Thursday June 30 2016

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Scripture: Matt 22:1-10

Key Verses: (8-10) 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Reflection: The prophetic ministry of Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God.  Jesus welcomes the lost, the broken, and the unlovable. The exchanges with all of these individuals reflect a deep and abiding love. Every aspect of the life and ministry of Jesus invites us to glimpse the Kingdom of God and still Jesus feels the need to tell the parable — the kingdom of God is like a great wedding banquet.

Everyone is worthy of an invitation but you do not get it and check your schedule. This is an invitation that invites you to change your schedule and your life. The invitation frees you to respond in gratitude and service.

This summer, an invitation went out to Myers Park Presbyterian Church. You have responded to God’s grace with humility, compassion, kindness and gratitude. In order for us to remember that this is kingdom living, I invite you to hear your testimony.

The kingdom of God is like vacation Bible school where we lived out promises we made at baptism for what seemed to be a thousand cute, energetic, theological children of God.

The kingdom of God can be found at 4:30 a.m. — a time a day we didn’t know existed (especially in the summer) — when our new friends in Chicago allowed us to serve and eat alongside them on our mission trip.

The kingdom of God is like the meal ministry that offers comfort through a home-cooked meal in the midst of recovery or the community garden that offers fresh vegetables in a food desert.

The kingdom of God is like communion at our Sunday night worship where a child turns to you offering the bread, reminding you that this is the body of Christ and the cup of new life. New life!

The kingdom of God is CROSS meal hosts, bus drivers on Sunday morning, Stephen ministers caring for someone, front desk volunteers (in the summer), greeters, youth advisors, and volunteers who clean up after vacation Bible school!

It is indeed a party!

Prayer:

Thank you for this glorious day, Lord,

A day of grace, that welcomes me when I don’t feel like I belong,

A day of unity, mending broken lives, broken relationships and bringing redemption,

A day of celebration, for we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Thank you. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

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Wednesday June 29 2016

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Scripture: Psalm 65

Key verse: (4) Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

Reflection: Sometimes the Presbyterian way can be very frustrating. With all our councils, committees, and collaboration we can be inefficient. Always being reformed means we often can’t leave well enough alone. Whenever there is a competition between decency and order we often go with order.

But sometimes we can see clearly the value of the Presbyterian way of being church and doing ministry.

When the psalmist says, “Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts,” I doubt Presbyterians were in mind.  But last week in Portland, Oregon, Presbyterians came from all over our denomination and all over the world to live in the courts of our church to deliberate and seek God’s will and the good of our Church. There was conflict and passion as differing perspectives clashed but there was also much happiness as chosen commissioners discovered God’s Holy Spirit moving among the assembly to bring reconciliation, happiness, and joy. Not everyone got their way but everyone had a say. In the midst of much deliberation God’s Spirit brought wisdom to motions and guidance in times of confusion.

We hope that the result of all this deliberation will be satisfactory to the Church and to God. But we live with the awareness that human efforts are sometimes faulty. Fortunately the grace of God is offered to governing bodies as it is to individuals. That’s what keeps us going as individuals and as church governing bodies.

Prayer: Holy God, you choose us and call us into community. We give thanks for commissioners and advisory delegates who served you at the General Assembly last week. Transform frustration into peace and discord into concord so that your Church always grows in goodness for your sake. We pray in the name of the one who calls us all into faithful service. Amen.

Author: Von Clemans

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

Tuesday June 28 2016

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Scripture: Psalm 146

Key Verses: (5-8)

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6   who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7        who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8        the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.

Reflection: The summer season in our church life is called “ordinary time.” That’s when we have the green paraments out—the stoles the clergy wear, and the colored cloths on the table and pulpit. It is a long season in the church, much longer than the four weeks of Advent or the six weeks of Lent. But I can’t remember the last time a summer really felt ordinary. There are times I miss the long slow days of childhood summers. Adult summers in recent memory seem to be full of news and world events that are out of the ordinary. My young adult son asked me the other day, “Is the world in worse shape now than in the past?” I don’t think so, but some particular days it feels like it. No wonder we long to escape to the beach or the mountains. We are ready to get away from the news, or at least the comments online about the news. It helps to remember that there is good news for us, and it is all through the Bible, written at a time when world events in those days were also troubling.

The Psalmist describes what the news of the world will be when God’s kingdom is finally fulfilled. There will be justice for the oppressed and food for the hungry. Prisoners will be set free, the blind shall see, and all those who are bowed down shall be lifted up. It’s a powerful promise, but it’s not here yet, not everywhere for all people. We have to come to terms with the world as it is, where there is not always justice or freedom or clear vision, in order to appreciate what the promised return of Christ means. We see glimpses of it now. We can and must participate in it now. But we still look for and long for the day when the vision of such a world comes to fruition. That will be a season to celebrate indeed.

Prayer: Teach me to trust, Lord, that your good news abounds even when current news of the day is wearisome. Help me to keep my eyes open for your grace at work. O Lord, the world still needs your good news. Prepare me to receive it and to share it, to help build your kingdom. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday June 27 2016

Monday

Scripture: Matthew 21:12-22

Key verse: (14) “The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.”

Reflection: The scripture text for today is very familiar.  We call it “The cleansing of the temple.”  In Matthew’s telling it is a key event that leads to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.  (See Matthew 21:46 and 26:3-5.)  Yet in this text there is this verse, noted above, on which I invite you to focus this day.  For this focus I share this commentary by Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham in England.

“Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to give his country a new lease of life.  He decided to capture a city that none of his people had lived in before, and make it his capital, so that no one would feel either proud that their city had been chosen, or excluded because it was someone else’s.

The problem was that the city was perched high on a rocky crag, and was very easy to defend against attack.  (That, of course, was another reason for wanting it.)  The inhabitants saw this upstart king coming with his army, and knew they’d have no trouble warding him off.  So sure were they that they sent him a message: ‘All the regular guards have gone off duty.  We’ve put the blind ones on watch and told the lame ones to take the messages — they’ll do the job all right.’

But the king knew a better trick than that.  He knew that however strongly a city was built on a hill, it needed one thing:  water.  And he’d discovered where the spring of water rose.  That was the way in!  So he set his men a challenge:  get up the water shaft and fight your way in.  First one up will be my new general!  So up they went and took the city.  And it did indeed become his capital.

But he didn’t forget the scorn of the local people, and what they’d said about the blind and the lame keeping him out.  So he made it a rule:  no blind and lame welcome here.  No reminders, please, of the mocking of the enemy.

The king was, of course King David;  the city was, of course, Jerusalem; and the house where the blind and the lame were not welcome was, of course, the Temple.  (See II Samuel 5:6-10; I Chronicles 11:4-6.) . . . Now we are ready to see what Matthew is doing in telling the story of how King Jesus came to Jerusalem, and to the Temple, a thousand years later.

Jesus did with the Temple’s traditions what he did with the money-changers’ tables:  he turned them upside down. . . . With the story of David in our heads we can’t miss the point . . . :  the blind and the lame came to Jesus in the Temple, and he healed them.  The people who had been kept out were now welcomed in.  The people who had been scorned were now healed.  It was an action full of significance.  It summed up everything Jesus had been doing throughout his ministry.”[1]

Today in our reflection let us ponder — in the manner of our life together at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, who are the people who have been kept out?  Who are the people who have been scorned?

Prayer: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us.Amen.

Author: Pete Peery

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

[1] Tom Wright.  Matthew for Everyone, Part Two.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, pp. 70-1

Friday June 24 2016

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Scripture: Matthew 18: 21-35

Key verses: (21-22) “Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you seventy-seven times.”

Reflection: The need for forgiveness is universal. We all, at one time or another, will need to give or receive forgiveness.  Yet, forgiveness doesn’t come naturally.  We have to intentionally make an effort to forgive. When we are hurt a debt is created. If we are the hurt party, we want to be re-paid for the wrong committed against us.  If we are the guilty party, we have to pay a price to restore the relationship. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit we are hurt or have hurt someone else.  We bury what happened deep within ourselves only to discover that over time we are carrying a heavy load.

People are going to hurt each other – it’s inevitable.  The question is: how will we respond when forgiveness is called for?  If we receive the grace of God with joy and then withhold God’s forgiveness from another person, we are just like the ungrateful servant in today’s parable.  We are called to show mercy and love in the same way God shows mercy and love.  The servant who couldn’t forgive, even though he was forgiven, ended up in a prison.  We, too, can be imprisoned by un-forgiveness.  Within the believing community, we are challenged to forgive one another as many times as it takes. This was Jesus’ advice to Peter and it’s his advice to us. This isn’t easy, but it is a worthy goal, because when we forgive, everything changes.  Take a moment today to think of anyone you haven’t forgiven.  It may be for something small or large, but whatever it is ask God to give you the courage you need to forgive.

Prayer:  Gracious God, have patience with us as we seek to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Help all those who have been hurt to forgive and move on with their lives.  Help those who have hurt another to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness from you and those they have hurt. And, may all of us extend the forgiveness of Christ to one another with respect, forbearance, and love. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday June 23 2016

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Scripture: Psalm 147

Key verses: (4-6)

4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Reflection: We know that the earth on its trip around the sun travels over a million and a half miles per day. That’s about 170 miles per second.

More than 1 million earths would fit inside the sun.

There are more stars than all of the grains of sand on earth.

A car traveling 100 mph would take more than 29 million years to reach the nearest star yet we are also made of stardust.  Stars are both near and far as it were.

There are as many cells in our body as there are stars in our galaxy.

Today you will breathe about 23,040 times.

Or, how about remembering that the catfish has over 27,000 taste buds, (which makes me think it ought to taste better), or that your cat at home that sleeps fourteen hours a day, can make over 100 different vocal sounds (usually at 5:00 a.m.) and apparently the goldfish in our tank could live for forty years and still we don’t quite understand how it is that bees can fly and how is that honey properly preserved can last for centuries?

And furthermore, if you follow chaos theory and the butterfly effect, the flapping of that insect’s wing can contribute to weather patterns changing…

Whether it is the animals before us, the sky, stars or sun above us, the earth below us, the life within us, there is much to appreciate, much to ponder and always much that we do not understand.  Not now and perhaps not ever.

All of this is to say that when we confess that our Lord is the maker of heaven and earth we are saying a mouthful. We are speaking to the God who is here below and high above, ancient of days and ever new. We trust the God, who numbered the stars, knows your name and sees even the sparrow fall.  A God, who knows your life, is worth your life.

Prayer:

You Lord are the source of every good thing and we thank you now:

For the lives we have to live and for the love that makes it worthwhile;

For all our opportunities and responsibilities;

Our daily routines and unexpected delights;

For the seasons that change and for memories that do not fade;

For our work that gives us meaning and our homes which give us rest;

We are grateful to you Creator God for it all. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday June 22 2016

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Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

Key verse: (13-14) But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.”

Reflection: After every sermon preached in the preaching class, the professor asked “where was the good news in this sermon?” He felt strongly that we are called to preach the “gospel” which literally means the “good news.”  Every sermon should proclaim good news.

When we read today’s passage, we can ask “where is the good news in this, Jesus?”  This parable challenges our understanding of fairness. If a landowner hires workers for the field, those workers should be paid based on the amount of work they did. Right?  But that’s not the way of the landowner in this parable. The landowner pays each worker the same amount, regardless of when they began their work in the field.  Those who worked all day and those who worked only the last hour were paid equal amounts. That’s not fair!

So where is the good news in this?  It is good news if you need income in order to buy food to eat and to find safe shelter, but you were last hired to go to the field.  It is good news if you have waited all day for work, hoping each landowner would hire you, only to be overlooked again and again.  It is good news if you’ve been chosen last for anything but known you deserved the dignity and respect given to everyone else.  Good news can seem like bad news to those of us who embrace the world’s fairness.  The gospel can challenge those of us who think it’s about earning our pay.  Grace is like that. The kingdom of heaven is like that.  What good news!

Prayer: O God, show me my own sinfulness. Show me how much I need you. Show me how much I long for good news. And fill my cup with the wonderfully-unfair grace of your gospel.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].