Monday Morning Meditation 6/27/22

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

After rebuking the people for turning from God, the Prophet Isaiah utters these words to the people of Israel.  They were words of comfort then; they are words of comfort now.  The God of the Universe has called you, has called me by name and that is incredible.

Think about names.  We all want people to remember our names.  As a “newbie” in a new ministry setting, I am trying to learn names and eventually I will (but please forgive me as this takes time).  But whether I remember your name or not, God does.  God knows you and God knows what you can become.

Isn’t that incredible?  The creator, sustainer and redeemer of the very universe knows you personally.  If you are feeling alone right now, know that God knows you by name.  If you are hurting, know that God knows you by name.  If you are in need, God knows you by name.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-20-22

The Start of Something New

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:13

It was a very busy day as we arrived at the church building.  We went to the office where I picked up everything I needed, then went to the sanctuary.  As we greeted folks, I reviewed the service and prepared myself.  It was my first day in the pulpit at the new ministry.

While the service flow was different and I was unsure of who did what, it felt comfortable.  I am, after all, a preacher and stepping into a pulpit is as normal for me as it is for a quarterback to line up behind the center or an actor stepping onto the stage. Between services was a reception and I will admit, I did not get everyone’s names (that will take some time).

But what I did get was an eagerness to move forward, to do something new.  This congregation wants to embrace whatever new God is calling us to do.  Change can be scary (trust me, I know, I’m in the middle of a huge transition) but God is always doing a new thing with us and with God we need not fear change. 

Trust in God, especially in transitional times and God will always provide.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Saturday People

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mark 15:46

Humanity tends to live in Saturday.  We had a great celebration, but then a lot of bad stuff happened.  Right now, there is a war in Europe which has decimated a lot of people.  The war in Ukraine has added over 4 million people to the already horrific refugee crisis in the world.  We have been living with a global pandemic – one that keeps rearing its ugly head, and even if we do not care anymore, it is still there, still making people sick, still taking lives.  Our nation is politically polarized at a point I’ve never experienced before.  Where we could once disagree and even argue politics, now it is at a point where you either keep your mouth shut, or you run the risk of being insulted and attacked over your views. 

The violence in our nation is terrible.  We have more and more shootings, the Philadelphia murder rate seems to go up every year and people seem to much angrier over the smallest things.  There is little understanding, little compassion.  We live in Saturday.

But today is Sunday – today is the Day of Resurrection – a day that means far more than jellybeans and chocolate eggs.  If the resurrection is to mean something to us, then we need to move on from the emptiness of Saturday and look at the empty tomb.

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. Luke 24:4-8

Monday Morning Meditation 3-21-22

I lift up my eyes to the hills —from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. Psalm 121

The biggest movie on the planet right now is The Batman.  At the end of the weekend, it grossed just shy of 500 million dollars at the box office, and that would have been much higher except many theatres in China are closed due to Covid.

Most people that know me know I am a big Bat-Fan.  I grew up watching reruns of the Adam West tv show and read the comics as a kid.  Batman appeals to me because he is a human with no superpowers, rather he has honed himself mentally and physically to be Gotham’s protector.

There is only one problem.  In our world, filled with war, strife, racism, hunger, poverty and the rest, Batman is not going to provide help.  He is, after all, a literary creation.

So where do we turn for help?  The psalmist knows – we call to the Lord, the very Creator of all Creation. The Lord will provide us help – as long as we turn to the Lord.  God will be our protector and keep us from evil, provided we seek God instead of evil.  And when we truly turn to God, truly rely on the Lord, guess what happens?  God will use us to take care of those problems of the world.  Maybe you and I cannot end the war in Ukraine, but we can certainly relieve some of the suffering.  Perhaps we cannot end world hunger, but we can feed those around us. 

Take some time this Lenten season to truly reflect on God and remember from where your help comes.  Turn back to the Lord, seek the Lord and allow God to guide you.  Who knows, you might be called to minister to someone and become their superhero.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 3-7-22

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9


It is hard to look at pictures from Ukraine as the devastation is unimaginable.  I try to keep up with the news, but often it is hard.  There are already over 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine (adding to an already inconceivable refugee problem around the world) and there are innocent people being bombed as they flee their homes.

Will the peacemakers please stand up?

It is so hard to decide what to do.  Yes, we need to pray for peace, for safety for the Ukrainian people and changed hearts among leaders (especially Russian leaders).  We need to pray for the Russian people as well, as many are being suppressed in their opposition to the war.

However, prayer is not enough.  Yes, prayer is powerful and can change things.  Prayer is something we should all be doing.  We need action to accompany our prayers, and the action should be informed through our prayer. 

How can you be a peacemaker in your home, in your school, in your workplace, in your church for peace begins with each of us in our daily lives?  Pray about this, then put it into action.  And while you are at it, pray about how you can bring a little bit of peace to Ukraine. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-28-22

1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:1-13

It is always amazing to see what is in my YouTube feed.  Some make sense, such as cooking videos since I watch a few food channels.  Others, however, make me scratch my head.  I’ve been getting a lot of links about who is or is not a Christian.  Now these are not videos where someone states their faith, rather a specific evangelist who has taken it upon himself to declare who is “in” or “out” of the Kingdom of Heaven.  He looks at popular culture and then declares if a celebrity is saved or not.  Wow.

While I have a lot of personal thoughts about this, I turn to scripture.  Paul tells us to imitate Christ, and that includes having a little mercy, forgiveness and…humility.  It is not my (or anyone else’s) job to declare someone saved or unsaved – God alone knows the heart. 

As a pastor, I have done many funerals and never declared anyone damned – quite frankly that is not my role.  My role is to show God’s love through the reading and teaching of the scriptures as well as my example.  I preach hope not damnation. 
Afterall, Paul tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, not be so assured that we can go about damning others.

This Wednesday we begin the season of Lent, a season to slow down and consider our relationship with God.  I ask you all to take this season to do so – to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, and to grow more Christ-like.  Who knows, maybe by doing this, we all may show God’s love to someone who really needs to see it.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-21-22

13Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.  19The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; 20by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. Proverbs 3:13-20

Who in your life is the epitome of wisdom?  Was there a special person that you sought out for advice, or you knew would help you find the answer?  Who just exuded wisdom?

My maternal Grandmother was wise.  Whether it was an old Irish saying or just plain words, she could sum up situations and give guidance. 

While I was too young to remember anything he said, my paternal Grandfather showed wisdom as he walked across town visiting all of his grandchildren.  My memories are of a wizened face bringing a feeling of security (and Circus Peanuts candy!).

Throughout my life I’ve sought wisdom.  I try to look at all situations through different lenses and make decisions based on wisdom.  And I try to offer that same wisdom to those I encounter.

James 1:5 says If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  It is worthy prayer for us all.

As you journey through this week, seek wisdom.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 2-14-21

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
1 Cor. 13:1-13

Today is Valentine’s Day – a day that is dedicated to love and so I chose one of the most well known love passages in the bible.

But we need to really look hard at this passage to understand it.  Paul is not talking about the Disney Princess Lovey Dovey stuff, rather he is talking about servant love.  The Greek language gives us many different words for love, indicating different meanings.  We have Philos, referring to friendship (Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love), Eros, the love between partners (yes, we get the word erotic from this) and Agape, meaning servant love.  This is the love Paul speaks of, and this is the love Jesus often speaks of – the love of a servant. It is the love that guides us to do wonderful things for others.  It is the love that took our sin on the cross.

Today, celebrate all the different loves in your life.  Celebrate friends, partners, children, parents and everyone else.  And consider this:  How can you show servant love to someone else this week?

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 1-17-22

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.In fear and amazement, they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:22-25

This is one of those baffling passages, or at least for our sensibilities it is baffling.  There is stuff going on, there is a crisis, there is action that needs addressing and Jesus is sleeping.  Mark’s gospel tells us he slept in the stern – the very back of the boat! The disciples are, of course, worried – we all would be, there is a crisis after all.  But Jesus takes a break.

One of my favorite pastoral books is called “Rest in the Storm”.  Based upon this gospel narrative, it is a reminder that we need to take breaks.  God has regulated this – a Sabbath day of rest (and that is not supposed to be a “day off” when you get caught up with the laundry and errands), periodic celebrations and even times of rest for our fields. 

This pattern is important for all of us.  We need time off of work and school to spend with family and friends, time to do the shopping, cleaning and yard work, and time with God.  Our daily devotions are important for this, but then we also need to find extra time to be alone with the Lord.  And we need time to refresh even in the midst of crisis.As this gospel story progresses, Jesus simply handles the situation.  While we do not have the power to stop storms, sometimes we need to take a break before handling the issues.

As you travel through your week, make sure you take the down time necessary to recharge.  And then rely upon the Lord to handle all the stuff.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Morning Meditation 1-10-22

1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
2Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

4One generation shall laud your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.
5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.
7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

10All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
11They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 145

Today is a new day.  For what are you thankful?  Today is a new day, what one thing will you bless the Lord for?  It is Monday morning, the traditional day of “Ugh” as we begin a new week.  It is easy to complain.  It’s cold, it is the beginning of a new work week – a time of drudgery for many.  For kids, the new school week and if your household was like mine, getting up was difficult this morning.

I can sit here and tell you all the bad stuff about today, all the work, all the frustrations of not getting things done over the weekend, all the problems in the nation and the world – and I’m sure you can do the same.

But what works of the Lord shall we proclaim today?  What shall we say of the glory of the Kingdom?

As you begin your day and a new work/school week, consider these questions.  Ponder these questions.  Take a couple of minutes and just think about these questions.  Then make known to all people God’s mighty deeds – or even the little things God has done for you just today.

Peace,

Pastor Bill