Friday May 31 2019

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Scripture: Proverbs 17:1-20

Key verse: (1) “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house of feasting with strife.”

Reflection: What are some of your favorite proverbs?  “A stitch in time saves nine.”  “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  These are some I remember; none of them are from the Bible.  In twenty-one years of ministry, I’ve preached two sermons from the book of Proverbs.  Put another way, out of the roughly 962 sermons preached, 2 of them have been on Proverbs.  That’s .2%! Those two were both on Proverbs 1 and 8, out of the narrative sections that describe “Lady Wisdom” and “Lady Folly.”  (Wisdom in Hebrew is a feminine word, so wisdom personified is a woman.)

Why have I avoided Proverbs?  In the first place, there is little narrative logic to Proverbs, which makes it difficult to preach.  As with today’s reading, there are collections of sayings that are not necessarily related to each other.  Take verses 6 and 7 of chapter 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.  Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a ruler.”  What do those two sentences have to do with each other? There is no real theme there, just unrelated sentences.  In the second place, a good proverb says it all.  It summarizes an aspect of wisdom in one well-crafted sentence.  It’s hard for a sermon to add much to a good proverb.

The entire book of Proverbs does offer themes. Dr. Alyce McKenzie, who teaches preaching at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology suggests that Proverbs poses a very practical question of its reader, “How will you spend today?”  There are two options offered in Proverbs, as a fool or as a person of wisdom.  She goes on to suggest that fools are described with six overarching Hebrew words in Proverbs:

1.       Peti—naïve, untutored

2.       Kesil—stupid/ignorant

3.       Ewil—obstinate

4.       Ba ar—crude

5.       Nabal—brutal

6.       Les—foolish/conceited

Some of these six words are included in today’s readings.  “Those who mock the poor insult their Maker,” “The crooked of mind do not prosper, and the perverse of tongue fall into calamity.”  Proverbs warns against such behavior, promoting the opposite—learning, intelligence, flexibility, reverence, kindness, and humility. My favorite from today’s reading: “A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.”

How will we spend today?  Proverbs offers us guidance in this regard.  Let us pursue the path of Wisdom today, and shun the way of fools.

Prayer: Guide me through this day, O God.  Close my ears to fools.  Open my heart to hear the call of wisdom in my life, and follow wherever she leads. Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[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 May 30 2019

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Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

Key verses: (16-20) 16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Reflection: I love what Matthew’s gospel says about those disciples on the mountain in Galilee, after the resurrection. They followed Jesus’ instruction to gather there. They saw him, risen and alive! They worshiped him. But some doubted. I love that little line, “but some doubted.” It is honest. Here is the Lord whom they saw crucified and buried, suddenly speaking to them again. I can certainly imagine doubting. In fact, I have and do sometimes. The story of the resurrection is amazing because it is doubtful and unlikely and outside the realm of our human expectations. Learning to see and recognize resurrection and new life takes a different kind of lens than we are used to wearing.

Yet Jesus calls us into discipleship even in our doubt. He says to all the disciples gathered, even the ones who doubted, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” He tells the ones who are all in, the ones still wondering what is happening, and the ones who flat-out don’t get it, to go tell others. Go ahead and baptize in his name, even though some of those whom they will baptize will also sometimes doubt. Go ahead and teach them what Jesus has commanded, even though those whom they teach will have questions and wrestle with what the gospel says and means in their day and age. Get busy with living out the gospel even when you have your own doubts. “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Always means even when you doubt. Jesus is with us when our faith is strong, and when it is weak. That is good news, indeed.

Prayer: Lord, you know that I have doubts sometimes. I wonder how I can live out the good news on those days and in those seasons. I worry about others who have questions about you, and wonder how to share the message of new life. Help me to trust that you are with me always. Strengthen me to go and teach and call others to follow you. Help me be your disciple. In your name 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].

Wednesday May 29 2019

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Scripture: James 5:13-18

Key verse: (16) Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ”

Reflection: Many people don’t want anyone to know what they are going through. It takes trust and vulnerability to confess your struggles to someone else.  It’s even harder to confess your sins. But, one way to be healed is to be vulnerable – to let others know you are hurting so they can draw alongside you and pray for you in your time of need.

Prayer is powerful.  The act of standing before God, admitting our weaknesses and asking for help changes us.  Prayer can heal our circumstances and lead us to change.  The instructions in today’s passage are important.  They show us that we need each other and that sin is real, but healing is possible.  Our circumstances won’t change overnight.  Healing takes time.  But, don’t lose heart, let others in to support and encourage you.  Remember that prayer is effective and you don’t have to suffer alone.

Prayer: Gracious God, help us to look for those suffering in the body and sick in soul.  Give us courage to walk with those who are seeking your healing.  May we show your grace in our words and actions.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Our church has resources to help you through a difficult time. One such ministry is Stephen Ministry.  Check out this link if you want more information.  https://myersparkpres.org/project/stephen-ministry/

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].

Tuesday May 28 2019

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Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Key verses: (17-18) Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Reflection: God delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness to a promised land. Moses was the leader God chose for the people. Much of the book of Deuteronomy is written as Moses’ instructions to the people.

In today’s passage, Moses acknowledges the possibility that life in the promised land will be prosperous and affluent. Moses warns that prosperity can lead to spiritual apathy or even to self-delusion. When you have more than you need, you might forget your dependence on God. When you have “eaten your fill and built fine houses…and all that you have is multiplied,” you might believe you’ve earned it. You might be tempted to think you deserve it. You might conclude that spiritual faithfulness doesn’t matter very much. You might accept the delusions of self-sufficiency and self-made success.

Moses calls us to remember. Spiritual amnesia is a serious problem. Remember the Lord your God. Remember all that God has done for you. Remember that God has given you the strength and abilities that make you who you are. Remember that God is the source of everything. Remember all of this and respond with gratitude and generosity.

Prayer: The earth, and all that is in it, belongs to you, O Lord. I belong to you. When I am tempted to forget, remind me. Remind me that you are my Creator and that my very life depends on you. Teach me gratitude and generosity. 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].

Monday May 27 2019

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Scripture: Luke 9:18-27

Reflection: One of the things I appreciate most about Kate Bowler’s book, Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved), is the way that she models how studying a religious tradition that is not your own can sometimes help you reflect on your own convictions with honesty.  Bowler studies the prosperity movement, which is the strain of Christianity that claims that God rewards human faithfulness with health and wealth.  When our faith is strong, so the logic goes, our bodies and our finances will be, too.  God blesses devotion with this-worldly well-being.

The temptation might be to mock that sort of thinking.  After all, it seems foreign to the God revealed in Jesus Christ, who calls followers to “deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  But when Bowler finds herself reeling after a horrible diagnosis, she says, “I would love to report that what I found in the prosperity gospel was something so foreign and terrible to me that I was warned away. But what I discovered was both familiar and painfully sweet: the promise that I could curate my life, minimize my losses, and stand on my successes. And no matter how many times I rolled my eyes at the creed’s outrageous certainties, I craved them just the same” (Everything Happens, xiii-xiv).

The life of discipleship requires that kind of honesty.  We can read verses like the ones assigned for today and think to ourselves, “Of course the life of faith is not about certainty. Of course it is about denying self and taking up our cross,” but it might be worthwhile to linger a little longer and ask ourselves some follow-up questions.  How much security do we place in our own performance?  How much of our self-worth is wrapped up in our ability to garner admiration, accolade, distinction?  When was the last time our faith called us to give something up – really give something up – for the sake of the kingdom?  What – or who – has helped you to grow deeper in your trust of the living God?

Prayer: Be with me daily, O God, as I seek to follow you.  Make me humble and honest in my pursuit of righteousness, trusting always in your grace. Amen.

Author: Anna Dickson

[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].

Friday May 24 2019

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Scripture: Luke 8:40-56

Key verses: (43-48) 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Reflection: Women are prominent in Jesus’ ministry but there’s something distinctive about Jesus’ encounter with the woman who touched the hem of his garment. She came to Jesus desperate but she could not even get close because of the crowds. This might have not been the best time for Jesus, but she could not wait.

She believed in Jesus and his ability to change lives so she reached out and touched the hem of his garment.  Amazingly, her bold touch caught the attention of Jesus. He stopped right where he was. The irony of this story is that dozens of people had been touching Jesus in these few minutes of moving towards the house of Jarius but only one had touched Jesus with a desperate faith.

Faith is often expressed at that broken, growing edge of life that is acquainted with fear. This woman of bold faith has spent twelve years in sickness, embarrassment, and frustration. She reached out at her weakest moment.  I don’t know about you, but I am not usually reaching out in my worst moments. This boldness of this women invites us to reach out.  When we do, Jesus is there.

Prayer: God, help us see everyone as someone worthy of love. Loved by you and loved by us. Guide us to be bold in our faith and not afraid of our brokenness. 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].

Thursday May 23 2019

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Scripture: Luke 8:26-39

Key verse: (30) “What is your name?”

Reflection: What is your name? I was named for both of my grandfathers — Joseph Michael Clifford and John Henry Troeger. My family and lifelong friends call me “Joe John.” Since graduating from college I went to Joe. I had an uncle who called me “JJ.” I didn’t like it when anyone else called me that, but I loved hearing him say it. “Joey” was right out for me.

What is your name? That’s the question Jesus asks the man possessed by demons. He replies, “Legion.” He’s forgotten his name. He’s come to believe his name is his demon. How often does that happen with the demons of the modern world? “Alcoholic,” “Addict,” “Depressed;” these can become our names.

Jesus reminds us these are not our names. We are not our demons. Our healing begins when we can name those demons that possess us, but we must never become those demons.

What is your name? First and foremost, you are “Child of God.” Never forget that is the deepest truth about you!

Prayer: In the midst of the madness of this day, O God, remind me who I am — your child, holy and beloved. Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[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].