Wednesday, September 23rd
"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day."
To say this year has been different would be an understatement. Our lives have been turned upside down. It is easy to look at what we are missing out on during this time. It is easy to overlook the positive side-effects of this situation. This past Sunday we held outside our annual Rally Day, complete with the start of Sunday School. We started at the beginning with the story of creation and had some great discussions on the first 4 days of creation. Like our Sunday morning services, Sunday School was held outdoors. Different. Blankets, spaced out and a lot of potential for distractions. We could have been missing the more controlled aspect of being in a classroom. It's what we're used to, the classroom is what we know.
The side-effect of being outdoors? After we read about each day of creation, we looked around us. We looked directly at God's beautiful creation and talked about what we saw that was created that day. Unlike a classroom, we were able to take the words of each day of creation and put them into the visible things around us. Students saw the light of day from the 1st day. We saw the sky and clouds created on the 2nd day. We saw grass, trees, flowers and other plants created on the 3rd day. We saw the sun in the sky and talked about how we see the sun in the day and the moon and stars at night, but that sometimes we can still see the moon and stars during the day. This was the fourth day. We saw so much of God's creation around us that we didn't finish all 7 days in one lesson, and that is okay.
It is okay because after every day of God's creation, God saw that it was good! Things may be different, but God's creation is still good! Our Sunday School children are part of God's creation, and God looks at them and says that they are good. God looks at each of us; we are part of this creation and we are good. Just like the Sunday School did this past weekend, look for the good in these different times. They are there and they are good!
Let us pray, as our Sunday School did this past weekend:
God, we thank you for all that you’ve created in this world! Thank you for the sun, moon and stars that shimmer and shine. Thank you for the plants that give us shade, food and help us breathe. Thank you for all of the animals that splish and splash, flutter and tweet, growl, bark and snort, creep and crawl, and for all of the people of the world. Please help us to take care of your special creation! Amen.
Wednesday, September 16th
Gospel of Mark 11: 20-25.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
With everything that is happening in today’s world it comes as no surprise that we may have doubt in our heart about Jesus’ love for us. We pray for peace and for healing, yet it seems that the world continues to see pain and suffering. We may ask ourselves, how do we continue to believe in the everlasting love that God gives to us if it seems that our prayers go unanswered? It may be that God cannot give us what we are asking for because it is not up to him but instead it is up to us. By believing in God and having faith in God’s love our prayers will be answered, but it doesn’t stop there. We must remember to show that same love towards others, to open our hearts towards unity and understanding, so that we may achieve peace within ourselves and around the world.
Lord, thank you that even when you don’t appear to answer our prayers it is out of compassion. Thank you for the lessons that we learn from “unanswered” prayer. Thank you for showing us what true greatness is all about. Help us to devote our lives to your service and to the service of others. Help us to understand that there is no reason to doubt the love you have for us today and always. Amen.
Wednesday, September 9th
--Matthew 18: 1 – 5
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Our God, Jesus and holy spirit are the greatest.
When Jesus called for the little child to come to him and he pointed out to the disciples that unless they were converted as little children, they would not reach heaven, he meant that they needed to be innocent and open to him as the most powerful teacher.
We must all try to be more like a child because their minds are open to new things and God’s wonders.
We should coax the children we know to be mindful of our beloved Father as they grow to adulthood. We must show them sinful ways in this world that we need to avoid.
If we do not do our part where they are concerned, we are in God’s eyes evil and punishment could arise. God wants us to be uplifting teachers in his word and never lead the children astray.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. We are your children, open in mind and heart to be your followers.
Please accept us as humble and loving people who want you in our lives. We shall teach our children in your ways and hope that they believe in you as we do as they grow into adulthood.
Wednesday, September 2nd
5 Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
8 They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Trusting in the Lord is easier said than done many times. We are a society that prides itself on being self-reliant, and needing others is viewed as a weakness. These verses remind us how important it is to put our trust in God. We cannot rely solely on ourselves. We cannot rely on "mere mortals." If we take our focus and hearts away from God, we are no stronger than a shrub in the desert struggling to survive. As we are trying to do everything on our own, we create our own desert around us. We struggle harder to gain the basics necessary to survive.
But when we trust in the Lord and look towards the Lord for our strength, we find that the Lord works through all those around us to support and guide us. Trusting in the Lord is also trusting in those around us that the Lord works through. There is a joke that's circulated around for years that tells of a man on an island waiting for God to rescue him. A boat comes by, and he declines saying God will save him. A plane comes by, and he declines saying God will save him. Eventually God tells him, "what more did you want? I sent you a boat & a plane." I don't know the original source of this joke, but it reminds us that when we trust in God, we must also trust in those he works through. Without trusting those God works through it would be like the tree planted by the water, it's roots reaching the stream but the roots refusing to accept any water from the stream. Like a tree whose roots reach the stream, our roots find support through those around us.
Let us pray:
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
(From Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 76)
Wednesday, August 26th
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9 For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news[b] is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Since the time of this story, society has become more capitalistic and monetary based. But even then, the disciples questioned the woman's actions claiming how the perfume could be sold at a high price and the money be given to the poor. She valued Jesus above the monetary value of the perfume. Her devotion and attention to Jesus above all else is admirable. Her act of faith in anointing Jesus took priority over all else to her. Although stories of Jesus often focus on his aiding the poor, in this story Jesus recognized & appreciated her actions and devotion, despite the criticism of his disciples.
Thinking about it in today's times, it's hard to imagine people showing this level of devotion with how material society has become. Often the question isn't about value that could go to the poor, but even how else we could personally benefit from the value. People question the devotion of time and attention to our faith, to supporting the poor and underprivileged, thinking how else we (or sometimes they) could benefit instead. It's difficult to realize that sometimes the things that have the most value are the ones that are immeasurable in cost. Through grace and our belief in God, we are saved, we are forgiven and we are loved always. We may not be able to anoint Jesus as the woman did, but we can put God as our 1st priority in our actions and words. Our devotion and faith to God and Jesus is priceless.
Let us pray:
Almighty Father, we thank you for all the blessings you provide, especially your unconditional love and grace. Help us to reflect the same devotion in our own lives that the woman in Bethany showed. Amen
Wednesday, August 19th
The Gospel of St. Matthew Ch 8, Verses 1 - 13
Jesus Cleanses a Leper
8 When Jesus[a] had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2 and there was a leper[b] who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy[c] was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” 8 The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one[d] in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.
The meek leper came to the Lord and had great faith in the Lord. He didn't say, Lord I've tried everything else so I'll give you a try. He didn't say, that man over there believes in you, so I came to ask you a favor. HE believed in his heart that Jesus was God's son, filled with supernatural power of God, and that He could heal him. And that is what Jesus did. He healed the leper.
The Centurion was the leader of an army. He was the boss. He had servants. He also had compassion and love for his paralyzed servant. He turned to Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus heals his servant and remarks about his strong faith.
Both the strong and the meek had faith in Jesus more than anything. This shows it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks about Jesus. What matters is YOUR relationship and FAITH in Jesus, son of God.
This also shows that faith is more important than good works, money, or gifts, as Jesus didn't ask for any of these. He healed by FAITH.
Faith is believing before seeing. Faith is going forward in a way that honors God, believing he is with us even though we can't see Him. Father in heaven, help us to increase our faith in Your love and understanding by following the path on which Jesus leads us in the Bible. Direct us to read our Bible, which will strengthen our faith in your love and presence in our lives.
God Bless us all, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Wednesday, August 12th
Jesus Calms a Storm
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Lately it seems that we too are in a storm in the sea of life and that we are drowning from the waves of uncertainty splashing over us. This reading reminds us that Jesus will not let us drown and that our faith is what gives us the strength to know that he is with us at all times…even when we think he might be sound asleep. Our God never sleeps. During every moment of our lives he is watching over us with great love and affection. Jesus will take care of anything which is bothering us, however big or small. Sometimes like the disciples we become frightened and question will Jesus be there to save us? The answer is yes. If you place your trust in him, he will be there for you. It may not always be easy to do because we want control over our own lives, however if we try our best to practice faith and remind ourselves each and every day that the one in control is God, he will calm the seas for us to.
Dear Heavenly Father:
We pray to you and ask that you continue to offer us your love and light as you guide us through some difficult storms. Let us remember that you are always watching over us, even when we feel alone and scared. You Lord, are bigger than any storm we face in this world. You remind us over and over in your Word that you are always with use. Continue to keep us in your loving arms and let our faith in you give us the strength and courage needed to see clearer skies ahead today and always,
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Matthew 15:32-39 - Feeding the Four Thousand
“Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.”
God has given us human beings the ability and intellect to learn from experiences, from history, from science and research, to meet the challenges we have had in the past and now in the present. Jesus loves us, he doesn't want us to be hungry, he cares for our well being, he wants us to live in abundance.
Jesus gave his disciples the daunting task of carrying on the "Good News" after he died on the cross. During the short time Jesus was here on earth, He taught so many lessons that we should live our lives by. Today, we are able to go to church on Sundays to worship services, go on zoom bible studies and can read the Bible at home on our own. By doing these things we continually learn more about how Jesus wants us to live our lives right now.
Jesus' disciples were dumbfounded when He told them to tell the crowd to stay and join them to eat dinner after 3 long days of healing and teaching. To feed 4000 thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish, was a daunting task!
They were saying how can we possibly feed all these people? Then they watched Jesus break the bread and the fish into small pieces, enough to feed them all, and have leftovers besides!
I think this event, recorded in the Bible by Matthew, has been written for us so we will read it year after year, as a way to inspire our faith in God, so we can do things that we think are impossible.
We have been dumbfounded by this pandemic! From week to week guidelines change as researchers learn more about the coronavirus. This is an impossible situation the world is in right now! But, as I read this story of Jesus in the Bible, I feel a sense of hope. I feel confident, and I pray that God has given us human beings the ability to develop a vaccine soon! Enough for everyone and extra to go around!
Jesus loves us, He cares for us and makes the impossible, possible!
Let us Pray:
Give us, your disciples here on earth today, the confidence we need to heal the sick, feed the hungry and be kind to one another. Please help and guide us through this difficult time in our lives so that we will be a blessing to others. Our good works are not nearly done! Help us care for each other's well being and spread the "Good News" in our community and throughout the world.
Wednesday, July 29th
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
The part of this parable that really resonates with me is not just that the tiny mustard seed grows to be "the largest of all garden plants." It's that the plant has "such big branches that birds can perch in its shade." This plant is relentless, but in a good way. It makes me think of the bamboo that my parents had in my yard growing up. (It came with the house when they purchased it). It spread like crazy, and it was difficult to get rid of. Eventually, when my parents decided to remove the bamboo for good, it was an extremely time consuming and complicated process. Merely cutting down the bamboo didn't work; it had to be ripped up by the roots and still, there were more shoots that popped up in their place.
God's love is like this plant, relentless in a good way. We can't stop it or get rid of it, even if we try very hard, even if there are awful life circumstances, like the current pandemic. And back to the branches, they are so large that birds can make their home in them. The large branches that grew from the tiny mustard seed can protect and care for life; the branches give the birds a home. Similarly, God's love protects us and takes care of us and gives us a home, even in the face of difficulties.
Let us pray:
Help us to remember that your love and your word are relentless in a good way and that they will protect us, take care of us and provide us with a home, especially in times of trouble. Amen.