Friday, June 30, 2017

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 demanding work, full of trials.  We can easily betray ourselves, and others.  But, paradoxically, if we are ready to learn from hardships, they can bring new wisdom and lead us back to ourselves.  

Friends, I would betray myself, and you, if I did not take time to rest and renew my spirit.  The summer season invites us all into rest and restoration, so I will accept summer’s invitation and let go of a few things during July and August.  “Reawakening” will pause now until September. May your summer days be blessed.

Graham

Thursday, June 29, 2017

God shows no partiality

Morning: Psalm 66; Ezekiel 2:1-7; Acts 11:1-18
Evening: Psalm 97, 138; Isaiah 49:1-6; Galatians 2:1-9

In every age, prophets rise up to speak the truth to those who are living a lie. Prophets typically suffer challenge and criticism from those whom they might expect to support them – perhaps because they are too liberal or because they are responding to the needs of people from outside the group.  But truth cannot be imprisoned by race or religion or any other constraint … truth is universal. Peter and Paul (it is their day today) both knew that God shows no partiality and they served that ideal to the death.

Graham

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love overflows

Morning: Psalm 101, 109; I Samuel 7:2-17; Acts 6:1-15
Evening: Psalm 119:121-144; Luke 22:14-23

Jesus took / blessed / broke / shared Bread and Cup, and his own life, as if to say: Receive everything as Gift, what you have and who you are, your whole life … Own that you are Blessed, “Blessed are you”; be a blessing to others … Break open your life, do not keep it closed off … Savour this indescribable Gift, the gift of a heart broken open (not broken, but broken open) to Love.  Then you cannot help sharing … Love overflows.

Graham

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Love is often threatened but cannot be controlled

Morning: Psalm 97, 99; I Samuel 6:1-16; Acts 5:27-42
Evening: Psalm 94, 95; Luke 21:37-22:13

Those who challenge governments are often arrested, imprisoned, even executed. Jesus, who taught about love, and Peter and John, who followed him, were brought before the authorities charged with stirring up trouble.  They had encouraged people to follow the ways of love and justice; this scared the authorities.  Governments want people of faith under their ‘protection’ (read ‘thumb’) so they can control the message of faith until it sounds more like the government’s message than a message of love and justice.  Religious institutions, concerned about their power, may succumb to such control, but Love will always resist it.

Graham

Monday, June 26, 2017

Keep awake

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18; I Samuel 5:1-12; Acts 5:12-26
Evening: Psalm 89:19-52; Luke 21:29-36

Apocalyptic writing deals with the ‘end times’. On a personal level, we are preoccupied with life after death; on a cosmic level, the ‘end of the world’.  Since death is real, we cannot help wondering how everything will turn out.  Yet it is not wise to be overly preoccupied with these questions.  Instead, says Jesus, ‘be alert’, and ‘stay awake’; live consciously. To live unconsciously is not to know what moves you – it is like death.  But while I have life, I really want to live it to the fullest. Don’t you?  Let the next life take care of itself.

Graham

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Real life is what we know, but turned on its head

Morning: Psalm 66, 67; I Samuel 4:12-22; James 1:1-18
Evening: Psalm 19, 46; Matthew 19:23-30

Listen to these counter-cultural messages from Jesus, all in 8 verses: << It is hard for a rich person to live in God’s way. What is impossible for mortals is possible for God. If you loosen your grip on everything, your life will be richer. The first will be last and the last will be first. >> We think we have lived in a Christian society for hundreds of years.  In truth, our world has scarcely begun to hear Jesus’ teaching ... that we really live when we are no longer attached to our passions or our things.

Graham

Saturday, June 24, 2017

John the Baptist; prophet of the real

Saturday June 24th – John the Baptist; prophet of the real
Morning: Psalm 82, 98; Malachi 3:1-5; John 3:22-30
Evening: Psalm 80; Malachi 4:1-6; Matthew 11:2-19

Laurence Olivier, when asked why theatres are full and churches not, said: “We (actors) make fables appear real; you (Christians) make what is real seem like a fable.”  John the Baptist declared that truth was being subverted in his society.  He pointed to Jesus, who would call humankind back to reality, back to truth: “He (Jesus) must increase; I must decrease.” John was a realist who knew his purpose and his limits.  John invites us to ask ourselves, ‘Do I live what is real, and tell it like it is? Or am I living a fable, imagining that it’s real?’

Graham

Friday, June 23, 2017

By your endurance, you will gain your souls

Morning: Psalm 88; I Samuel 3:1-21; Luke 21:5-19
Evening: Psalm 103; Luke 1:5-23

Following Jesus was illegal at first, but in 313, Constantine decreed tolerance for Christianity.  Now Jesus’ message judges those who wield power unjustly.  Not without reason, Jesus said, “People will hate you because of my name.”  Today, the unholy alliance between the gospel and worldly power is crumbling. Christians are re-discovering that the Way of Jesus obliges us to challenge unjust power.  Living free from the protection of the state allows and calls for greater authenticity and honesty, but it also demands courage and endurance.  After 1700 years in exile, Christianity is finding its soul again; Christians are too.
Graham

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Care for the vulnerable, and practice generosity

Morning: Psalm 34; I Samuel 2:27-36; Acts 2:37-47
Evening: Psalm 91, 92; Luke 20:41-21:4

Jesus reserved his sternest warnings for those who took advantage of the vulnerable. Particular care should be given to strangers, orphans and widows. But the scribes hypocritically pretended to be pious – sitting in full view in the synagogue and saying long prayers – while bilking widows out of what little they had.  In contrast, Jesus praises the generosity of the widow who gives much more, proportionately, than the rich.  Such generosity became the hallmark of the early Church. By the practice of sacrificial generosity, the community grew in strength and in numbers.

Graham

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In the end, life

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; I Samuel 2:12-26; Acts 2:1-21
Evening: Psalm 81, 82; Luke 20:27-40

What happens when we die?  We’re uncertain enough about it that there’s a whole industry devoted to putting it off as long as possible. They tried to tie Jesus in knots with questions about who would be married to whom in the after-life.  Jesus bid them not to speculate about what he suggested is a totally different reality.  He simply affirmed that God is God of the living not of the dead.  For Jesus, life is our final destiny, not death.  The details are beyond us and need not occupy our energies.

Graham

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It’s never that simple

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; I Samuel 1:21-2:11; Acts 1:15-26
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Luke 20:19-26

We sometimes make “suckers’ choices” out of life’s necessary decisions, saying things like, “You have to decide: is it this or that?”  They did that with Jesus, asking whether the Jewish people, who were subject to Roman occupation, should pay taxes to the emperor or not.  Jesus’ response suggested that choices are never that simple.  Both obligations may be valid. “Give to the emperor (Caesar) what is the emperor’s and to God what belongs to God.”  When someone presents you with an impossible choice, there is often a third option … that both are not only possible but necessary.

Graham

Monday, June 19, 2017

The stone the builders rejected is the cornerstone

Morning: Psalm 80; I Samuel 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 77, 79; Luke 20:9-19

It’s good to stand on rock. And the foundational values on which the world stands are as immoveable as rock.  Of course, some people will oppose them for their own benefit – but hatred is no match for love, greed cannot overwhelm justice, and compassion transcends meanness. Jesus called the world back to these foundations – love, justice and mercy.  Though he suffered and died to uphold these values, he knew they were the only foundation that would not fail.  For some of us, Jesus has become the foundation, our cornerstone that will not fail, our rock.

Graham

Sunday, June 18, 2017

And so … become yourself

Morning: Psalm 93, 96; Numbers 6:22-27; Revelation 15:1-8
Evening: Psalm 34; Matthew 18:1-14

Crosby, Stills & Nash said it for Father’s Day: teach your children and your parents well.  What must we teach one another?  Just this - become yourself.  Have you noticed how wise persons attend to children?  They have learned what Jesus taught … Children do not stroke your ego; you can learn humility with them. They are themselves. Children know what really matters and how you should spend your time. No wonder Jesus warned us to protect children … they are doorways into the really real world. Children do not care who is important; they care only who is real.

Graham

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Who do think you are?

Morning: Psalm 75, 76; Numbers 3:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:1-14
Evening: Psalm 23, 27; Luke 20:1-8

“Who do you think you are!?” People ask this either to assert their authority or to question someone else’s. True authority needs no defence; it rings true. It is found wherever truth is the ‘author’ of a life.  When they challenged Jesus’ authority, he showed them that they were asking the wrong question. The right question may be one I must ask myself: “Who do I think I am?” If I think of myself with humility and honesty, my life will have authority.  Then I won’t worry about where you get your authority; I will know.

Graham

Friday, June 16, 2017

Jesus wept

Morning: Psalm 69; Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14; 2 Corinthians 12:11-21
Evening: Psalm 73; Luke 19:41-48

When I was a boy, “Jesus wept!” was a curse.  Later, I discovered Jesus actually did weep when he stood overlooking Jerusalem and its temple.  He wept for the terrible state of the city’s civic and spiritual life. He lamented that Jerusalem had not found the path to peace. He grieved that the temple had lost its moral compass and become a marketplace instead of a centre for spiritual renewal.  Do you think the state of our modern cities and temples would make Jesus weep?  So what would Jesus do next?  Sometimes that old cliché is a good question.

Graham

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Whenever I am weak, then I am strong

Morning: Psalm 71; Ecclesiastes 11:1-18; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Evening: Psalm 74; Luke 19:28-40

After describing his weaknesses, Paul makes his famous declaration, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”  This is as counter-cultural now as it was then.  Paul knew that the people had expected their Messiah to be a warrior, perhaps a military leader.  Instead, God’s power showed itself, in Jesus, through a humble human life.  Those who practice and preach non-violence – like Gandhi and King – show that raw power is ultimately no match for human vulnerability and authenticity.  They realize that you have to decide … whether to pretend you are strong or whether, being weak, to trust Love’s power.

Graham

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

You think you’ve got problems!

Morning: Psalm 72; Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14; 2 Corinthians 11:21b-33
Evening: Psalm 119:73-96; Luke 19:11-27
Writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul goes on a rant that any empathetic listener would be ashamed of - Paul himself admits he sounds like a madman.  He goes on about all the terrible things he has suffered. It’s reminiscent of the three Yorkshiremen in Monty Python one-upping one another about who had the worst childhood.  Why? Paul says it’s to show how in his weakness he had to depend on God.  And God always came through for him.  It’s as if Paul’s saying, “You think you’ve got problems!  Make sure you don’t just depend on yourself for answers.”

Graham

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

For those of us who have lost our way

Morning: Psalm 61, 62; Deuteronomy 30:11-20; 2 Corinthians 11:1-21a
Evening: Psalm 68; Luke 19:1-10
If I had a penny for every person I have heard miss the point and say, “I’m not good enough to be a Christian,” I’d be as wealthy as Zaccheus, the tax collector.  Remember him? Jesus invited himself to Zaccheus’ house.  Jesus’ entire mission was to those who say, with Dante, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost.” Distracted or preoccupied, our lives become self-centred.  We are exactly the ones Jesus wants to reach, with the message: “I love you. I can help.”

Graham

Monday, June 12, 2017

Small, faithful actions make a big difference

Morning: Psalm 15, 67; Job 29:1-16; Acts 4:32-37
Evening: Psalm 19, 146; Acts 9:26-31
Today the Church remembers Barnabas, who sold a field and gave the proceeds to the apostles.  This was in keeping with their revolutionary practice of holding possessions in common.  Barnabas gave his property to serve the common good.  Later, he brought to the apostles a man named Saul, who had persecuted Christians. Barnabas vouched for him.  Saul, as Paul, spread the message of Jesus throughout the known world.  So indirectly, Barnabas’ acts of faithfulness changed the world.  May Barnabas inspire us, too, to the small acts of faithfulness that make more of a difference than we can ever imagine.

Graham

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The many faces of God; the many faces of humanity

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Job 38:1-11; 42:1-5; Ephesians 4:1-16
Evening: Psalm 111, 112, 113; John 1:1-18
Anthropologists report evidence of human life in Morocco 300,000 years ago, earlier than previously thought.  We humans want to understand our origins. That quest has given birth to a multi-faceted universe of faiths that reflects the many faces of our humanity.  Christians believe that Jesus showed us God’s face in a human life.  We still struggle to understand this mystery, the mystery of Creation, the mystery of all life, the mystery of human diversity and of how we need one another to be complete. We are learning slowly that, in our diversity, we are one.  And God is one.

Graham

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Have childlike trust; get things in perspective

Morning: Psalm 55; Deuteronomy 29:2-15; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
Evening: Psalm 104; Luke 18:15-35
Jesus teaches about the ‘Kingdom of God’; this is about being in good relationships with people now, not in some other-worldly future realm.  Child-like trust fosters good relationships.  Being unattached to wealth allows you to see everyone as your equal and potential friend.  But, as Jesus jokingly said, it is easier to get a camel through the ‘eye of a needle’ (this was a narrow opening into a public area where no camels could pass, only people) than to be aware of the dangers of riches. Wealth can damage relationships when we trust things more than people.

Graham

Friday, June 9, 2017

All who exalt themselves will be humbled

Morning: Psalm 40, 54; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24
Evening: Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14
Speaking ill of someone or making unfavourable comparisons between them and yourself is a way of praising yourself and putting them down. It is another version of “I’m so grateful I’m not like them.” The Book of Proverbs suggests that: “Pride goes before a fall.”  In other words, and ironically, by building yourself up – by worrying about your reputation and status – you guarantee your own fall.  By practicing humility, on the other hand, you assure your own greatness … except you won’t care about it.

Graham

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Prayer makes just the one who prays for Justice

Morning: Psalm 50; Deut 16:18-20;17:14-20; 2 Corinthians 8:1-16
Evening: Psalm 8, 84; Luke 18:1-8
Paul urges Christians to act generously in the cause of human justice and fairness. Jesus says God will grant justice to those who pray for it. This happens in surprising ways … Prayer is not just asking for whatever you want; prayer is aligning yourself with God’s desire for justice.  When you do, justice happens, through you. When you ask God for justice, God calls you to be generous. Then you are the one who makes the prayer come true … by your actions.  Prayer is no spectator sport … God changes the world by changing the one who prays.

Graham

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Relax, the boss has been here all along!

Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Deuteronomy 13:1-11; 2 Corinthians 7:2-16
Evening: Psalm 49; Luke 17:20-37
Did you ever hear someone say, “Look busy, the boss is coming”?  Or, “There’s an inspection tomorrow.  Make sure everything’s shipshape”?  It’s almost like, “I’d do that if I could get away with it.”  It’s similar to the theology that thinks God is watching you to catch you out in some kind of misdemeanor.  But Jesus counters that when he says, “The kingdom of God is among you.”  In other words, if you were going to catch it, you would already be in trouble.  Something else must be happening … Maybe God really loves you after all.  Imagine!

Graham

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

To be well is to live gratefully

Morning: Psalm 45; Deuteronomy 12:1-12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7:1
Evening: Psalm 47, 48; Luke 17:11-19
Ten lepers are healed when they encounter Jesus, but only one of them comes back to him to give thanks. Jesus asks where the others are.  He wonders why they did not also come back to give thanks.  Then he says to the one who did show gratitude: “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”  You get the feeling that faith makes you well in more than physical ways … as if gratitude is itself a sign of wellness … as if to be well is to live gratefully.

Graham

Monday, June 5, 2017

God entrusted to us the message of reconciliation

Morning: Psalm 41, 52; Deuteronomy 11:13-19; 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
Evening: Psalm 44; Luke 17:1-10
What is Christians’ work in the world? Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” St. Paul affirms that, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.  The human world is off-balance, broken and fractious, fraught with squabbles and conflicts. This world needs peace and reconciliation, forgiveness and faith.  The connection is clear … disciples of Jesus are peacemakers for this broken world.  Their work, in the power of the Spirit, is reconciliation.  There is much of it to be done close to home.  And that’s always a good place to start.  All the virtues begin at home.

Graham

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Spirit will teach you everything

Morning: Psalm 118; Isaiah 11:1-9; I Corinthians 2:1-13
Evening: Psalm 145; John 14:21-29
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that each person should be self-reliant, avoid conformity, and follow his or her own instincts and ideas. "A foolish consistency,” he says, “is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Emerson believed that spirituality requires conformity.  But Jesus taught that the Spirit of God guides us in each and every new circumstance.  Conformity does not work when the Spirit is involved.  There is but one prescription … Love God and the Spirit will teach you everything you need.  Self-reliance may be an unreliable goal.  God made us a communal species.

Graham

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Good or Evil? You have to choose

Morning: Psalm 107:33-43; 108:1-6; Hebrews 9:1-14; Luke 11:14-23
Evening: Psalm 33; Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20; I Peter 2:4-10
Some accused Jesus of using evil to combat evil.  They said he was an agent of evil.  But, Jesus pointed out, if he were evil’s agent, evil would be divided against itself, and a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  Evil cannot defeat evil. When evil is defeated – and we all know instances of that – it is by the power of goodness. God is at work everywhere in the world.  And this much is clear … you cannot be both for God and against God. You have to choose.

Graham

Friday, June 2, 2017

Only one thing is necessary; live in this moment

Morning: Psalm 102; Ezekiel 34:17-31; Hebrews 8:1-13
Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Luke 10:38-42
Why would Jesus praise Mary for sitting at his feet, while chiding Martha for fussing in the kitchen?  He declared that only one thing was necessary, and Mary had chosen it.  Meaning perhaps, “Martha, do come and sit down. That’s all I need right now.”  This does not value the active life less than the contemplative life, as some suggest.  Priorities change with circumstances.  When you invite others in, your hunger for community may be greater than your appetite for food.  Attend to one another first.  You can prepare food later.  For now, rest here with them, in this moment.

Graham

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The quality of mercy

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32; Hebrews 7:18-28
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Luke 10:25-37
Jesus teaches often about fullness of life.  The Gospel calls it “eternal life.”  Some imagine this means a life that goes on forever.  But would Jesus really want to make us long for something unattainable, even undesirable?  Instead, I think Jesus is teaching that eternal life is the way of being human that will ultimately prevail.  It is living well.  Jesus wants us to see that being a neighbour in deeds of mercy, even to strangers, is the way to really live.  Mercy lasts forever.  Shakespeare wrote that mercy “is an attribute to God himself.”  And God is eternal.

Graham