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May 25

The day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up – and it shall be brought low. Isaiah 2:12 NKJV 

Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not being to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor.” Luke 3:8 

At first reading of this verse from Isaiah, I thought of last Sunday, Pentecost, which is one of my favorite days of the church year. There’s something beautifully chaotic about the image of flames resting on their heads as people speak in the many different languages represented by the crowds, and though I prefer things to be orderly and organized and calm, it seems like the coming of the Holy Spirit should feel wild and frenetic and all the other terms for frenzied that I can think of. 

But this verse also puzzled me at first, in that same sense – the day of the Lord of hosts shall come, that’s awesome, but it shall come upon everything proud and lofty? That didn’t sound right. What happened to the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16)?  I saw it as yet another opportunity for me to seek out different versions/translations of the Bible, which makes me wish I spoke other languages (especially Greek).  One version, the Amplified Bible, helped make it clearer for me:

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against all who are proud and arrogant
And against all who are lifted up,
That they may be degraded.  Isaiah 2:12 (AMP)

The website where I found this translation had italicized the words ‘of reckoning.’ It’s funny how just hearing one or two words emphasized when someone explains something to you that make it immediately more understandable. Don’t you wish, like I do, that everything (especially the word of God) could be that easy to have understanding?  Thankfully, we have so many places and people in our lives to help us comprehend, if we will only take the time and seek out the information.

The dictionary gives three sub-definitions for the word reckoning, and two seem especially appropriate.  A bill or account, or its settlement is one, which the dictionary says is archaic, but though it is old fashioned, still makes sense to me. Another definition is the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds.

Against all who are proud and arrogant, I think to myself. That’s great. I can easily think of public figures who could stand to be brought down a notch. Then I think a little further, and try looking at that verse from someone else’s point of view. I don’t think of myself as rich, and I would not want to think of myself as proud, or arrogant, but the other day I was walking down a city street when a man sitting on the sidewalk asked if I had some cash to help the homeless. I was in a hurry, heading somewhere else, didn’t have time, and passed him by, calling back “Sorry, no” over my shoulder. I’ll bet I looked rich, and proud, and yes, arrogant as I hurried by. How many times have I driven past a homeless person by the side of the road with a sign, thought to myself I wish I had the rest of that sandwich that I threw away after lunch today, he looks hungry, or, I guess I’ve got a couple of dollars I could give her, but the stoplight is turning green already… 

The day is coming when God will judge us for our thoughts and actions, as well as our failure to think and to act.  I hope that God will see me and judge me more kindly than I have judged others, including not taking the time to see someone in need.

Generously loving Lord, forgive us when we are proud, thinking that because we are not as rich as some, that we are not among the richest people on Earth. You have given us hands so that we can give to others. Stop us before we can walk away, open our eyes to really see other people and not just look away, open our hearts so we can give generously without worrying whether we have enough for ourselves. We have all been given so much, and yet the people who have so little money seem to be the most generous. Inspire us to be like the widow in the book of Mark who gave all she had. Thank you God for everything. Amen
 
Lynda Tysdal


May 24

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1

Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47

When Jesus was eating at the home of a Pharisee, a woman from the city brought ointment, bathed Jesus feet with her tears, applied ointment, and kissed his feet. The Pharisee, named Simon, questioned Jesus’ standing as a prophet, because Jesus let this woman, a sinner, minister to him in such a way. Jesus then told Simon of the creditor who had two debtors, one owing 500 denarii, the other 50 denarii. The creditor forgave the debts of both of these men. Jesus then asked Simon, “Now, which one of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” Jesus when went on to tell Simon that this woman had ministered to him, because of her love for Jesus. Jesus knew her many sins but forgave her, because she had shown great love.

Have you ever had to tell someone that you forgive him/her? I have. I may have thought that the transgression was great and may even have thought it would be difficult to talk to this person and tell that I was forgiving him/her. But, as soon as I let go of my frustration, resentment, anger, and told the person that I loved him/her no matter what, we both began anew and moved on in a positive spirit. Sometimes the other person isn’t ready to let go of harbored resentments; it is still better to tell him/her that you forgive and to feel this forgiveness in your heart.

That is Jesus’ way. He is always there waiting for us to confess our sins and come back into his fold. Because he died and rose again for each one of us, we have his assurance of forgiveness and salvation. He is the ultimate judge who has freed each one of us.

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for always being there for us. There are times when the happenings in our lives overshadow the joy in knowing that we are your redeemed children. Forgive us for dwelling on such and forgetting that you are the merciful judge who has freed each one of us. Help us to live in the light of your merciful promises and to share the good news of your love with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield      



May 23

One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32 

Another translation “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (NIV) 

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building. Romans 14:19 

Anger is a very strong emotion.  We all know, or maybe we sometimes are, a person who goes from quiet conversation to immediate anger when they don’t agree with something.  It can take just a few words that someone hears to make their temper flare. Then there is no listening, no thinking about the other’s opinion, just anger that makes the situation worse. Proverbs says that we should focus on our own reaction, to remain in control of ourselves, even when that is difficult. Patience is certainly difficult to remember to have each and every day. 

This is not to say that anger is always wrong; there are things in this imperfect world that do make us angry. Things such as affordable housing (that is the lack of affordable housing,) institutional racism, children neglected or abused, and healthcare inequities are all things that can make us angry. However, the next step is to take that anger and focus it on to doing something about these issues. We can find or gather a group, express our anger constructively and use it to spur us on to action. Anger, once felt and controlled, can be a driving force to go and make changes.   

Paul tells us that we should look to things that make life peaceful, that we get along with others no matter if we agree with them or not. We are to actually pursue peace – not just stand by and wait for it to appear. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to enable the gift of patience and self-control.

The first verse of Chapter 14 of Romans says: “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” I would think this extends to non-believers and those we encounter in many other settings. Rather than argue or even “discuss” we need to listen, support and control our impatience.  Otherwise how can we share this wonderful message of love and peace that we find in the Gospel? 

God of peace, your word tells us we must not only seek peace, but pursue it. Grant us the faith to trust in you, so that we may lay down our arms. Give us the strength to make peace, so that we may be blessed. We thank you for all your faithful servants who have taught us the way of peace and justice, especially your son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



May 22

The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to friend. Exodus 33:11

While two of the apostles were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them. Luke 24:15

Just before the death of actor W.C. Fields, a friend visited Fields’ hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

These words appear in Latin on Carl Jung’s tombstone. In English, the words are, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

Loopholes……looking for a way out…avoidance. We have a tendency to avoid God. But we can’t!

Whether we call upon God or not, God is present. Whether we acknowledge God or not, God is present. No matter how hard we try to run away, no matter how much we try not to listen, no matter how hard we pretend not to understand, God is present. No matter how much we hurl our anger and rage at God, like throwing a ball against a backstop, God is present. No matter how much we want to avoid God’s judgment, God is present. No matter how much we want to avoid God’s love, God is present. 

There is nowhere that we can be where God is not also. God is with us in the classroom and the kitchen, the boardroom and the bedroom, the office and the hospital. Bidden or not bidden, God is present.

If there is nowhere in the world that we can be where God is not also, there is also nowhere in our hearts and our very being where God is not as well. God is with us when our hearts are bursting with joy and tears run down our cheeks in gratitude. God is with us when our hearts are heavy with burdens or breaking with grief. God is with us in the dark night of the soul and with us when the morning light breaks onto the horizon of our heart.

Lord, thank you, for coming near to us even when we seek to avoid you. Jesus, our greatest friend, has stepped into the darkness of our sin to illuminate new paths for your new people. As Jesus comes near me today, help me be a friend who shows love to others as I receive it from you. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



May 18

They have made themselves gods of gold. Please forgive their sin.  Exodus 32: 31-32 NIV 

Gods made with hands are not gods. Acts 19:26 

Like so many verses in the Bible, it’s all too easy to read Exodus and scoff at the Israelites for losing their faith in God and building a golden calf to worship. In their frustration for wandering in the desert and waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, it seems that they are trying to combine bull worship (Apis was a sacred bull in Egyptian mythology that was worshiped as a god) and worshipping God (after Aaron melts down the earrings that people are wearing to create the golden calf, he builds an altar before it and says “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord” (Exodus 32:5), though I’m uncertain if by “Lord” he means the Lord our God, or the lord their god. 

Either way, I say to myself, Moses is speaking with God personally on the mountain.  How can they not follow the instructions that Moses is giving them after that when he tells them to be patient and stay faithful to God? 

Then again, Matthew 7:5 reminds me: You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

There are plenty of modern-day idols and idolatry, whether we choose to see it that way or not. Our lives seem full, or appear that way on the outside, but we find ourselves feeling empty inside. Instead of filling up the empty spaces with God, or with working to share God’s love by helping others, we try to fill up with things. Have you ever stood in a crowded place and felt lonely? Looking at all our belongings or at a big bank account (which somehow can never be big enough for us – if you won a million dollars, do you think would you be satisfied with it, or bemoan the fact that you didn’t win a billion dollars), can make us wonder why it still isn’t enough to fill us up. 

If it’s not money or belongings, our culture always seems to be looking to put someone up on a pedestal.  Being an excited fan of a singer or sports figure or movie star can be or seems like it should be harmless enough, but if they are overshadowing the role of God in your life, it’s idolatry.  Even how we view politicians can be idolatry – they make promises and we cheer, certain that they will solve all of our problems, turning our back on God and his laws to follow someone all too human who will change their mind or conveniently forget what they said. 

We should remember that the one who can always be trusted to solve our problems, even when they are caused by our own actions, and to stay true to His promises to love us, listen to us, and care for us unceasingly, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your patience and kindness with us when we go down the wrong path in life, choosing to follow money, fame, and things that will never fulfill us or make us as happy as you can.  We pray that you will give us the heart to turn against our sinful ways and look to you for guidance as we go about our daily lives. Amen
 
Lynda Tysdal


May 17

“He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer.”  Psalm 102:17

“The tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but beating his breast, and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified.”  “Luke 18:13-14

Prayer is our very own conversation with GOD … a two-way street.  I recall a televised interview with Mother Teresa.  She was asked, “When you pray, what do you say?”  She answered, “I don’t say anything.  I listen.”  The interviewer asked, “What does God say to you?”  Mother Teresa answered, “He doesn’t say anything.  He listens.” 

Like the very air we breathe, God is all around us, talking … if we just listen.  Not just in the lessons of pastors and teachers and Bible study, but in the comfort and encouragement offered by family and friends.  The kindness of strangers might be bringing a message from God.  In the needs of others, God is calling us to love and act.

Like the very air we breathe, God is all around us, listening.  We joyfully sing praise and give thanks.  We quietly ask … plead.  We shamefully whine and seethe.  We think no one hears the cries silenced in our palms or smothered in our pillows, “sighs too deep for words” – God hears it all.  God reads our minds and hearts and knows when either/both is wandering.  Before words come, God hears.  When words don’t come at all, God hears.  Mother Teresa also wrote ”When the time comes and we cannot pray, it is very simple – let Jesus pray in us to the Father in the silence of our hearts.  If we cannot speak, he will speak.  If we cannot pray, he will pray.  So let us give him our inability and our nothingness.”  “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.”  (Isaiah 65:24)

“Lord, teach a little child to pray, and oh accept my prayer;

Thou hearest all the words I say, for Thou art everywhere.”  Amen

(from “A Child’s Garden of Prayer”, Concordia Publishing House, presented to me September 5, 1954, in recognition of Sunday School attendance)

Verla Olson



May 16

The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:9 

Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21 

Interesting term that Paul uses in Romans – that the creation is in “decay”, he even says that it is “in bondage to decay. “ Is this what we see when we look around at the world we live in? Right now it looks lovely, trees are leafing out, things are turning green and we can go for nice long walks around lakes or in parks. However, it doesn’t take much looking to see that we have polluted this lovely world that God created. We have dumped all kinds of chemicals into water and on land, we’ve had factories spewing pollutants into the sky, we have managed to destroy rain forests, prairie and oceans. 

Having just had Earth Day I looked back at some of the history. It all started in 1970 – that was the year the Environmental Protection Act was signed and we began to clean some things up. In April of that year Sen Gaylord Nelson (from Wisconsin) created first Earth Day; about 20 million American demonstrated in various cities leading Congress to pass the enabling legislation in December 1970. Following that many things were cleaned up – factories had to emit cleaner air, no more dumping of toxic substances onto land, and much more. Currently the emphasis is on eliminating plastic from waste streams that have it ending up in the ocean where it causes harm to many ocean creatures. 

As humans, we manage to lead this creation we were given into decay, and, as humans, we can try to clean it up and renew it. But, this is not something mere humans can accomplish. Paul is speaking of a time of “future glory” when all of creation will be restored. Our natural world is not destined for destruction, but for renewal as a new earth (along with a new heaven) as Rev. 21:1 says. Living things will no longer be caught in a bondage to decay and death. This is something only God can do. The plan He has for our salvation is for all creation and for all people everywhere. As the Psalm says, “the Lord is good to all” not just those we might think should be included. His plan is for the entirety of Creation. 

“But in the end, what matters is that God understands. We are reminded again that humans are not able to fix creation on their own. We can learn, we can create, we can build, all in an effort to fix the problems around us. But only God gives us hope that God alone will liberate the creation from its bondage and bring creation into his freedom and glory.” (from The Groaning Creation by Carl Fictorie, In All Things website) Meanwhile, we have work to do – to continue to do the best we can to clean up the mess made of Creation, and to share the Good News of God’s love and plan of salvation with everyone. 

Lord, your compassion brings us hope. Sometimes we see only decay and destruction but your loving mercy gives us a new vision. We eagerly anticipate a future where all creation is renewed. Give us patience while we wait for the fulfillment of your promise. In the name of Jesus, the redeemer of the world.  Amen.   

Chris Gabel



May 15

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Do people know I’m a Christian? When I meet someone new, can they tell I believe in Jesus? Am I a good Christian?  Is my heart clean? Nope…….my heart is not clean. In fact, even though I very much want to do the right thing, when it comes right down to it, I sometimes don’t. I don’t always love my neighbor, and then I want his new car. I cut someone off in traffic,  and then yell at someone who does it to me. I loose my temper quickly while waiting in line at Target, well, you get the picture. And even though I’m not out robbing grandmothers and creating mayhem, I’m not necessarily doing good deeds. 
I can do better. I have to remember that my Christian life is not a momentary collusion with God, but a continuing communion, not a single hit-and-run convertion, but a life long walk with the Lord. Not just “Create in me a clean heart,” but also “renew a right spirit” day by day by day.

Father, inside myself I may know that you are Lord, but can anyone see that faith as I walk through life? When I hear your Word and take and eat your Supper, give me a new heart, pumping your love into my veins so that I can move past my fears and regrets. Help me to glorify your body with mine today. Amen.
 
Susan Hanson


May 14

The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.  Psalm 33:5

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 44-45.

As I was browsing in a home decor shop the other day, I spotted a wooden plaque which had these words printed on it; “While waiting for God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway.” I chuckled, then pondered the words for a time and decided that it was good advice.

Life sometimes can seem mundane, too ordinary, almost boring. Where is the excitement of a new project, a new door opening as the plaque said? Days go by and we forget to notice the beauty around us, the promise of a new day, the moments of grace.  Chances are, we have all experienced a time when our routine seems a bit stale. Life is change and we have ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and troughs as C.S. Lewis calls them.  As long as we live, there will be times of dryness, dullness, apathy, even doubt in meaning or purpose.

There is one constant in all of our days, and that is the all encompassing love coming from our Lord. If we but lift our heads, there He is, waiting to enfold us and give us what we need, peace in our hearts and spring in our steps. He sees us and knows us and will not leave us forlorn. His wish for us is joy and contentment.  Thanks be to God.

Holy and steadfast God, your love is amazing.  Remind us when we are in the doldrums of life, the hallways, to praise you for all you have done for us. Life is your wonderful gift to us and we don’t want to waste a moment, a day, a lifetime. Thank you.  Amen

Joan Perlich



May 11

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that your name is near. Psalm 75:1 NKJV

You may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Longing for light, we wait in darkness. 
Longing for truth, we turn to You. 
Make us your own, Your holy people, 
Light for the world to see.

Christ be our light 
Shine in our hearts 
Shine through the darkness 
Christ be our light 
Shine in Your church gathered today.*

Have you ever been afraid of the dark? I know that when I was a kid I often fell asleep with a small lamp on next to my bed. It was meant to be used for reading in bed (which I still do), but I have to admit that I was more comfortable falling asleep with a light on, even if it wasn’t a very bright light. The glow from that little lamp was enough to comfort me and make me feel safe as I closed my eyes. As we become adults, the dark is a fear that most of us outgrow, but I don’t think we can ever be completely free of being afraid in the dark.

Out of darkness into his marvelous light is an idea that you can relate to, especially if you have ever sat by the bed of a loved one in the hospital, have endured a night (or nights) of insomnia, or if you have lived with anxiety or depression. That’s something that can feel especially bad at night when you can’t seem to fall asleep and feel completely alone, no matter how many people are in the house with you. You can also be afraid of/in the dark during the day when the world, or our heart or our mind can feel like a very dark place.

As hard as it is to think positively in those moments of despair, this is a good time to try to remember the words we sing in the Holden Evening Prayer by Marty Haugen, Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.

This is also our chance to care for and to help others when they are in despair, like being there for others to reach out to during the day or the night. We can hold the light of Christ up for them to illuminate their path and show them that they are not alone.

The verse from 1 Peter reminds us that it is Christ who called us out of darkness by dying to take away the sin of the world. One way we can love and serve him is to lift others up by sharing His light.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the ever present light that you hold for us, even when we forget to open our eyes to see it. Fill our hearts with your light and love so that we can not only rejoice in them ourselves but pass them on the people who think they are alone in the dark. Amen.

Lynda Tysdal

 

*Hymn written by Bernadette Farrell