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Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church

Daily Devotions for May 2022

 

The lilies may have faded. The eggs may be eaten or tossed. The palms may be drying to burn for next year’s Ash Wednesday. It may feel like Easter is behind us. The tomb is once again reliably empty and we can put that amazing truth in its box until next year. But the Season of Easter is not over. Just as the wonder of grace and hope that it brings is never over. In the calendar of the Christian Church, we celebrate Easter for 50 days, up until the day of Pentecost. This year we are spending these days considering the awesome gifts with which God longs to fill us. We spent the season of Lent, releasing qualities, habits and mindsets that do not serve our wellbeing. This month we continue to consider all that God offers to us to fill those cleared out inner spaces. We will be examining different experiences that the early disciples had of the risen Christ for clues about what that One offers to us today. This May, my prayer is that you will be filled with wonder and joy so profound that nothing will ever look the same again! 

May 1 – Receive the Grace of Awe – Luke 24:37 They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost. 

The energized and amazed disciples from Emmaus have made their way back to Jerusalem and found their frightened friends gathered together trying to figure out how everything they thought was certain in life and death had shifted like an earthquake. They don’t know how to find solid ground anymore. As they are talking together about all that has happened. Jesus saunters in and greets them with all of his hopes for peace. How did they respond? They did, like we often do, responded according to their old understandings. Dead people do not wander into their friend’s houses as if nothing had happened at all. Their old experience told them that it must be a ghost. When our certainties come up against God’s awesome, against all odds, presence with us, we can fall back on thought processes that can no longer hold our new reality as well. We often do that out of habit and fear. After all, if the ground won’t stay still under our feet, what might happen next? When we do that, though, we can shut ourselves off from the most awesome aspects of our faith journeys. In this verse, the disciples simply cannot imagine the grace of Jesus’ continuing presence with them. Sometimes we push him off into heaven, or Sunday’s or all of our yesterdays, too. Try today to open your heart to receive Jesus’ living presence with you and within you. You don’t have to unlock the door to your heart. All your old certainties, all your walls and defenses are no impediment. Just notice and receive the grace of the awe you feel when you wake up from the trance of your life and find him standing right by your side. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the ways you come to us and shake us from thoughts and limitations that have no real power. Fill us today with awe at your love. Alleluia Amen. 

May 2 – Receive the Grace of the Right Questions at the Right Time – Luke 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” 

It is tender to see the disciples’ confusion in the presence of Jesus appearance. It is even more tender to see Jesus’ response. One again he is amazed at their fear and confusion. The word for doubt in Greek is not the word for being unbelieving. It means to be stuck between two things and not know which one to choose. While most of the time we are not unbelieving, even if we are confused or anxious, we may often know what it is like to feel immobilized by the new 

things life throws at us and not know which way to jump. We wonder is this the faithful choice or is that? Is this insight from God or ego? Is Jesus a ghost or does he show us our own future? When Jesus saw the confusion in his friends he asked them a question. It is an important one, too. “Why are you stuck? Why are you afraid? Why is it hard to accept the amazing truth of never ending life?” Jesus asks us those same questions today. Why is a powerful question. To answer faithfully we have to look within and identify what is blocking us. Sometimes it will be easy to identify. Sometimes much less so. Still, today, listen for the grace of the right question asked at the right time. It may come from a family member, friend or colleague. It may come from the still small voice of Spirit inside you. However the question comes, pause and receive its grace. It can be a pathway to yourself and the true life of which you are capable. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the questions that you place on the lips of others to guide us to you. We thank you most especially for the grace of ‘why’ that you give to us when we are afraid and filled with doubt. It always leads us closer to you. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 3 – Receive the Grace of Extraordinary Intimacy – Luke 24:39-40 “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 

Sometimes all the personal reflection in the world can’t break through our ingrained thoughts and fears. Surely that must have been true for the disciples. We are not accustomed to things that are too good to be true actually being true. So sometimes we need something tangible to help the amazing goodness of God become a settled truth in our souls. Sometimes it takes extraordinary intimacy with Jesus for us to accept that he is real. Jesus recognized this need with the disciples and he offered them a physical look at his body. He even offered to let them touch him. Perhaps we have not felt Jesus physical body with us in this way. Although in deep prayer or meditation we may have felt him so real that we could reach out and touch. Still, even without that extraordinary fleshly intimacy, we are offered a deep spiritual intimacy daily. He invites us to walk with him. He invites us to examine his wounds, to enter into them. He awes us with what life can actually look like. He reminds us that with him we are already living a resurrected life. He reminds us that life in him includes our wounds and not just our triumphs. They are all sacred. They have all been redeemed. So we, as his body now, can move through our lives experiencing extraordinary intimacy with him in our own bodies and our own church body. When we touch a child’s hand and lead her to the communion table, when we delight in her butterfly wings in worship, when we hold a hurting friends hand, when we take the sacrament of presence into our very bodies, we reach out and touch Jesus. He is no ghost and he has not left us. Today, open your heart wide and receive the grace of extraordinary intimacy. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the many ways you offer yourself to us today to touch and know you. We thank you as well for the many times you offer your healing touch to our trouble blinded hearts. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 4 – Receive the Grace of Ordinary Intimacy – Luke 24:41-43 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.” 

Intimacy with Jesus is not only extraordinary, although it is never mundane. It is often also very ordinary. In this verse, scholars tell us that Jesus is trying to reaffirm his bodily resurrection to 

his friends. Spirits don’t eat fish. There is something wonderful about the ordinariness of the ways that Jesus offers intimate presence to us. Here he offers it, again, beginning with a question. Do you have anything to eat? Well, do you? Do you have food in your refrigerator? Do you have spiritual food upon which to feast? Yes! Each part of your life is an opportunity to share our simple common humanity with Jesus. Today, listen to him ask you if you have anything to eat. Tell him what you have and how much you enjoy it. Offer to share it with him. Jesus loves nothing more than sharing with us that which nourishes, sustains and delights us. Today, in your heart, offer Jesus a bite of whatever you have to eat. You can leave it on your plate and return it to creation by scattering it in the yard, like we do with the communion elements. Oh you can simply eat it for him with a grateful heart filled with the wonder of ordinary intimacy. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the ordinariness of our lives. We know that you enter into every experience with us. Help us to recognize your presence and know that the ordinary is always made holy by you. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 5 – Receive the Grace of a Witness – Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things.” 

These words form the next to last sentence that Jesus speaks to his friends in Luke’s gospel. Witness in scripture is never passive. Just like you would in a court of law, witness is about taking the stand and swearing to your own experience. Jesus was calling his friends to take the stand when others deny the power of the cross and resurrection. It is important to remember that witness must always be first hand. Hearsay will never hold up in court, nor in the court of the world’s opinion. Today, hear Jesus declare to you personally that you are a witness of these things. Think about your firsthand experience of Jesus with you. What is your firsthand experience of God’s love and saving grace? What did you see? What have you felt? What words of truth have you heard? In what moments has your faith been most personal? What is the story that you and only you have to tell of these things? Take a sticky note and write today’s verse on it. Put it on your bathroom mirror so that you see it as you are preparing for the day. Hear Jesus speak these words to you. Say them out loud to yourself. Open your heart to receive the grace of a story to tell! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that all these centuries after Jesus walked among us, we still experience his presence and hear his call to be his witnesses. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 6 – Receive the Grace of Purpose – Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

After Jesus reminded his friends to pause and think about what they had experienced, what they knew of him first hand, he told them what difference all of it makes for their lives. In so doing, he gives their lives new meaning and purpose. The phrase ‘make disciples’ literally means to cause people to become learners of, about, and from Jesus. This is not a phrase that speaks of coercing a set of beliefs. Rather, it is about issuing a compelling invitation to follow and to experience grace for oneself. The power of baptism here, is the power of starting over with a clean slate. It means that those who come to follow do not have to drag the baggage of 

past failure with them into their new life and faith experience. Teaching obedience has to do with showing people how to put discipleship into practice in real and concrete ways. Jesus ends this great commission with a promise. He will be with them come what may. This commission and promise still forms the life map and purpose for every follower of Jesus today. In word and deed we invite people to experience Jesus as we spread out in love. In word, deed and sacrament, we invite people to start over no matter what the past has wrought. In word and deed we teach people what it means in real life to form ourselves on the model of Christ. As we go forward with those purposes foremost, we find that we experience Jesus with us more concretely and personally ourselves. So today, ponder the purpose of your life. How do you accomplish the introducing, forgiving and teaching aspects of your faith? In what ways do you most need Jesus with you on your way? Open your heart just a little wider to receive the grace of a mighty purpose for your life and rejoice! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that our lives find their true meaning in you. We thank you that you choose us and gift us with a purpose beyond our personal needs. Help us today to live up to our calling! Alleluia! Amen. 

May 7 – Receive the Grace of Needing to See for Ourselves – John 20:24-25 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 

Throughout the centuries Thomas has been labeled the doubter. Still, it is interesting that the Greek word for doubt appears nowhere in the story. The word Jesus uses later in the story that we sometimes translate as doubt means unbelieving, or lacking in trust. It refers to being pulled in opposite directions to such an extent that one can’t trust either God or one’s own experience. Thomas is not with the others when Jesus walks through locked doors and presents himself to his friends on the first Easter evening. Where he was, we do not know. What we do know is that he was a practical man and he needed to see for himself what the others had already seen. This is not an outlandish request. When Mary Magdalene came racing to Peter with the news of the empty tomb, he ran to see for himself. Thomas reminds us that our faith cannot be solely based on someone else’s experience, no matter how trustworthy we may find those ones. We can decide that certain principles are reasonable and accept them based on other’s experience. But when it comes down to staking our lives on what we accept, we need experience of Christ ourselves to face the future. Jesus understood this need and provided that personal experience for Thomas. He does that for us as well. When we worship together, pray together or alone, serve out of love, splash in the waters of baptism and feed on Jesus’ real presence in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus comes to us in the concrete experience of our lives and, in essence, says, “I’m here. See the marks? Put your hand in. It’s all true.” So today, even if you experience some forms of doubt, or all forms, receive the grace of Jesus meeting your struggle with real presence and see for yourself that it is all real. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that you plant a desire within us to see you for ourselves. Even more, we thank you for the many ways you meet our longing every day. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 8 – Receive the Grace of Faith – John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 

When Jesus came and met Thomas’ need to see for himself, Thomas was so overwhelmed with wonder that he uttered the very first creed of the Christian church: My Lord and my God! Over the centuries, believers, as we have wrestled out of faith, have added much to that simple creed. We have stated and restated what we understand to be the basics of Christian faith for each new age and circumstance. Each of those prayerfully wrestled statements offer us depth and blessing. Still, they do not appreciably improve on Thomas’. All they really do is seek to explain what it means for us to live what Thomas declared. So, today, let Thomas’ words ring through your heart and mind. Whatever else flows from them, they are really enough. 

Prayer: God of Grace, today we join our voices with our brother Thomas’ and sing to the heavens our joyful response to your saving grace in Jesus: My Lord and My God! Alleluia! Amen. 

May 9 – Receive the Grace of Being Blessed – John 28:-29 - Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 

This verse is often understood as a rebuke. I think that misses the point. What Jesus says here is that coming to believe without the same kind of physical touch that Thomas got will bring blessing for generations to come. This is a statement of grace and not rebuke, in my opinion. The key here is the word we translate as believe. It is that soaring word that we often talk about that means to trust or to rely upon. It is not about understanding or intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It means to trust completely such that one can stake one’s life on the one trusted no matter the circumstances or assaults. None of us today, obviously, met Jesus in that locked room on the first Easter. And yet we have all met him in one way or another. Sometimes we may wonder about that, but still we stake our lives on it. We set our ethics by it. We order our days by it. We trust eternity because of it. That is blessing indeed. So today, notice the times when you consciously rely upon your faith in God and the revelation of God in Jesus. When you find yourself leaning into your faith in any way at all, take a moment to awaken to the feeling of blessing that comes with your reliance. It is grace indeed! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the great blessing of relying upon you in all things. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 10 – Receive the Grace of a Normal Day when Nothing is Normal – John 21:3 - Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 

This verse is Robbie’s favorite in the Bible. As for me, I am going fishing. A day or so have passed since the disciples first experiences of the risen Christ. Jerusalem is in an uproar about it. Rumors are rampant. Some say the empty tomb was a trick that the disciples played by stealing the body. Others say it was the guards who did it in order to make Jesus’ disciples look ridiculous or to further add insult to injury. Others think that Jesus must have been some sort of demon and that the devil came for him. Still others are just so lost in disappointment, confusion and grief they don’t know what to think. What Peter and the others do know, however, is that while the danger for Jesus is past, that is not the case for them. There are rumblings about rounding up Jesus’ disciples and giving them what their rabbi got. Powers that be are afraid and 

they want to stop these rumors no matter what they have to do to do it. The world has been rocked and nothing feels normal. So what does Peter decide to do? He goes back to work. He decides that in the midst of all that he cannot control, he should dedicate himself to what he knows that he knows how to do. It is such a lure for us today, in our pandemic and war weary time, to want to get things back to normal. We want to do things that we know how to do. We want to get the same results every time, just like we used to do. We want to blow up our computers, set fire to our masks, turn off our televisions and fill our sanctuaries with lilies and children with colorful baskets and adults with moist eyes and beautiful voices. We just want to go fishing. It is so natural. Sometimes it is even exactly what we need to do. (But not always, as we will see in tomorrow’s verse.) Still, when things change dramatically, doing the familiar thing can be both healing and productive. Today I invite you to open your heart to the normal things of daily life that sustain and ground you in changing and uncertain times. Play a game of tennis. Listen to some favorite music. Dig a little in the garden. Turn off all the lights and stare at the night sky. There is abounding grace in doing what we know how to do with our hearts attuned to Jesus. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the small daily habits that ground our lives and give us a feeling of security. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 11 – Receive the Grace of Frustration - John 21:3 - Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 

The problem with doing what we know how to do when everything has changed, is, simply, that everything has indeed changed. So what we have always known how to do, what we have turned to in times of chaos, may not work anymore. Peter and the others were professional fishers. They knew how to cast a net, when and where. They had supported their families and the community with the product of their labor all of their lives. They knew that there were good days and bad days, large hauls and smaller ones. What they had little experience of, however, was no haul at all. Yet on this night they push out, do the things that they could do in their sleep and they catch nothing. Their skill and their habit failed them. So what do they do when that happens? They wear themselves out trying to do the same things that are not working. We know how to do that don’t we? When everything has changed and we don’t have a clear vision for the future, we can waste a lot of time and energy trying to recreate the past. We can also wind up just like the disciples did, frustrated and unproductive. It seems to me, though, that there is grace even in those times. Our frustration and lack of productivity can soften our souls and prepare them for a new direction. So today, if you find that you feel frustrated, that things you think should work, just don’t. Open your heart to the frustration. Thank God for the softening grace of it and get ready for a new plan. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that you use even our most frustrated efforts to take us to the place we need to go. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 12 – Receive the Grace of a New Plan – John 21:4-5- Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

Had Jesus stood on the beach all night watching his disciples flap around in their own self sufficiency? The text doesn’t say. Still, at daybreak, there he is. He sees that their boat is empty. He sees that their efforts have not brought the results they were certain that they would. He sees how hard they have tried and how worn out they are. He asks them a question to see if they are aware of their failed state and if they will tell the truth about it. When he is satisfied that they know their situation and can no longer deny it to themselves or to him, he gives them a new plan. Throw your net over there, he says. There are fish there. Sometimes we, too, have to wear ourselves out before a new plan can arise. Sometimes, we have to satisfy ourselves that all that we thought would work has come to naught. That is an extremely painful, but also powerful, point to reach. Sometimes we must let go of habit in order to receive Christ’s new direction. There is beauty in listening to Jesus for a new way forward. There is beauty even before we try. Today, if you find that you are exhausted and can’t figure out why you are not getting the results you want in some area of your life, take a deep breath. Tell Jesus the truth of your situation. Then just listen. A new plan is coming with the dawn. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that with each sunrise you come to us to give us a new plan for joy and bounty. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 13 – Receive the Grace of Night Swimming – John 21:5b-7 So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. The disciples whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 

While the verse where Peter says he is going fishing is Robbie’s favorite, this one might just be mine. I so love the picture painted here. The key of course, is that even tired and frustrated, the disciples do what Jesus tells them to do. It is doubly amazing that they do so because they aren’t even aware yet that the man on the beach telling them what to do next is, in fact, Jesus. When they do as they are told, then the haul is so great they don’t even know how to get it to shore. The beloved disciple figures out that it is Jesus on the beach before the others do. When he tells Peter, Peter puts on all his clothes and jumps into the water. Net fishermen like Peter often fished either naked or with just a loin cloth so that their clothes didn’t get in the way of their casting or caught in their nets. But to get fully dressed and jump into the sea? That is both laughable and endearing. Once again, overwhelmed by the grace and power of Jesus, Peter just loses his head and dives into the water with all of the encumbrance of a full suit of clothes. What was he thinking? He couldn’t wait for the boat to get to shore to get to Jesus? He didn’t want to drag himself to the shore starkus? We don’t know. What we do know, however is that sometimes when presented with Jesus and his new plan for our lives we have to just dive into the deep end too. Maybe we, too, need the comfort of some of our old clothes to take the leap. But whatever the case, there are times when we awaken to the power of living our lives according to Jesus direction. When we do, nothing will keep us from getting to him. No deep waters, no old fatigue will stop us from plowing through the waves to simply be closer to him. There is grace in taking the plunge, even if we do it encumbered with habit or the shame of things we’d rather keep hidden. So today, look around and see Jesus on the shore telling you where real life and abundance are to be found. Dive in and enjoy the grace of Night Swimming. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the courage you give us to dive into the deep to get to you. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 14 – Receive the Grace of Some Keeping Their Heads – John 21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 

While Peter’s impulsive, but loving, response to Jesus is fun to consider, the others kept their heads and brought the boat with the haul into the beach. They made sure that the catch wasn’t lost and that all arrived on shore safely. After all, they were not far from shore when awareness dawned on them. In our own lives, when turbulent and uncontrollable events occur, it is a particular grace to have some people close to us who keep clear heads and do the hard work of bringing us safely through. During the pandemic, we were blessed with doctors and scientists who kept their heads, put them down and did what had to be done. One of the gifts of living in a community, a church or a family is that, mercifully, we don’t all act impulsively at the same time. Not that what Peter did was bad or wrong, anymore than our own impulsive actions are bad or wrong when motivated by deep love. Still, when we get dressed and leap into the unknown depths like Peter did, it is very helpful to know that there are others who have our backs, take a practical approach and do not judge us when our love drives us into deep waters. 

Today, take a moment to think of a time when you acted impulsively with the best intentions. Were there people around you who kept their heads and helped you? Take a moment today to thank God for the steady people in your life who help you remain safe and balanced. Receive into your open heart the grace they bring. 

Prayer: God of Grace, today we thank you for those who keep their heads in uncertain times. They show us love, stability and calm. That is grace indeed. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 15 – Receive the Grace of Breakfast on the Beach – John 21:9 -12 - When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” 

When I was little and desperately ill much of the time, our family doctor often offered his beach house to us so that the sea breezes might help my breathing. One of the things I loved most was when we had small bonfires on the beach and roasted hotdogs on sharpened palmetto branches. Now granted, the smoke did not help my breathing but the experience of eating on the beach after my parents had built up the fire and prepared the palmetto fronds was one of pure love and the beauty of life. In today’s verse, Jesus does for the disciples just what my parents did for me. He builds a small fire and makes them breakfast on the beach. Scholars say that the point of this action is, once again, to prove the bodily resurrection. After all ghosts don’t smoke fish and toast bread. I accept that. I also think that there is more. The sacred breakfast on the beach shows us that Jesus prepares for us, provides for us, and joins us in the everyday realities of our lives. So today, if you are able, take a walk along the shore, or even just around the block. Know as you walk, that Jesus is there preparing for your time together. Take a sandwich or a snack if you like. Sit for a moment and look at the expanse of the ocean, teaming with fish, or at the loveliness of a shade tree or whatever beauty surrounds you, and feel all the love and provision Jesus lavishes upon you. Receive the grace of provision. 

Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you today for your love and provision! Alleluia! Amen. 

May 16 – Receive the Grace of Agape– John 21:15 - When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord: you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

After their breakfast together, Jesus and Simon Peter take a walk along the shore. The beloved disciple follows a little behind to give them privacy. As they walk Jesus asks Peter, do you love me. Jesus uses the less common Greek word agape to describe a sturdy love that is unconditional, unshakeable and eternal. This love is not so much an ethic as a steady set of choices that are in the best interest of the beloved no matter the consequences. It is the kind of deep choosing of the best that Jesus always brought and brings to us. We’ll look at Peter’s word choice tomorrow, but for today, stay with the love that Jesus gives and asks for in return. He is asking Peter to love his people the way Jesus himself loves them. He is asking that Peter feed them in any way needed, no matter the personal cost. He is asking Peter to love others as he, Jesus, loves him. Most of us can barely imagine that kind of love because even the finest of human love is a mixture of devotion and the ego’s need for reciprocation. Still, there are moments when we glimpse agape in our own lives. There are even moments when we live it. In my experience it is both easier and harder to live out of agape in a faith community. Nevertheless, it is Jesus’ last expressed wish for us in John’s gospel. Take a moment today to ponder the concept of unconditional, eternal and ethical love. Can you identify times when someone has shown that king of love toward you? Can you think of times when it has welled up inside you and you have loved in that way? Even if those times have been fleeting, they have connected you to Jesus in a deep way. You have become like him and you know your true calling. Whether agape has become a settled disposition in your life or a rare delightful treat, in Christ, this love is a constant for you. Nothing can change that. Period. So today, notice love, bask in love and give thanks for the grace of agape. 

Prayer: God of Grace: We thank you today for your amazing love. We are humbled by it and ask that you increase our capacity to share this deep love with others. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 17 – Receive the Grace of Philios - John 21:15 - When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord: you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

In yesterday’s verse we saw that Jesus asks Peter to love as Jesus himself loves and to express that love in concrete acts of care for his flock. Peter didn’t quite understand. At the time of Jesus’ life, the word agape was not widely used. It was an old fashioned kind of word that the culture had subsumed into other words. It was not until after the resurrection that Christians, grasping for a way to express God’s love in Christ Jesus, returned to that word and specialized it to carry the meanings I mentioned yesterday. So it is no wonder that Peter failed to grasp what Jesus was saying. He must have thought he was using old fashioned language and so Peter responded with the more common Greek word philios. This word refers to warm loving feelings for those who are closest to us. It is family love at its best and can be extended to make family of many. This is the meaning of the name of the great city of Philadelphia: Love of the kindred. A key distinction between the two loves is that philios is a feeling and agape is a choice. Because philios is a feeling, it waxes and wanes and is affected by the actions of the beloved. Agape does not do any of that. It is a constant that does not change or fade. Here Peter meets Jesus’ agape with his warm and powerful feelings of philios. Remember that philios is not a 

lesser love. It is a different love. And it is more vulnerable to the ego. Jesus must clearly have in mind the fragility of Peter’s love displayed only a few days before in his betrayal when Jesus was arrested, tried and executed. Jesus hopes for a more durable love. So he asks Peter the question three times. The final time, poignantly, Jesus drops the word agape and uses the word that Peter can understand, philios. Jesus, as always, meets his friends where they are and builds from there. Today take a moment to ponder the differences between agape and philios. Think about the beautiful mutuality of kindred love. Thank God for all the people you love and for the ways they have taught you to love. Receive today the grace of the emotion of love and bask in it. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the warm feelings of love with which we have been surrounded. Help us today to draw strength from those who love us and to return that love in full measure. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 18 – Receive the Grace of Needing Help – John 21:18 “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 

The last of the resurrection appearance stories in John’s gospel ends in an enigmatic way. After Jesus and Peter conclude their conversation about loving and feeding the flock, Jesus uses a strange image that was interpreted by the gospel writer as a prophecy. Jesus uses the changes of aging as a way of talking about how out of control life can become. The gospel writer sees this as a prediction of Peter’s own martyrdom. Perhaps so, but there is more, isn’t there? In offering us a picture of how out of control life can sometimes get, I notice that there is also a helper there. The gospel writer sees this helper as an executioner, fastening Peter to his own cross. I see the helper as a figure of grace. Sometimes we need help. The older I get the clearer that becomes. Things I could once do easily are more difficult, if not impossible now. Mercifully, I can fasten my own belt and do not yet have to be led by the hand wherever I go yet. Still, I do find that I cling to Robbie’s hand as we go down the flight of stairs at the beach house. There is a tenderness in that small action. Sometimes grace comes when we recognize that we need help. Today, practice thinking of your limitations as opportunities to receive care. Rather than sulking over what is passing away, open your heart wide to receive the helpers God sends to tenderly care for you and give you space to live and love. Jesus ends the strange story with simple command, “Follow me.” If we take that seriously we will follow him to some helpless places, to our own kinds of crosses. What we know, however, no matter how hard things may become, is that his own hand of love is reaching out to help us even if we can’t quite fasten our own belts. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the grace of needing help sometimes and for those you send to help us. Alleluia! Amen! 

May 19 – Receiving the Grace of Things that are None of Our Business – John 21:20-21 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 

After all of this, Peter, surely wondering what is going on, loses his battle with his ego one more time. He turns and sees the beloved disciple following along behind them. He asks Jesus what is to become of him. Behind that question is the age old desire to be number one. This is so natural in the world of philios. We want to be the most loved, special, and unique. That kind of competition is absent from agape. In this case, apparently, Peter wants to know if he will outlive the beloved disciple. Jesus appears to lose a bit of patience here. (You can always tell that in scripture when something Jesus says is punctuated with an exclamation mark.) Jesus shuts Peter down quickly, telling him that how Jesus relates to others is none of Peter’s business. Sometimes I think we have forgotten this lesson. We sometimes question how Jesus will relate to others who are not like us, don’t think like us, or with whom we feel a competitive spirit. We wonder what Jesus will do with them. What about them, Lord, we ask of those who claim the faith but to not seem, to us, to be claimed by it. What about them, Lord, we ask of those who call God by another name and read a different sacred book. Sometimes we need to be proven right so badly that we don’t care what God does with the ones we have decided are not right. Jesus has little patience with this. I would submit that he answers those questions of ours with an exclamation point too. Today, breathe deeply and relax your shoulders. Remember that it is your job to love and proclaim Christ. It is not your job to decide who is in and who is out. That resides in the unfathomable grace of God. Jesus, agape in skin, can be trusted to sort it all out. 

Prayer: God of Grace: We thank you that some things are just none of our business! Help us today to relax and trust you to rule your world and love your children in exactly the right ways. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 20 – Receive the Grace of Enough – John 21:24 - But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 

As a writer, I can so identify with how John ends his gospel. He knows that there is so much more he could say, so many more wondrous and instructive stories he could tell about Jesus. Yet, he, with the gift of special inspiration that he had, knows when enough is enough. There were lots of stories and first person accounts of life with Jesus that circulated by the time John wrote. Gospels of Thomas, Phillip, Mary Magdalene and even Judas have surfaced with many stories similar to the Biblical stories and others that are new and very different. But John knew when to say enough. A skill I can rarely master myself. He held to his purpose throughout: to testify to Jesus so that people may know that what is told of him is true. We may often want more. More insight. More experiences of Jesus. More stories to learn and into which we can enter. In the small last verses of John, the gospel writer reminds us that while there is more, what we have is enough. We have enough to come to know him. We have enough to encounter him. And, we have enough to allow Jesus to continue his story through us in our own lives and daily companionship with our risen savior. So today, take a moment to breathe deeply. Set a three minute timer and see how many stories from the life of Jesus that you can bring to mind in that space of time. Jot down a reminder or title to each story, such as Good Samaritan, Woman at the Well. Just enough to get the story in mind. Throughout the day when you pause in your responsibilities, choose one story and remind yourself of it in detail. If you don’t remember it well, you can look it up. See if you don’t find yourself smiling at the wonder of it 

all. Thank God that what you have been given of Jesus is enough, knowing that there will always be more just when you need it. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the stories of Jesus that have been handed down to us with such insight and care. Help us not to take this gift for granted. Help us today to receive the blessings you have for us in scripture. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 21 – Receiving the Grace of Waiting for the Right Moment – Acts 1:3-4b After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. 

The Acts of the Apostles is part two of Luke’s Gospel. Here we follow the early disciples, primarily Peter and Paul, as they moved out in witness after Jesus’ ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Today’s verse precedes all of that. The disciples, upon the instruction from the risen Christ, have stayed in Jerusalem. Jesus has appeared to them in many ways. Still, Jesus knows that it is time for him to ascend. He also knows that there is more that the Father has to give them. They, unfortunately are still stuck in their old mindsets of winning and restoration of power as the hallmarks of kingdoms. It will take the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help them finally see what is real and durable. For now, Jesus asks them to wait on God’s timing for the fullness of God’s gifts to them. God still waits for the right moment in each of our lives in order to give us new gifts, insights, blessings and purpose. We may think we are ready and want all of it all at once. We want bounty today. We want filled sanctuaries today. We want complete understanding today. What we often forget is that waiting too has a spiritual purpose. As we wait for what God will bring, we become more attuned to both God’s wisdom and also to what we have already been given. We have to have a little time to incorporate and appreciate before a new gift can be good for us and for the world. So today, open your heart. Take a look at the spaces that you want to be filled with more love, bounty, success, or mission. Look at that space and thank God that you are ready to receive when the time is right. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the gifts of waiting for your perfect timing of the blessings that you have for us. Help us to be ready and not to waste anything. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 22 – Receiving the Grace of Baptism - Matthew 28:18-20 - “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

For the next few days, we will return to the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel and open ourselves to receive each of its elements. Today we receive the grace and power of our baptism. Baptism is a multi-leveled sacrament that, in my opinion, opens up fully in us over time. From the earliest times of humankind, peoples all over the world and from all cultures have embraced rituals of inclusion. These rituals mark participants as fundamentally different from the way they were before. They mark them as a part of something bigger than they are, something that gives them identity, power and purpose. For Christians our inclusion ritual is the sacrament of baptism. In it we affirm that the baptized are children of God and a part of the household of faith. In the Reformed tradition, we baptize people of all ages, acknowledging that 

it is God who does the saving work in us and not our own understanding. We baptize people into faith and see that as a beginning or turning point in their journey with God. When we are baptized it is not only a hedge against eternity, it is a road map for this life, filled with power, grace and growth. So today take a moment to thank God for the amazing grace of your baptism. If you have not yet been baptized, you will always be welcome! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that you claim us as your children. Today we bask in the grace and power of our baptism. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 23 – Receiving the Grace of The Name - Matthew 28:18-20 - “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

When Jesus tells the disciples to baptize others far and wide, a later editor of the text adds in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to make it clear to us what kind of baptism Jesus was encouraging. To baptize in the name is to declare that the newly baptized will be empowered daily to claim their role as a child of God, to grow in knowledge of God, and to fashion life according to God’s values. When we move through our days as those baptized in the Name, we realize that we have been claimed into all that God is, values, desires and requires. When we are baptized we enter into a family of faith where we make commitments not just to God, but also to each other. This is why in Presbyterian churches baptisms are never private rituals but always celebrated in the worshipping community. When we are baptized we are never alone again. We are never without a place of belonging again. It may sometimes feel that way. And, faith communities have many failings that may make us want to flee at times. Still, from the moment we are baptized in the Name, we are a part of something that cannot be broken. We are a part of the household of God. Receive again today the grace of Name with which you are marked forever! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the gift of bearing your name. Help us to be more and more worthy of the name we bear. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 24 – Receiving the Grace of Teaching Obedience - Matthew 28:18-20 - “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

Earlier in our Easter journey, I noted that the word teaching here means something like to cause someone to be a learner. Jesus tells us here that his desire for us is that we will cause others to learn obedience. What is obedience in the Bible? Does Jesus mean that we teach people all of the rules and make sure that we police them? Well, not exactly. The word in Greek means to attend, to willingly stand under, to order or sort something or to hear something with such power that it causes one to act on what is heard. So I hope you can see from these nuances that obedience is not simply about accepting the rules and doggedly keeping them or else. Rather, obedience is about radical transformation of life and priorities such that one hears God’s word, agrees to stand beneath the comfort of it and attend to it constantly. Sometimes 

we associate obedience more with our failures than our protection. We look at the many times we haven’t lived up to even our own standards, much less God’s. When we think like that, we can see the word obedience as a sword hanging over our heads. While there are certainly consequences for our failures, the New Testament image of obedience is one of attention and comfort. We can think of God’s values as a great oak tree with branches that, if we stand beneath, close to the trunk, we will receive protection from rain and sun. Under those branches we can take a nap and then awaken, look up and attend to the beauty of each leaf. We can listen to the wind rustle through the leaves and recognize what is good and powerful and true. If we choose to leave from beneath the tree we have little protection from the elements and, I would submit, no rest at all. This is the winsome truth that Jesus asks us to teach the world. So today, I invite you to receive the grace of obedience and the call to share it with others. 

Prayer: God of grace, we thank you for the protection and rest we find in following your ways. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 25 – Receiving the Grace of Promised Presence - Matthew 28:18-20 - “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

After Jesus gave his commission to the disciples, they must have felt overwhelmed. Or maybe they were still so clueless that they didn’t know to feel overwhelmed. Jesus, however, knew what was coming their way. He knew how hard it is to break through the world’s hard shell, the certainties and expectations of life weary people and open them to the truths of hope and grace. He knew that there would be times to come when they felt abandoned, when they would be persecuted and when they would feel like failures. He knew that we would have times like that too. So before he ascends he reminds them to remember that he is (present tense!) with them always even to the end of time. The word remember in Greek is a powerful one. It literally means to give something flesh again, to make it alive again. It is the word that we use of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in which we don’t just recall, but we give flesh again to the whole reality of Christ with us, within us and among us. Jesus knows that sometimes life is hard and that for us to live it in Christ we will need to open ourselves to his constant apprehendable presence in our lives and world. So today, open your arms wide. Feel the air on your skin. Know that that air is the very breath of God. Close your eyes and see Jesus’ face however you imagine it. Hear him say to you, “I’m right here. I still right here. I will always be right here.” 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for your never failing presence. Help us today to awaken to it everywhere. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 26 – Ascension – Receiving the Grace of the Ascension – Acts 1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” 

Sometimes it is hard to feel the presence of Jesus when we do not see him. The disciples have been through so much, I cannot imagine what their feelings were as they watched Jesus rise to the heavens and disappear. Could they, in the presence of that experience, believe that he was somehow mysteriously and spiritually still completely present with them? It took two men 

(angels) in white robes to remind them that they should stop staring up at the heavens and start their role in spreading heaven on earth. Which is what they do. They elect Matthias to replace Judas and then start trying to figure out how to get on with it. In the history of Christian theology, teachers have suggested that the Ascension was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come in fullness and the fullness of the Spirit is necessary for the accomplishment of our mission or simply to make it through day to day. Why that was necessary is a little murky to me, but the results are not. Having Jesus ascend gives us a great opportunity to walk by faith and not by sight. It is the walking by faith that strengthens the muscles of the heart and soul allowing us to look within at Spirit’s work in our hearts, and out at Spirit’s work in the community. So Today, take a moment to thank God for the mysteries of the Ascension and for the ways it stretches our faith. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the mysterious grace of the story of your Ascension. Help us to respond as the disciples did and get on with the work you have for us. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 27 – Receive the Grace of Signs and Wonders – Acts 2:43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 

The book of Acts gives us a beautiful and, likely, idealized picture of the lives of the earliest Christians. In today’s verse, the Spirit has been received. The indwelling power of the Spirit of Christ has changed Peter completely. No longer is he the bumbling ego driven jealous power seeker. Suddenly he is resplendent and eloquent. His speech helping the gathered crowds understand the first Pentecost led many people to faith in Christ. In these few verses, we get a glimpse into what the daily life of the earliest believers was like. All around them they saw signs and wonders. In the New Testament, the word for sign means a mark or an indication. Signs are pointers to a greater reality. Signs appeal to our understanding. When we see an indication of God, we come to understand God better. Wonders are a little different. Wonders are things that make us marvel. They are often strange and out of the ordinary. Wonders are often understood as supernatural and intended to appeal to our imaginations. Signs help us understand more of God. Wonders help us know how much is beyond our understanding. We can look for signs. Wonders, however, are pure gift. All we can do to receive them is to be humbly open to them. Today, tune your eyes to the signs that are around you that help you see God and learn something about who God is. Also, simply tell God that you are open to receive wonders if they are needed and God sees fit. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the many signs of your presence with which you bless us. We are grateful for every new insight. We are grateful as well for the moments of wonderment when we realize how much we do not and can never know. Keep us always in Awe of you! Alleluia! Amen. 

May 28 – Receive the Grace of Holding All Things in Common – Acts 2:44-45 All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. 

Today’s verse may be one of the most challenging in the New Testament for those of us who live in the United States with a measure of privilege. We have been trained to be ruggedly individualistic. This does not, of course, mean that we have no spirit of oneness and esprit 

d’corps, but still, we do tend to think of what we have, own, and control as our own. We tend to think that it is all first and foremost for our security and enjoyment. Not much could be further from Jesus’ and the Bible’s reality than that. Throughout Jesus’ teaching, he asks us to unhook from the dangers of possessions and individualism. He tells a rich man to give everything away to the poor. He laments at how hard it is for those with many possessions to enter the kingdom. It is not, of course, possessions that are the real problem. The problem is the way possessions possess us, and therefore the way we cling to their inequitable distribution. It seems from this text that there was a brief shining moment when, as a people of Christ, we understood and lived this truth. We understood that nothing actually belonged to us at all. We understood that everything we had and controlled was given for the good of all and was to be relinquished whenever another was in need. That radical form of community, sadly did not last long even among the early believers who were in constant awe from signs and wonders. Later in Acts we see that Ananias and Saphira try to hedge their bets and falsify their pledge to seem more generous than they actually were. That duplicity killed them both. Granted, for good or ill, we are not likely to form a commune and hold all our goods in common as today’s verse describes. Still, there is tremendous grace in recognizing that all we have belongs to God and is to be used for the good of all. Today, as you go about your daily tasks, notice everything that you have, your clothes, shoes, computer, desk, bed, house, car, just everything. Thank God for each thing you notice and ask how it might be used to meet the needs of others. Perhaps your kitchen can produce a meal for a hungry or hurting neighbor. Perhaps your bed can give you good rest so that you are strengthened to serve others. Perhaps your car can make a run to the grocery for a shut in neighbor. Recognizing that all we have is to be used to serve, has the added benefit of reducing our secret feelings of lack or desiring more than we need. After all, to whom much is given much is required! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the realization all we have is gift to be used to serve you. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 29 – Receive the Grace of Worship - Acts 2:46-47 - Day by Day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. 

This verse gives us a picture of a community basking in the joy of what God has done for them in Christ to such an extent that they are constantly worshipping and praising. They spent time in Temple worship including instruction, song and ritual action. Our service for the Lord’s Day liturgies are loosely based on the forms of Temple worship at the time of Jesus. There are rhythms to it, time of rejoicing, times of confessing, time for instruction, times for prayer. The early believers recognized how much they needed this worship. They knew how grateful they were for God and all of the grace they received. They took their worship home with them and ate together with glad hearts. This rhythm of worship and feeding did its transforming work and all around saw the changes in them. Others began to notice that these ones were not like everybody else. They had a shimmering quality to their common life. They had become people of praise and generosity. Their faith so delighted them that others wanted to share in what they had found. The rhythms of worship, home fellowship, generosity and praise are still transformative. That is if they become an awakened way of life and not adjuncts to lives filled 

with too much else. Today practice that rhythm. Take a moment to offer your worship to God. Confess your faults. Receive instruction. Share a meal with someone if you can. Open your heart widely and generously and watch what happens. You will be amazed! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the patterns and rhythms of our lives and faith. Help us today to draw strength for them and to worship you with a glad and generous heart. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 30 – Receive the Grace of Gentleness – Phil 4:5 - Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 

The word for gentleness in Greek is fascinating. It refers to something that is fitting, equitable, fair, moderate, forbearing, not insistent on the letter of the law. Something or someone who expresses this characteristic shows even handed considerateness. A version of this word was often used to characterize a nurse with trying children or a teacher with difficult students. Some translate the word ‘sweet reasonableness.’ In today’s verse, Paul is writing to special friends in Philippi. These members of the church pray for and support him in trying times. He is in prison as he writes. His circumstances are truly awful and yet he urges his friends to let their sweet reasonableness, their forbearance and moderation be obvious in how they live and how they are seen in the community. In the dominant expressions of our faith in the United States, gentleness is not the first word that often leaps to mind. We sometimes associate this quality with being wishy washy or weak. As anyone who has ever sought to practice this type of gentleness knows, it is anything but. Being equitable in a word of inequality is hard work. Being moderate in a world of extremes is hard work. Finding the most fitting response in difficult circumstances is hard work. Refusing legalism is hard work when our precious values seem threatened. Pursuing sweet reasonableness in a violent and fractured time is hard, hard, hard work. It is counter-cultural and it cannot be counterfeit. Still, this quality, which Paul in Galatians calls a fruit of the Spirit, may just be the most needed in our day. To open ourselves to gentleness requires that we learn to watch our reactions to things and people. It requires that we stretch our capacity to choose responses rather than react with first emotions. That is not easy but it is something that can be learned. So today, if you notice yourself reacting fiercely or negatively to anything, take a breath. Ask God to express sweet reasonableness through you. Then respond. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the gift of sweet reasonableness and your Spirit’s power to flow though us in all gentleness, moderation and forbearance. Alleluia! Amen. 

May 31 – Receive the Grace of Rejoicing – Phil 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. 

Just before God tells his friends to manifest gentleness he tells them to rejoice in all things. Could that be the key to practicing sweet reasonableness? Words for joy and rejoicing in the New Testament cover everything from calm delight to wild unbridled hilarity. What we sometimes fail to realize is that joy is not just a release or an anesthetic. It is a fierce power. Joy is a conduit of Spirit energy. It can heal and it is independent of all circumstances. There is the rub, isn’t it? We tend to think that we feel joy only when times are good, or when we have gotten something that we want. To the contrary, in the Bible joy is called out when we are in the worst possible circumstances. Why? Because joy is rooted not in what is happening now but 

what has happened and happens eternally in Christ. Every day is seen in the context of eternity. Even suffering, in the New Testament, is an opportunity for joy because it allows us to share in what Jesus himself endured and thereby understand him and be closer to him than before. Joy has an emotional quality, but it is also a Spirit fruit that can be cultivated or at least awakened to. Joy can be found inside of us and called to expression whenever needed. So today, no matter what is going on, find something that brings you joy. Laugh if at all possible and do it from the belly and longer than seems reasonable. Just do it. Joy always follows! I double dog dare you! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the gift of joy and open ourselves today to receive it in full measure. Alleluia! Amen. 

June 1 – Receiving the Grace of the Spirit’s Fruit – Gal. 5:22-23 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things. 

This is one of the earliest letters of the Apostle Paul. He is writing to the church in Galatia. He is mad as hops with them. And, he is scared for them. Some of the behaviors, accommodations and theological arguments they are making, in Paul’s view, threaten the very core of the faith itself. In this section of the letter, he addresses how wily worldly values and accommodations can be. To help them see the danger they are in, he gives them a picture of what Spirit filled life looks like. The image of fruit tells us that these characteristics are what the indwelling Spirit produce. They are who the Spirit is, so naturally they are what Spirit produces. The fruit is spoken of as a collective, in the singular. These are not aspects from which we can pick and choose the ones that are easiest or most palatable. They are a whole, just as the Spirit is whole. When times are difficult and we become confused about how to live in complicated lives, it is helpful to return to this picture of what we are to display to our families, communities and world. Or perhaps more accurately, what we are to allow the Spirit to cultivate in us and display through us. So today, read over this list quietly. Perhaps you want to post it on your mirror and ask yourself as you comb your hair if these are the qualities that others see in you. If yes, hallelujah. If no, just know that they can be. Ask God how God desires to cultivate these Spirit qualities in your life, then start. 

Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for giving us the fullness of the Spirit with all Spirit’s gifts. Help us today to tend the Spirit’s wild and wonderful garden and bear fruit for the world. Alleluia! Amen. 

June 2 – Receiving the Grace of Prayer – Phil. 4:6 - Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. 

The Philippians, and Paul himself, had plenty to worry about. Persecution for their faith was on the rise. It was not yet what it would sadly become, but it was bad enough. Believers were accused of being bad citizens because they believed their true citizenship was the kingdom of God. They were accused of being cannibals because of the Eucharist. They were accused of practicing orgies because of the kiss of peace in worship. They were being run out of their neighborhoods. Their businesses were suffering and their children were being bullied. Add to that the Roman government’s growing unease with the movement and there was plenty to 

keep believers us at night. As for Paul, he writes this letter from prison where he was probably shackled, sitting in his own excrement, with his feet in carved holes in the stone walls. With all of that going on, Paul recognizes that sometimes our circumstances are simply too much to bear on our own. That is when the gift of prayer is most appreciated. The kind of prayer that Paul urges here has two aspects. First, it comes from a place of intimate companionship. Prayer is lifted to one who knows us, loves us and can see beyond our circumstances. We are not praying to an angry God who secretly thinks we are getting what we deserve. Second, when we pray our worries, we pray the prayer of release. We simply share our fears and concerns with our loving God and let them go into God’s care trusting that God will resolve our issues in the way that is ultimately best for all. Today we also have many things that prey on our minds, pandemic, family responsibilities, finances, our nation’s divisions, global wars and ecological disasters. Take a moment today to tell God what worries you and then, as best you can, release that worry or request with thanksgiving that God has a plan and will take care of what you need. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for the intimacy of times of prayer. We thank you for the answers only you can bring. Help us today to release in trust and receive the bounties of the gift of prayer. Alleluia! Amen. 

June 3 – Receiving the Grace of Remembering the suffering – Heb. 13:1-3 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison them; as though you yourselves were being tortured. 

The author of the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews was probably not the author of the long, densely theological sermon that makes up the first twelve chapters. The author of this chapter is a practical theologian with a pastor’s heart who wants nothing more than to help the people who read or hear this work understand how to apply it to their lives. Chapter 13 is a master class for Christian community life! The love spoken of here is philios, that warm bonded feeling kind of love that helps us to stick together through hard times and misunderstandings. The word we translate as hospitality to strangers is literally philoxenia, that is the same kind of warm kindred love extended to strangers or foreigners. This kind of love includes genuine feelings of closeness and oneness that lead us to give of ourselves to the other without counting the cost. The author reminds us that as we love strangers we may find that they are messengers from God who come bringing unexpected and unearned blessings. Then the author makes as a hallmark of Christian life, remembering (giving flesh again) prisoners and those being tortured. The author tells us that in Christ we cannot think of us and them. What happens to any, happens to each. I’m writing this devotion on Maundy Thursday, the day we give flesh again to the last supper and to Jesus washing his friends feet. I am also aware of the atrocities that continue in Ukraine. How is it that we remember those who suffer and are imprisoned near at hand and far away? How do we find our part to play in God’s great fabric of care and concern for the world? Take a moment today to think about that. When we remember the suffering and allow them to become real in our hearts and minds, when we remember them and think of what they are going through as if we ourselves were experiencing it, God often places on our hearts small acts of solidarity that we can specifically take. In addition, as the 

suffering of others becomes a part of our own hearts, we find the blessing of our oneness with each other and with Christ himself. That itself is grace. 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you that you have made us one people. We thank you for the gift of solidarity and compassion. Help us today to know if there are specific things we need to do on behalf of a suffering world. Alleluia! Amen. 

June 4 – Receiving the Grace of Unstoppable Love – Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Our Great Fifty Days of Easter are coming to a close. But the blessings of Easter eyes never leave us. Every Lord’s Day, in our tradition, is considered to be a mini Easter, a day to celebrate God’s redemptive love and the fact that nothing can separate us from it. Not ever. The fact that each Sunday is a little Easter is, by the way, why the penitential season of Lent’s forty days does not include the Sundays. Today’s verses give us perhaps the most soaring expression of our Easter faith. Today, I invite you to simply read these words, aloud if you can, several times throughout the day. Tune your hearts to the resonance of them. Does one phrase strike you at a deeper level? Linger there for a while. Ask God to help the wonder of these verses to permeate every cell of your body, every part of your life. Take the alleluias that will surely arise with you into the wonder of tomorrow’s Pentecost and every day of your life! 

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for these Great Fifty Days to celebrate and ponder the gifts that are ours as a result of Jesus’ rising. Help us to rise as well in power and hope. Alleluia! Amen.