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Daily Scripture and Prayer August 2021

Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church

All relationships are built on give and take. It is the same in our relationship with God. God does not want to do all the talking. God wants to know us and knows that as we come to know ourselves better in the safety of a loving relationship with God true healing, restoration and joy in every circumstance cannot help but follow. So this month we continue in our exploration of the questions Jesus asks us in the scriptures. As you read each verse, take a minute to imagine that Jesus is asking you this question directly and personally in the moment. If you want to go more deeply, then you might read the surrounding passage in your Bible for more context. Then, breathe and ponder your answer to his question and pray the simple prayer. 

August 1, 2021 

Matthew 16: 13b - he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 

There was an awful lot of buzz about Jesus. Some thought that he was one of the great prophets come back to life. Many hoped that he was Elijah because that would be a sign that Messiah was near. Some even hoped that he might be Messiah, the great military leader who would restore Israel’s power, piety and autonomy. Everybody had an idea about who this man was. It was usually an idea that in some way fit with their notions of who God was and what they wanted God to do. That is still true. People who have been wounded by the church or affronted by her hypocrisy think that Jesus was a great man who founded a horrible religion. People with limited religious experience may not know who he is at all. Think about your community and ponder Jesus’ question: “Who do people say that I am?” 

Prayer: Dear God, so often we want you to be who we want you to be and we are unwilling to get to know who you really are. Help us to know and embrace the whole truth of you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 2, 2021 

Matthew 16:15 - He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 

After the poignant discussion between Jesus and his disciples about who people think he is, he asks them to get more personal. He wants to know what their experience is. He wants to know what they think and how they are making sense of him and their lives with him. In a wonderful moment of clarity Peter gets it and declares for us all that Jesus is Messiah indeed. It is a beautiful moment in the gospel story when Jesus turns to them and asks what they think of him. It is a beautiful moment in our own lives, too, when Jesus asks us who he is to us. Jesus wants to be known, to be recognized and welcomed into our lives for who he is. Ponder for your life Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” 

Prayer: Dear God, you have come to us in Jesus, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Help us to know him more clearly and to welcome him more deeply. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 3, 2021 

Matthew 16: 26 - For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 

This question is put to those who have decided to follow Jesus but who still struggle with the lures and values of the world. Principle among those struggles was the longing for wealth and privilege. They want the good life. They want economic security. They want to feel like winners and to actually be winners. Their theology has taught them that one of the roles of Messiah is to return the people to prominence and prosperity. Jesus’ disdain of the quest for security is confounding and unsettling for us today, too. After all, many of us live with at least a measure of security and privilege. Still, the quest for 

more can overtake our lives and the deep values of Jesus can seem quaint at best, or we can rewrite them to suit ourselves at worst. Take a moment to ponder: “Where does your security really lie?” 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we spend our lives trying to find security in this world. Help us to rely upon you as our security and to organize our priorities around the things that truly matter. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 4, 2021 

Matthew 17: Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” 

Where is gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Not here. Jesus is frustrated and not just with circumstances or unbelievers. He is frustrated with his disciples. His fame as a healer has spread throughout the area. Swarms of people come to him with their sick and dying. In this passage a man brings his son to Jesus’ disciples, and they cannot heal him so he presses his way to Jesus himself. Is Jesus frustrated with this man who only wants help for his son? No. He is frustrated because his friends still have so little faith. His desire is that, through faith, his very power will operate in all believers. They still don’t get that. Do we? Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t take much faith, just a mustard seed’s worth, to open the power of God in our lives. The results may not come in the way or timing we prefer, but the right result will come. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: “How much longer until you put your faith to work?” 

Prayer: Dear God, some days I couldn’t move a mustard seed with a bulldozer! Increase my faith, dear God, and give me courage to put it to work for you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 5, 2021 

Matthew 18: 12 - “What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” 

Jesus is trying to help the leaders of his movement (the shepherds) come to terms with their responsibility for the little ones, i.e. those who are new to the faith, who are confused and vulnerable in the church and in society. It is a picture of lavish and exhaustive care isn’t it? Jesus wants us to know that people with more maturity in faith are to do, passionately, whatever possible, no matter how outlandish, in order to tend to, care for and guide the weakest members of the flock. Who are you in the story? Are you the leader who needs to be reminded that the least are of infinite value? Are you the confused little one who wonders if there is anyone to care and guide? Are you an observer wondering how the church could abandon those that society also abandons? Ponder Jesus’ question to you: What would you do to care for my little ones? What would you be unwilling to do? 

Prayer: Dear God, help me to value what and who you value. Give me passion to care for the vulnerable wherever they may be found. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 6, 2021 

Matthew 20:22 - But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” 

Things are going badly and Jesus is trying to help his friends understand what is ahead. Following him to Jerusalem will mean suffering and death. That is the cost of living the kingdom’s values. Those values have had their enemies since the moment of Jesus’ birth. They still do. One of the most potent of those enemies shows up here in the person of the mother of James and John who wants to secure a 

position of power for her sons in the new rule she imagines Jesus will inaugurate. The desire for power can still blind us to the kingdom’s deeper truths. The quest for power will not take us there. For in the kingdom, power only resides in love that will pour itself out, even to death, for the beloved. Ponder Jesus’ question: Can you love like that? Will you even try? 

Prayer: Dear God, How I long to love with your love! How incapable I am! Fill me with your Spirit so that I may even try to love the world as you have loved me. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 7, 2021 

Matthew 20: 32 - Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

On his way to Jerusalem, two blind men call out to Jesus and name him Son of David. They recognize his power and his authority, and they cry out to him as one who can actually make a difference in their lives. Jesus has just tried to teach his disciples about the kind of love that makes up his kingdom. Now he shows it to them in all its healing beauty. When I hear Jesus’ poignant question, I have to wonder how I would answer. What do I really want from him? What would I have courage to ask for if I truly believed that I would get it right then and there? Would I treat the question like a cosmic lotto win? Or would I have the courage to ask for real healing, for true sight? Ponder Jesus’ question to you this way: Do you really want to follow me with eyes wide open? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I long for more of you in my life, for deeper understanding, for more powerful experiences of your presence. Sometimes I just want a quick fix. Sometimes I don’t know what I want. Please give me insight today and courage to act. Amen. 

August 8, 2021 

Matthew 26:10 - But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?” 

The end is drawing nearer. Jesus and his friends are at a banquet, but the mood is subdued. They do not yet understand the necessity of the cross. They do not see its inevitability. For them there is still time for a miracle, a revolution, a vindication. Only one woman, whose name we did not save, seems to have seen the truth that Jesus will soon die. Not only that, she also saw in it a saving action like none the world had ever known. And she poured out all she had of value to make her point and pledge her homage. The others were outraged. They didn’t want her truth telling. They didn’t want her truth to be the truth. Do you ever find that you want Jesus’ way to be different? Would you rather he tampered less with your assumptions and values? Do you imagine that your values are really the same as his? Ponder Jesus’ question to you this way: why do you protest against my hard truths? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes your ways are hard, your values hard to hear and harder still to live. Help me today to open myself to you and offer all I have to your service. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 9, 2021 

Mark. 4:21 - He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lamp stand? 

Jesus wants his disciples to grasp that his teaching must be understood and shared. Further, he wants them to see that he himself is to be understood and shared. Even when Jesus was present physically there were people who wanted him for what he could do for them rather than for what he longed to do for others through them. Jesus is not a secret that we keep or control. Jesus is an illuminating 

force of love that cannot be stopped. The presence and power of Christ can no more be hidden than a flame can continue to burn when deprived of oxygen. When we practice a private and self-centered faith, concerned only with our comfort or blessing we, too, can find our passion dimmed, our power out and our witness hidden. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: How does the flame of my love shine in you for those who live in darkness? 

Prayer: Dear God, build up the fire of your love and presence in me today. Shine through me into the dark pain of the world. Give me courage and a mission. Amen. 

August 10, 2021 

Mark 4:40 - He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

Jesus’ friends are caught in a terrible storm. They are terrified and wonder if Jesus even cares about them at all. Often storms, or the sea itself, are symbols of chaos in the Bible. When Jesus calms the storm, he literally says to it, “Put a muzzle on it!” At his word, the chaos calms and the threat lifts. Have you ever felt like you were about to drown in the chaos of your life? Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared about what you are going through? Of what are you really afraid? This passage reminds you that Jesus both cares about and conquers the threats to your peace and security. Poignantly, he is amazed that his friends’ fear clings when the danger is past and that they still have trouble trusting him. Ponder Jesus’ question to you this way: Why are you afraid? Do you not yet trust me? 

Prayer: Dear God, it is a stormy day inside me. As I go about my tasks I am often overwhelmed and under comforted. Calm my stormy seas and teach me to trust you more each day. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 11, 2021 

Mark 5: 9a - Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” 

Legion had given up on life. It was just too hard. He had decided, in his tormented mind, that the best place for him was to live among the dead. He could identify best with them. So that is where Jesus finds him, this man so tortured that his very name reflected his affliction. Legion had taken his pain as his name. In the Bible, a person’s name both described and created his/her character and situation. To share one’s name was an act of intimacy. To know another’s name was to have a measure of power over that one. In asking for his name, Jesus is asking how Legion understands himself, how he sees himself and his problem. Understanding how we see ourselves is a necessary precondition for healing. Ponder Jesus’ question to you this way: how do you see yourself? Have you let your pain define you? What names do you wear? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I am so hard on myself. I call myself stupid, or silly or a failure or unloved. Help me today to hear your names for me, Beloved, Friend, and then be transformed by your grace. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 12, 2021 

Mk 5:30b - Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 

Not only had she suffered for twelve years from bleeding, the woman who touched Jesus was also an outcast from her family and community as a result of her illness. She was at the end of her rope emotionally and physically when she found within herself the courage to hope one more time. She saw in 

Jesus her last chance for wholeness, and she reached out to him and was healed. She was not allowed, however, to have a solitary healing. When we reach out to Jesus to be made whole, he wants to be in face-to-face relationship with us. When Jesus recognized what had happened, he searched diligently for her. He wanted to make her healing complete in a living relationship. It is still the same today. Ponder Jesus’ question to you this way: will you be in relationship with me, or do you just want to use me to feel better or get what you think you want? 

Prayer: Dear God, how I need your healing today. Yet I am afraid of the change that wholeness brings. I am afraid of the honesty of being in relationship with you. Thank you for searching for me diligently. Help me to let myself be found. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 13, 2021 

Mark 8:12 - And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign?” 

The Pharisees are testing Jesus. They think they know everything that is humanly possible to know about God. They think they know what God wants and how God will act. They want incontrovertible proof from Jesus that he is Messiah. Even as they ask for a sign, they have already made up their minds that this troublemaker cannot produce one. He is not what they are looking for and they are locked into their expectations. Jesus’ sigh, a deep, weary, angry frustrated letting out of breath, speaks volumes. He is the sign. There is no other and he will not be baited into providing a concrete sign that they wouldn’t believe anyway. Do you sometimes put Jesus to the test? Do you sometimes want him to prove beyond a doubt that he is who he says he is? Ponder Jesus’ question this way: why does this generation ask for a sign? 

Prayer: Dear God, why is what you offer sometimes not enough for me? Help me today to see who you are, take your hand and rejoice that your presence with me is enough. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 14, 2021 

Mark 9:33 - What were you arguing about on the way?” 

Jesus and his disciples are going to their home base in Capernaum. He is preparing for important private teaching on the meaning of discipleship when he asks his friends what they have been arguing about. They were embarrassed to tell him because they had been arguing about who was the greatest, about who really ‘got it’, about who would have the power to say the way things would be. Ouch! It was ever thus. Don’t we, too, spend an inordinate amount of energy arguing about who is right or wrong, who is the best, who gets to decide how things will be? In this passage you can almost hear Jesus’ despair at their foolishness as he lifts a powerless little child in front of them and says, ‘It is the vulnerable and weak, the outcast and the powerless who have the real power in my kingdom.” Ponder Jesus’ question this way: What are you arguing about? Does it really matter? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we waste our energy arguing over things that are so much less important than humbly serving you. Help me not to be concerned with who wins but only with how I can be faithful. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 15, 2021 

Luke 10:36 - “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 

Jesus and a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses) are having a conversation in the typical question/answer style of the day. The lawyer is questioning Jesus about what one must do to inherit eternal life. He already knows the answer but hopes to find a way to justify the fact that he has chosen not to ‘live’ the answer. Jesus, of course, tells him that active, concrete, and specific love of God and neighbor is the answer. In a classic and timeless way, the lawyer tries to weasel out of this truth by arguing about who classifies as neighbor. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to make his point. Compassion and service make a neighbor, not nationality, proximity, or homogeneity. One is a neighbor if one acts in love. The lawyer wanted to know whom he had the responsibility to love and whom he did not. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Who are you to love? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I feel that I should like all those you call me to love. Teach me today that love is bigger than my feelings and far grander than my own designs. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 16, 2021 

Luke 12:51 - Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? 

What in the world, in this day and age when we are torn apart by war, violence and division and pandemic, even in the church, do we do with a Prince of Peace who says, “I come to bring division”? Here, again, we find no hint of Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild. Jesus and his disciples are moving toward Jerusalem. The critical moment in his life and ministry is at hand. It is crisis time. It is decision time. Jesus needed his friends to understand that peace, in the sense of the status quo, crumbles in the presence of the power and values of God at work in him. The Gospel has always had its enemies and as long as people are being transformed by Christ into the likeness of Christ, it always will. To follow Jesus to the cross will not leave us unchanged. And change often meets with resistance. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Do you think that I came to make you comfortable? 

Prayer: Dear God, your ways are so radical, your love so profound that it disturbs the world and unsettles me. Help me to risk the discomfort of conforming to your will. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 17, 2021 

Luke 13:2 - He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way, they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” 

In Jesus’ day many of the faithful believed that bad things happened because God was angry over sin. Many claim to believe that as well today. Here Jesus’ friends are trying to figure out how that formula sometimes doesn’t seem to fit. Most of us, I assume, say that we do not believe that everything bad that happens is a direct result of personal sinfulness. But sometimes that belief sneaks into our hearts anyway. Have you ever, in the face of tragedy, wondered if you were being punished for something? Have you ever lost a loved one and, in your grief, feared that somehow that one was taken because of something you did to anger God? Have you heard anyone suggest that the pandemic was God’s punishment for not believing? Many of us in times of trial will think like this even if we don’t believe it to be true. Jesus’ doesn’t really answer the disciples direct concern in this text. Rather he tells them to live repentantly and carefully so that whatever happens, their relationship with him comes first. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Do you really think that all people who suffer deserve it? 

Prayer: Dear God, some questions are fruitless to ponder. Why do the saints suffer? Why does the evil prosper? Help me today to look to my own life, confess my own sin, and live-in thanksgiving for your grace. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 18, 2021 

Luke 17:17 - Then, Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine where are they?” 

In many ways this is a strange two in one story. First it is the story of the healing of ten men with leprosy, a terrible affliction that was both painful physically and resulted in social ostracism. The second is the story of one of those healed, a Samaritan and therefore a double outcast, returning to Jesus in gratitude after her complete healing of both body and soul. Jesus’ tender question about why the others did not return to thank him makes me wonder why I, too, so often take my blessings for granted, as if I somehow had a right to them or deserved them. I am quick to go to God with need or complaint. Truthfully, I am also quick with a thank you. But the true gratitude that takes me out of my way to offer thanks in service or compassion to others is another matter altogether. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Where is your gratitude? 

Prayer: Dear God, I am so grateful today for all of your healing wonders in my life and world. Help me to act on my gratitude with compassion and courage. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 19, 2021 

Luke 18:7-8 - And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you; he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

The story of the widow and the unfit judge is told to encourage believers to pray persistently. The judge’s duty was to insure the peace and fairness of the community of faith. It was his job to decide any disputes even those that resulted from the basic inequities of the community itself. Widows could not inherit a husband’s property or wealth, but the Law insisted that they be treated fairly. Apparently, this judge was so unfit that fairness could not be expected and yet the widow persists and eventually wears him down into doing the right thing by her. The story is not told in order to picture God as an uncaring judge that we must badger into justice by our prayers! Rather, the point is that if even one such as this judge could be persuaded to do what is right, it is without question true that God will attend to our earnest and persistent prayers. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Don’t you think I have your best interest at heart? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I give up too soon, give up on justice, give up on the intimacy with you that prayer provides. Help me today to come to you with all my need and trust that you are already at work with answers that a best for all involved. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 20, 2021 

Luke 22:27 - For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” 

Jesus and his friends are reclining around a table. He has just told them that one of them will betray him. His friends are incredulous, scandalized. They cannot believe it of themselves. They do not believe they are capable of it. And so they go back to their same old argument: who among them will be the greatest. The inability to see oneself as capable of betrayal and the unquestioned assumption that one can be greater than others, displays a lack of self-awareness that is truly stunning. Still, on the verge of the cross, Jesus tries once more to help us understand that the first shall be least and that to follow him means to serve others not to lord power over them. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: who do you think is 

greater, the one who lives by the worlds power or the one who lives like a servant? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes the world’s power, wealth and privilege look pretty good. Help us today, no matter our station in life, to conform ourselves to the model of your life of service. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 21, 2021 

John 5:6 - When Jesus saw him lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 

he man by the pool at Bethzatha had been lying there, ill, for 38 years. Jesus comes upon him and has immediate insight into his condition and cuts right to the heart of the matter with his question. “Do you want to be made well?” Sometimes that is not as easy a question to answer as it may seem. Sometimes we may want to stop hurting, to be somehow cured, but true wellness can be something else altogether. As we see with Jesus’ commands to the man, being made well means taking some initiative, doing the hard work and giving up faulty expectations and cherished excuses. Are we willing to take matters into our own hands and stop blaming others for our predicaments? Are we willing to pick up our mats and take charge of our own wellness? Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Do you really want to be made well with all that goes with it? 

Prayer: Dear God, my complaints and my excuses are so much a part of my life that I sometimes don’t know what true wellness even looks like. Help me today to do what you would have me do to claim the wholeness that you have for me. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 22. 2021 

John 6:61 - But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you?” 

Today’s question shows John’s Eucharistic theology. Jesus has just told his friends that unless they eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood there will be no life in them. Whether we take this as a literal saying about the sacrament or not, it is clear that Jesus’ disciples understood in his words a call to intimacy with Christ that was hard for them to fathom. Could he be saying that he was their only true source, the only nourishment that leads to life? How so? How must they partake? Must they become as holy as he? Must they become as beloved, as despised? Whatever the case, Jesus’ command is clear: life comes from incorporating his presence into the center of your life. We are to feed off of Jesus and not the sweet allures of power or wealth. That is indeed a hard teaching. Ponder Jesus’ question: does this offend you? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes your call to life seems so otherworldly that we hardly know how to answer. Sometimes you ask us to do things that frighten us. Help us to remember that you only ask that which leads to life. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 23, 2021 

John 6:67 - So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you wish to go away?” 

The hard teachings of Jesus were too much for some of the disciples. They didn’t understand or they didn’t have the courage, or he simply was not the Messiah of their dreams. So, many stopped following him and went back to where they started. When they departed Jesus turned to his inner circle and said, “Do you wish to go away?” Was that a sad question? Was it a discouraged question? Was it a discouraged 

question? Was he offering them a way out? Was he giving them a chance to prove their loyalty? We do not know. But Peter answers for all saying, “Where else could we possibly go to find life?” Sometimes life in Christ is hard even today. Churches have many needs, and we can get so tired. Maybe we too sometimes feel like it is all too hard. But where else could we go to find life? Ponder Jesus’ question: Do you wish to leave me, too?” 

Prayer: Dear God, you way is sometimes a hard one. We prefer the empty tomb to the cross. But we cannot have the one without the other. Help us to cling to you and follow where you lead. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 24, 2021 

John 8:10 - Jesus straightened up and saw her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

We do not know the whole story of the woman taken in adultery. We do not know if her action was by choice, or where the man was, or how she was discovered, charged, and convicted. We know that the penalty was death. But that is not really the point of the story. The scribes are trying to trap Jesus by bringing him a case to settle without all of the needed evidence. She is an object lesson to the scribes. She is a person to Jesus. So, he turns the situation into a teaching moment. The scribes want to trap Jesus into making a mistake. Jesus wants them to look at themselves. Okay, he says, if you are perfect, go ahead and kill her. Of course, none could pick up the first stone. Sometimes we pick up those stones though, don’t we? Sometimes we even stone ourselves. Jesus never does. He refuses to condemn the women and sends her home with the caution not to make the same mistake again. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: where are those who condemn you? 

Prayer: Dear God, I have stones in my hand, and I am ashamed of how often I try to throw them. I am ashamed of how often I deserve them. By your grace forgive me and give me a non-judgmental heart. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 25, 2021 

John 11:34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” 

Jesus is torn into pieces with grief. His dear friend Lazarus has died and even though he must know that he will intervene and raise him, the loss is so heavy that he is in inner turmoil. So he asks where they have buried him then goes to weep outside the tomb. Isn’t it that way it is in our grief as well? Even though our faith gives us a durable hope that no good-bye is ever a final one, our hearts break so pitifully at the time of parting. Knowing what awaits us helps, but it does not stop the grieving. It was the same for Jesus. In this story Jesus blesses the very human pain at the loss of any great love and he reminds us that, with him, all is never completely lost. What losses do you mourn? Ponder Jesus’ question this way: where are the tombs where you mourn? 

Prayer: Dear God, When a great love dies, it both changes everything and nothing. Thank you so much for coming to show us that grief is normal, and that hope is warranted. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 26, 2021 

John 11:40 “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? 

Jesus is still standing in front of Lazarus’ tomb, tears streaking his cheeks and the mourners, needing someone to blame, both admire his grief and resent the fact that he did not come sooner. Jesus, 

greatly disturbed, tells Martha to have the stone removed. She demurs. She cannot get beyond the brutal finality of death. She is worried about the smell. Then, Jesus asks his question. Was he referring to the miracle he was about to perform? Surely. Could he also have meant his own crucifixion that was so close at hand? Certainly. Jesus must have known that raising Lazarus would be the last straw for the authorities. Yet he loved him enough to die to raise him. Jesus risked everything to love Lazarus to life. He has done the same for each one of us. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: Do you truly believe that you will see the glory of God? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes in my grief I forget to look for your glory. Help me today to look beneath the hurts of life for the new life only you can bring. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 27, 2021 

John 13:38 - Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?” 

Jesus is gathered with his friends for a last meal. He knows it. They must suspect but cannot believe it. He tells them that one will betray him. Judas has had enough. He can’t take it anymore. So, he leaves, slips away into the darkness with Jesus’ whispered words “Do quickly what you must do.” Then Jesus turns to his friends and gives them his ultimate instruction. Love one another. Period. Their love for each other will be the mark of his disciples, the true core of kingdom life. The ever-rash Peter, flummoxed that Jesus is talking about leaving, begs to follow him and brashly promises that he will die for him. Jesus knows better and asks, “Will you really?” How often have you promised all to Jesus? How often have you failed to deliver on your promise? Ponder Jesus’ question: “Will you lay down your life for me?” 

Prayer: Dear God, I want to live for you and only you. Still, too often, I am reluctant to pay a price to follow. Give me courage, Lord, to follow to the cross and beyond. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 28, 2021 

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? 

The palm branches that strew Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem are still fresh and green, but everything has changed. Hosannas have faded. Jesus is sharing a final meal with his friends, telling them one last time, the things that are at the heart of his message. Love. Servanthood. Sacrifice. He knows how hard his death will be for them. He knows as well how hard it will be for them to stay connected to him and his message when he is not physically with them. He tells them he is the way, the truth, the life. He tells them that no one can come to the father without him. Precious Philip tells him to show them the Father and they will be satisfied. Then Jesus asks his question. The word “believe” means to rely upon. Can you, he asks, trust that when you see me you see God? Ponder Jesus’ question: Do you believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? 

Prayer: Dear God, the intricacies of the Trinity are truly incomprehensible. They are mystery. They are holy. Help me today to realize anew that when I look at Jesus, I am seeing God in skin. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 29, 2021 

Matthew 26: 40 - Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” 

It is dark in the garden. Perhaps there is a breeze. Perhaps it is still as death. Jesus knows his time is 

short and, oh how he longs to be spared what is coming! He is anguished. He is frightened. There is a battle raging in him between the desire to do God’s will and the desire to avoid pain and death. It is a battle that we each know well. He goes to God in earnest prayer. He pleads for God to find another way. Then in a supreme act of surrender says that profound little word: Nevertheless. What a lonely night for Jesus! His friends, who have pledged their lives to him, are sound asleep. Jesus sees Peter sleeping and asks his question. How hard it is for us to stay by Jesus’ side in the hard places! Ponder Jesus’ question: Could you not stay awake with me one hour? 

Prayer: Dear God, I want to stay by your side, ready, awake, usable. But I am often weak as a baby bird and about as courageous. Waken me, Lord! Help me to be a close and faithful companion. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 30, 2021 

Matthew 26:53 - Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 

Things move quickly. From the moment Jesus surrenders to God’s plan, he seems a changed person. Gone is the outward anguish. He is once again a man on a mission. Judas arrives with his armed mob and bedlam ensues. One of Jesus’ disciples draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the slave of the High Priest. Jesus moves decisively to stop the violence from escalating. He knows that whenever violence is met with violence only further destruction can come of it. Besides, violence is not the way of God. His question is a simple reminder that, if he chose, he could call the armies of heaven to his defense. But that is not his way. His way is sacrifice not retaliation. Power never lies in violence. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: do you not see where my power really lies? Can you relinquish the world’s ways for my ways? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes it is so easy to desire to meet force with force, to calm hurt by hurting others. Help me today to consider where your power really lies and follow where you lead. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

August 31, 2021 

Matthew 26:55 - At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?” 

Jesus is astounded that the crowds have so completely misunderstood him. Did they think he was some kind of common terrorist? Did they think he was a just another religious fanatic with visions of grandeur? Did they think the only way to get him was in some kind of middle of the night undercover sting operation? Apparently, they did. Sometimes we misunderstand Jesus, too, don’t we? Sometimes we confuse the world’s ways with Jesus’ ways. Sometimes we miss his divine authority. Sometimes we garner our own defenses to stop his challenging word from changing our lives, too. Ponder Jesus’ question this way: How have you misunderstood me? Why do you think I am just like all the others? 

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I gather swords and clubs to keep your word at bay. I am afraid of what you bring, afraid of becoming what you want. Help me to lay down my defenses and receive you as you are. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.