Wednesday, May 31, 2017

He must increase; I must decrease

Morning: Psalm 72; I Samuel 1:1-20; Hebrews 3:1-6
Evening: Psalm 146, 147; Zechariah 2:10-13; John 3:25-30
On the spiritual journey, the person who most often challenges our progress to maturity and wisdom is the first person singular. The ‘I’ may try to take control and can block our way forward.  It’s the person we mean when we say things like, “get over yourself.”  Some writers call it the ‘ego’ or ‘false self’.  Now I suspect John the Baptist was not particularly “full of himself” (there’s another example), because he recognized his need to make way for Jesus.  Some of us, though, may need to “let ourselves go” (one more example) so God can guide our path.

Graham

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jesus: the promise fulfilled

Morning: Psalm 97, 99; Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27; Hebrews 6:13-20
Evening: Psalm 132; Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:1-17
Isaiah prophesies a new reality: “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse ... The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might … They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”  They thought of Jesus in relation to these words and believed that in him the promise was fulfilled.

Graham

Monday, May 29, 2017

Which family will take priority?

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18; Ezekiel 4:1-17; Hebrews 6:1-12
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; Luke 9:51-62
Would-be followers ask Jesus’ indulgence - to bury their father (i.e. wait until their father dies) or to say farewell to people at home first.  He responds: “let the dead bury their own dead” and “no-one who puts a hand to the plough and turns back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Strong words!  What’s his point?  Perhaps this … Choosing to follow Jesus demands we be clear; we may need to put some priorities ahead of our immediate family.  Jesus’ devotion is always to the well being of the whole human family – all his sisters and brothers. 

Graham

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lose yourself for the sake of Love … find yourself

Morning: Psalm 66, 67; Ezekiel 3:16-27; Ephesians 2:1-10
Evening: Psalm 19, 46; Matthew 10:24-42
Jesus is so refreshingly counter-cultural, still.  After centuries of building church and society on his precepts, our world is still so far from his ideal; frankly, it’s amazing.  If you lose your life for Love’s sake (he says “for my sake” but I think Love is what he means) you will save your life.  In other words, if you approach life with gentleness, with openness, with generosity of spirit, you will be truly alive.  It’s about trust … When we are able to live in trust, rolling with life’s ups and downs, we will find grace and freedom.

Graham

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The least among you is the greatest

Morning: Psalm 87, 90; Ezekiel 3:4-17; Hebrews 5:7-14
Evening: Psalm 136; Luke 9:37-50
Why do we compete with one another – for wealth, for honour, for power, for recognition, for love?  We get caught believing that having these things will make us great.  The disciples even argue about who will be the best at casting out demons!  Jesus says, in effect, evil is evil and if we’re against it, we’re all on the same side. The disciples could not even distinguish good from evil because they were prone to rely on their own power rather than on God.  Greatness lies in welcoming the vulnerable child because in her we welcome God. 

Graham

Friday, May 26, 2017

Have you listened yet to Jesus?

Morning: Psalm 85, 86; Ezekiel 1:28-3:3; Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Evening: Psalm 91, 92; Luke 9:28-36
Communication in our culture mostly means talking or telling or typing.  Rarely does communication mean listening.  We do not place a high value on listening.  That’s why prayer is undervalued; prayer is mostly listening, yet we prefer to talk.  Even in prayer we prefer words over silence.  But the only way to listen is to be quiet.  A remarkable event on the mountaintop is reported in the Gospels – Jesus face shines as he prays and his disciples hear a voice say, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.” Have we listened yet?  Have you listened yet to Jesus?

Graham

Thursday, May 25, 2017

He became like us so we could become like him

Morning: Psalm 8, 47; Ezekiel 1:1-14, 24-28b; Hebrews 2:5-18
Evening: Psalm 24, 96; Matthew 28:16-20
The time came for Jesus to entrust his work to his disciples and to us. What is this work?  He said it was to “make disciples”.  Typically, a disciple becomes like his master.  But Jesus first became like us.  He endured suffering and death in order to destroy death’s power over us.  He became like us so we could become like him.  Jesus became fully human, so we too must become ourselves.  The power of death is our inhumanity – it is strongest when we are not ourselves.  Jesus calls us to be fully human too, and thereby to be free.

Graham

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Strive without anxiety

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31
Evening: Psalm 68:1-20; 2 Kings 2:1-15; Revelation 5:1-14
“Do not worry about your life.” Jesus teaches his disciples that we can trust God.  Instead of worrying, he says, strive for God’s kingdom, and everything else will be given to you as well.  The kingdom is where all live in God’s ways.  We strive to realize it in our relationships with one another.  This does not mean we build the Kingdom ourselves, but we trust that God will help us to bring it about. It is the tender balance of our action with God’s.  We pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”  But, being made in God’s image, we’ll help with that.

Graham

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Every generous act of giving is from above

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; James 1:16-27
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Leviticus 26:1-20; Luke 11:1-13
Jesus taught his disciples the prayer we know as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.  It praises God and invites God’s rule on earth.  It asks for just four things – daily bread, forgiveness, the ability to forgive others and deliverance from evil.  Jesus wants us to live generously.  We are to pray for one another and not only for ourselves, saying, “give us”, “forgive us as we forgive” and “deliver us.” Jesus promises, too, that God will give the Holy Spirit to all who ask.  Those who ask for the Holy Spirit want to live generously. If we truly want that, it’s ours!

Graham

Monday, May 22, 2017

How will I spend my life?

Morning: Psalm 80; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; James 1:1-15
Evening: Psalm 77; Leviticus 25:35-55; Luke 9:18-27
After revealing himself as the Messiah, Jesus said, unexpectedly, that he must suffer and die; but he would be raised on the third day.  His followers must be ready to face hardship too, and to offer their lives in service to God’s ways. If we spend our lives generously serving God’s purposes, Jesus says we will live full lives. But if we are stingy with our lives, then we won’t really be living. Poet Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  What question could be more important?

Graham

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Start small and keep going

Morning: Psalm 93, 96; Leviticus 25:1-17; I Timothy 3:14 – 4:5
Evening: Psalm 34; Matthew 13:24-34a
As if once were enough, people say, “I tried it once but it didn’t work.” Inhuman notions of success drive our culture.  We expect rapid, unnatural growth in everything. If what you initiate isn’t bearing fruit by next week, it’s ‘forget it’.  Or when a problem surfaces, ‘try something else, right?’  Jesus parables, though, speak of slow, natural growth.  Seedlings have to compete with weeds but they’ll be alright come harvest.  Trust in tiny mustard seeds; plant something small - watch amazing things happen.  Taste how yeast leavens dough.  Good things may begin small and grow slowly.  Keep planting.  Persevere.

Graham

Saturday, May 20, 2017

In healthy communities, no-one goes hungry

Morning: Psalm 75, 76; Leviticus 23:23-44; Romans 15:1-13
Evening: Psalm 23, 27; Luke 9:1-17
Jesus’ miracles – like the feeding of the 5000 – taught people about community, and the healing of relationships.  In healthy human communities, the strong support the weak, all are welcome, none suffer isolation; hospitality is the rule.  What is hospitality in a crowd of 5000?  Perhaps simply this … Those who have food share with those who have none, so all are fed.  Jesus gave his disciples authority over evil, and power to heal.  Hunger is a sign of brokenness, even evil, in human communities. When communities are healed, the miracle is that no-one goes hungry.

Graham

Friday, May 19, 2017

Our gifts are to bless others with

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18; Leviticus 23:1-22; Romans 14:13-23
Evening: Psalm 106:19-48; Luke 8:40-56
Jesus the healer appeals to me … he heals quietly, without fanfare, unlike some religious healers who are full of themselves and their own noise.  Jesus knows his own power, but he uses it sparingly, kindly and wisely. For him, healing is often about restoring isolated people to community. God gives spiritual gifts to us so that we may use them for the benefit of others. The gift of healing is like that – all gifts are. We betray God if we think our gifts make us better than others. On the contrary, they are to bless others with.

Graham

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sometimes you just gotta laugh

Morning: Psalm 71; Leviticus 19:26-37; Romans 14:1-12
Evening: Psalm 74; Luke 8:26-39
Reading Scriptures daily (I hope you will be inspired to) can make you wonder, “Huh?”  St. Paul writes: “Some people believe in eating anything while the weak eat only vegetables.” In the Gospel, Jesus casts demons into pigs; they run off a cliff.  We could argue about what it all means, but “quarreling over opinions” will not help. Maybe the Spirit would rather we smile at life’s apparent craziness, and laugh in the face of our demons; it’s easier than trying to explain these things.  And anyway, in the struggle with evil, I suspect evil cannot bear being laughed at.

Graham

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pay attention to how you listen

Morning: Psalm 72; Leviticus 19:1-18; Romans 13:1-14
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Luke 8:16-25
Jesus says, “pay attention to how you listen.”  What an important part of his message this is.  It’s so easy to listen with your own answer running; or to assume you know what’s coming. The way we hear depends on the assumptions we bring to our listening.  Sometimes, though, it’s vital to have a filter through which to listen. Paul says, “be subject to the ruling authorities”; then, he says, “owe no-one anything but to love one another.”  In other words, authority that does not serve love is questionable.  Listen with the ears of love.

Graham

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is it worth the effort? Yes, good overcomes evil

Morning: Psalm 61, 62; Leviticus 16:20-34; Romans 12:1-21
Evening: Psalm 68:1-36; Luke 8:1-15
When you did your best and it didn’t work out, was it worthwhile? Jesus’ parable of the sower invites us not to lose heart.  Some of our best efforts may fall by the wayside, but St. Paul bids us to be good news for one another ... love one another genuinely; hold fast to the good; rejoice in hope; be patient in suffering; persevere in prayer; be hospitable to strangers; rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep; live in harmony; care for your enemies; do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Graham

Monday, May 15, 2017

What if the lot falls on me?

Morning: Psalm 80; I Samuel 16:1-13; I John 2:18-25
Evening: Psalm 33; I Samuel 12:1-5; Acts 20:17-35
Matthias, whose day it is today, was the Apostle chosen to replace Judas. “Apostle” means “one who is sent”.  We know nothing about Matthias.  We do know, though … Apostles serve humbly, endure trials, speak boldly about God’s ways, and are self-sufficient and generous. The ones we might think are the most obvious choices to become apostles may not be God’s choices. David was just a boy when he was anointed to be King. Don’t expect that God will pick someone else just because you’re not the obvious choice.  Matthias and David were probably surprised, too, but they said “Yes!”

Graham

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Do to others as you would have them do to you

Morning: Psalm 24, 29; Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
Evening: Psalm 8, 84; Matthew 7:7-14
Our culture is obsessed with novelty. New is better. If something’s older than a year or two, it’s out of date.  When Paul says, “hold fast to the traditions that you were taught,” he sounds deeply counter-cultural.  But we have known for millennia how to live wisely. There are timeless spiritual traditions to which most humans still hold fast. Some of them will never become obsolete. The most well-known of them all may be Jesus’ saying: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Let me know if you find something newer and better than that.

Graham

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hope may be hope for the wrong thing

Morning: Psalm 55; Exodus 40:18-38; Colossians 3:12-17
Evening: Psalm 138, 139:1-17; Luke 7:18-35
Ever had your hopes dashed? Our expectations about how God should act shape how we respond to events.  Some of us think God should do as we expect and complain when something else happens.  Or we say that just ‘proves’ God doesn’t exist.  This is why TS Eliot wrote, “Wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.”  Eliot did not deny hope; he simply wanted hope to be more than wishful thinking, grounded in patient trust. Jesus and John the Baptist defied people’s expectations.  Did that prove them false? Check – are your expectations misplaced?

Graham

Friday, May 12, 2017

God is with us, making all things new

Morning: Psalm 40, 54; Exodus 34:18-35; Colossians 3:1-11
Evening: Psalm 51; Luke 7:1-17
Moralizing doesn’t work because ‘being good’ doesn’t excite us – we know inside that we cannot be good by our own hard work.  To find the good life, we need inner transformation, and that comes from the presence of God. Brother Lawrence, 17th century French monk, practiced ‘the presence of God’.  Through regular prayer, God became quietly present in his life. Jesus was called “God with us”, and his presence came to be known as a source of healing for those who trust him. God’s presence can transform my life, yes; more importantly, it is renewing everything. And that is exciting.
Graham

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Guard your heart … be extraordinary

Morning: Psalm 50; Exodus 34:1-17; Colossians 2:8-23
Evening: Psalm 114, 115; Luke 6:39-49
Sight and goodness are gifts of the heart more than eye or hand. Strength is about where you stand more than muscles. Our inner being determines how fruitful our lives will become.  When you are in captivity to the enticements and promises of the world, it’s easy to ‘lose heart’.  Now, the heart is an amazing organ – it guarantees physical life with a beat every second for decades if you guard it well!  Jesus teaches that by grounding your life on God, the rock, you guard your inner being and guarantee that your life will stand for something extraordinarily good.

Graham

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

No-one describes maturity better than Jesus

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Exodus 33:1-23; Colossians 1:24-2:7
Evening: Psalm 49; Luke 6:27-38
What is true maturity? No-one describes human maturity better than Jesus … “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone slaps you, stand there and take it; if anyone takes your coat, giftwrap your shirt for them too. No tit for tat behaviour. Live generously; do good, and lend; expect nothing in return; be merciful; do not judge; do not condemn. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and you will receive … the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Graham

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

God intends blessings, not woes or vengeance

Morning: Psalm 45; Exodus 32:21-34; Colossians 1:15-23
Evening: Psalm 47, 48; Luke 6:12-26
If you imagine God’s ways are like ours, you may think God punishes wrongdoing with vengeance.  But in Jesus “God was pleased to reconcile all things”.  Now Jesus still teaches that every life may have its share of blessings and woes. Woes follow naturally when some people, or nations, accumulate blessings that belong to others. When the balance is restored – eventually it will be – those who have enjoyed more than their share of blessings may later experience woe.  It’s only natural, because the world is made for equilibrium, justice for all. God intends blessings, not woes or vengeance.

Graham

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prayer keeps us from making idols of things

Morning: Psalm 41, 52; Exodus 32:1-20; Colossians 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 44; Luke 6:1-11
Laws help govern human society.  Ironically, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai bearing stone tablets inscribed with new laws, the people had done with their gold what societies do with laws – make idols of them.  Which is why Jesus taught that Sabbath laws must not become idols that keep us from responding to human need, hunger or sickness.  For Paul, wisdom and understanding show us what is right; strength empowers us to do it; patience helps us to persevere, and these come from prayer.  Prayer connects us with God, which keeps us from making idols of laws and things.

Graham

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cast all your anxieties on God; he cares for you

Morning: Psalm 63, 98; Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38; I Peter 5:1-11
Evening: Psalm 103; Matthew 7:15-29
Whom to trust?  Our world is in a crisis of trust.  When things are off-kilter, anxious people may follow authoritarian leaders who say they have the answers. Such leaders wield authority, but not humbly. Jesus, on the other hand, shows God’s way … he leads humbly and with authority. The Gospel teaches us to shun demagoguery and authoritarianism and to cast our anxieties on God. Humanly speaking, this means it is wise to choose leaders who balance authority with humility, those who themselves follow and reflect the way of Jesus.

Graham

Saturday, May 6, 2017

There is no other rock

Morning: Psalm 97, 98; Proverbs 8:22-30; John 13:20-35
Evening: Psalm 145; Isaiah 44:1-8; I John 5:1-12
There is no other rock but God, says Isaiah. Wisdom was God’s first creation, says Proverbs. “Everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” says Jesus, in the Gospel of John, whose day it is today. Right after Judas betrays him, Jesus still trusts his disciples to love one another. God’s Love and Wisdom are forever, ‘like a rock’.

Graham

Friday, May 5, 2017

God can make it right

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Daniel 6:1-15; 2 John 1:1-13
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Luke 5:12-26
“Sin” is a little word that has gotten a bad rap. Some preachers use it to frighten people with God, to manipulate them into compliance and ‘belief’. But sin is not our little misdeeds; it is when we sever our relationship with God. God consistently reaches out, seeking to bridge the distance we have put between him and ourselves. In Jesus, God reaches out again, seeking our consent to heal what is broken.  Though we resist for a long, long time, in the moment we take God’s hand, God has the power to make it right between us, and does.

Graham

Thursday, May 4, 2017

To what does Jesus call you?

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Daniel 5:13-30; I John 5:13-20
Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; Luke 5:1-11
Fishing for people never appealed to me.  The song said we would become “fishers of men” if we followed Jesus.  This did not persuade me to want to follow him – I would not want to be ‘caught’; nor, I thought, would others.  But my imagination and heart, on the other hand, were captivated, even captured, by this mysterious man from Galilee.  Now, he used his fishers metaphor to call fishermen. He may call an engineer to build bridges to people’s hearts; an artist, to colour the world; a mother, to give birth to truth.  To what does Jesus call you?

Graham

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

This is God’s year to act, in us.

Morning: Psalm 38; Daniel 5:1-12; I John 5:1-12
Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; Luke 4:38-44
Last night some of us gathered for a meal.  We shared our satisfaction that our plan to unite with our sister church feels guided by the Spirit of God.  It is right to blend two churches, thereby forging a strong, united Christian community.  Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor, release for captives, sight for the blind, freedom for those who are oppressed. Then he declared, “This is God’s year to act!”  We believe this is God’s year to act in us, and we are glad.

Graham

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Evil is no match for Love

Morning: Psalm 26, 28; Daniel 4:28-37; I John 4:7-21
Evening: Psalm 36, 39; Luke 4:31-37
Jesus spoke with uncommon authority; he exorcized the evil powers that corrupt and destroy human life.  Such authority comes from the Most High, whose “works are truth” and whose “ways are justice.”  The power of evil in our lives can be daunting. Remember this, though … Jesus did not only command evil; he also commanded us.  He commanded us to Love.  Our obedience to Love will be enough for our struggle with evil – “those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”  Evil thrives when Love falters.  But evil is no match for Love.

Graham

Monday, May 1, 2017

Workers of the world … persevere!

Morning: Psalm 119:137-160; Job 23:1-12; John 1:43-51
Evening: Psalm 139; Proverbs 4:7-18; John 12:20-26
Where I grew up, in grimy, industrial Manchester, May Day celebrated unity among the ordinary ‘workers of the world’. Today the Church remembers two ordinary worker saints, Philip and James. We know little or nothing about them, except that Philip introduced the curious to Jesus. The Jesus movement depends on the efforts of ordinary people who give themselves to their moment in history; simply and without fanfare, they invite others who are curious about Jesus to “come and see”. Humble tasks performed with grace are like seeds planted in the earth; they bear untold fruit.  So friend, persevere!

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...