Thursday, October 12

Dearest church family

Good morning to you all. I hope you are doing well and drying out from this last deluge of rain. 

The readings for devotion this week are the Old Testament selections from the daily lectionary. Those readings began with 2 Kings 21: 1 – 18 Monday, 22: 1 – 13 Tuesday, 22:14 – 23:3 yesterday, 23:4 – 25 today, and 23:36 – 24:17 tomorrow. The reign of Manasseh as King of Judah unravels all of the faithful work of King Hezekiah and Judah is set on an irreversible path towards destruction. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

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

Our devotion reading for today is 2 Kings 23: 4 – 25. Josiah emerges as the king of Judah. All the elders of Jerusalem bow before Josiah, and he makes a covenant with God to follow the commandments and insure the land of Judah does as well. Josiah gives specific instruction for all the graven images and false idols adorning the temple of the Lord to be removed. 

The king commanded all the people, “Celebrate a Passover to the Lord your God following what is instructed in this scroll containing the covenant”.

2 Kings 23: 21     CEB 

The people of God had once again allowed themselves to be subject to idolatry. In the temple of the Lord, there were altars to pagan gods. Sacrifices were made regularly by the Israelites to these gods, demonstrating a lack of faith and trust in God. Josiah, who inherited the throne of Judah from his evil father at the age of 8, returned Israel to worshipping God alone in dramatic and violent fashion. 

In the midst of the violent removal of idol worship, Josiah called for a return to the celebration of Passover. It had been 18 years since Passover was celebrated. Josiah knew the people had forgotten God’s ability to deliver people from bondage and slavery. 

Do you ever find yourself forgetting the sacrifice Jesus made in the name of restoring right relationship in between communion Sundays? Do any of us really need to reminded every month of the gift given to all of God’s children in and through Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t celebrating communion once a quarter or once a year be sufficient? 

Followers of Jesus in every time and place should be very familiar with the subject matter laid before us in the cycle of kings (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles). Whenever we fail to remember what God has done, we become subject to repeating the flawed ways of our ancestors. We need to be reminded regularly in order to avoid the temptations of idolatry and the destruction of enslavement to sin. 

Our remembrance is to be a celebration. Humble submission to the ways of God does not limit us as our human nature wants us to believe. Humble submission to the ways of God is cause for celebration. In Jesus Christ we have all been forgiven. Alleluia! Amen! 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

Daily devotion emails will be on vacation tomorrow and Monday through Wednesday of next week. Those looking for a daily devotion should check the PCUSA website (www.pcusa.org) and look either for daily lectionary readings or the daily reading from the Mission Yearbook. I will return to writing daily devotion emails next Thursday.


Friday, October 6

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope your Friday is shaping up to be a good day. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 84 & 148            Evening – Psalm 25 & 40 

Our final Gospel reading for the week is Matthew 8: 1 – 17. Jesus transitions from a time of teaching to a time of healing. As the crowd attempts to process all Jesus has been saying, several people are healed as chapter 8 begins. 

When Jesus heard this, he was impressed and said to the people following him, “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this”.

Matthew 8: 10   CEB 

When Jesus finished a time of teaching, large crowds who had heard him followed him. Some in the crowd were Jews. Others were not. A Roman centurion recognized the authority of Jesus and called him to come and heal the centurion’s servant. 

Throughout the Bible, especially in the Gospels, we encounter faith and trust in Jesus. Often times, the strongest faith comes from the least likely folks. In other words, it is often unbelievers who truly trust in Jesus and appeal to Jesus’ authority to heal. Believers tend to be hesitant to receive the authority of Jesus. 

This is a reality that remains present in our time. People with little to no experience of God in Jesus Christ hear the good news and are immediately compelled by it. People with significant knowledge of God in Jesus Christ are skeptical of gospel good news. Why is that? 

I think it has to do, in part, with a transactional approach to God. Many of us are tempted to believe that if we are good enough, God will show us favor. If we are not, then God will not. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Jesus Christ is the grace of God in the flesh. Human nature cannot diminish or extinguish God’s gift of grace. I cannot imagine a single day when any child of God, especially who claim faith in God, does not need to hear the good news. In Jesus Christ, we are all forgiven. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Daily devotion will be away on a field trip with the Gifted class from Wetumpka Middle School October 9th – 11th. Daily devotion emails will resume Thursday, October 12th.


Thursday, October 5

Dearest church family,

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

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 84 & 148            Evening – Psalm 26 & 130 

Our Gospel reading for today is Matthew 7: 22 – 29. Jesus teaches about entering the kingdom of heaven. He talks about what will happen on the Day of Judgment. He provides a lesson on establishing a spiritual foundation. 

When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he was teaching them like someone with authority and not like the legal experts.

Matthew 7: 28 – 29         CEB 

The teaching Jesus offers in verse 24 – 27 of our reading today is easy to comprehend, Jesus makes a comparison between a builder who builds a house on a foundation of solid rock versus one who builds on sand. The image is easy to relate to, especially given the visual images we have all seen in the wake of recent hurricanes. 

To carry the analogy a bit further, the interesting thing is that human builders will undoubtedly continue to apply the best engineering techniques available in order to rebuild on the sand. It is our human tradition. Have you ever wondered why more people do not simply accept the simple fact that some land is not suitable for building – no matter how appealing the idea might be? 

The crowd hearing this teaching and the teaching found in our readings this week recognized that Jesus was speaking with a different kind of authority than they had heard before. They had been subject to “legalese” regarding establishing a spiritual foundation. Jesus came along and clarified the misleading teaching they had been subject to and spoke clearly and directly. 

Most Christians at some point in their worship life have sung the hymn On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand. The words to that hymn are a direct application of this teaching from Jesus. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. The question before every child of God is “Where do you choose to build your house of faith?” There is only one location that will withstand the storms of the earthly life. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Please remember our yard workday at the Freeman House tomorrow, Friday, beginning at 9am. 

The Wetumpka Depot will be relocating its offsite storage this Saturday beginning at 9am. Any and all help moving boxed items, costumes, and furniture will be greatly appreciated. Call me (424-0225) for specific instruction. The storage facility is in the Industrial Park on Georgia Road (where Diversified Steel is).


Wednesday, October 4

Dearest church family, 

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

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary are: 

Morning – Psalm 96 & 147: 1 – 11              Evening – Psalm 132 & 134 

The Gospel reading for today is Matthew 7: 13 – 21. Jesus continues his teaching regarding the life of faith. Following a reminder that treating others as we want to be treated is in keeping with the Law and the Prophets, Jesus offers specific instruction for how to live in faith. 

But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.

Matthew 7: 14   CEB 

For many years, I have been motivated by the understanding that faith is not complicated, it is difficult. I understand this expression to mean that living the life of faith is a formidable challenge, but the challenge is not elusive. We are not hindered due to lack of understanding. We are limited by our humanity. 

The teachings from Jesus we find in our readings from Matthew this week illustrate that point. Jesus boils down the life of faith to its essence. He does not dumb it down, as our human nature often seeks to do. Jesus presents the essential essence of faith and offers encouragement for heeding it

The example of Jesus Christ is straightforward and direct, but it is difficult to embody. Is this because we are not smart enough to understand what Jesus teaches? For most people, I do not think so. Instead, faithful discipleship is a narrow path, while the path to destruction is wide and, at times, much more inviting. Our hope can be found in the midst of our readings this week. “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find” (7:7 CEB). Cast your vision wide for the narrow path of faithful discipleship. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Remember our yard workday at the Freeman House this Friday beginning at 9am. Contact Curt Johnson for more information 567-6969. 

I am on the Board for the Wetumpka Depot Players. We have an offsite storage unit in the Wetumpka Industrial Park off Georgia Road where costumes, furniture, and props are stored. We are having to move from our current unit to another one in the same complex. If you have any time you could devote to packing up prop items ahead of the move in the next few days or if you could assist with the actual move Saturday morning, please let me know. 424-0225


Tuesday, October 3

Dearest church family, 

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

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 12 & 146            Evening – Psalm 7 & 36 

Our Gospel reading for today is Matthew 7: 1 – 12. Jesus continues his teachings. In our reading today, he offers wisdom regarding judging others. 

You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you.

Matthew 7: 2     CEB 

Our reading today contains one of the most powerful teachings Jesus offers. Jesus asks, “How can you see the splinter in your neighbor’s eye when you cannot see the log in your own eye?” (7:3) This question is a powerful one indeed. If we ask ourselves this question whenever we feel ourselves moving towards judging someone else, we most often will find ourselves eating our words.

The powerful question Jesus asks is prefaced by an even more direct and powerful statement. Jesus speaks plainly and declares to all who call on the name of God that all will be judged according to how we judge others. Jesus is speaking of human and divine judgment. The standard for judgment presented has application in this life as well as the next. 

This powerful statement is an obvious reflection of the command to love one another. We all do well to remember that commandment in its entirety. We are not called to love others as we love ourselves or those close to us. We are called to love others as we have been loved by God in Jesus Christ. This established the proper context of faith. 

All will be judged fairly and equally by God. In Jesus Christ, God shows us how to apply divine fairness to our own lives. God knows our every imperfection and recognizes them all, but God judges our imperfection by speaking the truth in love. This is how we are treated by God. It is how God expects us to treat others. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

There will be a work day in the Freeman House yard this coming Friday, October 6th, beginning at 9am. Bring whatever yard tools you have for shrub trimming and general yard cleanup. We will begin at 9am. Please come lend a hand if you have the time. Thanks from the Grounds Committee.


Monday, October 2

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I cannot begin to assess how your Monday is going given the tragic news from Las Vegas. If you have not heard, 50 people were killed and 200 injured by a lone gunman during an outdoor concert on the strip in Las Vegas last night. The practice of daily devotion is never more necessary than on days like today. 

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading portions of Matthew chapters 6 – 8. Matthew records Jesus’ warning against showy religion and worry over the wrong things. I will also include the daily Psalm readings and encourage everyone to read at least one of the Psalm passages each day as a part of daily devotion. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 62 & 145            Evening – Psalm 9 & 73

The Gospel reading for today is Matthew 6: 25 – 34. Jesus has just shared wisdom for the “proper” practice of prayer. He offers his teaching regarding the reality that no one can serve two masters (6:24). Our reading today features Jesus’ teaching regarding worrying about necessities. 

Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6: 34   CEB 

I do not know if you went to bed worried about anything last night or not. I was not worried about anything in particular. I had a wonderful evening with our youth and after getting my share of household chores taken care of to be ready for the week, I got in bed with the Sunday paper. As usual, I started with the comics. There wasn’t too much of substance to the rest of the paper and I crashed fairly quickly.

I woke up this morning to news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas – the “worst” mass shooting on record in these Unites States. It appears that a lone gunman, for reasons yet unknown, opened fire from his 32nd floor hotel room on the crowd gathered to hear country music star Jason Aldean. This event occurred just as I was drifting off to sleep.

Worry will kill us. In our reading today, Jesus makes this abundantly clear. None of us could have ever imagined that such a tragedy might take place. Worrying about what has yet to happen is fruitless. It must be, Jesus said so! 

Jesus’ teaching regarding worrying is active rather than passive, however. Jesus says that true faith means being concerned without worrying. In verse 33 of our reading today, Jesus calls us to desire first and foremost for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. What does that tell us on this troubling Monday morning? 

It tells us that if we are to rise above senseless acts of violence in the earthly kingdom, our ultimate desire must be the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Worrying about what might happen accomplishes nothing. Rather than worry, we should remain focused on what we know is true.

The kingdom of God on earth does not feature mass shootings by lone gunmen. God’s righteousness insures God’s presence with grieving families and recovering victims. In the kingdom of God on earth, decent people of varying mindsets on issues come together to share common values and craft solutions for the good of the whole. That is how God works.

Peace,

Jonathan