Daily Scripture and Prayer February 2020 Safe Harbor Presbyterian
This month we continue praying our way through the Gospel of John. We don’t pause at every verse, and we stay with one verse for several days. Still, my prayer for you all is that this dive into the mystic Gospel will open you up to Christ with you, within you and among you in new ways. As always, the Scripture translation is NRSV and my comments on the text are in (). Know that I am praying with you. I love you and I’m proud of you! Eugenia
Feb. 1 – John 2:9-10 – “When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, he did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (For John, Jesus has done a gracious thing for the people at this humble wedding. More importantly, he has revealed himself as the new wine saved for people to drink at the end. It is Jesus’ presence that makes every celebration possible and necessary.)
Dear God, how wonderful to hear this text and remember that no matter where we are in our lives, the best is always yet to come! Help us to see you and greet this day as an opportunity to celebrate with you and others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 2 – John 2:11 – “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” (Remember that in John, Jesus does no miracles. Rather he does ‘signs.’ The purpose of these signs is to show people who he is. Also, in John, Jesus’ glory is only fully revealed in the crucifixion/resurrection. His glory is revealed here as it points to that event.)
Gracious God, each day you send us signs of your presence, reminders of your values and pointers toward what really matters. Help us today to notice these signs and to put our trust in you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 3 – John 2:13 – “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (Passover is the ultimate feast of freedom for Jesus and his friends. It calls us to remember and celebrate deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It was the deepest hope of all Jews to be able to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem at least once in a lifetime.)
Dear God, help us today to remember the many and miraculous ways that you deliver your people throughout the ages. Help us, too, to recognize the deliverances that we ourselves have received. We want to come to you today as Jesus did, to worship and give thanks. Turn our hearts to you today so that we may see you everywhere. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 4 – John 2:14 – “In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.” (Every Jew over the age of 19 had to pay a Temple tax for maintaining the Temple and the sacrifices that took place there. This tax had to be paid in Jewish, not Roman, coins. So, money changers posted themselves in the entry way to change the money so no unclean Roman currency would enter the Temple. It was not uncommon for them to charge a day’s wage for this service. In addition, people were required to provide their own animals for sacrifice, but not just any animal. It had to be without spot or blemish. Inspectors were set up to ensure that the animals were perfect. They rarely were, so perfect animals were available for purchase. This often led to extortion. For example, a pair of doves purchased outside the Temple cost a day’s wage. Inside the same pair cost 18 days’ wage. The Temple was divided into four courts. The outer court was the only place Gentiles were allowed. This is where the money changers and animal inspectors set up shop. That meant that it was the first impression that seekers got when they entered.)
Dear God, how often we make a mockery of you while trying our best to serve you! Help us today to examine our own hearts and practices for any whiff of injustice. Forgive us and set us straight. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Feb. 5 – John 2:15-16 – “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (Jesus’ anger here is INTENSE! He is so angry at the exploitation he sees in his Father’s house that he is willing to disrupt everything to stop it. This was quite a scene. No gentle Jesus, meek and mild here.)
Dear God, give us passion like Jesus’ for your house, for your church, for your people, for the exploited and outcast. Help us to look at everything we do and ask ourselves if any of it excludes or makes it harder for others to get to you. If we need to be swept clean, sweep us clean, for all we want to do is serve you rightly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 6 – John 2:17 – “His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (The word ‘zeal’ means burning jealousy. This concept is used in Ps. 69 associated with Messiah. At this moment his friends wonder if he is indeed Messiah.)
Dear God, as Jesus claimed his Messianic authority at the Feast of Freedom long ago, help us to see our own authority in his name today. How do we awaken to our passion and urgency to serve you? Shake us up today, Lord and help us claim who we are. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 7 – John 2:18-19 – “The Jews said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (This particular word for ‘sign’ means ‘warrant.’ They are asking him what proof he has for this messianic claim.)
Dear God, sometimes it seems these days that your church is crumbling. Injustice and small mindedness have taken their toll. Can you use us to rebuild it? Will you? Will we let you? Jesus himself is our warrant. Help us today to claim our miraculous power in his name. Show us how you would have us make your house a place of welcome for all people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 8 – John 2:20-21 – “The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
Dear God, sometimes our literal mindedness keeps us in the dark just like it did for those of old. We can’t see beyond our senses. We can’t see beyond our noses. Help us today to open our eyes to mystery, to a power beyond our own, to a love that lifts even from the grave. Help us to find both rest and energy for action in this seeing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 9 – John 2:22 – “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (The word ‘remember’ means to give flesh again, to make present again.)
Dear God, help us to remember you today, to see you all around us, to find you not just in ancient words and rituals but in the present realities of our lives and community. You are everywhere, peeping out at us in the eyes of detained children, reaching out to us in the desperate pleas of the poor, the addicts, the lonely, the depressed. May we see you in each and every one and serve you in them. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 10 – John 2:23 – “When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.” (The word ‘believe’ means to place trust in. It is not so much an idea of understanding as it is of reliance. The word ‘saw’ is one of several we translate this way from Greek. It means to gaze upon, to contemplate, to come to knowledge of. It is not a casual word.)
Dear God, trust does not come from nowhere. I’m not even sure it comes as a result of a decision, no matter how well-meaning or heartfelt. Trust comes from contemplating you, from gazing upon you, from allowing ourselves to come to knowledge of you. Sometimes that means being uncomfortable. Sometimes that means letting go of old false views. Help us with this holy work today, O Lord. We want to know you! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 11 – John 2:24-25 – “But Jesus on his part, would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.” (‘Entrust’ is from the same root as the word for believe. Jesus knows how little his friends understand and he is not ready to rely upon them.)
Dear God, in Christ you were always able to size people up. You still are. Help us today to be people into whom you can place your trust. Make us worthy of that honor and show us how to use it today. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Feb. 12 – John 3:1-2 – “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” (Nicodemus was a beloved leader, probably a member of the Sanhedrin. Two words are important in this verse. The word ‘came’ indicates that Nicodemus sought Jesus out, an important step in coming to faith. The word ‘night’ is used symbolically throughout John. It means to be in ignorance, separation, confusion, fear and lacking in enlightenment.)
Dear God, oh my. Sometimes we, too, try to sneak up on you without anyone seeing. Just like in days of old, being your follower is not popular. It can be costly. People don’t trust you, in large measure because we have not been the best witnesses. Still, we know that our only hope is to seek you out, to come to you even in our confusion and doubt. Touch us today with your presence so that we may live in light and not darkness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 13 – John 3:3 – “Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (‘From above’ can also be translated ‘anew’ or ‘again.’ It indicates both something that happens and the source of what happens. The ‘kingdom’ here is not a place, not heaven. Rather it is the state in which God and God’s values rule human life.)
Dear God, it is hard to start over from scratch. It is hard to begin again. It is hard to let go of all that was and wait for what is to come. Help us today to be open to the ways you desire to remake us, to refashion us. Only when we are willing to die and rise in all things will we truly see your reign in our lives and world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 14 – John 3:4 – “Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
Dear God, sometimes we, like Nicodemus, just cannot understand your ways. We have no idea what you are asking of us. We don’t know where to begin. We can’t see the path, don’t know the steps to this divine dance. Help us today, to relax into our not knowing for a moment and ponder what it might be like to just go where you are leading even when we don’t see the way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 15 – John 3:9-11 “Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.” (‘Speak’ is a special word in the form of Greek, Koine, used in the New Testament. The word in classical Greek means ‘chatter.’ In Koine it means ‘revealed word or sacred speech.’ In Acts it is used for the spreading of the Gospel.)
Dear God, how mystified you must still be with us and our shallow understandings and practices! We ourselves often don’t recognize your revealed word, your sacred speech. It is just chatter to be endured in order to do our duty to you. Help us to awaken to your deep truths so that we will not just fumble around in the dark, but can have the courage to live in the light. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 16 – John 3:12 – “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (‘Earthly things’, Greek kosmos. This word refers to this world. It sometimes refers to the physical and spiritual order that prevails in humankind that is often in opposition to God. It can also just refer to greed and selfishness. ‘Heavenly things’ refers to the mysteries and values of God, the overarching and all-embracing divine presence.)
Dear God, Jesus recognizes that if we cannot understand and embrace your ways in our earthly walk, we will never understand the scope and power of your divine love for us and for the world. Help us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with you today so that we may be ready and able to see more and more of you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 17 – John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (There is so much in this seemingly simple verse we will stay with it for several days and focus on different words each day. Today focus on the word ‘love.’ In Greek it is agape. This love is not simply a feeling. It is a choice, an ethic that is not moved be feelings, cannot be shaken by either ecstasy or disappointment. Agape is choosing the ultimate good for the other no matter how the other responds or does not respond. Agape is completely unconditional. The tense here is aorist, which in Koine Greek indicates something that happens and never stops happening.)
Dear God, your love always chooses the good for your children. It always does. It always will. It never stops. It is your nature and you seek always to find the highest and best good for us. Wow. Help us today to stop for a moment and ponder this mystery. You love us without condition. You are even this very second working your loving good in us, with us and through us. Thank you! Help us to love you with all we are and have. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 18 – John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Today focus on the word ‘only.’ This word means unique, unable to be duplicated.)
Dear God, we know that you constantly seek to come into relationship with all your children all over the world. You use many names and many stories as you seek us out. We thank you that we meet you in Jesus, your unique expression of yourself. If we become confused, if our eyes grow dim with questions about you, help us to look to Jesus for all the answers we need. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 19 – John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Today ponder the word ‘perish.’ The word means to be lost or destroyed utterly. Remember that ‘believe’ is again the word for ‘to rely upon.’ He is not saying that those who intellectually assent to a set of propositions will not perish, but rather that those who rely upon the agape of God will not, indeed cannot, perish.)
Dear God, your love finds us. It always has and always will. We need have no fear at all because in that love we can never be utterly lost. All is at home in you. Awaken our trust today and allay any fears, for you have sought us and found us and we are safe in you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 20 – John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Today focus on the words ‘eternal life.’ In Greek the word is Zoë. Zoe is not natural life. It is the quality of God’s life. It is the life by which and in which God lives. Zoe is not about duration it is eternal not in the sense of everlasting but totally apart from the construct of time. Therefore, it is not something that happens later just after we die. Zoe is the quality of eternal life itself, the life of God, into which we are enveloped. John saw the gift of Zoë as God’s greatest act of friendship. In it, in Christ, God gives us a share of God’s own life. This is at the heart of incarnation. God did not just come in Christ to rescue us for heaven. God came to share a measure of divine eternal life with us here, now and always. This is big. Ponder this today.)
Dear God, your graciousness toward us is beyond our comprehension. In Jesus you chose to share your very life force with us, the force of eternal love itself. When we say we are the body of Christ, when we take the bread and cup, when we embrace our neighbors, we are not just acting for you, we are acting as you. You have gifted us with a measure of your own nature and power. Wow. Just wow. Help us to welcome this gift, to sink into it, and to live out of it. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 21 – John 3:17 – “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (The word for ‘condemn,’ krisis, is a legal word that means to render a judgment in court. The word ‘saved,’ sozo, means to be made well, recovered, whole. The word ‘through’ means by way of.)
Dear God, where in the world did we get the idea that your desire is to punish us, that we are a constant disappointment to you, and that that disappointment could ever be greater than your love? Your entire intention is for our wellness, our wholeness, the recovery of our broken nature and thinking. Help us today to trust this recovery work that you are doing in us. Help us to rely upon your grace to put us back together again whole. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 22 – John 3:18 – “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (The word ‘condemned’ here is again krisis, judged, as in the sense of passed sentence upon. Jesus is saying here that those who rely upon God do not get a sentence passed on them. The word ‘do not believe’ is interesting. It means to actively refuse to believe continually. Again, the word for believe is pistis, which means to trust. He is saying that those who continually refuse to trust God have rendered a verdict on themselves. Because they rely on no one but themselves, they stand or fall in their own minds on what they do or do not do. Jesus is not saying here that God renders this verdict, but that they themselves do it. Ponder this.)
Dear God, how often I have tormented myself with harsh judgment when I failed to rely upon you! How often I have claimed success as my own and torn myself to shreds with guilt when I have failed. How useless this is when all I have to do is rely upon you and wholeness and grace flow down like a rushing stream! Help us each today to rely upon your name and live in the contentment of your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 23 – John 3:19 – “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (The word ‘judgment’ here refers not to the verdict but to the facts of the case. Jesus is trying to give us a picture of our condition. The word ‘light’ refers to enlightenment or illumination that comes from a source deeper than the self. ‘Darkness’ refers to moral and psychic obtuseness and unawareness that masks deeper realities. In John’s theology, one lives in the light by making the darkness conscious. To refuse light is to become darkness. The word for ‘loved darkness’ is a very strong one. It means to love with the passionate love one has for those closest and most intimate.)
Dear God, how we love our excuses, our habits, our not seeing! Help us today to fall in love with the light, to seek illumination, to search for love and justice in all things, always! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 24 – John 3:20 – “For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their evil deeds may not be exposed.” (Evil in the Bible is known by its results. Something that goes against God’s moral precepts is considered evil. It is also wily and humans don’t always recognize it. The ancients believed that something was evil if it made God look bad, made faith difficult or stopped people’s ability to praise God. The word ‘exposed’ can also mean to convict or to reprimand.)
Dear God, sometimes the lines seem blurry. Sometimes we can’t quite sort the evil from the good, the immoral from the expedient. Help us today to see clearly and to act accordingly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 25 – John 3:21 – “But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (This verse literally says ‘those who do truth.’ It is not enough to believe it. One must actively do it. The word ‘truth,’ Alethia, means ‘that which is free from error, genuine and has integrity.’ The ancients believed that Alethia could never be attained by rationalization or blaming others.)
Dear God, we live in a world where integrity seems scarce and every excuse imaginable is made for it. Do not allow us to fall into that trap! Help us to examine our lives with clear-eyed confidence and live with the integrity worthy of your name. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 26 – John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (The verses we have skipped here are part of the narrative of John the Baptist. He has many fervent followers at this point and many of them think he might be Messiah. When we pick up the story here, Jesus has been baptized in the Jordan and in that act taken on his full mission. John recognizes that a big transition is underway, and he needs to not thwart it.)
Dear God, help us today to know who we are and what our role is in the unfolding drama of your saving love. Use us as you see fit and help us neither to take ourselves too seriously nor not seriously enough. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 27 – John 3:34 – “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” (‘Without measure’ refers to a boundless, infinite outpouring.)
Dear God, we thank you that in Jesus you have spoken your words to us, that you have indeed given your Word to us. Help us to awaken to your words and Word and to receive the boundless comfort and inspiration of your Spirit that comes from receiving you with an open heart. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 28 – John 3:35 – “The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.” (The word for ‘love’ here is again, agape.)
Dear God, we thank you for the assurance that you have placed us in Jesus’ loving hands. We thank you that in these chaotic times that is still true no matter how it seems. Help us to live today with confidence and trust that you are at work in us and in the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Feb. 29 – John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. (The word ‘disobeys’ means to be purposely unpersuadable. The word for ‘wrath’ here is not the word for hot anger. Rather, this is the word for ‘justifiable passion.’ There is very little mention of God’s wrath in the Gospels. It is only mentioned here in John. God’s wrath is not God’s emotion of fury. It is understood as an ethical action. It is God’s programmatic duty toward injustice. It is the whirlwind of God’s power that puts right that which is wrong. In John, this is not pushed outward into a Day of Judgment but, rather, happens all the time because ‘light’ was offered, and our egos are at war with it. God’s wrath is not a simple emotion but is a way of talking about God’s war with the darkness. This is important. Ponder this today.)
Dear God, what an amazing image to see the passion of your war against illusion. It is humbling indeed. And, if we are honest, we know a bit of what that whirlwind of passion feels like when we ourselves drop our sinkers and refuse to be persuaded by the light. We see it in broken relationships, we see it in the death dealing realities in our community. We see its ravages in a country that is sometimes a stranger to truth and justice. Help us to trust in you so that we may live out of the power of your light and not in the shambles of a world that refuses it. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.