Sunday, April 30, 2017

Love my people & they will recognize me in you

Morning: Psalm 148, 149, 150; Daniel 4:1-18; I Peter 4:7-11
Evening: Psalm 114, 115; John 21:15-25
People think the resurrection of Jesus is ethereal, fantastic, otherworldly. Yet the risen Jesus appears earthy and real.  Still, the disciples recognize him only when he breaks bread with them.  The Gospel is teaching us that the risen Jesus is different … he is known now in the Church’s acts of sharing. Jesus told Peter to share his love by caring for his sheep. Loving Christian community is itself the risen Jesus!  And the risen Jesus is made known when his people share with others the simple necessities of life: “be hospitable, serve one another, love one another.”

Graham

Saturday, April 29, 2017

If you’re faithful, someone may turn up the heat

Morning: Psalm 20, 21:1-14; Daniel 3:19-30; I John 3:11-18
Evening: Psalm 110, 116, 117; Luke 4:1-13
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are famous examples of people getting heat for being faithful. The only way through heat like this is through it.  When you’re really on the side of Love, fear of the flames won’t stop you (whoever or whatever threatens you), because you must be true to Love. People of faith will inevitably be tested, perhaps by fire. Jesus in the wilderness did not allow temptations to make him forget Love or give in to fear.  So when they turn up the heat, remember … Love brought you here; Love will bring you through.

Graham

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sooner or later we need to decide what’s for real

Morning: Psalm 16, 17; Daniel 3:1-18; I John 3:1-10
Evening: Psalm 134, 135; Luke 3:15-22
Sooner or later, we must decide, whether to give our hearts to truth or idols.  This is not about religion. It’s about the false ‘gods’ we adore – wealth, money, fame, status, success, things; they are very nice to have!  Some idols are less obvious though – like the common notion that God punishes evil with evil. Is such a God real or false?  When the dove descended on Jesus and a voice spoke from heaven, the message was: ‘Jesus is for real’.  Sooner or later, when we decide about Jesus, our hearts will know the truth about God.

Graham

Thursday, April 27, 2017

We will not bring out the light alone

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Daniel 2:31-49; I John 2:18-29
Evening: Psalm 18:21-50; Luke 3:1-14
Daniel revealed to Nebuchadnezzar an eternal realm. Human mythology expresses a similar hope … Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Shangri-la, Atlantis, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Lion King, Utopia; new and better days are coming, good will triumph. We Shall Overcome Some Day.  These stories also admit that this bright future will depend not just on human efforts, but on a power from beyond.  John Baptist prepared “the way of the Lord”; he quoted Isaiah, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  Explorer David Livingstone agreed: “God will bring out the light at last.”

Graham

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mysteries of Love revealed by Love

Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Daniel 2:17-30; I John 2:12-17
Evening: Psalm 12, 13, 14; John 17:20-26
The world is full of mysteries. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon demanded someone explain his troublesome dreams. Daniel did, by relying on the wisdom and power of God.  Jesus’ disciples, even after three years with him, struggled to fathom the mystery of who he was.  He prayed that Love would lead them to integrity in their lives and harmony in their relationships.  His prayer was answered.  His disciples had seen the mystery of Love embodied in him, and that convinced them to go and teach that the love of things is a passing illusion, but God’s Love is real and lasting.

Graham

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

St. Mark and the work of an evangelist

Morning: Psalm 145; Acts 12:25-13:3
Evening: Psalm 67, 96; Isaiah 62:6-12; 2 Timothy 4:1-11
How many people have shaped my life?  How many people’s lives have I shaped?  My decisions, words and actions can make an important difference in the world. I find it amazing that the story Mark decided to write down has come through 100 generations.  It’s the ancient story of God’s Love, that we are “Not Forsaken.”  St. Mark felt compelled to pass it on.  Because of him, you and I know the story.  I could say, “So what!” and do nothing with it.  Better for me to wonder, “What now?” ... then take the story and pass it on again.

Graham

Monday, April 24, 2017

Integrity: nothing left to prove

Morning: Psalm 1, 2, 3; Daniel 1:1-21; I John 1:1-10
Evening: Psalm 4, 7; John 17:1-11
Jesus prayed for his disciples to be one, as God is One.  1. Firstly he wanted them to be at one within themselves … to be true to themselves instead of pursuing fanciful notions about themselves. Jesus wanted them to know God because then they would experience eternal life.  Eternal life is when you want to say: ‘Now this is living!’  2. Secondly, Jesus wanted the disciples to be at one with one another.  It’s easier to be at one with others if you are at one within yourself.  You have nothing left to prove.

Graham

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Way, the Truth & the Life

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Isaiah 43:8-13; I Peter 2:2-10
Evening: Psalm 111, 112, 113; John 14:1-7
Witnesses offer different descriptions of the same event. Jesus’ disciples describe him differently. When one witness thinks he has the whole truth, usually he’s wrong; truth is elusive. It’s troubling that some people make it exclusive when Jesus says: “no one comes to the Father except by me.” Many godly people in the world know little about Jesus, but they know a lot about what he embodies. Many commit themselves to the New Life Jesus brings without knowing Jesus directly.  The Spirit may show them the Way, the Truth and the Life without introducing them to Jesus.  It still counts.

Graham

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Plans formed of old, faithful and sure

Morning: Psalm 145; Isaiah 25:1-9; Acts 4:13-21
Evening: Psalm 104; John 16:16-33
‘Teddy the Mop’ was the affectionate name one of my professors gave to Theodore of Mopsuestia, a Syrian bishop of the early 400s.  My professor loved Teddy for saying: “The end will be like the beginning, only better!”  In Isaiah, the ‘end’ is a feast.  In Jesus, the ‘end’ is when he overcomes the world’s troubles. Peter and John, even under arrest, could not stop telling what they had seen and heard in Jesus. There is more to this world and to God’s faithful and sure plans for it than we can imagine.  Even in Syria, all will be well.

Graham

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do you believe in life before death?

Morning: Psalm 136; Daniel 12:1-4,13; Acts 4:1-12
Evening: Psalm 118; John 16:1-15
In uncertain and dark times, Jesus’ resurrection offers a promising horizon. But what is the promise?  The expectation of life beyond death is not new with Christianity; the radically new thing is the possibility of new life before you die.  Following Jesus is a this-worldly experience, not an other-worldly one.  It’s about immersion in life, not escaping from it.  Thus, in the stories about Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Spirit of God is central.  Jesus shows us God’s face; the Holy Spirit guarantees God is with us for ever, leading us into truth in the here and now.

Graham

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No greater love than to ‘lay down your life’

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 3:11-26
Evening: Psalms 148, 149; John 15:12-27
Loving like Jesus means ‘laying down your life’ for your friends.  But you don’t have to die, literally. Rather, you make your life available to serve others.  You give up the need to control things, allow God to take hold of your life, allow the Spirit to move in you.  Quite the opposite of dying, this is really coming to life.  It’s a marvelous paradox of the Gospel … When you lay down your life, you come to life.  It’s what Jesus meant when he famously encouraged his disciples: “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Graham

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When I fall, I shall rise

Morning: Psalms 97, 99; Micah 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10
Evening: Psalm 115; John 15:1-11
Waiting on God gives me confidence of light in dark times, and strength so that “when I fall, I shall rise.”  It also helps me to strengthen my sisters and brothers.  The disciples believed they could heal exactly as Jesus sent them to do.  But they needed a strong connection with him.  Jesus called himself “the vine” and his disciples “the branches.”  Being grafted into the vine is being connected to the power of God.  That ensures I will seek whatever fits the needs of the Creation; and that is what it means to act “in Jesus’ name.”

Graham

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Love God and do what you will

Morning: Psalm 103; Isaiah 30:18-21; Acts 2:36-41
Evening: Psalm 111, 114; John 14:15-31
Little ‘voices’, like GPS, direct us. But Isaiah says the voice of God will direct us too, saying: “This is the way; walk in it.” Jesus, a bit differently, says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That sounds like our love for God will shape our decisions. But Jesus means much more – he means that when we love God we will walk in “the way” naturally because we are directed by the voice of the Spirit within. For this reason Saint Augustine said, “Love God and do what you will.”

Graham

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ask

Morning: Psalm 93, 98; Jonah 2:1-9; Acts 2:14, 22-32
Evening: Psalm 66; John 14:1-14
To act in someone’s name is to do as they would do. Jesus told his disciples that if they asked for anything in his name, it would be theirs. So if you ask for something that aligns with Jesus’ way, it will likely happen.  Jonah cried out to God not to abandon him, and to rescue him from the belly of the whale. The whale spewed Jonah up on dry land, which suggests God will not abandon anyone.  So if you are feeling abandoned, you can be pretty sure God will get you through it if you ask.

Graham

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter: Day of Resurrection

Morning: Psalm 148, 149, 150; Exodus 12:1-14; John 1:1-18
Evening: Psalm 113, 114; Isaiah 51:9-11; Luke 24:13-35
Since their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, Jews have celebrated Passover with unleavened bread, to recall their hasty flight through the Red Sea waters to new life. Christians pass through the waters too – in baptism – into a new way of life.  And Jesus made Passover bread and wine into a meal to remember him by.  Like the disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus, we may recognize Jesus’ presence when we break bread together. It doesn’t have to be communion, because every meal is sacred; every meal invites us to realize that God is with us.

Graham

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday … day between days, Sabbath

Morning: Psalm 88; Job 19:21-27a; Hebrews 4:1-16
Evening: Psalm 27; Romans 8:1-11
The Book of Job is a great human story of faith in God.  It declares God’s power over the power of death. Job, after terrible torment, proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and … in my flesh I shall see God.” This is a day between days, the Sabbath between Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It invites us always to seek rest and there to wait on God, trusting that there we will find life-giving grace and mercy.  Sabbath is time to allow God to be God and quit trying to do God’s work all by ourselves!

Graham

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Jesus’ Love sets us free, if we want it

Morning: Psalm 22; Genesis 22:1-14; I Peter 1:10-20; John 13:36-38
Evening: Psalms 40:1-14; 54; John 19:38-42
“I will lay down my life for you,” Peter promised Jesus. But Jesus laid down his life instead … for Peter, and for us. What does this “for” mean? Peter’s letter says Jesus’ blood ransoms us.  That’s because we are hostages to our obstinacy, pride, violence, and greed ... the list is long. Jesus’ Love helps us realize just how trapped we are. And the ransom is paid by God, not to God … Jesus died for Love’s sake. Love is the only thing powerful enough to break the stubborn chains that hold us captive.

Graham

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Together Christians working together for good

Morning: Psalm 102; Jeremiah 20:7-11; I Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Evening: Psalms 142, 143; John 17:1-11
When you try to serve the truth, others watch to see if you’re for real.  You protect the truth by living well.  Christ suffers again when believers behave badly. People stop trusting him because Christians are untrustworthy. Those who break the bread and drink the wine of Jesus’ new covenant must embody the new reality it stands for. Jesus prayed for us to get our act together, and to join in common cause for the sake of others, not for ourselves. Together Christians, working together for good … That would be glorious.  That would enhance God’s reputation in the world!

Graham

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sometimes a little direction helps

Morning: Psalm 55; Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17; Philippians 4:1-13
Evening: Psalm 74; John 12:27-36
Do you sometimes just want direction?  Yes?  OK, here goes! Trust God, be like a tree planted by water; it thrives even in dry weather. Have confidence God will heal. Stand firm in God. Rejoice. Be gentle. Do not worry, let God know your needs; peace will follow. Think about whatever is honourable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable; peace will come.  Be content with what you have.  You can do anything in God’s strength. Walk in light, believe in light, become a child of light. Sometimes it helps me to be reminded that God is strong when I am not.

Graham

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hold firm

Morning: Psalm 6, 12; Jeremiah 15:10-21; Philippians 3:15-21
Evening: Psalms 94; John 12:20-26
My high school motto is: Quod Tuum Tene, “What you have, hold.” It’s today’s verse from Philippians, in Latin. I thought it selfish until I realized it meant more.  Sometimes when you long for the good to triumph, you can lose heart … but God promises strength to those who hold firm.  When discouragement gets into you, “hold fast to what you have (already) attained.” Ah, that’s what it means! It’s not about things … On the contrary, it’s actually about being ready to let go of everything, while hanging on to the courage that comes from serving God.

Graham

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dealing decisively with evil

Morning: Psalm 51:1-18; Jeremiah 12:1-16; Philippians 3:1-14
Evening: Psalm 69:1-23; John 12:9-19
“Why do the treacherous thrive?”  Many reject God because bad things happen. But it’s too simplistic to think God should stop evil in its tracks. Human beings must be involved. We are caught up in it; why should God rescue us from every bad situation?  Better to know God is with us in our perennial struggle with evil and the power of death.  Jesus showed this was true when he raised Lazarus.  That’s why they welcomed him into Jerusalem with shouts of praise.  They had begun to hope that Jesus would help them deal decisively with evil.  He did.

Graham

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday: Love is ready to suffer

Morning: Psalm 24, 29; Zechariah 9:9-12; I Timothy 6:12-16
Evening: Psalm 103; Zechariah 12:9-11; 13:1, 7-9; Matthew 21:12-17
The prophet said the king would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. When Jesus did, the people recognized him as the king who had come to help them. Immediately, he turned out of the temple those who loved money more than prayer.  The power of God, in the humility of Jesus, confronted the power of evil.  They expected a king to fight evil with a sword, but not this king. Which is why we also call this ‘Passion Sunday’.  ‘Passion’ here means ‘suffering’; evil cannot defeat a Love that is ready to suffer and die for the beloved. Amazing Love!

Graham

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hearts inscribed with Love

Morning: Psalms 137:1-6; 144; Jeremiah 31:27-34; Romans 11:25-36
Evening: Psalm 42, 43; John 11:28-44
God’s Covenant with Israel is for everyone: “I will put my law within them, and … write it on their hearts … they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” The mercy of God is big enough to make available to all humankind “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”. All the stunning wonder of the cosmos is as near to us as our hearts! I am still astounded by this … the Love that weeps at a friend’s grave is the same Love that gives life to all things!

Graham

Friday, April 7, 2017

“To live in Christ instead of death”

Morning: Psalms 95, 22; Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13; Romans 11:13-24
Evening: Psalms 141, 143:1-11; John 11:1-27
Jeremiah says God’s plan for exiles – isn’t this everyone in some way? – is to restore their fortunes.  Exile is being cut off from life and from what once sustained you.  It is like being a branch cut off from its tree, it is a kind of death.  Jesus, though, says he is the resurrection and the life – the one who brings home exiles, restores branches cut off from their source, and calls us from death into life. William Stringfellow says a Christian is one who responds to Jesus’ call and chooses “to live in Christ instead of death.”

Graham

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don’t expect praise when you speak the truth.

Morning: Psalm 131, 132; Jeremiah 26:1-16; Romans 11:1-12
Evening: Psalm 140, 142; John 10:19-42
Priests and prophets threatened to kill Jeremiah when he warned them to mend their ways.  600 years later others wanted to stone Jesus because he claimed to be “God’s Son.”  Some people listened to Jeremiah and Jesus, some didn’t.  Usually, a small and faithful group hears the truth, believes it and acts on it.  It’s a safe bet that our efforts to speak truth are not likely to be rewarded with praise either!  Truth is hard to hear, hard to believe.

Graham

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I don’t want to be a sheep, but …

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Jeremiah 25:30-38; Romans 10:14-21
Evening: Psalm 128, 129, 130; John 10:1-18
I don’t want to be a sheep. For related reasons, I don’t want to be a shepherd either, nor do I want a ‘flock’ of cute but dumb followers! Could that be why the Bible uses sheep-shepherd images … people ignore their leaders and get themselves into trouble, like sheep?  On the other hand, Jesus is the ‘good shepherd’ who lays down his life for the sheep, so they know how much he loves them.  Of course … There’s the connection!  People and sheep are more alike than I realized.  People need love more than anything else; just like sheep.

Graham

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sight comes with faith, not the other way around

Morning: Psalms 121, 122, 123; Jeremiah 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-13
Evening: Psalms 124, 125, 126; John 9:18-41
Because the nations disobeyed God, Jeremiah said they would have to drink from the “cup of God’s wrath.” It doesn’t sound good, does it?!  St. Paul made faith more inviting. He taught the Romans that the answer to their struggle to live well was written on their hearts.  Obedience to external laws inevitably leads us to fail, or to misinterpret the spirit of the law.  Insight (inner sight) into the spirit of the law comes with faith.  When your heart is no longer blind, you can see the Way and follow in it … because you want to.

Graham

Monday, April 3, 2017

God’s unconditional high regard for us all

Morning: Psalm 31; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Romans 9:19-33
Evening: Psalms 35; John 9:1-17
It is unwise, for any reason, ever to assume that God regards you more highly than other people. Such proud assumptions are usually undone by the discovery that God looks with unconditional high regard on everyone you may have thought was inferior to you!  The mistake of pride lies in trusting yourself and your own judgements about what is important more than you trust God.  But God chooses to regard every one of us with Love and Mercy without reference to anything we have done, or failed to do.

Graham

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Finding life by losing it

Morning: Psalms 118; Jeremiah 23:16-32; I Corinthians 9:19-27
Evening: Psalms 145; Mark 8:31-9:1
If you claim to speak for God, exercise extreme caution; maybe it’s just you talking!?  Take very special care if you say, “all will be well” when it may not be.  When Jesus told them that he would die and rise again, his followers said ‘no!’ and argued with him.  Yet Jesus was sure that his death on a cross (harsh though it was) would, in the end, become the path to life.  Following Jesus means expecting that you may have to give up life as you know it in order to discover life as it really is.

Graham

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What to do with betrayal?

Morning: Psalms 107:33-43; 108:1-6; Jeremiah 23:9-15; Romans 9:1-18
Evening: Psalm 33; John 6:60-71
Most of us have experienced betrayal of some kind. Betrayal happens when we face unresolvable conflicts of loyalties. In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey is God for a week; predictably, he is unable to resolve the conflicts people bring to him. This is a big problem for us humans. The Biblical writers even suggest that God may be causing our betrayals! While we may be mistaken to blame our betrayals and hardness of heart on God, it’s not a bad idea to take our confusion about these things to God. After all, can’t God bring good, even out of our betrayals?

Graham

Summer Sabbath time; the pause that refreshes

Morning: Psalm 102 ; I Samuel 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29 Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Luke 22:31-38 Becoming human – becoming ourselves – is dem...