June 16, 2021
A Tree and Its Fruit
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
Jesus often used parables and analogies to help us better understand principles. When Jesus is talking about a good tree bearing fruit, it is not just about the tree, it is about the principle that a person with a good heart produces good results in the world. It's a reminder for us to be conscious and aware of what is true in our heart. All of our words and actions are sourced from our mindset, our heart, our soul. When we focus our hearts and minds on the irrelevant material ways of the world, our actions and words follow. But when we center our hearts and minds on God and Jesus, our actions and words reflect that. As we put God as our priority and main focus, the task of loving our neighbors becomes easier and almost inevitable. We see then that we are all God's beloved children and are more aware of the beauty of God's creation all around us.
Almighty Creator, We are surrounded by your breathtaking creation which includes our very being. Sadly, our minds and hearts get easily distracted. We ask that you help to center us today, helping us to put you as our priority, focus and guide for all that we do today. Help our words and actions today to reflect a loving heart devoted to you! Amen.
June 9th, 2021
14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists[a] cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Have you ever noticed how ridiculous some of the things demanded of Jesus are? He just cast out a demon, and here they are demanding a sign from heaven, as if he did not just help a mute man speak. As the crowds were amazed, people tried to undermine Jesus and divide the following he is developing. He is a man who is clearly capable of doing things well above what they have seen before, or are capable of themselves. To those accustomed to being in power, that can be threatening. So they accuse him of casting out demons by Beelzebul, or Satan. But Jesus doesn't fall into this trap, instead responding about how kingdoms divided fall. If Jesus' power came from Satan, then what purpose would there be to him casting out demons? It would be as useful as a kingdom divided fighting against itself. But Jesus is really the kingdom of God coming to us, the stronger man coming to save us, saying that "whoever is not with me is against me".
It makes me wonder in today's world, how many of us are really truly with Jesus. We see all around our country and the world, even within Christianity, the damage that divisions cause. We are surrounded by falling houses. Jesus wants us to be united with him. But what does that mean? It comes down to the greatest commandments that Jesus told us in Matthew 12:30-31: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself;" If we are putting God and our neighbors as our priorities in our lives, then our actions with others will be unified in Christ.
Let us pray (from Bread for the Day):
O Ruler of heavens and the earth, we have so often been caught up in the division. Unite us in our service to you. Drive out our own personal demons and lead us on the path of healing in your name. Amen
May 26, 2021
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
One Body with Many Members
"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. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
We are born children of God, all of us, children of God, individual members but collectively the body of Christ. We are not born with the divisions in society already in our minds, but they are taught from a young age and built into our way of thinking. Racism, sexism, gender expectations, classism, religious biased, and all of the other ways that we are taught to judge others in society are no different than the eye trying to tell the hand that it has no need of it.
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."
We are all connected and when our neighbors are suffering, we also are suffering. It is up to us to acknowledge and fight against these divisions, to be compassionate towards those who are suffering. It is up to us to realize that we, as a whole, are the body of Christ. We don't pick and choose which members are included. We are all God's children; God loves and includes each and every one of us! In recognizing this, we then can honor and rejoice, celebrating the differences in God's creation.
God of creation, you have uniquely created each and every one of us in your image, our differences a reflection of all aspects of you. May the Spirit strengthen us to stand up when we see others suffering, raise our voices against injustices and open our hearts and eyes to see and celebrate all of your creation. Amen
Wednesday, May 19th
17One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 19but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. 20When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 24But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the one who was paralyzed—” I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” 25Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
There are many stories about Jesus healing people in the Gospel narratives. He showed no partiality, healing all kinds of illnesses, men, women, children, fellow Jews, and Gentiles. This story is unique in the effort it took for the paralyzed man’s friends to get him close to Jesus. Imagine dismantling a roof (arguably easier when it is made of mud and reeds!) to get access to Jesus. Although we are not dismantling roofs, here at Calvary we diligently pray for the many people we know who need God’s healing power. We thank God for those who work in medicine and pray that God grants them wisdom to enable healing.
Loving God, we pray for all those who need your healing and loving care. Guide the hands of surgeons, the minds of those who prescribe treatment and the hearts of those who provide care and support for everyone receiving treatment and in recovery. Grant courage and strength to them and their loved ones and empower us to offer nurture and sustenance to those in need. We offer our thanks for your constant presence and love. Amen.
Wednesday, May 5th
Peter’s Denial Foretold
26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.
Peter is truly devoted to Jesus and adamant that he will not deny Jesus. And although well intentioned, this is a promise that he does not keep. Jesus knew this, knew that no matter how much Peter said "I will not deny you" that when it came down to it, he would. Jesus didn't say this would happen maliciously, or hold it against Peter, but more of as a statement of fact that this will happen. Later on, when Peter denies Jesus, hears the rooster crow, he cries, repenting realizing what he did. Peter's denial wasn't the end of his discipleship and following of Jesus. Peter continued on to be one of the early leaders of the church!
I'm sure we've all encountered someone like Peter and have also at times been like Peter. We make promises that we cannot possibly keep. Sometimes to make people feel better, sometimes to make ourselves feel better. Well intentioned, like Peter, but still just as incapable of following through. We try to take on more than we possibly have time in a day for. We try to live up to the example that Jesus set for us. But we are not Jesus, and no matter how good intentioned we may be, we are going to fall short at times. Like Peter, when we realize this we will feel bad, possibly cry and maybe feel that we are not enough. We often hold ourselves to higher standards and fail to recognize the need for self-compassion. But Jesus understood this about Peter and about us. He understands that no matter our devotion and our commitment, we are fallible. Just as Peter acknowledged his denial, repented and stepped up, so should we. What matters more than that we fall, is what we do when we get back up.
Lord Jesus, you know that although we try too hard to follow your example, we often fall short. We don't always do or say the right thing. We can be blind to all the injustices around us and our actions don't always match our words. We ask that you help us to learn and grow from our errors, help us to see the example and path you set before us each time we get back up and we ask that you help us to have compassion for those around us and also for ourselves. Amen.