Gain Understanding

Read John 13:1-7

As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.

We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.

As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.

A Rock

Read Matthew 7:24-27

This week has made many of us feel as if we have been battered by a storm. The senseless killing of children in Texas which came so closely after the horrific murders of people in Buffalo, make us filled with questions, sadness, and anxiety. These events  are a continuing trend in our nation. Add to this the exhaustion brought upon us by the pandemic and months of war in Ukraine. All of these situations combine to make us feel like we are in the midst of a never ending storm. How can we continue to stand?

Jesus has an answer to that question. He tells the crowd listening to him that they are to be like the wise person who built a house on rock. The rock on which we are to build our house is Jesus Christ and his teachings. Jesus taught that love is the answer to combat evil and sin. If we build our lives on the love found in Jesus’s words, we will overcome the sin within us and in the world around us.

Go to the teachings of Jesus and listen. Read the two chapters preceding this one in Matthew’s gospel. Then strive everyday to build your life upon Jesus’s words found in these three chapters.

Tears

Read Jeremiah 31:15

The news from Texas yesterday is almost impossible to comprehend. Thinking about what type of response we believers in Christ might make, a great number of words from Scripture came to mind. However, instead of seeking answers and responses right now, I decided it is best to sit awhile in our grief. There will be time to seek answers and proper responses as led by the Spirit. So today, read of the grief Jeremiah lifts up and be surrounded by the shared grief knowing nineteen children and three adults were killed in an act of human violence. I am confident our  Lord is shedding tears as well.

Hope for Tomorrow

There are times when facing tomorrow can seem like a daunting task for many people. We live in a world which has experienced over two years of change and uncertainty through a global pandemic. Many times there have been glimmers of hope only to experience setbacks when new strains of the virus emerge. Our world began to breathe a sigh of relief as it appeared vaccines were able to manage the effects of the virus. Then in the midst of our sigh, one large nation  begins an unprovoked, aggressive attack upon a smaller, neighboring nation. Now it is not a virus in nature killing innocent men, women and children but the weapons and tactics of humans used on fellow humans. Tomorrow can easily look rather bleak.

Yet even in the midst of all of this, Easter still came. In Easter, and during this Easter season, we are reminded that death no longer has a final say. Viruses, diseases, bombs, weapons, aggression, and violence no longer stand in control of today or tomorrow. No, Easter tells us that Christ is risen and because he lives we can face all of our tomorrows.

We Are One

Read Galatians 3:26-29

There are times in the world when we are reminded about the importance of solidarity. During my lifetime I can name some specific times when national and world solidarity has shone forth. When I was still living at home, I experienced this when there was a profound famine in Africa and the farm economy crisis. As an adult, I witnessed this global unity with AIDS killing thousands, the events of 9/11/2001, and now the Ukrainian crisis. These are times when we realize how much we have in common and the power found in unity to make a meaningful, positive difference. We come to realize that in God we are one.

Here is an updated version of a song which came as a response to the African hunger crisis.

Suffering

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

There is nothing easy about suffering. In fact, most of us strive to reduce our suffering or eliminate it altogether. Not only do we work at reducing personal suffering but some of us work at reducing the suffering of others. When suffering is unavoidable, we seek out and provide comfort. This is what calls individuals, groups and nations into action. Currently, we are uniting in an effort to comfort the people of Ukraine as we witness their suffering each day.

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. He wrote about it frequently in his letters. He also would tell the people that they too would experience suffering because they followed Jesus. Jesus himself suffered and also told the followers they would suffer because of him.

Paul points out in our passage today that in our suffering, we have a great Comforter. The Lord will, and does, provide comfort whenever we are in the midst of suffering. Paul continues by telling the Corinthians (and us) that by receiving comfort from the Lord, we are equipped to comfort others.

When you experience suffering, call on the Lord who will send you comfort. When you see the suffering of others, provide comfort to them in response to having received the same from the Lord.

Time To Pray

Read Ephesians 6:18-20

At this time in our world, we are looking to our leaders to speak words of reassurance, to act boldly for peace, and to make decisions which will lead to acts ensuring safety and independent lives for all people. Being a leader during times such as these requires courage, level-headedness, and wisdom extending beyond human norms. The people of the world depend upon our leaders to do what will build up the citizens and end the destruction, human suffering and needless death. Our leaders also need us as much as we need them for different reasons reasons.

In the snippet of Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, we see a leader making a request of the people. Paul encourages the believers to pray in all types of situations. Then he makes a personal request for them to pray for him. His prayer request is that God will provide the words which he uses to make the gospel known. He seeks boldness in his proclamations on behalf of the gospel.

As mentioned above, our leaders need us. Like Paul, they need us to be actively engaged in prayer on their behalf. Prayers for them to speak truths boldly. Prayers for them to act in a manner that brings calm and confidence into a tense-filled situation. Prayers for them to lean on the wisdom which God has provided throughout the ages and still offers today. We need to earnestly pray with and for the leaders of the world, even those who we may view as the source of any and all threats. Now we pray. But after this current crisis passes, our prayers should continue because all leaders need prayer in all situations.

A Different Peace

Read John 14:25-27

In light of recent events in our world, Russia’s attack and invasion of Ukraine, I went to Scripture for guidance. The desire of most people throughout the world is to live a life in peace and fulfillment. While we have different understandings of what those words mean or look like, the general desire is to have what we need to survive without concern for our safety. This seems to be something which should be easily attainable. The problem is that human sin is a part of life. Greed, deception, hatred, and selfishness inject themselves into daily living. These sins lead to actions which do not ensure the peace and safety of all people.

The passage which I was drawn to today is a portion of a conversation which Jesus is having with his closest disciples. In John’s version of the gospel, Jesus is always trying to prepare his disciples for his death. He seeks to assure them and provide them comfort. Here Jesus promises them the Holy Spirit. He also tells them that he will leave them a peace far different than the world’s peace. This peace is enduring unlike the fleeting peace we experience in our lives. This peace is not just an absence of conflict and physical violence  but a calmness of spirit even in the midst of conflict and violence. The peace which Jesus provides, and the Holy Spirit reminds us about, is one which overcomes worry and fear.

While world leaders attempt to bring the latest eruption of violence and death under control, we are mindful that our Lord overcomes all violence and death. We are offered a peace of spirit and reassurance that transcends our earthly experience. It is wise, and our duty, to continue to pray for Ukraine’s people in the midst of these events. We also pray for the overcoming of human sin and its impact upon us and all people. Even as we pray, we know that what the world offers is fleeting but what the Lord offes is eternal. The peace which Jesus gives to us provides us comfort and reassurance because it reminds us that he has already overcome the sin of this world.

Answering A Call

Read Isaiah 6:1-8

There are specific events in a person’s life which will always be vivid in the individual’s memory. Those times when asked, “Where were you when…,” you are able to recall the minutiae surrounding the named event. For many of us, September 11, 2001 is one of those dates. When presented with the question, “Where were you when you were told that a plane had crashed into the side of the World Trade Center?,” the array of details come flooding back into a person’s mind. As we face the 20th anniversary of such a horrible day, the image presented on the television of first responders rushing into Tower One and then Tower Two come to mind. Women and men who rush into a place so many were trying to flee from is an act of sacrificial service. Many of those who responded would never be seen alive again as the world watched the two towers collapse.

The passage from Isaiah is the telling of the call of the prophet Isaiah. A spiritual vision is recounted in these verses. Isaiah sees the spiritual beings of the seraphim praising and serving the Lord. Being surrounded by such divine imagery and realizing being in the presence of the Lord, Isaiah confronts his unworthiness. But the Lord sends a seraphim to communicate that the Lord has made Isaiah worthy. Then the call is made for someone to go to be a worker in the world on the Lord’s behalf. Isaiah accepts the call by saying, “Here am I. Send me.”

This vision is one which can be easily applied to countless men and women who have accepted the call into a variety of forms of service. The list includes medical workers, educators, clergy, mission workers, social services providers, military personnel, and of course, first responders like the ones who rushed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. The list also includes the passengers on Flight 93 who attempted to regain control of the plane from hijackers heading to Washington, D.C. for another target.

On September 11, 2001 a call was given for someone to respond to the horrific attack on human lives. For some who responded that day, they had answered a previous call which led them to be firefighters, police officers, transit authority workers, and emergency medical technicians. On this particular day, the call was renewed and extended to ordinary citizens. The response was clear and unquestioned, “Here am I. Send me.”

Let us never forget those women and men who responded on that day. Let us seek to honor them by responding as willingly when the call is presented to us. May our admiration and gratitude for those who answered the call bind us once again in service to one another.

Give It All

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

John 13:36-38 (NIV)

This is the day of the year when we pause to remember those women and men who have died while serving their nation. Memorial Day has changed a lot since it first began. There have been various dates and times which nations have set aside to honor the deceased military. Our current holiday came out of some local practices within communities. The former confederate states set aside a day to honor those who had died during the Civil War. Northern states soon followed suit. In 1868, General John A Logan, leader of the Grand Army of the Republic which was a northern Civil War Veterans organization, issued a general order setting May 30 as Decoration Day which was “for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” This became the starting seed of what was declared a national holiday in 1971. Today the holiday has been moved to the last Monday of May and has become a day when all who have died are remembered and graves decorated. However, the original purpose of setting aside such a date must be remembered. This day is meant to recall those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863) by giving their lives for their country.

Our passage from John comes in the midst of whatwereferto as the Last Supper. Jesus is sitting at a meal with his disciples. The ones who are closest to Jesus are beside him at the table. Judas has just left after Jesus identified him as soon becoming the betrayer. Jesus tells the disciples that he is to leave soon. Simon Peter asks Jesus where he is going and Jesus tells him that Peter cannot follow him now but will later. Peter wants to know why he cannot follow now and declares his willingness to lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus questions Peter’s true willingness since he knows Peter will soon deny knowing him.

It is easy for us to identify with Peter. Peter’s love for Jesus is strong, so strong that he declares his willingness to give his very life for Jesus. He is eager to give his all. However, Jesus knows the weakness in Peter. When the time came for Peter to risk his own life by acknowledging being a follower of Jesus, Peter was unable to follow through. Few of us have ever been put in such a situation so we are unable to say if we would choose as Peter did or not.

In the brave men and women who we honor on this day, we are given an example to follow and a challenge to accept. These military women and men loved their country and its ideals so much that they were not only willing but did give their lives in defense of them. This is an example for us to admire and emulate in our lives. The challenge set before it is to not only be willing to do this for our nation but also for our Lord. Are you willing to physically and/or metaphorically give your life because of your love for the Lord and the ideals which the Kingdom of God sets forth?