considering the cancellations and restrictions that are occurring all around us. I told her it was surreal for me to discourage people from coming to church! Erin thought and said that maybe we all could praise God in our way each day. Read the Scripture. Pray. Sing. In this joyful noise will be our hope and our strength.
The people complain. God provides. Yet, even though there is enough, people begin to hoard the food until it spoils. Perhaps there are lessons in this for us today. How is God providing for us during this challenging time? What happens if we try to gather up for ourselves what others might need and store it away? There is holy wisdom in sharing, caring, and trusting.
We are one in Christ. Those who once were considered separate are brought together by the love of Christ. "You are no longer strangers or aliens." We are in a world pandemic. We are all in this together. We are one community all around the world. Let us pray and care for our sisters and brothers who are afraid or suffering no matter where they live.