Wednesday, December 13

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. I hope you are doing well. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 50 & 147: 1 – 11              Evening – Psalm 17 & 53 

Our Gospel reading for today is John 7: 53 – 8:11. It is a one day departure from reading through the 21st and 22nd chapters of Luke. Today, we encounter John’s perspective on the showdown between Jesus and the Pharisees. 

They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.”

John 8: 7              CEB 

The Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery before Jesus. They questioned Jesus’ interpretation of the law regarding adultery as a means of testing Jesus. Seeking justice was never part of their plan. 

The response Jesus offers is well known to most Christians. The only words Jesus offers in response to the inquiry from the Pharisees is a brief statement about judgment. The execution of judgment is put into perspective. 

The response Jesus offers is enough of a guide for anyone when it comes to passing judgment. More than that, Jesus’ overall response is a powerful guide to all for how to respond to misguided efforts. Speaking God’s truth about judgment is the best response to any and all attempts by anyone trying to alter it for personal gain. 

Peace,

Jonathan


Tuesday, December 12

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope this Tuesday is shaping up nicely for everyone. Remember to get out and vote today! 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 33 & 146            Evening – Psalm 85 & 94 

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 21: 29 – 38. Jesus shares the parable of the fig tree. The lesson relates to what it means to be truly alive in faith. 

Every day Jesus was teaching in the temple, but he spent each night on the Mount of Olives.

Luke 21: 37          CEB

The teachings of Jesus are rich in meaning and powerful in message. His teaching through parables provides the foundation for a thinking faith. Rather than spelling things out exactly, Jesus teaches in a manner that allows the hearer to apply the teaching to their own personal circumstance. As a result, the good news Jesus shares meets every child of God where they are and challenges everyone equally. 

The most powerful teaching Jesus provides the earthly kingdom is less obvious. It does not diminish the significance of his teaching in any way. On the contrary, it shapes and informs his teaching in a manner we all should take note of. Our reading today captures this sometimes overlooked example of how to live in faith. 

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, there were captive audiences everywhere he went. Even as the forces working against him were gaining momentum, there were more and more people engaged by the message Jesus shared. Jesus was a celebrity of sorts in the eyes of many. 

Rather than allow his own ego or sense of power to take control, Jesus appealed even more to the power that sustained him. After long days of preaching and teaching, Jesus spent his nights on the Mount of Olives. He returned at the end of each day to the quiet place where he could be rejuvenated by God through prayer. 

Prayer at the end of the day is perhaps the most powerful practice in the life of faith. Jesus shares this example, and we would all do well to follow it. As each day comes to a close, children of God everywhere have the opportunity to rest in God’s powerful quiet and be renewed. Embracing this practice has a powerful, positive affect on the life of faith.

Peace,

Jonathan


Monday, December 11

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope you are well this Monday morning.

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading from the 21st and 22nd chapters of the Gospel of Luke. I will also list the daily Psalm readings and encourage everyone to read at least one Psalm daily as part of devotion. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 122 & 145          Evening – Psalm 40 & 67 

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 21: 20-28. The time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh was rapidly coming to a close. Jesus continued to teach about the life of faith. He used the metaphor of the surrounding of the Jerusalem temple by its enemies in our reading today. 

Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads because your redemption is near.

Luke 21: 28          CEB 

It is challenging to understand Jesus’ teaching about his earthly demise. Observing the disciples’ behavior helps us recognize our own. There is often a disconnect between standing up straight in faith when God’s example is about to be rejected by humanity. 

It also seems odd to be reading and thinking about the plot to kill Jesus during the second week of Advent. Yesterday in worship we all heard the complete Advent story in song. All of the characters and settings were represented. The story was told as completely as it could be in one sitting. 

It may seem odd to be reading and thinking about the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh while we are remembering the beginnings of it. It is not odd at all. The good news of God in Jesus Christ is always a complete story. We should not focus on one aspect of it at the expense of the others. 

If our faith comes from the manger alone, we miss the witness and teaching Jesus provides. Likewise, if our faith comes from the cross alone, we miss everything that took place before it as well as the power of the resurrection. The story of Jesus in its entirety is not a Hallmark Christmas movie. Those have the potential to warm the heart, but only God in Jesus Christ has the power to open the heart. Stand straight with your head held high in the midst of the light of Christ. 

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s. 

I have no desire to attempt to influence anyone in regards to tomorrow’s elections. I have every desire to encourage everyone to vote. If you are having difficulty deciding who you wish to support in tomorrow’s election, the Montgomery Advertiser had a very clear and even handed side-by-side comparison of the two candidates’ positions on several key political issues in yesterday’s paper. It should be available online. I will gladly provide my copy to anyone wishing to read it.  


Friday, December 8

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. It is slushy and gross outside. Stay warm and dry if at all possible today! 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 102 & 148          Evening – Psalm 16 & 130 

Our final Epistle reading for this week is 1 Thessalonians 4: 1 – 12. In the first half of chapter 4, Paul encourages living that pleases God. The words have excellent application in the current conversations in our nation regarding human behavior. 

No one should take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue.

1 Thessalonians 4: 6a      CEB 

Our reading for today is perhaps the most helpful thing I have come across in recent weeks as conversation about inappropriate behavior continues in our culture. The entire reading explains in clear fashion what the behavior of a child of God should be. We are reminded that we belong to each other because of God’s intentions, and that God’s intentions are to be honored at all times.

It seems to me that whenever a specific form of bad behavior enters public discourse, the response of people of faith is to speak out against it. This is a good thing, but it also seems to me that the response of faith is sometimes misguided. In response to sexual immorality of all variety, for example, the response of faith is often that any expression of sexuality is evil. 

This is far from the truth, and our reading today helps put that in perspective. Sexuality is a gift from God, but it is given with expectations from God. No human being should ever take advantage of another. The context in our reading today is expressions of sexuality, but the application is universal. 

How different would the earthly kingdom look if children of God took this simple and powerful statement to heart? Are we capable of refraining from taking advantage of sisters and brothers? I believe we are, but no one can do it on their own. 

One reason the word of God calls us to be imitators of Christ is that Christ took advantage of no one. Jesus delivered the good news of God’s redemptive love and invited anyone who heard that message to accept it. No one received a special presentation of the message, and no one was given a free ride to redemption. These are truths that can save the earthly kingdom from itself. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

Please pray for safe travel for all headed to the State Championship football game in Tuscaloosa this evening. Don’t forget that Christmas on the Coosa events are proceeding as scheduled tomorrow.

 

Thursday, December 7

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. I hope your Thursday is off to a good start. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 18: 1 – 20 & 147: 12 – 20              Evening – Psalm 62 & 126 

Our Epistle reading for today is 1 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 13. Paul shares his desire and attempts to return to Thessalonica for a visit. He shares the decision to send Timothy for a visit instead rather than risk hardship for the congregation from Jewish authorities in Thessalonica. 

May the Lord cause you to increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone in the same way we also love you.

1 Thessalonians 3: 12      CEB 

In chapter 3 of this letter, Paul expresses his desire to visit with sisters and brothers in Thessalonica. He identifies Satan as the one blocking efforts to make that visit happen. It is very apparent that Paul is in great need of encouraging news in the midst of his suffering in Athens. 

Rather than put the church at Thessalonica at risk by a clandestine visit, Paul sends Timothy. Timothy is a young man ministering under the tutelage of Paul. Timothy was not yet on the radar of the religious authority seeking to discredit the Christian community.  Timothy visits and returns to Paul with good news of strong faith and continued witness to Jesus Christ. 

Paul then offers a prayer for the sisters and brothers he longs to see face to face. His prayer is an excellent example of how prayer works in the life of faith. We are always welcomed and invited to lift ourselves up to God in prayer. At the same time, when we pray for others and celebrate their faith and love, we find ourselves lifted in the process. 

It is always empowering in the life of faith to share thanksgiving for the faith and strength of others. Lifting others up lifts us up. Who will you offer prayers of thanksgiving for today? 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Please remember the Lollies gathering today. Meet at 10am at the city Administration building for a tour of the Fitzpatrick gallery and Elmore County Historical Museum. Lunch will be at Coaches Corner t noon. Women of the church will gather for their Christmas party this evening at 6:45 at Our Place Café.


Wednesday, December 6

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope you are doing well this wet, yucky morning.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 50 & 147: 1 – 11              Evening – Psalm 62 & 126 

Our Epistle reading for today is 1 Thessalonians 2: 13 – 20. Paul explains how the church at Thessalonica received God’s message. He commends them for the welcome the message received. 

We also thank God constantly for this: when you accepted God’s word that you heard from us, you welcomed it for what it truly is. Instead of accepting it as a human message, you accepted it as God’s message, and it continues to work in you who are believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13      CEB 

Throughout Paul’s writings, he shares the message he felt called by God to share. At every turn, Paul distances himself from any authority over that message and gives credit to God for authorship of it. He adds that if he in any way misconstrues God’s message that his words fall on deaf ears. 

We often recognize this teaching in the context of “don’t shoot the messenger” thinking. When bad news is delivered, it behooves the messenger to distance themselves from authorship. For example, it is common practice in hospitals to have chaplains convey bad news to family members of those in critical medical condition. The news must be shared, but it can be easier to accept if the one sharing it is not directly responsible for it in the first place. 

The opposite is true of good news. We want to take ownership of good news. Who wouldn’t want to be the one to tell someone something they knew would make them feel better? I don’t know about you, but I love having the opportunity to share good news with others. 

In our reading today, we find that our human nature is backwards when it comes to sharing God’s good news. Instead of distancing ourselves from the bad and taking credit in some way for the good, our faith calls us to do the opposite. In our own witness, we should distance God from authorship of what is received as bad news and allow God to have complete ownership of all that is received as good. Taking this approach is the best protection against false witness we have available to us. 

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

The necklace I mentioned in yesterday’s email did return. One of the Scouts saw it Monday night and turned it in to one of the Assistant Scoutmasters. The necklace will be reunited with its rightful owner this evening.