January 19, 2021

Comforting Those Who Mourn

There are some who in their mourning wonder where God is—or even if God exists. But many say that in their pain they feel an acute sense of God's presence
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me... to comfort all who mourn.
Isaiah 61:1-2
Those who mourn are those who see the world through tears. For us, this usually means those who have suffered deep personal loss. Grief has changed the way they experience life. And though time may make the wound less painful, it will never completely heal.
But there are also those whose compassion for people in pain causes them to interpret the world through the suffering of others. These are often the people who work for peace and social justice. People who truly struggle for societal transformation are seldom happy with the way things are.

January 18, 2021

The Two Extremes

We find beauty and meaning in the new theories surrounding the origins of the universe. And yet we also find beauty and meaning in the creation story we find in 
You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.
Nehemiah 9:6
It seems that there are two extremes in the today's world. On the one hand, there are those who embrace the scientific theories and explanations for the origins of the universe, believing that they, by definition, cancel out the idea of a divine Creator. On the other hand we find people of faith who believe that the creation story we find in the Book of Genesis contains scientific fact, meaning that modern scientific research is to be rejected out-of-hand.
And then there are people like me (and virtually everybody in my church): We embrace both the science and the Creator. We find beauty and meaning in the

January 17, 2021

January 17 Worship

Today, I talk a little bit about Ordinary Time and how the Common Lectionary works as an introduction to a message about Nathanael's hesitation to go see Jesus. Here's the order of worship found in the video at the bottom of the page:
  • 00:00 Chimes
  • 00:28 Prélude: Consecrate Anew Today
  • 01:17 Welcome
  • 02:04 Opening Sentence: Psalm 139.14
  • 02:21 Opening Prayer
  • 02:43 Lord's Prayer

Our Superpower

Despite all the miracles and battles and supernatural stuff, I don't reckon the Bible's really all that concerned with superpowers. Or maybe it is, but they're so simple
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10
I once took one of those online quizzes—this one was intended to tell me what my superpower was. It turns out, mine was mind-reading. Despite all the miracles and battles and supernatural stuff, I don't reckon the Bible's really all that concerned with superpowers. Or maybe it is, but they're so simple and commonplace that we don't even notice they're there.
Take Nehemiah 8:10, for example. The people suddenly realize how far astray they've gone from the will of God, and so they weep. But Ezra tells them not to be sad, because they have a superpower. And that superpower is the joy of

January 16, 2021

When the Storms of Life Are Raging

This prayer was not just for the few who were with him then, but for all of us who follow him still. It's very reassuring to know that Christ prayed for 
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Psalm 121:5-6
In the earliest days of Christianity, disciples of Christ expected his return any day—any hour. And yet they still lived their lives and participated in the world around them as Christians should. Two thousand years later, some believe that we should remove ourselves from society in order to keep ourselves pure.
The desire to follow Jesus in this way is admirable. But in a way, it sometimes hints at a distrust of God, who keeps us safe and helps us when we're surrounded by danger. 

In John's gospel, one of the last things Jesus did before the crucifixion was

January 15, 2021

Everybody's Doing It

Trust God and be mature in your dealings with others. Since the beginning, we've had a tendency to do what everybody else is doing. What the immature mind 
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:6
"If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"
I'll bet I'm not the only kid who heard that from their parents when I asked to do something by saying, "Everybody else is doing it." The problem was, when they asked me about jumping off a bridge, I thought it sounded fun. Since then, I've seen plenty of videos where it actually looked fun.
Jumping off a bridge is overrated by children, obviously. It's actually dangerous—suicidal, even. When all is said and done, our parents were right: Jumping off bridges is inadvisable.

January 14, 2021

The Proper Order of Things

Read the Bible through different eyes—eyes that acknowledge that these other gods exist in our lives. Then, to say that our God is
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:2-3
There is only one God. But there are many gods. In ancient times these other gods were acknowledged as divinities. In some places they still are. They are often associated with statues, images, or natural phenomena such as trees, mountains,  and bodies of water. We judge the people who worship them as superstitious, or even uncivilized.
But at least they're honest enough to acknowledge their gods as gods. People in our culture—even those belonging to our religion—also have a variety of gods. Only we call them wealth, or possessions, or technology, or positions of influence. We worship