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Glimpses of Grace for the First Sunday in Lent

Devotional Reading: Genesis 9: 8-17

Text: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (v. 13)

The story of Noah, the Ark and the Rainbow is a story often told to children but its profundity has often been ignored or forgotten.

When God brought order out of the chaos at the Creation, the Almighty declared the Creation “good”. But things soon went bad; Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the fratricide of Able, the Tower of Babel, “the sons of God” impregnating “the daughters of Eve”, corruption and violence spiraled out of control nearly sending God’s good Creation back into chaos like grass braking disintegrating a sidewalk that hasn’t been maintained.

Finally God had enough. He vowed to wipe the slate clean like a child shakes an “Etch and Sketch”. But then the Almighty had second thoughts. God decided to save a remnant. It seems that God always leaves a remnant.

And then God did something totally unexpected and even unprecedented. God declared a unilateral peace treaty with all of the Creation.

In this story we are reminded that retribution never wins a human heart or anything else. In the end, only Love wins.

The story of the Rainbow moves us from retribution to forgiveness, and from frustration to patience.

Lord, as you set the Bow in the sky and thus declared a truce with all of Your Creation, show me how to be as wise. Amen.

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Glimpses Of Grace: A Conundrum

Lenten Devotional Reading for the 4th Day of Lent: John 17: 20-26 (from the Dailey Common Lectionary)

Text: …that they may be one… (vvs. 21& 22)

A conundrum is “a confusing and difficult problem or question; a riddle”. Today’s text is a conundrum in that Jesus prayed for His disciples then and now, to be one. He prayed for their “unity”. He prayed for this twice in today’s reading. Yet, as we look at Christianity today, we are far from united.

Recently I attended a 24 hour 3 day professional development class. During one of the presentations the presenter noted that the “pre-Constantine” Church was focused on caring for one another and the general community. They showed no partiality between those in the Church and those outside of the Church. They met need wherever they found it. They realized that they had been “saved to serve”. Accordingly, as people saw their selflessness and their numbers grew.

The “post-Constantine” Church, by contrast, focused less on serving and more on doctrine. As a consequence, the Church became increasingly divided along doctrinal lines. The unity that Jesus prayed for faded into what we see today.

So, here’s the conundrum, how to work toward the building unity For which Jesus prayed?

In this season of Lent I encourage you to visit a worship service other than the one in which you were raised or now attend. Engage in one local mission project were participants cross the boundaries that divide us be they cultural, economic, religious, racial, etc. Look for “the other image of God in those around you. See them as one of God’s children worthy to dignity and respect, just like you. When you do this, you will be a living glimpse of grace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your preface. Let me be the one who takes the first step to dismantling the walls that divide. Amen.

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Glimpses Of Grace: Being In the World

Lenten Daily Devotion Day 3: John 17: 9-19 (from Daily Common Lectionary)

Text: And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. (v. 11)

The world is a big place. It is an overwhelming place. The world’s problems are exponentially compounded by people, by you and me.

In His life Jesus showed those who would take Him seriously a new Way, a way illuminated by the lantern of Truth. This Truth would in turn lead to a Life that knows no end.

He expected us to sow the tiny “mustard seeds” of God’s Kingdom each and every day of our lives. He didn’t ask for full-grown highly developed programs because He knew better. Just a mustard seed or two.

When Jesus saw the crowd of 5000 in search of Truth and Meaning, he asked of the disciples no more than what they could provide. He asks the same of us.

In the season of Lent many people talk about what they’re giving up. I think that that is too easy. Besides, usually it’s things that we should give up anyway, or at least cut back on: coffee, chocolate, maybe a lunch or two–you get the point.

Maybe we shouldn’t give things up but give things to–time to the irritating person who just wants someone to listen, comfort to the frightened, help to the person who doesn’t know how to ask for help. Maybe it’s deciding to being on time, writing a note or card a day to people on your Christmas list. It could be buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you. Just do an act of kindness without wanting or expecting anything in return.

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus once said. It begins small but grows into something beyond imagination.

Jesus isn’t here anymore, except as He is reflected in the lives of those who call Him Lord.

The world is big. We are small. We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it, for the glory of God.

Lord, move my spirit in this season of Lent to plant the mustard seeds of God’s Kingdom in this big world. Amen

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Glimpses of Grace: The Mysterious God

A Lenten Daily Devotion for the 2nd Day of Lent

Daily Reading from Daily Common Lectionary: John 17: 1-8

Text: And this is eternal life… (v.3)

After my father died I went through his papers. In the process I discovered both a creative and spiritual side of him that I never knew existed. Among his papers was an old time card. On the time card, written in faded pencil, these words: “My variety of Christianity is not used to explain everything. It accepts and appreciates mystery.”

I thought of the those words as I read the assigned gospel lesson for today, especially the part about “eternal life“. What is it? What does it look like? At times Jesus seemed to say that it is in the “here and now”. At other times He seemed to say that it is in the “sweet by and by.” Maybe it’s both.

Not too long ago a woman asked me if when she dies will she see her husband again? More importantly, will she be able to recognize him? I paused before answering. Before speaking about the mystery of death, I’d better be sure that what I said was true. I recalled the words attributed to John Calvin; “We should speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent”.

Finally I replied. I said that while I hadn’t been to the other side and back, I was sure of one thing; when she died she’d be with her husband as well as with all of those whom she had ever loved in this world for ever and ever.

Life and Death are mysteries. The challenge is to accept and appreciate the Mystery. We can only do this if we trust in God.

Lord God, in these 40’s days of Lent give me a greater acceptance of Life’s mystery and wonder. And when my understanding falters, give me a faith that will carry me to firmer ground. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace: Ash Wednesday, the journey of Lent begins

In her book “When I Was a Child I Read Books” Pulitzer Prize winning author Marylynne Robinson wrote about how unaware we are of our own short-comings. We see another person’s short-comings just fine but are completely oblivious to our own . “We all know about hubris,” she wrote, “We know that pride goeth before the fall. The problem is that we don’t recognize pride or hubris in ourselves.”

Jesus once told a story about two men who went on the Temple. One was a pious Pharisee, the other a “sinner.” The sinner fell to his knees in the back of the Temple, beat his breast and lamented that he was a sinner. The Pharisee, looked at the sinner and prayed that he sure was glad that he was not like that man. He was quite proud of himself, actually. (Luke 28: 9-14) only one of the two walked away justified, Jesus said. And do you know who it was? The sinner.

Lent is a time to get “off our high horse” and do some serious soul searching, for penitence, for taking a spiritual inventory. It is a time to “clean up our act.” It is a time to remember that we are dust, and we shall return to dust. Ultimately it is a time to remember not only who we are but more importantly, Whose we are.

Lord, walk with me in this season of Lent as I journey toward the Cross and the promise of Easter. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace: “Be Careful on Judging”

Image result for free pic woman caught in adultery

I was surprised when the assigned lectionary reading for today happened to be John 8: 1-11. I was surprised because in many Bible translations, it is relegated to a “footnote”. It’s authenticity is questioned by many biblical scholars.

BUT, it is one of my favorite stories of Jesus. 

A woman caught adultery was brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. Their tone of self-righteous and treacherous spoke through the words they chose.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses commanded us to stone such women! Do you agree?” 

Their intent was clear. They wanted to “trick” Jesus. Their resentment and fear of him was palpable. He threaten not only their status but their very identity.

Jesus responded by bending down and writing in the dust. What it was that He wrote has been lost in the winds of time. “Jealousy”, “Envy”, “Deceit” …  They continued their accusations. He was unmoved. Finally Jesus stood up and said, “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone.” (v. 7b) Then He bent down and resumed writing. “Anger”, “Hatred”, “Cheating”, “Stealing”, …

This time they noticed. One by one they dropped their stones and faded away.

Jesus asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir.”

“Neither do i condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (vss. 9-11) 

The church has been called judgmental and hypocritical by those outside its walls. Too often, they are right. But when we take Jesus seriously, when we are true to His teaching of the gospel that the disciples spread throughout the known world, we become living glimpses of grace.

Lord, make me into a better reflection of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

 

 

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Glimpses of Grace: “Don’t Judge By Appearances”

What do you see in the picture on the left? As young woman looking over her right shoulder, or an old woman wearing a scarf? Both are correct.

When things began to “heat up” in John’s gospel (chapter 7) , Jesus told His listeners, “Do not judge by appearances; but judge by right judgment.” (v. 24) As I read that my mind quickly went to the Old Testament story of young king David. You may recall the story (I Samuel 16).

The prophet Samuel was sent to the “house” of “Jesse the Bethlehemite”. From his sons, God had already “selected” the nation’s next king.  In preparation, Samuel offered the obligatory sacrifice. Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice. When Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab, he thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed.” But the Lord  said “no”. “Do not look on his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have not chosen him. The Lord sees not as humans see. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.'” (I Samuel 16: 6&7)

And so it went through seven of Jesse’s sons.  Finally the prophet Samuel asked it Jesse had any more sons?  “Well,” Jesse stammered, “there is one more, the youngest; but he is watching the sheep.” The word for “the youngest son” implies” insignificant” or “unimportant”. Some may say that the youngest son, David, was “the runt of the litter”.  Yet, as we soon learn that the runt is God’s chosen.

Like Samuel, and like the crowd Jesus spoke to, we have a tendency to judge by outward appearances. “He looks ‘presidential’.” “He’s so tall he must have played basketball.” “She’s too pretty to be smart.” You know the stereotypes. And they are usually wrong. The person who looks like a leader, isn’t. The tall person never played basketball. The pretty one was valedictorian of her class. Appearances are deceiving. Character, “the heart”, is not. It takes time to know the character of a person. When we jump to snap judgments, we are too often wrong.

In a different gospel, at a different time and place, Jesus told His disciples that they could judge a tree by the fruit it produces. He wasn’t really talking about fruit trees. He was talking about “character”. We would be wise to suspend judgment.

Lord, remind me not to jump to quick conclusions or snap judgments. Help me to listen to not only my instinct but Your still small voice. Let me be patient enough to see the fruit of ones character. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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