Daily Scripture and Prayer July 2021
Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church
We started on this journey with the Gospel of John in January 2020. Through each of these days of change, pandemic and remarkable resiliency, the ancient words of the most mystical of the four Gospels have provided both a ballast and a diving board for us as we have waded through our days and faced the changes that simply living in less than simple times bring. This month we finish that remarkable gospel and launch into a new challenge. I will introduce that new challenge when we get to it. For now, just rest in the beauty of the final flourishes of John. Drink the wonder down into your soul and feel, just for a moment, your heart take wing!
July 1 - John 20:29 - 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.’ It is not completely clear whether Jesus is asking Thomas a question or whether he is making a statement, something like, “Ah, so you have seen and now you believe.” It doesn’t seem to be a rebuke, as some suggest. It is, rather, a preamble for the amazing statement of inclusion that comes next. Who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, how Jesus is present is available to all who trust him in any time or place. While the disciples who shared this life with him certainly got a unique treasure, that same unique intimacy is ours for the taking always. And all it takes is trust (pistis, translated as believe here.).
Prayer: Gracious God, today we celebrate your presence with us and within us in all of your amazing fullness. What a glorious thing it is to trust in you! Help us to increase our faith and enjoy your presence like never before. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 2 – John 20:30-31 - Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. Many scholars suggest that the original Gospel of John ended here. It certainly sounds like a conclusion. Regardless, the point is clear: we know only a fraction of what Jesus said and did during his lifetime and even less about his activity before and after his earthly life. BUT, we know enough and we know what his purpose is and always has been. That purpose is to give us life (zoe: the soaring life principle that is eternal) in his name. To have zoe in the name is not only to live forever, it is to live forever for Jesus and like Jesus, the complete human package just as God dreamed for us. It is to be filled with Divine Spirit in such a way that joy and courage are inexhaustible and eternal.
Prayer: Gracious God, today we celebrate your goodness and generosity. We remember all of the moments in which you have come to use offering love and assurance. Thank you! Help us to embrace zoe and life in contentment wherever we are on our glorious path with you! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 3, 2021 – John 21:1-3 -After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.3Simon 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. It is generally accepted that this final chapter of John was written by a later editor who was inspired to capture some of the resurrection appearance stories that were circulating. These stories were very important to the early community and gave them a clear since of Jesus’ purpose for them going forward. They were also pulled together in order to put to rest a controversy that had arisen in the early community about who was the ‘greatest’ disciple. They never quite got over their competitive spirit, and, often neither have we. Even in this story though, there is nuance. Sea of Tiberias is another name for the Sea of Galilee. This signals that the disciples have left
Jerusalem and gone home to Galilee. They are trying to get back to their ordinary lives while they work out what the future will bring. Remember the significance of events that happen in the night in John. This was often when fishermen fished, but in John it always signals a lack of understanding, confusion or unenlightened consciousness. It is also the time just before light dawns.
Prayer: Gracious God, we too know the pull to get back to normal after confusing or traumatic times. We know how events over which we have no control can darken our understanding. We know that trying to do things the way we always have done them when everything is different never gets us the results we want and need. We know how to keep trying anyway, to the point of exhaustion. Help us to recognize times of night and to await with patience the new reality that is sure to dawn. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 4, 2021 – John 21:4-6a - 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” There is a long stream in the Biblical narrative of God showing up incognito just when most needed. Think of the story of the three visitors (God in fulness) showing up to Abraham and Sarah by the oaks of Mamre to reaffirm that the promise was still in effect. Or think of the passage in Hebrews 13 when we are told not to neglect hospitality to strangers lest we miss the angels sent to us. Or, obviously, Jesus himself as a helpless babe born into scandal. In John, the failure to recognize Jesus after the resurrection reinforces that life will be different after death. It also tells us that recognition is made real and alive in relationship and not by senses alone. Jesus uses a word here that is used nowhere else in John, paida. We usually translate it as ‘children’ but it’s a heartier word than that. It might be something like ‘lads’ that carries a sense of close companionship as well as affection.
Prayer: Gracious God, we relish your close companionship at all times, and especially when we are tired out from doing our own thing and not getting the results we had hoped for. Help us to be honest with you, like Peter was, and tell you that we have no results to show from our labors today. Help us to allow that honesty to open us to hear your direction more clearly. Today we praise you for the beautiful land you have given us to steward. Help us to hear your call and do things your way. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 5, 2021 – John 6b - So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. This simple verse reminds us of a truth that is fundamental: Doing things Jesus’ way is the only way that pays off. There is no fishers of people story in John. The early community understood this story to be about evangelism. When we act on Jesus’ command, even if it seems to make no sense, we will gather in all those appointed for us.
Prayer: Gracious God, we live in such an instant culture. We expect instant responses to texts, instant food at the drive through, instant results from leaders. We can’t understand why others don’t love Jesus like we do and flock to our church. Help us to remember that sometimes we have to labor through a long night if we trust too much in what worked in the past and our own devices. Still, even then, dawn breaks and when we listen to you, the catch is assured. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 6, 2021 – John 21:7 -7That disciple 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. It is interesting to notice that, while Peter seems to be given primacy in these stories, it is the beloved disciple who first recognizes that it is Jesus, and only then does Peter respond. And I do love his response! He puts on all his clothes and jumps into the sea! Often fishermen fished with just a loin cloth. It seems that would have been a lot easier to swim in that a bulky tunic but Peter gets dressed and dives in. Remember too that a person’s cloak was their most valued possession. It was the only thing that could not be taken from a person to pay a debt. So, on a symbolic level, Peter wraps himself with everything he has of value and jumps into the sea (representing chaos) in order to get closer to Jesus.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us today to not fear the future or the change it brings. Give us the love and passion we need to ‘jump into the sea’ to get closer to you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 7, 2021 – John 21:8 - 8But 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. Did the fact that the others didn’t get dressed and dive in mean that they were not as faithful? I don’t think so. They had a catch to protect! So there is spiritual value in the impassioned leap and there is also value in the steady, practical, step by step journey.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for giving us so many models for responding faithfully to your presence and call. Whether we are leapers or luggers, we give ourselves to you and to the call of fruitfulness that you have placed on our lives. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 8, 2021 – John 21:9 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. How precious that after their night of labor, their inability to accomplish their ends on their own, their obedience that turns everything around, they get to the shore and Jesus is making them breakfast on the beach! There is a sacramental quality to this scene. Jesus feeds. Jesus, even after everything that has happened, still tends. He is still companion. He is still source.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your constant provision, your hearty companionship and for meeting us just where we are. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 9, 2021 – John 21:10-11 - 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So 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. Be careful here not to get tangled up in the metaphor. Jesus is not asking them to bring the fish for their breakfast. He has already cooked their breakfast. He is asking them to bring the fish, representing the people evangelized, to the breakfast, not to be the breakfast! A great deal of scholarship (some of it quite creative) has been done over the centuries about the number of the fish in this passage. Nobody really knows why this particular number. Most understand it to be a very large number—all in an untorn net – and that it represents the universal nature of the gospel. There were all kinds of fish in that net. The early church understood the net to represent the church itself, called to hold all people, not just Jews, who followed Jesus.
Prayer: Gracious God, we know that your disciples fished by hand in teams with nets that did not discriminate. Help us to be both fishers and nets so that all with whom we come into contact may feel the tug of your love bringing them from chaos to the shore of your provision. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 10, 2021 – John 21:12-14 - 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. Here again we see a eucharistic overtone to the story: Jesus takes and gives. It is also interesting to note that while the disciples are still feeling shy and don’t want to ask direct questions of him, they are certain who he is. The word know (from oida)suggests a fullness of knowledge that comes from awakening to a person and perceiving their presence. This is slightly different from ginosko, which is knowledge from intimate personal relationship. Oida is to know from observation.
Prayer: Gracious God, we are so thankful for the moments that you draw us into an awareness of your presence with us and for the ways you help us to recognize you. We thank you for your nurture and provision today and we open our eyes and hearts to you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 11, 2021 – John 21:15 - 15When 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 this poignant interchange we see that even with great faithfulness we have a long way to go to understand. In this story Jesus, having fed the disciples spiritually and physically, takes Peter aside for a private talk in which he repeats his question to him three times. In the first two, Jesus uses the word agape and Peter responds with a form of the word philios. Most scholars believe that the words, both translated as love in English, are virtually synonymous. I am not so sure. Agape as used by Jesus refers to a deeper or maybe a higher kind of love that is marked by ethical choices, self-giving and is unconditional. Philios refers to the kind of warm familial love that is marked by feelings of closeness and intimacy. It does not seem unreasonable to me that Jesus might have been calling Peter to examine the depth of his love and whether it had the substance to transcend feeling and follow under any circumstances. ‘More than these’ could mean ‘Do you love me more than these others?’ Or ‘Do you love me more than you love your fishing?’ Or ‘Do you love me more than your friends love me?’ In any case, Jesus is concerned with what that love will lead Peter to do. Will he take that love and turn it into sustenance for the lambs of Jesus’ flock?
Prayer: Gracious God we know the many faces of love ourselves. We know how easy it is to provide for those for whom we have warm cozy feelings. And we know how hard it can be to do so for others for whom we have other feelings or no feelings. Help us today to look behind our temporary feelings and find ways to feed your flock as you have asked us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 12, 2021 – John 21:16 - 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Here again Jesus and Peter seem to be talking on two different levels, agape active ethical unconditional love and philios personal warm feelings of love. Why does Jesus repeat the question? Perhaps he is trying to get Peter to broaden and deepen his view of what love requires. In the previous verse Jesus tells him that love requires that he provide sustenance physical and spiritual to those whom Jesus loves. Here Jesus tells him that love requires that he tend or protect the flock with watchful, wakefulness.
Prayer: Gracious God, you ask us to tend and attend to your people’s needs, watchfully and fully awake. Help us today to love you through tending to the real needs of others. Help us to you love you, as well, as we tend to our own needs today. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 13, 2021 – John 21:17 - 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. This verse is both poignant and heartbreaking in turns. Jesus realizes that Peter is not on the same page with him and Jesus adjusts his language to meet Peter where he is. Jesus drops agape and uses philios. Even so Peter feels wounded by the conversation. The word ‘hurt’ means grieved or emotionally wounded. Clearly, Peter’s ego is still strong. He is wounded and defensive because he thinks Jesus doesn’t trust him when, in reality, Jesus trusts him enormously. Jesus simply recognizes his limitations and adjust himself to them. For Peter, as for us, it takes time, discipline and a healthy dose of the Spirit to get where Jesus intends for us to go. Remember, too, that in the Hebrew mind numbers are very important. For him to say to Peter ‘a third time’ indicates completion and wholeness. Jesus has done what he could and will not bring it up again. The rest is up to Peter.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for meeting us where we are with all our limitations and ego attachments. Thank you for breaking down the tasks you give us into pieces we can understand and that are on our level. Your graciousness is breathtaking! Help us today to grow in stature so that we may hear the depth of your call to us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 14, 2021 – John 21:18-19 - 18Very 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.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” In these verses, Jesus is trying to prepare Peter for what is coming for him. ‘You will stretch out your hands’ is a technical phrase used to describe the act of stretching one’s arms out on a cross for crucifixion. ‘Fasten a belt’: the story in the early church was that Peter was strapped to the cross for his execution. Some traditions claim he asked to be strapped either upside down or on an x shaped cross so that he would not be seen in any way as equal to Jesus. He has a long road yet to walk before he gets to that level of faithfulness. ‘Take you where you don’t want to go’ means to lead away as a criminal. ‘Follow me’ means more than just to do what Jesus tells him. Here it also means that he will follow him to die to live. The early church believed that to die obediently was to give glory to God.
Prayer: Gracious God, sometimes we too feel like we are being carried away by hostile forces. Sometimes they are literal enemies, sometimes they are illnesses or powerful grief. Whatever the circumstance we know how to feel helpless to change a situation. Help us today to remember that, even then, you have a plan and you have given us a call to follow you. If we do that, it will be enough. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 15, 2021 – John 21:20 - 20Peter 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?” The focus changes again in this verse. Perhaps Peter is uncomfortable with what Jesus has just said and needs to change the subject, and get a little ego boost, in order to have the courage to process it. We don’t know for sure. Remember that there is a diversity of scholarly opinion as to who exactly the beloved disciple was. For our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. Each of the disciples gives us insight into how we ourselves are to act as disciples. The beloved disciple is following behind them at a respectful distance as they all continue their ‘journey.’ Remember that the concept of a walk in Hebrew thought includes one’s whole life journey. It is similar to what we mean when we say that someone walks the talk.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us today to walk our walk with you. Enable us to play whatever role is ours to play, free from egos games, humbly and joyfully expectant for how you will love and use us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 16, 2021 – John 21:21- 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” This is just so Peter! And it is so us! How easily we get off our own mark by looking at what is happening with someone else! Peter has just heard his call, to feed and to tend. He has been told that to do that faithfully, he will have to follow Jesus’ ways and his death, both to ego and in body. Now all he can think about is what Jesus is going to do with his longtime friend and rival for leadership.
Prayer: Gracious God, how easy it is to miss our lives by looking at ‘the other guy.’ Help us today to look only to you for direction and meaning, trusting your plan for each of us to be perfect. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 17, 2021 – John 21:22 - 22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” Jesus will not play that game with Peter and he won’t play it with us. How Jesus deals with others is Jesus’ business and not ours. Our job is to follow, trusting that even if difficulty comes, we will pass through it to newness of life both in this life and the next.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you that you have a plan for us and for all of your children. Help us not to compare our lives and walks to others with envy or competitive spirit. Rather, help us to simply walk, holding your hand, in confidence that where you lead is exactly where we must go for our wholeness and salvation. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 18, 2021 – John 21:23-24 - 23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. The rumor mill where people decide they know what something means by distorting the facts is not a modern invention. Apparently, some were using this rumor as a way to discredit the movement because the beloved disciple did indeed die. This verse counters that charge and bolsters the credibility of the aforementioned story by telling readers that the beloved disciple told it himself as a participant and eye witness. The phrase we translate as ‘written’ means to stand behind something or to vouch for it.
Prayer: Gracious God, we have seen in our own lives and times how dangerous ungrounded rumors are to individuals, peoples, movements and churches. Help us today to be careful in our speech, to fill our hearts and minds with love and to walk in peace and humility with you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 19, 2021 – July 21:25 - 25But 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. Jesus is alive and at work! He always has been and he always will be. He is not confined by time or tradition. He never has been and never will be. He, in the eternal dance of love that is the Godhead, is even now filling the universe with love, beauty, purpose, justice, and hope. Amen! This last verse of John’s Gospel is expansive about who Jesus is and what he does. Gerard Sloyan in his commentary on John paraphrases the last phrase of this verse as “Lest the world be crowded to unliveability with the ledger of his deeds.” Isn’t that an amazing way to end the amazing gift of the Gospel of John! I hope that this time we have spent with it has been as meaningful to you as it has to me. If you would like a copy of the scripture and prayers for the entire Gospel in one document, email me and I will be happy to send that to you so that you can go over it again if you feel so led. Now, let’s shift gears a bit and see where else the Lord may take us together!
Why Indeed? Since I was a child I have kept a list of questions that I want to ask Jesus someday. Why don’t dogs live long enough? Who really shot JFK? Why cancer? Why mosquitoes? Why didn’t he want me? It’s a long list. One night a few years back, I was flying cross country and asking questions of God in that running kind of way. I was particularly troubled by a situation of injustice that was plaguing us as a community. “Why? Why is it like this? Why don’t people care?” I railed. Suddenly the inner voice of Christ responded, “Why indeed?” As I pondered that question, I realized that I had spent a lifetime asking questions, but little time listening and facing the questions that Jesus asks of me in the Scriptures. So, on that long flight I opened my trusted red letter Bible and circled every question mark I found. I began then to practice hearing those questions as Jesus asking them to me today, for my life and world. For the rest of the summer, and through the first week of September, I invite you to join me to walk deliberately with Jesus and listen closely to the questions he asks you. Perhaps you will want to take out your Bible and read the entire passage from which the question is taken for context. As you enter into this intimate conversation, may your walk with Christ bring you both comfort and challenge, wonder and maybe even a few answers.
July 20, 2021 - Matthew. 5:13 - You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? In Biblical times, salt was a preservative and a flavor enhancer. It was also a metaphor for close relationships between believers, much as we use the word fellowship. To ‘share salt’ meant to share in all of the intimacy of the faith family. Salt did not lose its taste by some strange chemical process, but rather by being mixed with so many other elements that its flavor was overshadowed. When Jesus calls us salt, he means that we add flavor and zest to the world. He tells us in this metaphor that we live in bonded relationships and that we have the capacity to preserve precious things. He recognizes, as well, that this power can be lost or diluted and that it is much easier to maintain purity than to restore it. Are there ways that you have lost your zest? Let precious things become spoiled? Failed to nurture healthy relationships? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ question, “How can your saltiness be restored?”
Prayer: Dear God, help us to see ourselves as we are. Remove any impurity from us and show us how to live for you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 21, 2021 - Matthew 5:46 - For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Jesus knows just how difficult love can be. The context of this question is his radical call to love enemies. That call is anything but abstract! He is not urging us to a sentimental, generic love. Rather, he is calling us to a concrete and specific love that is, in many ways, a truly unnatural act. The word agape in Greek refers to love that is a choice more than a feeling. This kind of love chooses to seek the good for the one loved even if that one seems outside any possible scope of love. The tax collectors were considered scoundrels and cheats. Jesus assumes that we can manage to love those close to us, those who love us. His way is a harder way, a way that pulls all into the arms of love. Who do you find most difficult to love? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ questions about love.
Prayer: Dear God, please show us those you call us to love. Give us your eyes and heart today. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 22, 2021 - Matthew 6:27 - And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life span? Jesus is trying to help his friends deal with the anxiety of economic uncertainty. What if the crops fail? What if I lose my job? What if I get sick and can’t work? What if I can’t feed my children? What if my spouse dies? These are just the kinds of questions that Jesus’ hearers faced. Jesus wants us to wrestle with where our security really lies. Can we trust the provision of God? Do we believe that God is with us? Do we believe that God is good? Do we believe that God is good for anything? We all want to believe those things. Still, many of us worry inordinately about how we are going to make it. Jesus, in the manner of a cosmic Dr. Phil, asks ‘How is that working for you?’ Worry accomplishes nothing and costs so much! How does worry affect your life? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ questions about worry.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to put aside our worries and fears, one by one, and trust our path with you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 23, 2021 -Matthew 7:3 - Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Jesus asks us to wrestle with the delicacy and dangers of judging the faults of others. The image of us happily trying to dig a speck from some else’s eye while a log is hanging from our own is both laughable and sad. Jesus is not saying that everything that people do is okay, and that no accountability is appropriate. He is reminding us to be very, very hesitant to identify and attempt to remove the faults of others because we are so often unaware of our own blinders and blunders. When we fixate on others’ shortcomings, we give them the power to affect our moods and define our own behavior. Not only is that a threat to tranquility, but it also allows us to ignore our own faults at best, and usurp the role of God at worst. Notice today how you respond to the perceived faults of others. Do you think you see them clearly? What may be affecting your perceptions? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ question about judging others.
Prayer: Dear God, help me to see myself with your eyes of truth and love so that I may see others as you do. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 24, 2021 - Matthew 7:9-10 - Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread will give a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? Why do we so often fear that God is angry with us and spending all eternity with the divine finger on the “Smite” button? Apparently, we are not alone in that false view. Jesus is trying to help his disciples understand the need to pray and the desire of God to provide. In Palestine, the flat river stones looked a lot like a loaf of bread. Eels, staples of the diet, looked a lot like serpents. Would a human parent ever be so cruel as to offer a child a stone or a serpent instead of the sustenance he or she cried for? Of course not. Neither will God respond to our prayers and needs with cruelty and derision. God longs to provide in ways that even our deepest parental love cannot fathom. It is our joy to ask God for what we need and God’s delight to provide. Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ questions about God’s nature.
Prayer: Dear God, help us today to come to you with all our needs confident in your loving provision. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 25, 2021- Matthew 7:16 - You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the great smorgasbord of contemporary religious experience, it can be hard to know whom to trust. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Prophets littered the landscape and filled the air with their views of God and what God required. Jesus wants his disciples not to stray from his trustworthy message and get lost in beliefs that are not good for them. The problem then as now, is that his friends don’t always know how to evaluate what they hear and experience. Jesus tells us that we will know what to trust by examining the fruit. Love produces love. Justice produces justice. Faith produces faith. Life produces life. We are to place our trust where we see those results. Likewise, where we see judgment, mean spiritedness, injustice and oppression it is not likely that we are dealing with the truth. Take a moment to ponder with Jesus where to put your trust. Hear him ask, “What is the fruit of your life?”
Prayer: Dear God, plant your ways within me that the fruit of my life will always be a worthy reflection of your truth. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 26, 2021 - Matthew 8:26 - And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith? In the stormy passages of life, it can sometimes feel like Jesus is asleep at the switch. That was the situation for the disciples. They are trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus. One just wants to put his family first and bury his father. Jesus seems unsympathetic. The point, of course is that Jesus either comes first or he doesn’t. Period. This is hard! Still, the disciples get into the boat with him. Immediately, the skies open, and a furious storm comes. They are afraid for their lives and cannot comprehend why Jesus is sleeping through the whole thing! Why are they so terrified? Maybe it is because they do not yet trust the outcome. We, too, have trouble trusting the outcome from the middle of the storm. Jesus’ question is not a rebuke, but an opportunity to ponder the source of our fears and the depth of our trust. Tell Jesus, now, why you are afraid and ask for renewed calm today.
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes the storms of life threaten to swamp me. Help me today to remember that you are with me and let your love cast out my fear. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 27, 2021 - Matthew 9:4 - But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? From the moment of his birth, Jesus experienced opposition. People were threatened by his radical message. They were offended by his actions and his claims. Here, he restores, spiritually and physically, a paralyzed man. He does what only God can do: forgive. The scribes are scandalized. Reading their thoughts, Jesus asks them why they are entertaining evil in their hearts. Evil was understood as anything that makes faith difficult, obscures the glory of God and stops the ability to praise. The scribes’ offended spirits do all three. Is there anything about Jesus that you find difficult to accept? How does that struggle affect your faith, your ability to see God’s greatness, your ability to praise? What thoughts do you entertain that make Jesus smaller than he really is? What do you think he cannot do? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ question, “Why do you make me so small?
Prayer: Dear God, help me today to sit in awe of your greatness and love. Discipline my thoughts so that I can deepen my faith, see your glory and sing your praise. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 28, 2021- Matthew 9:28 - When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Two blind men have followed Jesus for some time. They are trying to be good disciples, even with their limitations. Their faith that Jesus can change their lives keeps them going. After a while Jesus decides the time is right for healing. This is not a simple healing or conversion story. It is a story about the church that still wrestles with spiritual blindness even as it struggles to be faithful. The issue is whether or not we can trust Jesus to open our eyes to his truth and then live with that insight. Do we believe we can view the world as Jesus does? Can we see Jesus for who he is and organize our lives around him? Do we believe Jesus can give us new sight? Do we believe that what we stumble up against again and again can be made clear in Jesus? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ question for you: “Do you believe that I can do this?”
Prayer: Dear God, open our eyes today to see you more clearly and follow you more courageously. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 29, 2021 - Matthew 12:48 - But to the one that told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Jesus’ family thinks that he has lost his mind. He is saying ‘crazy’ things and the whole family is suffering because of it. Their reputation in the community is affected and all they want to do is take him home and get him some help. So, they plan an intervention. The whole clan comes to where he is speaking to try to drag him home. They wait respectfully outside and send word to Jesus that they are there. Then he asks the startling question: “Who is my family?” In a world where ‘family values’ govern everything; Jesus turns those values on their heads. It is not blood that makes a family. It is discipleship that makes a family. The issue is loyalty. To whom does he owe his loyalty? It is to the true family of those who follow him, put him first and give all to him. Ponder Jesus’ question in light of your relationships in the church.
Prayer: Dear God, help me to welcome your church as my own family. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 30, 2021 - Matthew 14:31 - Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” How wonderfully like Peter to scramble out of his boat to walk on the waves with Jesus. He had seen a lot in his time with Jesus. He had felt the heady energy of the hopeful crowds. He had felt the seething undercurrents of the political and religious establishment as they tried to decide what to do with this strange rabble-rouser rabbi. He had seen the sick healed, the lame walk, the broken forgiven. That night, in the storm, he wanted to be like Jesus. So, he got out of the boat and began to walk. We are all called to try to be like Jesus. For a moment Peter managed it. Then he looked around and saw the storm and began to sink. Why? Maybe the storm drowned out Jesus’ voice. Ponder for a moment your stormy times. Hear Jesus’ question: “Why did you listen to the wind?”
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes the storms of life seem to drown out your voice. Help us today to give more weight to your call to follow than to our fears of the path. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
July 31, 2021 - Matthew 15:34 – Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” The feeding miracle in Matthew is first and foremost a picture of Jesus’ great compassion for the people. He longs to feed them, to meet all of their needs, to ensure that they are well nourished, able to withstand the rigors of following him. Jesus, of course, still has that same concern for his followers. Do they have enough to eat? Is there food for their souls? Are they somehow vulnerable? Now, as then, Jesus turns to his disciples to see what resources they have to meet the needs of others. The true miracle is not one of physics, but rather, that Jesus can use the small resources we offer to feed the needy crowds. What resources do you have to put into Jesus hands to attend to the needs of those he loves? Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ question: “How many loaves have you?”
Prayer: Dear God, your compassion to us in Jesus is beyond all comprehension. Please make us compassionate people who put our resources in your charge to care for your people. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.