Thursday, March 22, 2018

Promises of the Lord

Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own—who is our master?” 

“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”
The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind.
—Psalm 12:5-6

I don't know much about refining silver, but I can't help but imagine that the "furnace on the ground" makes the silver extremely hot in order to burn away all the impurities. Maybe that's what's happening right now. Things look bad. The greedy are publicly groaning with pleasure as they despoil the poor and the sick and the downtrodden. But God's promises are no less pure than they were when the 12th Psalm was written. There is a refuge of safety for those who are now vulnerable. And because it is not gilded and garishly labeled with the name of the rich and famous, the powerful won't go there. Whatever happens to them, they will have chosen their lot, for simplicity was as repugnant to them as was the proximity of those who were not like them.

Lord, may I in this life choose service to others and the safety of your love over fame and fortune and power and ease; in Jesus' Name. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

One Day At A Time: Porter & Dolly

Flee Like a Bird

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains; for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
—Psalm 11

What is the foundation of my world? Is it what I own? my politics? my job? my family or friends? Any of these things can be diminished, taken away, or even destroyed. Will that then leave me without hope?

In the 11th Psalm, the writer's world is called into question by others. The response? Well, I guess it's what inspired Robert Browning to write, "God's in his heaven—all's right with the world!" It's a reminder that my foundation doesn't lie beneath me, but above me, for my foundation is God. When discouragement comes, the person of faith may acknowledge a cause for discouragement, but need not give in. Faithfulness leads to hope, and hope leads to acts of love and justice.

Help me not to be dejected, Lord, but instead to place my trust in you. May my faith lead me from discouragement to hope, and from hope to courage, in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Here I Pause in My Sojourning

Here I pause  in my sojourning,  giving thanks  for having come, 
come to trust, at every turning, God will guide me safely home.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (New Century Hymnal version)

Justice for the Orphan

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.  
—Psalm 10:17-18

The Law of God repeatedly protects the poor. The prophets condemn those who transgress that Law. The apostles command that the poor be ministered to. And Christ himself lives a life of poverty, calling others to become poor for the sake of his gospel. But nowhere is God's love for the least among us more evident than in the psalms. Here we see not only God's love for them, but God's promise that their mistreatment will not be tolerated forever. 

In this new reality in which we find ourselves, where the rich not only openly rob the poor, but rape the very earth they depend on for their future, it is difficult to believe that the psalmist could be right—that God's justice will come. But God's answer is found not only in words on a page, but in the Word made flesh. In Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection, we see not only God's love for the downtrodden, but a new reality in which God's chosen cannot be defeated by the powers of manipulation, greed, or hatred.

Strengthen the hearts of your little ones, O God. Listen to their prayers, bring about justice for the orphan and the oppressed, and take away from them the terror of those whose gains come at the expense of the creation given for the nurture and benefit of all; in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Christ Is in the Ship

There is one thing we are lacking: to believe that the Almighty God is our Father and our Lord. To believe that for God, our greatest cares are like the worries of small children in their parents’ eyes; that God can turn things around and dispose of them in no time at all; for God it’s easy, not hard at all. We must believe that a thousand years in God’s sight are like a day [Ps. 90:4], that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts [Isa. 55:8–9], that God is with us in spite of everything. Let us receive the call of the church once again: You of little faith, why are you so fearful? In the midst of the storm, Christ is in the ship. Away with you, Fear! Let us see you, Lord Jesus, strong helper, Savior!
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Let Them Be Caught

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.  
—Psalm 10:1-3

Thousands of years later and the wicked still arrogantly persecute the poor. Large corporations have packed all three branches of government with their own and those who will do their bidding. The laws and regulations that once protected the downtrodden, the environment, and those who have no access to the halls of power are being dismantled with amazing speed. It's hard not to pray with the psalmist, "Let them be caught in the schemes they have devised." 

What's worse, is that while "the wicked boast," those who claim to be followers of Christ look on approvingly, giving their blessing to injustice, immorality, and oppression. While proudly proclaiming the Lord's Name with their voices, they renounce God with their actions and attitudes. 

Give me faith, O God, to believe, though the wrong seem oft so strong, that this world still belongs to you, that you are the Ruler yet, and that my actions must still conform to your coming Kingdom—not to the evil that surrounds me; in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Psalm 137

I talked about the 137th Psalm today in my sermon, which can't help but make me think of this song from my childhood.

Two Answered Prayers: Yes and No

The Poor Shall Not Be Always Forgotten

The collusion between religious leaders and the rich who laugh at
the poor  will soon  fall apart  like a house  of cards  in a hurricane.

For the poor shall not be always forgotten: the hope of the afflicted shall not perish forever.  
—Psalm 9:18

Rich secularists have always paid little heed to the poor. And when they do, it seems to be in order to use them for their own purposes. But when people calling themselves Christians lose sight of who they are and Whose they are, when they forget that Jesus' ministry was with, among, and for the poor—that Jesus himself was poor!—then how can we not get discouraged? Where is the hope of the poor, if those who are called to identify with them instead ignore them—or even scoff at them?

But the promise of the 9th Psalm is the promise of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection: Though it may seem that the hope of the downtrodden has finally surrendered to despair, that the life of the suffering has ended in death, and that the light of justice has in the end been snuffed out, Look! a new morning dawns: Hope is alive! God has not forgotten!

The promise of Easter is not a new suit and a glorious worship service. It is the promise that the coming Kingdom is at hand, that the tables will soon be turned, and that the collusion between religious leaders and the rich who laugh at the poor will soon fall apart like a house of cards in a hurricane.

Of course I pray that I never forget the poor, O God. But dare I pray for poverty itself—that I actually live like the One whose Name I have taken on myself? In his Name, help me to pray aright. Amen.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Irish Blessing

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A Stronghold

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  
—Psalm 9:9
I always find it interesting that nonbelievers often use the suffering of others as their excuse for not believing in God. But those who are doing the actual suffering are the ones who are most likely to put their faith in God. 

I pray not to avoid the troubles of the world, O God, but rather for the faith to place my trust in you when they come. Amen.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What Are Human Beings?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  
—Psalm 8:3-4
The universe that the psalmist knew was far smaller than ours, and yet she or he recognized that, when compared to its vastness, human beings were just a speck in they eye of God. Too often, today's people believe all things must serve human life—especially those who call themselves pro-life—for they care nothing for the lives of non-humans or the planet we live on, let alone the galaxies that exist beyond the reach of human power.

Psalm 8 should teach us humility, for truly we are miniscule creatures. But once we have acknowledged this, the same psalm can teach us dignity, for the vastness of God has chosen us to receive love and grace beyond description.  

I acknowledge to you, Lord, my smallness in the scheme of things. Who am I that I dare bother you with my prayers or ask you to take notice of me? And yet, you ask me to come to you, and you do listen. Thank you for your greatness and thank you for your kindness; in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Famous INFP's

Mischief Returns

Their mischief returns upon their own heads, and on their own heads their violence descends.
—Psalm 7:16

Karma is a relatively common theme in the Bible, exemplified by Psalm 7. The psalmist takes refuge in God, but from what? From the violent who would do her or him harm. Those who take refuge in God can expect safety, but the arrogant who would do anything to get ahead will meet the same end that they have meted out to others.

It's easy to blame others for my predicament, of course, but it's harder to see that sometimes I'm the one who gets ahead at another's expense. That's why I need not only to count my blessings, but also to think about where that blessing came from, whom besides God I should thank, and what it might have cost another person or group of people to provide something that makes my life better or easier.

As I count my blessings, O God, help me to be thankful for the hands and the lives of those who make my life easier. Help me to work for a more just society where the labor of the poor is appreciated as much as wealth, and where all are rewarded for their work. Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

π in the Ski

Happy π Day!


The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.  
—Psalm 7:8

All I can say is, "Thank God for grace." For can I really pray with the psalmist that I be judged for my integrity—I, whose heart is so divided between God's values and the values of the world? I am too often so dependent on my possessions that I make an idol of material things and the money used to buy them. And yet, this prayer that exposes me still needs to be my prayer, for I should not be satisfied with things as they are, I cannot settle for life in the dust, and I dare not lower my prayers to bless my current condition.

Judge me, O God, according to my knowledge of what is right and according to the sincerity of my heart. And may your judgment raise me up to life according to your will. Yet through it all, I thank you for the grace that makes me aware of my shortcomings, the grace that forgives me my sin, and the grace that makes me holy, in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Turn, O Lord

Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you.  
—Psalm 6:4-5a

If my greatest happiness is found in God, then my profoundest hope is that, in Christ, death has been destroyed. For in death, there is no knowledge of God, and there would be no happiness beyond life as we know it.  Therefore I pray with Augustine: 

Everlasting God, in whom I live and move and have my being: You have made me for yourself, and my heart is restless until it find rest in you. Visit my heart and make there a dwelling for yourself that you may live in me and I in you, forever and ever. Amen.
Augustine of Hippo