When Grace Abounds

Wednesday Devotional – September 9, 2020

“Jesus said, “for this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves… So, the slave fell on his knees before the king…. And out of pity for him, the lord of the slave released him and forgave his debt.” [Matthew 18:23, 27]

The parable of the unforgiving servant follows Peter’s question to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive him?” The disciples, along with Peter, are pondering in this chapter, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” But the disciples make a fatal error in asking of Jesus this question about forgiveness, for they assume the kingdom of heaven is like the kingdoms of this world. Jesus unleashes a barrage of teachings that make it abundantly clear that the kingdom of heaven is different.  The kingdom of heaven is like a king who forgives a slave of a ridiculously large debt.  Yes, forgiveness is to happen “not seven times… but seventy-seven times.” Yet, we all know that forgiveness even once is hard work. So, what might Jesus be trying to teach us about the kingdom of heaven? In the words of Brennan Manning, “It is all about grace.” Community is only possible when grace abounds, when forgiveness is practiced, and a new way forward is forged. This isn’t a one-time effort, it takes continual effort, seventy-seven times effort, to build a beloved, grace-filled community.

Prayer

God of grace, your mercy is new every morning. Yet, I admit that grudges take root in my life from wrongs that have been perpetrated against me. I find it hard to let go and to forgive. Even though I know I get a fresh start every morning by your grace. Teach me to embody your grace as I seek to be in community with others. Amen.

Nothing, Absolutely Nothing

Wednesday Devotional – September 2, 2020

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.” [Romans 8:34-35, 37]

It is interesting that this passage begins with “who” instead of “what” given the list that follows in this passage. The list chronicles circumstances that can upend our lives and cause us to veer from our intended direction. Like the parable of the seed that falls into rocky soil that springs up and flourishes, but then is unable to sink it roots deeply into soil, so when the “heat” comes it withers and dies.  The list chronicled by Apostle Paul could easily undermine one’s faith and cloud our perception of God’s love. Like the psalmist we might cry out, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Yet, what Paul makes clear is that nothing, and he means nothing, can actually separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul is convinced of this truth because of his own life’s circumstances and he is passing along his experience with the church at Rome. What about us though? Can we claim this truth for our lives? The good news is whether we realize it or not, God’s love never fails. God’s love is steadfast and ever sure. It may feel at times as if God’s love is far off, but God’s love is always as close as our breath. When life has more than enough challenges, remember these words from Jesus found in the Gospel of John, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” Yes, love wins!

Prayer

Loving God, your love never fails us. I give thanks for this truth, because you know that circumstances can overwhelm me at times. I let these circumstances take root and they wreak havoc within me, making me feel disconnected and unloved.  Loving God, when this happens give me the strength to just breath as I remember your promise to me, “Lo, I am always with you.” Amen.

Practice Playing Second Fiddle

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” [Romans 12:9-10]

 As many of you know, I play the violin. Mostly for myself these days, but sometimes I have played for a church service. I would be the first to admit that I never aspired to be a second violinist though. I always wanted to be a first violinist or even Continue reading Practice Playing Second Fiddle

Not the End of the Story

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

“So, Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!’” [Ruth 4:13-14]

The story of Ruth begins with famine and death; with darkness that overwhelmed the spirit of Naomi, as bitterness took root within her as she returned to her people. Ruth seemed invisible the day Naomi returned to Bethlehem for Naomi said to the women, “I went away full, Continue reading Not the End of the Story

To Risk or Not?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

“Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is your kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor.” [Ruth 3:1-3a]

 Did you notice that Naomi called her daughter-in-law, “daughter”? As the story continues to unfold we begin to sense a reciprocation of Ruth’s devotion and commitment to her mother-in-law.  Naomi is deeply concerned for her daughter’s future and she devises a plan that is very risky.  Early in the story Continue reading To Risk or Not?

Attentive to the Stirrings

Wednesday, August 5, 2020
 
“Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.’ She said, ‘Go, my daughter.’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.’” [Ruth 2:1-2, 5-6]
 
Ruth was fiercely loyal to Naomi, choosing to go with Naomi from Moab to Bethlehem even though she knew she would be an outsider. She chose to cling to her mother-in-law rather than return to her people. She chose to go to a place that considered Moabites enemies. Have you ever made a choice like this?  Have you ever entered a hostile environment out of loyalty to someone you loved? Continue reading Attentive to the Stirrings

Loss is Hard

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons…They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” [Ruth 1:1, 3-4]

The biblical book known as Ruth begins with loss upon loss. A famine causes the family to uproot and leave their home, not unlike many today who have become immigrants or refugees in foreign lands because their homeland had become inhospitable, unable to sustain life that would allow them to flourish. Then a premature death interrupts this family’s life, Continue reading Loss is Hard

Humanity First

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.” [John 4:1-4]

When you organize a drive through a city, do you pay attention to the neighborhoods? Do you make sure your route doesn’t take you into “that” part of town?  Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. “But,” begins the next sentence.  The quickest way to get from Judea to Galilee was through Samaria, “But” his disciples would have preferred the longer route. “Those” Samaritans were not their people. They were the “other” Continue reading Humanity First

Seed of Faith

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” [Matthew 13:31-33]

 “The kingdom of heaven is like…” What metaphor would you use?  You can’t use the smallest of seeds or yeast! What we know about metaphors is that they attempt to describe something indescribable, for metaphors can never fully capture what they are trying to describe. What we do know from the various metaphors we find Continue reading Seed of Faith

How Beautiful!

Weekly Devotional – Wednesday, July 8, 2020

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news – who announces peace, and brings news of happy things, and proclaims deliverance, saying to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” [Isaiah 52:7-10]

How beautiful! We have spent five weeks immersed in the beauty of God’s creation, of humanity and all creatures small and great. The natural world is indeed beautiful, if only we would simply enjoy it. Marveling at the amazing features of a humming bird paused in mid-flight and the majesty of snow laden mountains. Enjoying the mysterious depths Continue reading How Beautiful!