Monday Morning Meditation 4-12-21

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. Luke 24:36b-43

It is over one week since Easter Sunday.  For many the decorations came down over the weekend and little thought is placed on the ancient call “He is Risen, He is Risen, Indeed!”  It’s time to get back to “normal life”. 

On one hand this is regretful, especially if we are not living as people of the resurrection.  If “He is Risen” is only for Easter Sunday, then we need to reexamine our hearts and perhaps ask God for guidance on how to live the resurrection daily.

On the other hand, there is a natural flow between things.  We have grand celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, and we have the daily grind.  Or as Ecclesiastes said it: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” 

Jesus exemplifies this with his resurrection appearance.  He asks for something to eat – a normal daily occurrence.  Not a grand meal, not a celebration, just something to eat.

Yet even this is different for this is the Risen Christ asking to eat with his followers, something special to celebrate in the ordinary-ness of the day.

As you eat today, picture Jesus eating with you – how would that change your meal?  As you go through the “everyday-ness” of this week, picture Jesus with you, at your job, at the school, even as you vacuum the house.  Reflect on your daily life with Jesus present.

And live the resurrection.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-29-21

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:10-13
 
We are where we are.  As I reflect over the past year, I have come to appreciate where we are.  A year ago, our Presbytery requested that all in person activities ceased (and requested is a nice, mild word).  Because of the situation, we did what was right. And it was only for a “couple of weeks”, or so we were told.

As the weeks progressed, we started planning a drive-in prayer service, and that was the best we could do.  In September we reopened live worship, with many limitations.  Again, not the desire, however the best we could do.  With a huge upswing in infections and great caution, we made a difficult decision to shut down through December and January.   As Lent began, we have reopened live worship with some restrictions.  Throughout this time, I have considered a scriptural response.

Paul reminds us to be content in all circumstances.  I add to that using Paul’s words from Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  While we are still under restrictions against singing in worship, we should rejoice that we have live worship.  We have returned the bibles to the sanctuary and we are opening up more seating in the sanctuary.

While there are still cautions with this pandemic, our church is moving forward and that is reason to rejoice.  Instead of lamenting where we are not (such as singing in the sanctuary), I ask you to join me in celebrating where we are.  

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-22-21

Have you ever gotten stuck with prayer?  You know you need to pray; you even know who to pray for, and your desire is to spend that time in prayer.  But you are stuck.  The words just do not come.

Maybe you are overwhelmed with grief or anxiety, perhaps you are so stressed by your situation that you just cannot say anything.

It is okay.  Just sit in silence before the Lord and let God handle it.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:26-27 that the Holy Spirit will help.  26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

God wants us to pray, not because God does not know what is going on, rather that God wants the relationship.  When we bring our prayers to God, it helps us through the connection as well as verbalizing our needs.

Yet if we are stuck, in those times when we just cannot figure out what to say, the Holy Spirit will step in.  These are the times when we can stay in God’s presence, soak in God’s light, and find God’s healing for these are times of growth.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-15-21

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:1-15

As I meditated on this passage this morning, I envisioned it.  I wonder how many of us have an image, perhaps from a biblical movie, of Jesus up front and everyone sitting, looking forward (kind of like a church service)?  But that is not how we eat meals, is it?  We sit around tables, or on a blanket looking at each other.

That led me to a vision of this large group of people listening to Jesus teach, then, when hearing food was on the way, turning towards each other in fellowship.  As the food was passed around, they all took what they wanted – with plenty for all.

While verse 14 tells us “the people” saw the sign, I wonder how many of the people saw it, how many actually realized from where their bounty came?

Over this past year many of us have been concerned about getting what we need (especially those items that were in short supply).  Now we are concerned with getting the vaccine and getting some semblance of “normalcy”.  In all this concern, have we stopped for a moment to look around at the bounty we still have?

Can we take a moment and give thanks for the bounty which we have received? 

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-8-21

Psalm 121

1I lift up my eyes to the hills —from where will my help come? 2My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. 6The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of 2020’s mayhem in the United States.  Tuesday March 10th, 2020 started early in the morning with an emergency visit as a member died.  To you who grieve remember “5The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.” 

News was coming out that things were getting worse.  Throughout the day I was in contact with the chaplain at a retirement community to get updates.  The plan was a long day of visitation on Wednesday, trying to see as many members living there as I could.  Each update changed that plan.  It went from “yes, come on over, we are open” to “emergencies only” to “imminent death only” and finally “sorry, we are shut down.”  All in about 4 hours. 

The same thing happened in the nursing home where my mother was living.  I never got to see her before she passed.

Each of us has our stories of that week, as well as the following weeks.  We all have had our share of this pandemic – yet it continues.  Fortunately, things seem to be changing for the better and hopefully we can loosen more restrictions in a safe manner.

Yet whether under restrictions or not, under pandemic conditions or not, there is one constant: From where does our help come?  Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. 

Always remember this.  No matter what is going on in your life, no matter what the surrounding chaos is, God loves you, God is with you.  That is a promise.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-1-21

What is your cross?

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

What does God call of you?  Is it something simple or complex? Is God calling you to drop everything or just a few things? 

Do you know?

Perhaps the cross you thought you were picking up is not it.  Maybe what you carried before is no longer what God calls you to carry today.  Maybe you are carrying someone else’s cross – and need to put it down so they can take it up.  Or maybe someone else needs help carrying theirs, and you are like Simon the Cyrene (Mt. 27:32), compelled to pick it up for them.

Lent is a time to slow down and focus on what God is calling us to do.  If we take advantage of the Lenten season, we can spend more time with God and perhaps discern our crosses. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-22-21

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:12-13

Mark’s gospel is short and sweet.  Some scholars believe Mark was frantically trying to write down all Peter taught while Rome was destroying Jerusalem in 70 AD, so Mark did not add a lot of the information you can read in Matthew or Luke’s gospel.

While Mark uses few words, the ones he chooses are important.  In the original Greek, the Spirit does not send or lead Jesus to the wilderness, the Spirit casts him – the Greek word ekballo (to cast out) is the same words used to describe the exorcism of an evil spirit.  The Holy Spirit forcefully sent Jesus into that wilderness.

Who among us would want to voluntarily go into the wilderness to face the devil?

Who among us wanted to enter into this crazy world of masks, shutdowns, limitations, distancing, online learning and Covid?

Yet here we are.

But notice another thing that Mark tells us.  Jesus was not alone.  The angels attended him.

One of God’s promises is that we are never alone.  The promise through the prophets was for Emmanuel, God with us.  And Jesus himself promises both the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to reside with us and that He would be with us to the end of days.

Besides this, God also has sent ministering spirits called angels.  They surround us.

As we continue along our current wilderness experience, as we continue our Lenten journey, remember you are not alone. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Lent

Ash Wednesday falls on, February 17th this year and we will have a special on-line service uploaded to YouTube. 

Lent is one of those seasons of the church that can give us a great opportunity.  For some, it is a time of denial – a time to give up something we like as a sacrifice to God.  For others, it might be a time of repentance and renewal – searching our hearts as we strive to follow God’s way.  And for others, Lent becomes something mentioned by the pastor, but not followed at home.

But the Lenten season is a great opportunity to grow closer to God.  The liturgy of the worship services are centered around the theme of repentance.  The sermons usually have a theme of change.  And the act of giving up something we love can be quite fulfilling.  Another option is to start a new (godly) habit.  This could be opening our bibles and studying the word or beginning a new spiritual practice (see my latest video series on Becoming a Disciple).

May this Lenten season can be one of great spiritual growth for you.

To help, here is a devotional for the entire Lenten Season.

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-15-21

46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:46-52

“What do you want me to do for you?”  It is a straightforward question from Jesus, and one that Bartimaeus can answer. 

Can you?

Sometimes I find it easy and other times hard to ask specifically for something, especially during these confusing times.  Do we pray for the complete eradication of the virus?  Or do we pray for immunity?  If a loved on is suffering from a disease and they are approaching their death, do we pray for healing or for release? 

Often our prayers do get confusing, especially when things are not as simple.  Bartimaeus wanted his sight back.  What is it we want?

This Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent.  Perhaps during Lent this year we could spend more time in prayer asking for wisdom – asking God to reveal what we should be praying for.

And God will respond.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-8-2021

38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”

Mark 9:38-41

Will the real Christian please stand up!

During the Protestant Reformation of the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a lot of controversy over who was a “real Christian.”  For the Catholic Church, it remained clear – you had to remain loyal to the Pope and the teaching of the Church.  For Protestants, there were a number of new church expressions – and some included all who proclaim Christ as Lord, while others had specifics that you had to believe in order to be “included.”

We seem to have a similar situation today.  Can you be a Christian and vote for (fill in the blank)?  Can you be a Christian and believe (again, fill in the blank)?  All of this depends on who you ask. 

And this is one instance that Jesus encounters – and refutes.  In fact, Jesus also said I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd… (John 10:16-17).

And yet, even though Jesus preaches a message of inclusivity, we continue to put up barriers to His grace – and often based upon our own beliefs.

Maybe we should pay attention to Jesus and what He says.

Peace,

Pastor Bill