Archive for January, 2014

1 Peter 1:13-21

January 23, 2014

13Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

 17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.  1 Peter 1:13-21

 

In the earliest days of Alcoholics Anonymous, before there was a big book and 12 steps, there was a movement in the church to reclaim and recapture the heartbeat of the earliest church.  Dr. Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister, was the founder of what was initially known as the First Century Christian Fellowship, later as the Oxford Group.

 

It was a simple plan – gathering in small groups, reading the Bible, surrendering their lives to God, and devoting themselves to what they called the four Absolutes.

 

Absolute honesty.  Absolute purity.  Absolute unselfishness.  And absolute love.

 

Dr. Buchman, building on earlier work by Robert Speer, believed that these four moral absolutes are what drove Jesus and his followers in finding their way through life.  They directed their decisions and behaviors.

 

People in AA today are often quick to say that their goal is progress, not perfection.  But that isn’t how it started.  It started with the desire for absolute perfection in attaining and living by the four absolutes.  Of course, no one could do that.  But that wasn’t the point.  People were taught to strive for perfection – and no sooner does one do that then they quickly realized they couldn’t do it on their own.  They needed God’s help.  The resulting humility, and the continued surrender to God, was the point.

 

I think this is exactly what Peter is after here in calling us to discipline, obedience, and holiness.  It is much like friendship – we don’t get friends by wanting them, we get them by being friendly.  Friends are the byproduct we discover along the way.  So it is with the grace of God.  It isn’t an idea but a power that amazes us.

 

Let us pray:  Like a loving parent, discipline us, O God.  Make us mindful of the little gods who are not gods – including our own selfishness and pride – that disconnect us from you and those around us.  We let go today and trust that you will take care of us and our needs as we focus only on surrender and being useful to others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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Isaiah 53:1-12

January 22, 2014

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

 

4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

 

6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

 

10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 

 

12Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.  Isaiah 53:1-12

 

This past Sunday we heard the passage from John where John the Baptist tells his disciples, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  Today, from Isaiah, we hear what that means.

 

No pain we have ever faced or caused, no sin we have ever committed or suffered, no loneliness has overcome us, no shame has ever taken us into the depth of despair, that wasn’t laid upon the back and deep into the soul of Jesus.  He has gone wherever we have, has tasted all that we mistakenly thought was sweet, and he has taken it all into himself.

 

Why has he done this?  Because he loves us with a love that defines love.  He has done this for our healing, for all that is needful to open life’s door to us.

 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”

 

Let us pray:  Our sin, your stripes.  Our disobedience, willfulness, pride, and selfishness.  Your love.  O Lord, may that love sink ever deeper into our bones.  May it spring forth in gratitude, in hunger for healing, in tolerance, in forgiveness, in peace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Exodus 12:1-13

January 21, 2014

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 

 

7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 

 

11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.  Exodus 12:1-13

 

Most of us can’t remember the first time that we read these verses nor can we remember the last time.  We don’t spend much time reading from Exodus.  We know the story, but we seldom revisit it. 

 

As Christians, we notice the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb and the blood on the doorposts.  We immediately connect those images to Jesus, sacrificed for us, blood shed for us.  The earliest Christians made the same connection.  It brought meaning to the death of Jesus.  It tied the “way it was” to the new way it would be.  It became the story that made their story make sense.  It remains all of those things for us.

 

But this morning I’m noticing other parts of the story.  I’m noticing how this is a corporate, communal, story.  It was a story for the entire congregation of Israel, about “us and God” rather than “me and God.”  It was also a story enacted in people’s homes rather than a common building.  Around their tables with family and friends.

 

And it is a story of preparation as much as protection.  It wasn’t just about escaping the angel of death but about preparing for the wilderness that none of the people realized would be their future.  Dreams of a quick trip to a land of milk and honey would fall away to the reality of a long, slow, painful, walk of being tried, tested, and shaped by the same God who was their protector and liberator.

 

It is a story, in other words, that flies in the face of the temptation of modern Christians to trade authentic Christianity for a “individualistic fast food franchised God wants you to be wealthy and successful helpful hints to an easy life” hobby.  It is a story we need to remember.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you are the Lamb of God.  You are the one who gave himself for us.  You are our Savior.  May we be ever ready to follow you, even into the wilderness of our sin, our anxieties, our fears.  May we be ever ready to surrender to obedience.  And to seek you as you come to us through the people with whom we share our lives.  In Jesus’ name.   Amen.

Romans 6:1-11

January 16, 2014

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

 

 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Romans 6:1-11

 

This is an important text – so important that we begin every funeral service by quoting from it.  It captures the shape of the Christian life.  We die to our selves in baptism and spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out what that means.

 

From God’s point of view, it seems that baptism is the end of keeping score.  Baptism is the death of the old “sacrifice something to appease God” system.  Baptism is being joined to Jesus – his death is our death, his victory is our victory, his presence is our strength. 

 

It seems so simple from God’s point of view.

 

But for us?  This is the journey of a lifetime.

 

Paul says that we are to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  To “consider ourselves” means to think about ourselves from a particular perspective.  And that perspective is to recognize that a life that is meaningful, purposeful, full, and free can only be found by walking a path in the footsteps of Jesus, who we follow through resurrection to life.

 

And what does that mean?  It means the shape of our lives will always follow the shape of baptism – dying to ourselves, to our agendas, to our desires – that God might raise us up to be the people God designed us to be.  Simply stated, this is really really simple and really really hard.

 

So hard, in fact, that we can’t pull it off forever.  At best, we can only do it one day at a time and often there only one moment at a time.  Here is how Martin Luther put it in the Small Catechism:

 

What does Baptism mean for daily living?  It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.”

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, make us mindful today of all the ways that we get into own way, all the little shortcuts we take that make the journey even longer, all of our needless  strivings that only rob us of the joy of life.  We surrender our lives to your will, give us the power to follow as you lead.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Acts 8:26-40

January 15, 2014

26Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 

 

30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

 

 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.  Acts 8:26-40

 

I love this story.  God sending Philip out into the middle of nowhere to find an African eunuch reading Isaiah while traveling home after a visit to Jerusalem – that is just crazy.  A one in a million shot in the dark.  One person would say, “merely a coincidence”; a person of faith might say, “obviously a God-incident.”

 

Look back at your own life.  Look back at the chance encounters, the little comments here and then, the people who float through your life.  Look back and you will see a chain of strange events that have marked you, that still dog you, that make you who you are.

 

Can you see God at work through all of it?

 

The Ethiopian is intrigued by his reading.  He is informed but without understanding.  He had worshipped at Jerusalem (that is, like visiting the Empire State Building in New York, what you do when you are there) but he remained an outsider.  Eunuchs aren’t allowed in the inner circles of the temple.  He no doubt “stuck out” as a black man.  And now he finds himself reading about another man who “in his humiliation justice was denied him.”

 

And to this man, God sends Philip.  There is water.  There is baptism.  There is new life.  There is an amazing story.

 

Who has been Philip in your life?  Who has helped you, not just more clearly see Jesus, but more clearly see the Jesus who loves YOU?

 

Let us pray:  Thank you, gracious Lord, for the mysterious ways that you weave through our lives.  The surprising encounters, the revealing conversations, the voices of those who offer us guidance and encouragement.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Ezekiel 36:22-28

January 14, 2014

22Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. 24I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

 

25I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.27I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.  Ezekiel 36:22-28

 

How best do we glorify God?

 

I can’t remember the when and the where but I once heard a guy answer this question very simply – “We glorify God when we live our lives in such a way that God looks good to the world.

 

The more I thought about it, the more I liked that answer.  The more times I remember hearing people berate God because of the behaviors of the godly, the more I like the idea that we glorify God when we live our lives in such a way that God looks good to the world.

 

But that isn’t easy.  Especially if we think we can do it on our own.  We can’t.  There is always going to be too much “us” in the way.  If we are truly going to glorify God, we are going to need a heart transplant.  We need to decrease, so God can increase.

 

Fortunately, God knows that about us and God has prepared a way for us.  God has taken matters into God’s own hands.  Read closely again this passage from Ezekiel.  Circle the capital letter “I” every time it appears.  What do you see then?

 

You see God doing for Israel what Israel cannot do for itself.  Israel has been chosen to represent God’s name in the world and they have bungled the job.  Just as we do.  But God didn’t choose Israel for Israel’s sake, God chose Israel for the sake of the world.  Just as God has chosen us for the sake of the world.

 

So God is going to do a holy makeover.  God is going to restore Israel, replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.  God is going to clean them up and set their new hearts on a new path of obedience.  God is going to do what would happen in the hearts of the disciples of Jesus after the resurrection – they would be given new life.  In all of that, and in the life that follows, God will be glorified.

 

Let us pray:  Be glorified in us, O Lord.  As we seek forgiveness, as we work toward reconciliation, as we do our daily work, as we seek neither to be above nor to bow before any other people, may those around us see the beating heart of love that you are birthing in us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Psalm 18:27-30

January 10, 2014

For you deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.  It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.  By you I can crush a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.  This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.  Psalm 18:27-30

 

Last night in a meeting at church, one of my friends was making a point and they said, “The Bible says, ‘Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.”  He was making a fine point but I chuckled to myself.  (The Bible doesn’t say that.  It was actually Polonius’ speech to Laertes in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.)

 

We do that sort of stuff all the time.  We often operate, not on what the Bible actually says, but on what we THINK the Bible says.  Most of the time that probably doesn’t matter.  Our motives are OK and our actions might not be terribly consequential.

 

But sometimes it matters.  A lot.  Because words DO matter.  A LOT.

 

God helps those who help themselves.”  Lots of people think the Bible says that too.  But it doesn’t.  While it is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin and “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, the sentiment is much older and Franklin got it from someone else.

 

God helps those who help themselves.”  Certainly there are times when that is true.  But we can’t take it too far.  We aren’t robots.  But we also aren’t gods.  Sure, our cars don’t drive themselves.  We need to get behind the wheel, turn the key, make it go where we want it to go.  But we don’t have to imagine a “car”, design it, manufacture it, build it, and deliver it.  We play our part, but only our part.

 

This next line isn’t directly from the Bible either, but I think it is true.  “Sometimes, God helps people who are ready to receive the help that God would give them.”  Here too, we can’t take this too far either.  We all know plenty of people who are in need of dire help, are eager for the help, are willing to do anything to get the help, but the help they need just isn’t going to be there.  There path isn’t about getting rid of the problem but about dealing with the reality of a problem that isn’t going to go away….what will we do now?

 

Now this line IS from the Bible:  For you deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. 

 

Humility – honestly facing the reality of life, not pretending to be someone we are not, openly vulnerable to the chances and changes of life – puts us in a position to be delivered.  But haughtiness?  Thinking we have the world by the tail, that we don’t need anyone or anything else, that WE know exactly what we need and what we need to do to fix whatever is ailing us – haughtiness closes the door to God’s deliverance.

 

In lots of different ways, that is exactly what the Bible says.

 

Let us pray:  Deliver us, O God, from evil.  Deliver us from self-centeredness, in all the forms it takes.  Deliver us from fear, with its sneakiness and its weight.  Keep us open to you, open to newness, open to possibilities, open to the new life you would give us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Psalm 18:15-24

January 9, 2014

Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.  He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters. 

 

He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

 

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.  For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.  For all his ordinances were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.  I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.  Psalm 18:15-24

 

Again we hear the impassioned plea of the psalmist for the deliverance from his enemies, from those who hated him, from those before whom he was powerless.

 

He says that his enemies “confronted him in the day of his calamity” but the “Lord was his support.”  We can count on both sides of that sentence.

 

There will always be much in life against which we stand powerless, frustrated with, confounded by.  The troubled or sick child, the job offer that isn’t coming quickly enough, the disease that threatens to take a life too young, the culture that doesn’t work the way we want it to.  Don’t we always have at least something ringing in our ears, some subtle voice threatening gloom and doom, some real life challenge that we have no choice but to face?

 

And isn’t it the case that those “enemies”, those things that feel like they are stealing the joy of our lives, always seem to gang up on us?  Just when we think it couldn’t get worse, we realize it can.  When one trouble comes in the door, another sneaks in the window.  I know that is how life often feels for me.

 

Yet, says the psalmist, and yet do I cling, to the good news that “The Lord is my support.”  God is bigger than anything that would trouble us.  God is stronger than anything that would assail us.  God, at the end of the day, always gets the last word.  God holds the trump cards of the cosmos.  And this God, says the psalmist, “delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

 

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?  That God delights in us.

 

But then the psalmist and I have to part ways.  In the next passage, he attributes God’s deliverance to the psalmist’s own righteousness, cleanliness, and blamelessness.  I can’t go there.  If my deliverance is conditional upon my own righteousness, cleanliness, and blamelessness then I am sunk.  Because I just don’t have enough, and will never have enough, of any of that stuff in me. 

 

But here is what I can do, and so can you – we can trust that God takes delight in us, regardless of how delightless we are.  We can do the next right thing in our life.  We can take one moment at a time, doing only what we can in that moment, to do what we can with what we have.  And we can trust that to be enough.

 

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, it is a beautiful thing to hear that you take delight in us.  A beautiful thing to know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that you come and dwell within and among us.  May our identity in you, and your presence in us, see us through the calamities which threaten us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Psalm 18:7-14

January 8, 2014

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.  Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.  He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 

 

He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water.  Out of the brightness before him there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice.  And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.  Psalm 18:7-14

 

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

 

Psalm 18 begins with a prayer of love and trust, a confession of need, and then, like a sudden change of scenery in an action movie where the music blasts and everything starts moving at warp speed, the whole tone of the psalm shifts.

 

God is suddenly so angry the earth rocks and reels, the foundations of the mountains tremble.  BOOM!!!

 

The God who was so recently praised as rock and deliverer suddenly appears as wickedly terrifying as any fire breathing dragon in the dreams of a young child who watched too much of the wrong kind of TV.  Smoke from God’s nostrils and fire from God’s mouth.  Flying down from heaven on the wings of an angel – fire, smoke, burning coals, bursts of lightning.  God of Marvel Comics.

 

Shocked by this image, we can’t help but wonder, along with the psalmist, is THIS the God we pray to?  More to the point, is the sudden arrival of THIS terrifying image a good thing or a bad thing?  Is help on the way or am I doomed?

 

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

 

Sometimes – like seeing Jesus hanging on a cross – or remembering the darkest moment of your life, now long past, but remembering it as you see it now, as a turning point – or seeing something holy in the smiling face of a desperately sick child – we realize again that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

 

And then we see another glance that God is showing up, not to push the red button of our demise and punishment, but to join the battle against the powers of sin, death, and all that assails us.  Cosmic language.  Maybe even poetic, written in bold colors.  For such is the only language that captures the wonder of God at work.  Even in the darkest of times.

 

Let us pray:  Fight on, God of our salvation, against all that would separate us from your love, from the life that you give us, that would sow chaos into the beauty of your creation.  Fight on, as we face darkness and dread and sickness and all that lies to us and challenges us.  Fight on, and we will join the fight as well.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.   

Psalm 18:1-6

January 7, 2014

I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.

 

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.

 

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.  Psalm 18:1-6

 

OOOHHH, did I get sick on Saturday night!  I’m not sure what hit me but it hit me good.  After spending most of the night in a room other than our bedroom, I texted our associate pastor and told him that I wouldn’t be able to preach on Sunday morning.  That was only the second or third time I have done that in all my years in the parish but never was I so grateful to have a partner than this weekend.

 

I feel significantly better this morning.  I’m not all the way back but I’m far enough to think back, just two days ago, when I couldn’t remember what it felt like to feel good.

 

And I did call upon God in the midst of my distress.  I don’t like skipping church when I am supposed to be there.  I don’t like letting our people down.  I don’t like not doing my part.  And I don’t like feeling sick.  So I called upon God…and I called Pastor Tan.

 

Sunday happened just fine without me.  I watched our worship service via the Internet as I had joined the ranks of the homebound for the day.  And I started to get better.

 

Last night I realized that I had felt so bad on Sunday and Monday that I didn’t make coffee.  Just the idea of drinking a cup of coffee turned my stomach.  That is NOT me.  Rare is the time that anyone who knows me has seen me without a cup of coffee near at hand.  I can’t remember the last time that a day passed without coffee.  I dread those days when I have to get my blood checked because I know those are mornings without coffee.

 

But this morning I left the house with a glass of ice water.  I’m going to see what another day without coffee feels like.  I know this is no big deal in the grand scheme of things but it is a big deal to me.  One of my hopes coming in to this new year was letting go of my dependence on coffee.  I didn’t intend to start that so quickly, or under these circumstances, but maybe that is going to be what it takes for me.

 

I think that might be how it works when we call upon God, our Rock, our Fortress, our Deliver.  It might be that help comes in unexpected ways.  It might be that calling on the God we cannot see might be just what we need to get the strength and courage to call on the human beings that God puts in our way to help us.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, thank you for listening to us when we pour our hearts out to you.  Thank you for coming to us through people who can help us.  And thank you for deliverance from that which binds us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.