Friday, April 20

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I do hope the day is off to a good start for everyone. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 96 & 148            Evening – Psalm 49 & 138 

Our final Epistle reading for this week is Colossians 2: 8 – 23. Paul speaks of an error threatening the church. His message relates to false or misguided worship. In this instance, Paul is not referring to idol worship or some form of paganism. He speaks of misguided worship of God. 

They don’t stay connected to the head. The head nourishes and supports the whole body through the joints and ligaments, so the body grows with a growth that is from God.

Colossians 2: 19                 CEB 

This middle section of the letter to the Colossians features a critique of worship practices that stands the test of time. Paul highlights some of the orthodox practices of his time; restrictions regarding eating, drinking, etc. He points out that observance of ritual often does not reflect covenant relationship to God. In some instances, it bears false witness to the character of God. 

This point is worth consideration. If our worship traditions, whatever they may be, are not our avenue to covenant relationship to God, then what are they? Is the life of faith only true when it contains no form of sacred ritual? Can people be turned away from God by religious ritual? 

In verse 19, Paul explains the root of all worthy and true ritual practices of faith. Everything must be connected to Christ. Paul expounds on his universal statement regarding gifts of the Spirit, new life in Christ, and faithful discipleship all rolled into one. 

Our sacred rituals, whatever they may be, only have meaning if they reflect the ministry and witness of Jesus Christ. In other words, as one of my seminary professors explained it one day, if we do anything in the name of faith that is not in keeping with the witness and example of Jesus Christ, we are in error. God uses the witness of Jesus Christ as a tool for empowerment and reconciliation. 

Redemption and salvation are ongoing. They are not one time actions of God we can pinpoint on a calendar. The living of our faith is our response to God’s ongoing work of reconciliation. As Paul often declares, we are to be imitators of Christ; not people trying to be or claiming to be Christ. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

We will be providing a team of volunteers at the Elmore County Food Pantry tomorrow. Any time you can share between 9:30 and 1:30 would be greatly appreciated. 

The Relay for Life Survivors’ Meal will take place in our Fellowship Hall at 5pm tomorrow. 

We will have our regular Sunday schedule this Sunday.




Thursday, April 19

Dearest church family, 

Good morning. Thursday blessings to all! 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 47 & 147: 12 – 20            Evening – Psalm 68 & 113 

Our Epistle reading for today is Colossians 1: 24 – 2: 7. Paul shares his sense of calling as a servant to the church. He speaks of being called to participate in the continued reconciling ministry begun by Jesus Christ. 

So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him.

Colossians 2: 6   CEB 

In our reading today, Paul speaks of the secret plan God had for the earthly kingdom. This once secret plan was revealed through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul proclaims that God’s intentions for life in the earthly kingdom were previously only revealed to the Jews. In Jesus Christ, the “secret” known only to the Jews was revealed to the whole of humanity. 

In our reading today, Paul also speaks of the suffering he has endured in living out God’s call. It is tempting to focus on that portion of his writing and to see Paul as either feeling sorry for himself or boasting of his great sacrifice in and for the sake of the church. Adopting this focus clouds the central element of Paul’s message. 

In verse 6 of our reading, Paul makes a clear and concise statement. The message is nothing new. It is proclaimed by most of the first followers of Jesus. It is proclaimed by Jesus himself in red letter words. The message defines the nature of every Christian’s call from God. Live according to the way you received Jesus. 

In the Presbyterian tradition, we focus on scripture’s teaching that all are saved by grace before birth. To that end, we do not focus time and energy on our “moment of salvation”. This does not mean we ignore it though. 

Yes, we believe are all saved by grace before our birth, but giving thought to those times when we are keenly aware of God’s calling in and through Jesus are worth remembering. When did you know Jesus was your Lord and Savior? Think on that moment, remember how your heart felt, and live accordingly. These are good words to live by.

Peace,

Jonathan  


Wednesday, April 18

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well this lovely morning. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 99 & 147: 1 – 11              Evening – Psalm 9 & 118 

Our Epistle reading for today is Colossians 1: 15 – 23. The first portion of it (verses 15-20) is a hymn about the work of Christ. The latter portion provides further witness to the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ. 

Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him

Colossians 1: 19 CEB 

I highly encourage everyone to read the Christ hymn found in our reading today. These six verses provide a sometimes overlooked description of who God in Jesus Christ is. I ask that you pay particular attention to the expression found in verse 19. 

Christianity and the practice of it at times provides a false (at worst) or incomplete (at best) characterization of Jesus. Christians, in the name of discipleship, witness, and proclamation of God’s good news, sometimes distort the true character of God. The Christ hymn in our reading today is a reminder of who Jesus Christ is from God’s perspective. 

Jesus Christ is the fullness of God in the flesh. The fullness of God comes to the whole of humanity. It comes in the name of reconciliation. All things are held together in Christ. 

Notice what is missing from the Christ hymn. Jesus and witness to Jesus has nothing to do with conversion, proselytizing, punishment, or conflict. Jesus and witness to Jesus is concerned with sharing the good news of reconciliation, which is the fullness of God. 

If thinking of this makes your head hurt, don’t feel bad. That is the challenge of God’s good news and it affects every child of God regardless of their understanding of or their relationship to Jesus. Every child of God is subject to incomplete understanding of who God in Jesus Christ truly is. 

God does not need to be reconciled to humanity. This fact is one we must strive to get straight in the living of our faith. Our challenge has nothing to do with pleasing God. It has everything to do with recognizing that God is first and foremost in all things, and that this fact is the only true source of strength and hope any of us can ever have. 

Peace, 

Jonathan 

p.s.

Please continue to keep Leanna Wallace in your prayers. She is enduring some of the expected but very challenging after effects of brain surgery. Her recovery continues to meet doctors’ expectations, but not hers!


Tuesday, April 17

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well as this Tuesday gets going. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 98 & 146            Evening – Psalm 66 & 116 

Our Epistle reading for today is Colossians 1: 1 – 14. After hearing from Peter’s letter to friends of the faith yesterday, we turn to a similar letter from Paul for the remainder of our readings this week. Colossians is written to a specific congregation seeking to grow in the midst of competition from various self proclaimed religious authorities. The tone of the two letters is similar, in that both encourage steadfastness in the name of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You have this faith and love because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You previously heard about this hope through the true message, the good news, which has come to you. This message has been bearing good fruit and growing among you since the day you heard and truly understood God’s grace, in the same way that it is bearing and growing in the whole world.

Colossians 1: 5-6               CEB

I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from Gassett Funeral home. They asked if I could lead a memorial service this afternoon for a man whose family has no local church connection. The man and his family are military, and the man’s son, who is stationed in Germany and came to be with his father at the time of death, has to return to duty on Wednesday. 

My mind immediately began to ponder what I would say. There is nothing I detest more than attending a funeral where the presiding Pastor obviously knows nothing of the deceased or their family. It seems so very impersonal.  I am always leery of situations where Pastor has the potential to become a role I am playing instead of being what I know it is supposed to be; responding to God’s call to share God’s good news. 

Passages like the ones we have for devotion thus far this week make responding to faith inquiry easy. There will always be times when you and I are called by God to witness in a way we feel unprepared for or unworthy of. In those times, we need not shy away. In those times, and in all times, we focus our attention firmly on God’s good news, trust God’s leading, and await God’s direction. 

God gives us the ability to recognize God’s good news and distinguish it from imposters. God’s good news lived out bears good fruit for all. Imposter good news does not. Any time you or I need to discern God’s good news  from news posing as God’s good news, we need only look for the good fruit that is meeting human need. There is where we find God’s good news and the ongoing signs of God’s grace. 

Peace,

Jonathan


Monday, April 16

Dearest church family, 

Good Monday morning to you. I hope the work week is off to a good start for everyone. I know it is for those who don’t have to go to work! 

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Epistle selections from the daily lectionary. We begin with a reading from 1 Peter and then turn our attention to Colossians for the remainder of the week. I will also include the daily Psalm readings. I encourage everyone to incorporate the reading of at least one Psalm daily in to your practice of devotion. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 97 & 145            Evening – Psalm 115 & 124 

Our Epistle reading for today is 1 Peter 5: 1 – 14. Peter addresses this letter “To God’s chosen strangers in the world of the diaspora, who live in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). The letter speaks of what it means to be a follower of Christ and equates that identity with the label of being a stranger in a strange land. The letter is a powerful encouragement of living faith. The conclusion of the letter features an encouragement to stand firm in the end times. 

Throw all your anxiety onto God, because God cares about you.

1 Peter 5:7          CEB 

Do you believe that God cares about you? I will confess that there have been times in my life when I wasn’t sure about that. Perhaps you have as well. According to Peter, that belief has no truth behind it. God cares about us. 

Do you believe that God does not care for some? This one is a little trickier. The Bible presents plenty of evidence that God favors some over others. God acknowledges enemies. This fact is offset by the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. God cares about everyone. 

How can God do that? In our reading today, Peter captures the truth of God’s care for humanity in one simple expression. Peter’s call is to anyone believing in God to cast anxiety upon God because God cares. God’s message does not get any clearer than that. 

Often times in the living of our faith, we are judged by our anxieties. We do this to ourselves first and others as a close second. In a direct statement, Peter puts that tendency in its place. There is no judgment from God for being anxious about anything. There is a constant offer to bear those anxieties out of care for our well being and wholeness. 

Of all the unknowns relating to the end times, one thing is certain. God cares. Our God is an awesome God! 

Peace,

Jonathan