Friday, March 31, 2017

Live for love

Morning: Psalms 102; Jeremiah 23:1-8; Romans 8:28-39
Evening: Psalms 107:1-32; John 6:52-59
Good shepherds give their lives to the well-being of the sheep. Jesus said he was the good shepherd, showing how much God loves us; Paul says nothing can come between God’s love and us.  Now maybe it is a little confusing to hear Jesus talk about people consuming his flesh and blood?  This is a powerful metaphor with a deeper meaning … if we take in all that God offers to us in Jesus (drink it in, chew it over) we will know that love is what matters most, and then, perhaps we will choose to live for love too.

Graham

Thursday, March 30, 2017

When the Spirit leads …

Morning: Psalms 69:1-38; Jeremiah 22:13-23; Romans 8:12-27
Evening: Psalms 73; John 6:41-51
The prophet is clear – God does not tolerate injustice, but sweeps it away.  Similarly, God does not tolerate “deeds of the flesh.”  St. Paul doesn’t mean sex. By “deeds of the flesh” he means devotion to things of passing value.  Whereas, the Spirit helps us live for what really matters. Jesus says that whoever eats the bread he gives will live forever.  That is, when the Spirit leads your life, what you’re living for will never be swept away.

Graham

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The potter’s feast

Morning: Psalm 101, 109:1-30; Jeremiah 18:1-11; Romans 8:1-11
Evening: Psalms 119:121-144; John 6:27-40
I am awed by the idea that we are like clay vessels shaped by hands of a potter.  I am astounded that there is in us a powerful life energy set free by the Spirit who gives life to these clay pots of ours.  We are formed of earth and we return to the earth, but in the meantime, we are remarkable, aren’t we? I am grateful that the potter offers to sustain and feed our souls in this ‘meantime’ with the bread of life. A feast if ever there was!

Graham

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sabbath time … it’s about priorities

Morning: Psalms 97, 99; Jeremiah 17:19-27; Romans 7:13-25
Evening: Psalms 94; John 6:16-27
They say Sabbath is a day of rest, but it is far more.  It is time (a day, part of a day, or an hour, not necessarily Saturday or Sunday) … time to get our priorities straight and let God be God.  Sabbath is time in which we stop trying to control events and, instead, leave control to God.  Jesus taught that we spend too much time working for perishable stuff.  Sabbath is time set aside for us to remember that our souls need more than bread.

Graham

Monday, March 27, 2017

Stop settling for less!

Morning: Psalms 89:1-18; Jeremiah 16:10-21; Romans 7:1-12
Evening: Psalms 89:19-52; John 6:1-15
God’s ancient people worshipped idols; but they believed he would still bring them back to himself. In the Bible God repeatedly reaches out to invite humanity to walk in the power of the Spirit. When Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves and fish, they misunderstood and wanted to make him king.  Jesus wanted much more for them than that.  He wanted them to know the power of God, and to stop settling for less.

Graham

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Do good because you want to

Morning: Psalm 66, 67; Jeremiah 14:1-9, 17-22; Galatians 4:21-5:1
Evening: Psalms 19, 46; Mark 8:11-21
The people of Israel always hoped in God’s promise that they would never be slaves again. But, ironically, they became slaves to God’s Law! The Pharisees guarded the Commandments so zealously that Jesus likened their zeal to bad yeast that would spoil the nation. Slavery thinks that obeying the Law makes us good – but we all fail miserably at that.  Freedom honours the Law without becoming its slave and finds goodness in communion with God.  Then we do good because we want to - because we love God - and not because we have to.

Graham

Saturday, March 25, 2017

9 months ‘til Christmas

Morning: Psalm 85, 87; Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-10
Evening: Psalms 136; John 8:47-59
C.S. Lewis wrote: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”  Jesus is Christianity’s heart.  Today, Christians recall the announcement that Jesus, the incarnate God, would be born to Mary. When challenged about his identity, Jesus said he would be lying if he pretended not to know God.  Now, most people who have heard about Jesus are drawn to him.  He is either a liar and unimportant, but if true, he is infinitely important, the only thing he cannot be is moderately important.

Graham

Friday, March 24, 2017

Do we want to be free?

Morning: Psalm 88; Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20; Romans 6:1-11;
Evening: Psalm 8, 138; John 8:33-47
Sometimes, it gets so frustrating for prophets when people don’t listen to truth … they think God must feel frustrated too.  But God’s faithfulness is not conditional on ours.  That’s hard for us to fathom, isn’t it? … Why bother being faithful if grace abounds even when we’re not!?  Yet only those unchanged by Love ask such questions. The real question is: Do we want the true, if paradoxical, freedom of obedience to God’s way, or do we insist on the illusory ‘freedom’ of our own way, which is slavery?

Graham

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Truth sets us free (from our phones!?)

Morning: Psalm 42, 43; Jeremiah 10:11-24; Romans 5:12-21
Evening: Psalm 85, 86; John 8:21-32
Idols are substitutes for God, ‘little gods’: power, money, TV stars, and screens! … Have you seen that crowd of people all bowed down (literally) before their cell-phones!? These little gods did not create everything; we made them! – Strange that we seem to worship things we make!?  Whether we are captivated by our idols, or trying not to be, we need courage to be ourselves, rather than something we’re not.  Courage comes from the Creator, not from us.  Jesus, God’s creative Word, shows us our true selves … being yourself is so freeing, and takes so little effort.

Graham

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A light goes on and settles your heart

Morning: Psalm 119.97-120; Jeremiah 8:18-9:6; Romans 5:1-11
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; John 8:12-20
Prophets pray. Prayer is two-way: 1. listen then pass on what you hear – which makes sense; or, 2. plead people’s cause – but, why is it necessary to plead with God, who loves us? … Well, it isn’t, but it does help to let off steam sometimes at how crazy the world seems! Humankind longs for equilibrium and harmony … to be “reconciled to God”.  Jesus sheds light on things, if you let him, and you see the world again for the first time. A light goes on, you can breathe, and that settles your heart.

Graham

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Come to the water!

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Jeremiah 7:21-34; Romans 4:13-25
Evening: Psalms 78:40-72; John 7:37-52
Prophets often explain that trouble comes from our failing to listen to God. They predict that trouble will continue if we do not mend our ways.  But we find that to be almost impossible.  From generation to generation, we humans mess up!  On a more positive note, Paul realizes it’s faith that really changes things, and those who believe God will, like Abraham, do what is right. Faith transforms us. Jesus promised: “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water”; those who believe become channels of life to others, bearers of God’s good Spirit.

Graham

Monday, March 20, 2017

St. Joseph of Nazareth

Morning: Psalms 132; Isaiah 63:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25
Evening: Psalm 34; 2 Chronicles 6:12-17; Ephesians 3:14-21
Today is Joseph’s day.  He’s always been a favourite of mine, with his simple acceptance that he would be Jesus’ father. He did as God asked.  Sometimes you long for God to speak to you in a loud voice, too!  It would be a gift to hear clearly what God expects and be able to say “yes”. It does happen, though … when your heart is moved, and you realize that all God expects is for you to say “yes” to love. Joseph must have remembered often how he had said “yes”.  The world changed forever because he did.

Graham

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Should these just be comforting messages?

Morning: Psalms 93, 96; Jeremiah 6:9-15; I Corinthians 6:12-20
Evening: Psalm 34: Mark 5:1-20
A true prophet tells it like it is!  But sometimes even prophets, and priests, deal falsely, saying “Peace, peace!” where there is no peace.  Real comfort only comes from first acknowledging where we are broken, not by ignoring wounds that will fester when left unattended.  Paul is right … we suffer when we forget our bodies are sacred.  Jesus serves the truth when he heals a man possessed by lies.  What trouble are you dealing with?  What is the world’s trouble?  Shall we simply gloss over these things?  They are exactly the places where God wants to bring peace.

Graham

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Think you can find life without God?

Morning: Psalms 75, 76; Jeremiah 5:20-31; Romans 3:19-31
Evening: Psalms 23, 27; John 7:1-13
Blind eyes, deaf ears, and stubborn hearts get lost on life’s way. We believe we can enjoy life fully without God. Maybe you think so too? … OK, show me the contented man; or the woman who has no regrets; or anyone who loves the world exactly as it is. How long have we humans been trying, and yet we’re still discontented. … I have never found a good reason why we resist God. Even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe him! The way of faith is hard, yet it leads to life. Your heart will only know it when you believe.

Graham

Friday, March 17, 2017

It only takes one

Morning: Psalm 69:1-38; Jeremiah 5:1-9; Romans 2:25-3:18
Evening: Psalm 73; John 5:30-47
Even if there is only one person in Jerusalem who “acts justly and seeks truth,” God will pardon the whole city.  God is faithful when we are unfaithful.  But does that mean that God does not act with justice?  Paul implies that it’s hard for us to understand God’s justice from a human point of view.  But I suspect it has more to do with making everything right than with punishing people for where they’ve gone wrong.  It’s about restoration, not retribution, and it only takes one just soul to get it started.

Graham

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Law is written on your hearts

Morning: Psalm 70, 71; Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28; Romans 2:12-24
Evening: Psalm 74; John 5:19-29
Dire warnings in Scripture often leave a window open … All is dark, and God is full of anger, but then he says, “I will not make a full end.”  It’s a smidgen of light, but it’s light.  It seems that, just when God won’t let them get away with any more, some prophet – Jeremiah or Paul – gives the story a hopeful twist; like, “the law is written on your hearts.”  In other words, we already know the way through our troubles, if we pay attention. Jesus said he’s the way. He has certainly captured many hearts. Mine included. Yours?

Graham

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

God is faithful … evil makes its own trouble

Morning: Psalm 72; Jeremiah 3:6-18; Romans 1:28-2:11
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; John 5:1-18
Jeremiah describes in stark language the faithlessness and falsehood of Israel and Judah. God is angry yet remains faithful, promising to restore them and establish Jerusalem as the holy city.  God promises they will have “shepherds after my own heart”.  St. Paul writes that - though God is kind – those who do evil suffer.  What causes their suffering?  Well, God is certainly unhappy with evil, but the Bible suggests that evil creates its own trouble … case in point: they criticized Jesus’ for healing an invalid on the Sabbath.  Grace shows up the pettiness of evil for what it is.

Graham

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Untruth holds no water; it cannot help

Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Jeremiah 2:1-13; Romans 1:16-25
Evening: Psalms 68:1-36; John 4:43-54
Stories that ‘hold no water’ are untrue. Jeremiah calls them “cracked cisterns” because they cannot hold God’s “living water,” and that is the truth we seek. When people believe untruths, there is trouble.  Belief is complicated, though. We may think we cannot be certain of something without proof. Yet with proof, belief is irrelevant! Jesus complained that some refused to believe him without seeing “signs and wonders.” He performed signs, though, not to prove who he was but because he could help. Untruths cannot hold the living water we need; and they cannot help.

Graham

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Bible: worth a read!

Morning: Psalm 56, 57; Jeremiah 1:11-19; Romans 1:1-15
Evening: Psalms 64, 65; John 4:27-42
The universe is unfathomable, and the Bible is a many-faceted, very human exploration of this mystery. Startling stories depict God speaking through people like the prophets, and in the man, Jesus. But how does God ‘speak’?  Softly for the most part!  And we ‘hear’ God instinctively through the design of the Cosmos and through what is written on our heart; we are part of it all.  Thus, when many hearts speak their truth, as they do in the stories gathered together in the Bible, we may all catch a clearer glimpse of God.  Good reason to read it, eh!?

Graham

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wanted: prophets!

Morning: Psalms 24, 29; Jeremiah 1:1-10; I Corinthians 3:11-23
Evening: Psalms 8, 84; Mark 3:31-4:9
Our times cry out for prophetic voices. Prophets don’t predict the future, they simply, and courageously, tell the truth.  It’s hard to listen to prophets; they speak uncomfortable truths.  Jesus’ parable of the sower urges us not to give up on truth.  Some of the truth we speak will take root, some won’t, but persist in spreading truth anyway.  Don’t think they won’t listen because you’re too young.  Rely on God to give you words. Humanly speaking, God’s wisdom may seem foolish.  But would you rather spread truth and appear foolish than be foolish and spread lies?

Graham

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What we are made of

Morning: Psalms 55; Deuteronomy 11:18-28; Hebrews 5:1-10
Evening: Psalms 138, 139:1-17; John 4:1-26
We tend to stay indoors during blizzards.  We know Mother Nature’s limits and obey them.  We also know God, whose words are written “in our heart and soul.”  A proof of this might be that most of us want to live well, within the limits the Creator has set.  The spiritual life is an inner exploration of our heart and soul. There we discover what we are made of, in every sense.  Jesus promises ‘living water’ to refresh and renew our souls and to offer hope that this quest for our true selves will bear fruit.

Graham

Friday, March 10, 2017

Love and serve the stranger

Morning: Psalms 40, 54; Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Hebrews 4:11-16
Evening: Psalm 51; John 3:22-36
The idea that the Creator of the universe had a special love for the people of Israel was extended to include all people because of Jesus.  Christians call Jesus, “Very God of very God … made man.”  That’s astounding!  John says: “He whom God has sent (Jesus) speaks the words of God.”  If I believe God was made man, it makes all the difference to how I live in the world. Deuteronomy teaches we should love and serve God by loving and serving the stranger. If God is present in one man, God is present in all.

Graham

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Of good and evil

Morning: Psalm 50; Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5; Hebrews 4:1-10
Evening: Psalm 19, 46; John 3:16-21
Good and evil, light and darkness, obedience and disobedience, faithfulness and betrayal are the powerful themes of all great literature, including the Bible.  How do we make sense of them?  We seek satisfaction in ‘idols’ (wealth, status, power).  Darkness attracts us as well as light.  We pursue things we know will harm us.  We seem to love the boundary between good and evil.  There, we feel alive; could that be it? … But doesn’t God inhabit that boundary too?  So a Sabbath day with God could be far more exciting than we ever imagined!

Graham

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A new way of seeing is believing

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Deuteronomy 9:13-21; Hebrews 3:12-19
Evening: Psalm 49; John 2:23-3:15
Zealous believers ask: “Are you born again?” They wrongly assume that we can evaluate our own spiritual transformation. Jesus taught that, to see truth and life in all its untold wonder, we do indeed need spiritual rebirth.  This gift is apparently available for the asking.  Trouble is, if you don’t have it, you probably don’t know it!  If you do, thankfully you’ll be reluctant to say so.  But you can ask the Spirit for this inner transformation, and be grateful when faith takes hold, hope dawns, and love offers itself to your imagination in exciting new ways.

Graham

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Guarding the Creation, our ‘House of Prayer’

Morning: Psalm 45; Deuteronomy 9:4-12; Hebrews 3:1-11
Evening: Psalms 47, 48; John 2:13-22
Who has gazed at the Heavens on a clear night and not felt the impulse to pray, or at least to say “Thank you”!? The Creator’s faithfulness does not depend on ours. But still, most spiritual traditions teach that human life is itself a quest to live in faithful harmony with the Creator and with the created order.  Jesus confronted those who desecrated the house of prayer. Is not the Creation our sacred house of prayer, ours to guard and protect against those who may plunder or abuse it?

Graham

Monday, March 6, 2017

Defeating the Power of Death

Morning: Psalm 41, 52; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Hebrews 2:11-18
Evening: Psalm 44; John 2:1-12
Have you heard of entrepreneurs who patent plants as if they themselves had created them? We want so much to survive our own deaths, we even take credit for what is God’s! Perhaps we think renown will immortalize us. But Jesus brings God into closer relationship with us. And death, set alongside the power of the Cosmos, is shown to be powerless. When Jesus changes water into wine, and they tell him, ‘you saved the best for last,’ you can’t help feeling the miracle is about a much bigger party than a wedding in a little village called Cana!

Graham

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Humility: learning from the wilderness

Morning: Psalm 63:1-11, 98; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; I Corinthians 1:17-31
Evening: Psalms 103; Mark 2:18-22
The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness to learn humility, to discover that bread alone does not sustain life … obedience to God’s ways is what brings life. Human strength and wisdom distract us from God.  Jesus himself came in humility, not what we typically look for in a leader. He showed that humility is strength, the very strength we need. In the 8th or 9th century, Hesychius, a Christian abbot in Sinai, the same wilderness where the Israelites had wandered centuries before, wrote: “The first human sin was arrogance,” or, thinking we can get by without God.

Graham

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Read the Bible … and with care!

Morning: Psalm 30, 32; Deuteronomy 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15
Evening: Psalms 42, 43; John 1:43-51
It’s shocking that in the Book of Deuteronomy God so favours one nation that it says he will act on their behalf to destroy other nations. We call this genocide.  All too often, in Christian history too, one human group has thought itself superior to others. This is not Jesus’ Way. Jesus’ concern goes far beyond the well being of one nation, species, or individual. Jesus promises that Nathanael will see greater things than anyone has ever imagined. You can believe and trust that he’s talking about the well being of the whole cosmos.

Graham

Friday, March 3, 2017

Come and see what Love can do.

Morning: Psalm 31; Deuteronomy 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15
Evening: Psalm 35; John 1:35-42
“If you do this, good things will happen,” and “If you do that, there’ll be trouble.” These are statements about the way the world works, not prophecies, promises or threats. We learn from experience what is wise or unwise, just or unjust, true or false, good or evil. It’s almost impossible to teach people this stuff.  If they did listen, it might save a lot of grief!  But it’s the experience of Love that makes us want to act justly.  Maybe that’s why Jesus rarely teaches morality; he simply extends an invitation: “Come and see” … what Love can do?

Graham

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What is ‘your’ God like?

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Titus 1:1-16
Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; John 1:29-34
Biblical writings about retribution for wickedness make God sound almost petty. But since those who practice evil often suffer, perhaps they had concluded that suffering was God’s direct punishment for evil?  Isn’t it just that evil upsets the balance of things, and the Creation restores the balance … with fire, wind, tempest, and flood, etc.? (As we are seeing.) Early Christians said God’s Spirit rested on Jesus.  Since Jesus taught not punishment, but love, mercy and compassion, the early disciples learned that God is merciful, loving and compassionate.  Those who practice wickedness may suffer; wickedness cannot abide Love.

Graham

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday: Pursue peace with everyone

Morning: Psalm 95, 32, 143; Jonah 3:1-4:11; Hebrews 12:1-14
Evening: Psalms 102, 130; Luke 18:9-14
Today we impose ashes and utter poignant words: “Remember, O Mortal, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  Lent invites humility (=earthiness, from ‘humus’).  Jonah is angry because God forgives the people of Nineveh.  Jesus’ parables teach mercy and forgiveness - unlike those who regard others with contempt.  Humility is ready to forgive, ready to make peace, whether the nagging little voice in your head thinks they deserve it or not.  Just as importantly, humility opens the path for you to make peace with yourself, whether you think you deserve it or not!

Graham