Friday, June 23

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. It isn’t raining at the moment. Woohoo!

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 51 & 148            Evening – Psalm 65 & 142

Our final Gospel reading for the week is Luke 21: 5 – 19. Jesus speaks of the fate of the temple. While the people herald its glory, Jesus speaks of its pending destruction.

“As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

Luke 21: 6            CEB

Imagine hearing these words for the first time. Imagine you have been listening to Jesus and have come to recognize him as the Son of God come to earth from heaven. You hear Jesus speak of a time soon when he will leave the earthly kingdom, but that he will be resurrected and one day return. Then you hear Jesus say the temple in all its glory will be demolished.

Is Jesus saying that when he returns, God is going to destroy everything that exists? In a manner of speaking, that is precisely what Jesus is saying. The struggle in hearing and understanding these words is to experience them on God’s terms rather than ours. Once again, the word of God remains constant in its warning against idolatry.

Jesus is speaking of a time when the reign of God will rule the day. There will be no more earthly kingdom – only the kingdom of heaven. We often hear these words as a final great flood, if you will. God in Jesus Christ will return and destroy everything humankind has created.

The word of God reminds us at every turn that true faith lies with the things of God, not the things of humanity. As such, when Jesus returns to usher in the next generation, the things of humankind will no longer have the bearing they have now. The people of God will only have the things of God.

One way to understand the words of Jesus in our reading today is to be afraid. A better way is to hear them in and through the constant refrain from God, “Do not be afraid.” The things of God are what we worship, glorify, and place our trust in. The things we make are to be admired, but they are not the foundation of our faith. God is.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

This will be the last installment of daily devotion emails for the next few weeks. I will be leaving on  vacation after church this Sunday. Until I return to writing daily devotions, I encourage all of you to visit the PC(USA) website www.pcusa.org. There you will find a link to the Mission Yearbook. Click that link and read through the devotion assigned to each day. This is an excellent resource provided by our denomination for daily devotion.



Thursday, June 22

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. I hope you are above the water line this morning!

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 97 & 147: 12 – 20            Evening – Psalm 16 & 62

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 20: 41 – 21: 4. Jesus condemns the legal experts for their approach to the life of faith. A poor widow provides a powerful example of what it means to trust in God.

They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.

Luke 20: 47          CEB

The end portion of Luke chapter 20 should discourage anyone from accepting the call to be ordained as an Elder in the PC(USA). In our denomination, Elders are sometimes referred to as “Ruling Elders”. This title reflects the understanding we have that the church is led by people who interpret scripture and teach that interpretation along with priests. The legal experts mentioned in our reading today are akin to Elders, Ruling as well as Teaching, we know in our tradition and denomination.

The condemnation Jesus offers is appropriate. I doubt that any of us need to think too hard to come up with an example of the kind of legal expert Jesus warns against. It is often true in the earthly realm that those with knowledge and power use it for personal gain at the expense of others. These same people present a public personae of compassion, care, and faith, but their motive is greed and power.

Our reading today includes more than this condemnation, however. It includes one of the most powerful examples of what it means to give to God found in scripture. During the time for offering, a poor widow gave everything she had, unlike the rest of the crowd who gave out of their excess. Jesus’ observation of the widow’s behavior is about much more than money.

Jesus provides a commentary on wealth, which also far exceeds any consideration of money. Jesus speaks of the giving of first fruits rather than leftovers. He lifts up the sacrificial aspect of giving to God and trusting God to meet our needs. Jesus essentially constructs a proverb. “It is the heart of the giver, rather than the size of the gift, which conveys the measure of faith.”

Our reading today is an invitation to service to God. Instead of hearing it as a warning inhibiting our service, we should hear it as a welcome invitation. Be Blessed in your day today and be a blessing to others.

Peace,

Jonathan   


Wednesday, June 21


Dearest church family,

Good morning to you. I hope you are warm and dry this morning.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 89: 1 – 18; 147: 1 – 11                   Evening – Psalm 1 & 33

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 20: 27 – 40. Questioning Jesus continues in our reading today. Some Sadducees question Jesus regarding the resurrection, since they do not believe in any kind of resurrection and were confused by Jesus’ teachings on the matter.

He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. To him they are all alive.

Luke 20: 38          CEB

Jesus identifies God as the God of the living. So what about those who have died? As Jesus explains it, all are considered alive according to God.

The Sadducees question Jesus regarding human custom and tradition and its effects on the life eternal Jesus keeps speaking of. Jesus’ response is very clear. In this life, human custom and tradition plays a role in how life is lived. In the life eternal, they do not.

Ancestry is one of the main themes of the Bible. Everyone who enters mortal life stands on the shoulders of those who came before them. We are all descendants of Abraham, according to the word of God. What does that mean?

Unearthing the implications of this reality can be overwhelming. Our efforts to do so often lead to situations that do little to empower or deepen our faith. As Jesus shares in our reading today, perhaps we are better served in the life of faith to instead embrace the reality the word of God clearly demonstrates. We are all children of God and are all invited to share in the freedom and joy the gift of eternal life brings to it.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

Wednesday Bible Study has its last meeting until August today at noon in the Seekers classroom. All are welcome to join in our study of the Gospel of Mark. We will resume our study on Wednesday, August 2nd.

Tuesday, June 20


Dearest church family,

Good rainy morning to you! Anybody know of a good supply place for gopher wood?

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 42 & 146            Evening – Psalm 102 & 133

The Gospel reading for today is Luke 20: 19 – 26. Following a controversy with Jesus over authority and the parable of the tenant farmers, the legal experts and chief priests made an attempt to trap Jesus. Jesus responds to the attempt in truth.

Since Jesus recognized their deception, he said to them, “Show me a coin. Whose image and inscription does it have on it?”

Luke 20: 23 – 24                CEB

Most of us know the story found in our reading today. The legal experts and chief priests tried to trap Jesus in an act of treason. Human efforts to thwart the truth of God fail.

Jesus displays divine wisdom in its truest form. The truth of God is unwavering. It is direct and clear. There is no malice in it. It simply is what it is.

Some children of God in every time and place have the tendency to believe God is not as wise as we all know God is. The story of the earthly kingdom is full of examples of children of God truly thinking they can outsmart God. Each and every example ends the same way.

Jesus recognized their deception. Most of us are told from a young age that telling the truth is easier in the long run than trying to fabricate a story to ease the pain of the moment. In the life of faith, we all do well to heed that advice. There is no way to outsmart God. The best part is there is actually no need to even try.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s. Please continue to keep Sue Rodgers in your prayers. She has been released from the hospital and is working to regain her strength but remains weak for the time being.

Services for Chuck Johnston will be held today at First Methodist Church, Wetumpka

Visitation is from 1pm to 2pm with the memorial to follow visitation.

Please keep the Johnston family in your prayers.


Monday, June 19


Dearest church family,

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

Our readings for daily devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading chapter 20 & 21 of the Gospel of Luke. I will also include the daily Psalm readings for those who wish to incorporate Psalm reading as part of daily devotion.

The Psalm readings for today are:

Morning – Psalm 5 & 145              Evening – Psalm 29 & 82

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 20: 9 – 19. IN the midst of controversy over authority between Jesus and t temple leadership, Jesus shares the parable of the tenant farmers. Jesus quotes Psalm 118: 22 as the basis for his teaching relating to the parable.

He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. When the people heard this, they said, “May this never happen!”

Luke 20: 16

The events of chapter 20 in the Gospel of Luke follow the account of Jesus cleansing the temple. Jesus has just driven the money changers out of the temple in perhaps his greatest demonstration of force to this point. The temple authority of the day began to question the authority of Jesus even more, especially now that it was beginning to threaten their livelihood.

“That’s just not right!” How many times do you utter this expression when hearing the news of the day, especially as it relates to the life of faith and church? The crowd that heard the parable Jesus shared, which was a prediction of how his earthly life would end, immediately recognized and claimed the injustice. The temple authority recognized it too, but they feared speaking out would enrage the crowd and undermine the religious expression and tradition of the time.

Notice that the temple authority did not fear God. They feared the people they claimed to be called to lead. Religious authority feared for its livelihood. There was no thought given to how their authority had become a stumbling block to those seeking to live the life of faith.

Whenever faith becomes self serving, bad things happen. Self serving faith often rears its head in the life of the church, and that is when the casualties begin to multiply. The people of God in every time and place have an immense capacity for missing the message in the name of saving one’s self. 

The teachings of Jesus are abundantly clear. Even the teachings that come in the form of parables, which force the hearer to think and interpret, contain wisdom from God that is easy to recognize. The difficulty for all of us is that wisdom is also easy to ignore. The life of faith is a daily challenge to hear and follow the teachings of God in Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Jonathan