Saturday, January 31, 2009

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. Psalm 139:16 NRSV

How are you doing in memorizing Psalm 139? I keep getting verses mixed up but I keep trying. I hope you will, too. Take a moment to see what you can remember before you continue reading....

We have been looking through the lenses of Psalm 139 and seeing how God has known us from our creation. In fact, God created us. This verse goes further than our creation. Even when you were just a twinkle in your parents' eyes (and grandparents' and great-grandparents', etc.), God could see us.

God had plans for you before you even existed. Wow! Talk about being truly known, truly seen, and truly intimate! This verse is also truly hopeful. It does not strip us of our free will nor does it suggest predestination. Instead, it further reveals God's omniscience. This isn't God determining our lifetime but God knowing our lifetime. God is not unconcerned nor ignorant of our plights, our story or our joys. Truly, God does know!

God who sees, God who knows, God who hears, we rejoice in your awareness. Help us to also be more aware of your presence in our lives. May we live as those who do travel in Your intimate awareness and love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Psalm 139:15

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15 NRSV [The New Interpreter's Study Bible]

The commentary of my Bible says that the frame this verse refers to is literally our bones, our skeleton. What types of things need a frame? Buildings need to have a frame - whether wooden or steel. Automobiles need a basic frame to hold their shape which used to be metal but now I think is plastic. Term papers do best with a good outline. Sometimes stories need to have an over-arching storyline to hold them together. And we need a good skeleton as our basic building material.

A frame, then seems to be an essential first part of putting something together. The psalmist tells us that our frame is not hidden from God, even before anyone knew we were coming into being. Were we then literally "intricately woven in the depths of the earth?" I think on a subconscious level, I did pick up on a reminder of our death (earth to earth and ashes to ashes) but it wasn't until I had this confirmed by my Bible's commentary did I see the reminder of our mortality. I also recall the story of creation were Adam is created from dirt. Seems like we can't get away from our connection with the earth - but that may be a devotional for another day!

But whether being created in the depths of the earth or lowered into the earth at our death, God sees us and knows us. God knows us at a very basic level even before anyone else. God sees even our gross, ugly insides and our own secrets. God is incredibly intimate with each one of us. Perhaps you don't think of God as being that intimate with you. Perhaps you are more comfortable with the God who is "out there" rather than God who is familiar with all your body parts. The psalm reminds us, however, of God's intimate connection with each one of us.

God, I can't keep any secrets from you. I surrender all of who I am to You and to Your keeping. Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Psalm 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. Psalm 139:14 NRSV

I really don't like the way I look. I have been a bit overweight for most of my life. I don't tan. I am not well coordinated. I am always sticking my foot in my mouth. I have to work at being a non-anxious presence. I have an amazing temper and I open my mouth before thinking most of the time. So many things I don't like about myself! And let's not even start on looking at myself in photographs!

What about you? What are the physical and personality traits that you aren't so fond of or that you made resolutions to change this year? I think we all can point out what we don't like about ourselves.

Yet the psalmist gently reminds us to appreciate ourselves. This verse is really an exercise in logic, if you read from the end of the verse to the beginning of the verse. What God has made is wonderful and awesome. We can all see that what God has made is great. God has created us. So, we must be wonderful and awesome! I am not sure about being made in fear but perhaps it has something to do with God's own nature as creator - it is a complex not simple feat to create. And that means we need to praise God for ourselves - just as we are!

God, we praise and thank you for creating us just as we are! May we accept ourselves and be good stewards at the same time. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Psalm 139: 13

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139: 13 NRSV

I am adopted. I don't know what the circumstances of my conception were, but I have had several indications that it was not a happy story. This all happened in the late sixties when abortion was an option. If it was such a horrible experience, I wonder why she chose to give birth to me and give me up for adoption. I may never know the whole story as she is deceased. But because of my own story, this scripture gives me comfort.

I am comforted that God was with me at all times - even from conception! Through birth and adoption! My childhood, my growing up, my adulthood! God was a part of my very beginnings and God continues to be a part of my life even now. No matter the story of my conception, it was God who created me and God who gave me life. God continues to give me life, creating who I am and who I will become. Moment by moment I am being knit together with God's life-giving power and grace.

Your story is different from mine. But your actual beginning has the same Creator behind it and the same Creator still knits your life together even in this moment. Praise God!

God, you have been with us from the beginning and you continue to create in us new life. Thank you - we praise your Holy Name! Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Psalm 139: 11-12

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139: 11-12 NRSV

By this time in the psalm, there is almost a playfulness going on here. It is like the psalmist has tried several ways to think of how to get away from God and nothing has worked. So, the psalmist is just thinking up things. This is almost like a young child with their what if, then what, and now what kind of questions. There is a seriousness yet a playfulness in these images. It is almost as if the psalmist already knows God will also be in the dark but it has to get mentioned. Or maybe the psalmist is trying to stay one step ahead of the reader, as though the reader might think of a way to get away from God.

Here the darkness is nothing to God. For us it is everything and can often be a scary place. Even as an adult, there is still something about that dark that is unknown, uncomfortable and slightly menacing. But for God, there is nothing scary about the dark. God is at home there as much as God is at home in the light. God is with us in the daytime and at night. Light, darkness and twilight are all the same to God. God is also with us when we go through times in our lives when we feel like we are in the oppressive, shadowing and evil-seeming dark. For God, these times are just like the good times of our lives, for God it makes no difference.

God, help me to know that you are there even in the darkest of nights. Help me to know that the darkness is as bright as day to You. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Psalm 139: 9-10

I tried to take the wings of the morning and avoided the computer pretty much all weekend. Sorry - I will try and plan ahead for next time- thanks for reading! Amelia

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. Psalm 139: 9-10 NRSV

If you were in Israel when the sun rose in the east, it would pretty much be on the "land side" while the setting sun is on the "seaside." So for me the imagery is about rising with the sun and setting sail on the Mediterranean with the wind at your back, heading west. I almost can imagine a Jonah-like setting of trying to escape God via the sea. I suppose the farthest limits might mean Spain or Gibraltar or maybe even the Americas. Any of those would be quite a distance.

For Christians, this may not be earth-shattering, especially when it comes to our understanding of God. But for the Israelites, God was very much place-centered. God was in the tent, in the temple, where the arc of the covenant was located. God was in one place and one place alone. You had to come to God in order to worship - God was not located in everyplace. So, settling at the farthest limits of the sea meant placing the largest gap between you and God.

Or so it might be thought.

But this psalm reminds all of us that even moving that far away does nothing to distance us from God. God still leads us, God still wants us to follow God's will, and God holds us in God's hand. In fact, we are held in God's right hand, the important hand of power and significance. We are that precious and loved by God.

God, thank you for your guiding hand. We are so in awe of your loving hand upon us. We praise you and give you the glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Psalm 139: 7

If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Psalm 139: 7 NRSV

I get the part about being in heaven and being in God's presence. For me, that is a given. God is present in heaven. No one can get away from God's presence when in heaven. But when it comes to Sheol or hell, I always thought that hell was a place that God was truly absent from. Hell for me is the total absence of God. So, what is going on here?

The word that has got me here is the word Sheol. My mind immediately associated it with my Christian concept of hell. However, I forgot for a moment that the Psalms are part of the Tanach, the Jewish Bible. The concept of Sheol is not hell but where all the dead go. In some churches when they recite the Apostle's Creed they talk about Jesus descending to the dead before being resurrected. He would have gone to Sheol – where all the dead went (the exceptions in scripture were Elijah and Enoch). So, what the psalm is saying is that even in death, God is with me.

So what do I do with the heaven statement? I think what that means is that you could go out into space and never be absent from God. Even when you die, you are not absent from God. In other words, God is not limited by your mortality or your orientation in space. God is never apart from you, no matter what happens in your life or even in death.

God, your presence is a comfort to me. May your presence give me courage and confidence to do as you will. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Psalm 139:7

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7 NRSV

This psalm has told us how much God knows about us and how near to us God is. This verse reminds us that we cannot shake God off!

Going away from God's Spirit sounds very intellectual. Fleeing from God's presence sounds more physical. Either way, we cannot escape God.

This means that no matter what, God is with us. Even when we think we have gotten away from God or done something so very contrary to God's laws and expectations for us, God will not leave us alone. When we participate in bad or sinful behavior, God is still with us. When we go through the darkest valleys (there is another Psalm that addresses that!) or life's suffocating tragedies, God remains with us. If we are angry at God or claim we don't "believe" in God, God still never lets us go.

There is nothing you can do, say, or be that can shake God off. God is with you, no matter what.

Thanks be to God for God's unshakable presence!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Psalm 139:6

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so that high I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:6 NRSV

This morning I sat down and wrote out the verses that I remembered so far from Psalm 139. I invite you to take a moment to do this as well (no peeking!). I did pretty well - got some verses mixed up but got most of the content. Actually, I recalled today's verse the best.

Here God knows everything about me and I can't even remember the first 6 verses of a Psalm! The understanding that God knows that much, sees my life that well, and still surrounds me with love and grace is overwhelming. Not only am I unable to do anything near this for either myself or another human being but I also cannot get my mind around this concept. And I am not alone- God knows you just as well, too.

God, we thank you for your awesome power and your wonderful presence. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Psalm 139: 5

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139: 5 NRSV

When I first think of the word hem, I think of sewing -which I cannot do. My hems are the most uneven, sloppiest things you have ever seen. My husband sews better than I do! A good hem is tight, even, and secure.

However, most people probably think of battle - to be hemmed in by your enemy. In a more positive outlook, one could also be hemmed in by those who are fighting for you, protecting you. I often pray for others asking God to set up a protective hedge around them - a hedge that hems them in a good way.

Not only that, God lays God's hand on you. I like to think of this not in terms of punishing. Instead, I think of it in terms of guidance. However, I am very familiar with the term "laying a hand" on someone as another way of spanking or physically harming another person.

So, you could really go with this verse in a positive or a negative way. You could be hemmed in by your enemy - God - who punishes you by spanking. In that way, God is out to get you no matter what. Or, you could be protected by God's water-tight security, with God's hand on your shoulder, gently guiding you in the way you should go. Whether for punishment or guidance, it really personalizes God - gives God a body, an almost physical presence, and an incredible constancy.

Either way, God surrounds you - you cannot get around God at all. God has been with you, God is with you and God will be with you.

Thank you, God for your constant presence. May I recognize your love, grace and mercy and not see you as out to get me. Amen.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Psalm 139:4

Even before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely. Psalm 139:4

How many times have you opened your mouth only to regret it later? Ever have foot in mouth disease? Ever come away from a conversation saying to yourself: "I can't believe I just said that!" Sometimes we can say the most hurtful, idiotic, unreasonable and unbelievable things. It is part of being human.

On the other hand, maybe you have been with a friend or loved one and said something that meant a lot to them. Perhaps you have spoken a word that healed or brought new insight to your friend. Sometimes we do this without even realizing it - until that other person expresses their gratitude.

Amazingly, God already knows what we are going to say - whether it is sorrowfully stupid or generously graceful. God knows and God still excepts us. Of course, I am certain God would rather we speak thoughtfully, carefully, and lovingly. But God loves us anyway. Thanks be to God!

God, I thank you for your acceptance of me even when I say the wrong things. Help me to watch what comes out of my mouth at all times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Psalm 139: 3

You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139: 3 NRSV

Have you ever had a revelation about yourself? Something that you didn't know about yourself or a personality trait or weakness? This week I was spending time trying to define what my strengths and my spiritual gifts meant about me. In the process, I realized my own complex mental and emotional reactions to things that are happening in my life. It just sort of clicked with me why I have been feeling and reacting the way I have. Much of what is going on in my life runs perfectly against who I am – gifts, grace and all. Knowing this doesn't solve any problems but it does help me to be content with who I am and lessons my anxiety and sense of really loosing all my marbles.

However, God already knew all that stuff. It has just taken me awhile to really understand myself. And the timing could not have been better (thank you, God!).

God knows you whether you are awake or asleep. In fact, God knows you much better than you know yourself. And sometimes, God-willing, we all get a glimpse of knowing ourselves almost as well.

God, I am so thankful that you know me so well. Help me to understand myself, too. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Psalm 139:2

Although others have written on Psalm 139, I re-read it recently and it really spoke to me. I hope it speaks to you as well. I also invite you to attempt to memorize this psalm, a verse per day – Amelia

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. Psalm 139:2 NRSV

Does this mean that God is far away from me or does it mean that God knows my thoughts way sooner than I have them? If God is far away, I think the blame is with me. I have pushed God away as far as I possibly can. I don't believe in a God far removed from us, somewhere in space. If God knows my thoughts before I even have them that is a scary thought but also very revealing. That is because this means that God gives me free will. God does not change or dispose of my thoughts. God lets me have them all! However, there is no thought that God does not know about.

Paul Young, the author of The Shack, once said in an interview with Drew Marshall that there was nothing in his life that was hidden. He said that his life, motivations, and desires are all exposed. He hides nothing. I wonder how many other people can say the same. I'm sure that writing a best selling book and going on talk shows helps. And web mediums such as blogs help us to express ourselves – sometimes to our shame – but do they really expose the whole person that we are? It is kind of like putting your status on Facebook – it only gives a very small portion of what you are really doing, thinking and being.

Isn't it comforting that God not only knows us thoroughly but loves us anyway?

God – thank you for loving me despite knowing all about me. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Psalm 139: 1

Although others have written on Psalm 139, I re-read it recently and it really spoke to me. I hope it speaks to you as well. I also invite you to attempt to memorize this psalm, a verse per day – Amelia

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. Psalm 139:1 NRSV

The first verse of this Psalm does not say that God searches for us but that God searches us. God reads our minds, our thoughts, even our personalities. God knows us in every way possible: how we work, how we react, the kinds of actions we take. God even knows those dark corners of our lives that we think are secret from everyone.

In fact, this is not an invitation for God to search us and know us. No, it is the past tense. God has already searched us and known us. God needs no invitation to get to know us better, to wholly know us. God already has a full understanding of who we are.

Instead of an invitation, it is simply a statement of fact. This is almost an attempt to convince oneself that there are no secrets from God. We stand before God just as we are.

God, you have searched me and known me. I am yours. Amen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. Matthew 3: 16 NRSV

Why is the Spirit (here the Spirit of God rather than the Holy Spirit) like a dove in the baptismal stories? I guess I am more familiar with the tongues of fire over the heads of the new converts in the Pentecost story of Acts. When I think back over the Bible, I do recall the the dove was the animal that informed Noah that the waters had receded and that God was done with the punishment of humans.

Well, I guess I answered my own question, even though I didn't realize it until I re-read the sentence I just typed! The dove reminds us of 1) healthy, positive water - here the waters of baptism, 2) hope and new life in the world and 3) God is doing/ is going to do some redemptive work rather than punitive work through Jesus.

Thank you, God, for your Spirit! May your Spirit descend on us, redeeming us, giving us hope and new life! Amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison. Luke 3: 18-20 NRSV

Sometimes in the church we tend to hear the same if not similar Bible stories over and over and often miss those little verses that remind us of some of the not so nice facts of faith. Or, the verses are read but we don't hear them. Instead, we overlook them and listen to the "good" ones. This is one such passage. It comes in the midst of John's baptizing Jesus in the Jordan. We hear John's message and we hear God's affirmation of Jesus but often we miss the negative facts. Mainly, that to do God's will, to be Christian, is pretty much going to mean that we will be in direct contrast to the world. In fact, it means that our faith may get us into trouble; trouble being defined by imprisonment, torture, and possibly death.

Why do we overlook this? When we see Jesus' life, we know that he is headed to the cross. We focus instead on the risen Christ and tend to gloss over the capture, interrogation, and execution. We forget that John's life also ends badly. He is thrown into prison and later beheaded. Yet, he is Jesus' own relative, his life has been brought about through a miracle, he has been raised according to God's word and he has been preparing the way for Christ. Somehow it seems unfair he should be thrown into prison. After all, he has only been doing God's will. Is there any hope for the rest of us? I guess there is the expectation that if you do God's will you will be rewarded. But the reality is that if you do God's will, you may find yourself at the mercy of the powers of this world.

God, help us not to lose heart when we find ourselves at the mercy of the world. Help us to trust that your will is far greater and full of promise and hope. Amen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. John 1:18

I have always been intrigued that none of us know what Jesus looks like. As a child, the visual of Jesus that I received was a hippy-looking thin young man with blond hair, blue eyes and a really dreamy look on his face. Maturity, Bible study, traveling and other ways have taught me that Jesus was dark skinned, muscular (carpentry in the first century was not for wimps!) and his personality was probably one that attracted people to him. Of course, all this speculation about what Jesus looked like tells us very little about God. More essential to understanding what God is like - in actions rather than looks - is to see what Jesus is like. This would take a re-reading of all four gospels but these ten major points come to mind:

1) Loving
2) Fully present
3) Forgiving
4) Approachable
5) Understanding
6) Non-judgmental
7) Challenging
8) Healing
9) Restoring
10) Assuring

If you were to make a list (and I challenge you to do so today) it would probably be a bit different than mine. The point is that we can look to Jesus to understand God's nature in the world and with us.

Dear God; we don't know what Jesus really looked like but we do know what he was like. Help us to re-claim his (and your) traits in our lives today. Amen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 11

I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1: 8

Water. That is the theme for today.

In churches around the world, today is the Sunday in which Jesus' baptism will be celebrated. Many times there is an actual baptism. At other times, the congregation thankfully remembers their baptism. Water is a symbol of God's outpouring power and grace.

Meanwhile, around here lakes, rivers and creeks are flowing across roadways. Bridges may be damaged and property may be destroyed. Water in these cases is not just dangerous but deadly.

Water helps to provide new growth but can also be destructive. Many environmentalists also tell us that water may someday be more precious than oil in our economy. The Bible tells of many stories about water - some positive and some negative. Water brings us life and death.

John understands that his use of water is for washing away sins - a baptism of repentance. He knows that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit - a gift from God. Baptism itself can be cleansing but John seems to indicate that Jesus brings us more than forgiveness of our sins. Jesus brings us a new way of being. We are no longer just forgiven but we are gifted with power from above in order to do amazing things in and through our lives. Baptism brings forgiveness and power.

Come, Holy Spirit! Amen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 10, 2009

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2: 40

Yesterday we looked at how John was strong in spirit, possibly a child in high spirits. Today we see that Jesus was simply strong. Instead of spirited, he was wise. I guess when I hear the word strong I think of being physically strong and in being wise I think of maturity and intelligence. So, unlike John, who seems more like a geek, I see Jesus as being highly popular. I see Jesus as someone whom everyone likes but not someone who manipulates others to be well-liked. Whereas John may have been someone who got on everyone's nerves, Jesus was more like a calming influence. Okay, so that may be a stretch and too much of Amelia's viewpoint, but that is how I see it.

Too bad I relate more to John that to Jesus. As someone who has always been a bit of a weakling (who did the other third graders call over in "Red Rover"?), I am not physically strong. I wish I could claim wisdom and maturity but I am afraid that my strong spirit takes over just about every time. Does this mean that God is absent from me or that I am a lost case? Does God favor me at all? My mind says "Of course!" but I still hesitate to answer "Yes!"

How about you? Do you say that God favors you? Are you strong, wise and mature? Or are you strong spirited? Thank God that the scripture says Jesus was growing - maybe we can too!

God, help us to grow in wisdom and Christ-like maturity, not to gain your favor which we already have, but to strengthen our relationship with You. Amen.

Friday, January 9, 2009

January 9, 2009

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly in Israel. Luke 1:80

What do the words strong in spirit mean to you? From a Christian perspective, I immediately think of the Holy Spirit. But we often call stubborn, strong-willed, rebellious and often misbehaving children "highly spirited." So, rather than being a positive trait, it is often thought of as a negative one. Perhaps this is what the Bible is referring to rather than the Holy Spirit.

In this case, John, strong in spirit as a child, may have often been in trouble for being independent, for following a different drummer, or for not accepting authority as it was given to him. He was entitled to be a priest just like his father - perhaps to be educated in Jerusalem. Yet we don't have a story of him with the teachers in the temple! In fact, the scripture indicates that he lived in the wilderness long before his adult ministry. Was he forced to do this because of his own stubbornness or life situations?

Perhaps being high spirited can be a good behavior if we look at it from John's perspective.

God, strengthen us with your Spirit whatever our personality traits. Thank you. Amen.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 8, 2009

All who heard them pondered them and said, "What then will this child become?" For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:66

How many parents (and grandparents, too!) look at their child and wonder what they will do with their life. Many times folks have looked at our child and declared that he would follow in our footsteps when he was grown. Any child of someone famous or infamous is already judged in terms of the future and what they will make of themselves.

And here is a verse about John. He has just been born and named by his parents. Now his father, who has been mute for months, begins praising God. His words make everyone who hears him think and wonder about this newborn. Just what will this child be? It is obvious that he has been blessed by God from this moment on. It is evident that God is with him in a special way.

How often do others look at you and see God's hand on you? I mean, John didn't do anything to have God's hand upon him. He was just born! Is God that evident in our own lives? If God didn't do anything to be noticed in the beginning of John's life, then God can be just as evident in our own lives. If that doesn't seem to be happening in your own life., don't blame God - I think God is just as with us as God was with John! So, it must be something we are doing - or are not doing - that prevents God's presence from being recognized in our own lives. May we be able to discern what that is!

Dear God, Thank you for being with us and desiring an evident closeness and influence that could be seen by all. Help us to recognize what we need to do or not do to make that possible. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January 7

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Matthew 2:16

This one verse has always disturbed me. Here we are, just after Christmas - the time of joy for all children - and we have the story of the massacre of the infants. Were the wise men all that wise if they had told all these things to this infamous king who was known for killing his own children? The Greek specifies that only male children were killed but did the soldiers check every child before murdering them? How far out from Bethlehem were children killed? Herod is nothing if not thorough.

Coming out of the holidays reminds us quite brutally of reality - air strikes on Gaza, cholera epidemics in Zimbabwe, and missing children in America. Crime, violence, injustice are all around us. Those who seem wise may not make all the right decisions or confide in the most trustworthy persons. But, despite the thoroughness of evil, we still have hope. God is here in Jesus the Christ. We are not alone in our upheaval and grief.

God, we are surrounded by all the seems hopeless. Remind us this day that you are present with us, in us and through us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 2

The post for January 2 never published. Sorry for this omission. Amelia

“And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it….then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it….How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ [Genesis 28:12, 16-17] “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice….” [Rev. 5:11-12a]

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Luke 2:13-14

And we thought one angel was terrifying! Here is a multitude, the Greek quite literally says a heavenly army, appearing above the heads of the shepherds. Jacob knew the presence of the divine when he dreamed of the angels descending and ascending where he slept and John of Patmos envisions the throne of heaven as surrounded by such a multitude. Without a doubt, the shepherds know that God is very much present.

Take a moment and reflect back on the Christmas season. Where was God present for you in the last few weeks? Probably not as a heavenly army or chorus but God was present. Now perhaps you know what to look for during this New Year.

God, I pray that I can keep my eyes and ears open to your presence throughout this New Year. Amen.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Luke 2:14

Other ancient authorities read: …and on earth, peace, goodwill among people… and the paraphrase The Message puts it like this: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” Obviously, the first part of the angel’s chorus is praise to God. The second part may be a bit more convoluted. Perhaps peace is only for those people that God likes, or maybe peace and goodwill will be abundant for all, or that only those who please God will receive God’s peace. I personally prefer the abundance of peace and goodwill for everyone. That way, I get a gift without having to first get God’s favor.

But, although I know that God loves me without reservation, I do have to respond to that love in order to receive God’s peace. In other words, I must be able to surrender to God before I can receive the peace that passes all understanding. If I am still worried, I have not surrendered all and I am not at peace. If I try to control things and do it all my own way, I will be as far removed from peace as possible. If I know what God asks of me but I do not do that, then God’s peace will be elusive.

To have God’s favor, to please God, to follow as God commands, that is the road to peace and goodwill… for all people.

God, you ask me to surrender. You ask me to follow. You ask me to please you. I pray that I can do so and receive your peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

“’This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:12

The shepherds have just been given a birth announcement and now they are told how to find the child. Now they are to be looking for a Messiah – a savior of God’s people. You would think that they are to go to the nicest house in the neighborhood, maybe at the center of tow or in the newly-wed suite in the inn. But the angel tells them to find the poorest place in the whole village and follow their nose. For the shepherds, this seems to confirm that the angel’s news is to be believed. But what does it do for us? Why would God choose to be born in a smelly cattle shed? Why wasn’t Jesus born to parents who had a little more money? For that reason, why wasn’t Jesus born in a priestly home in Jerusalem? How can we know that this angel is speaking the truth to us?

For the same reason that this Messiah, this Lord and Savior is not like any pre-conceived notions of a savior. This Lord is not going to march on Jerusalem and take power away from Rome through fighting. This Lord is going to save his people by giving away his life to Rome. Blood will be shed but it will be Jesus’ own blood. This is the sign for us and for all the people. This is a different savior, one who is God with us, born not in a palace but in a barn.

God, you do things differently. You didn’t enter the world like everyone thought you should. You entered where you were least expected. Enter in us today – in the least likely places of our poor and messy lives. Amen.