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September 18

I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing. Isaiah 61:8

 
No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 NIV
 
With each verse I read of Isaiah 61, I felt more and more sure of a few things: 
 
God knew when he created the world and humankind that we would go through dark days in our lives and that we would need reassurance, and plenty of it; 
that we are not the first generation (by far!) to deal with the pain and sins of hate and oppression, or seeing others experience those things and being unsure of what to do to help;
and that we can, through Christ who empowers us, and with the help of God and fellow mortals to guide us, help to make the world a better place. 
 
To start with, the first verse of Isaiah 61 reminds us: 
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and release to the prisoners. 
 
 
The prophet Isaiah was sent to foretell the coming of Jesus and of all the good that he would be doing in the world. For now, we need to let the love of Jesus Christ work in us and through us as generations have done before us. For a (partial) list of the things that we can do, I direct you again to Isaiah 61: 
 
To provide for those who mourn in Zion — when so many have died due to this pandemic and other causes, it’s difficult to know how to help. We can’t gather to give consoling hugs like we used to in order to prevent the spread, but we can pray for the families, talk to people on the phone, and even provide food while following safe practices. 
To give them a garland instead of ashes — I think that this refers to the ashes and sackcloth of mourning someone, but it also brings to mind the wildfires on the west coast, and the people who have lost everything there, or people who’ve lost everything due to hurricane and tropical storms.  Monetary donations can be made through Lutheran World Relief and other charities, and prayers for the people who live there and for the firefighters and other workers who are there from Minnesota and many other states. 
They shall repair the ruined cities — under the cover of peaceful protests, others have used the opportunity of crowds to set fires and cause other damage, but we can support the efforts to rebuild and then support local businesses and donate food and other supplies to people who for now have no local shopping available. 
 
I’m reminded of the refrain of a favorite hymn, We Are Called, written by David Haas: 
 
We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.
 
God, we ask for your directions to be clear to us as we watch the news and read the paper and wonder out loud what we can do to help others in your name. Help us to take action in our neighborhood, city, state, country and world, and to pray for those people that we know, and for the people throughout the world – people who we will likely never meet but who are in need of your love.  May we reach beyond the borders of our own lives, serving you by loving all.  Amen 
 
Peace,
Lynda Tysdal


September 16

Honor the Lord with your wealth. Proverbs 3:9 (NIV) 

“Lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High.” Luke 6:35 

Proverbs is an interesting book of our Bible. Lots of short verses, often in sets of 2 or three verses that fit together. The third chapter is titled “Further benefits of Wisdom” in the NIV study Bible. This chapter tells “my son” many good things to do to win favor with God. In our verse today, the focus is on wealth and possessions. Wealth — sounds like a great thing to have. And there is always the temptation to focus on acquiring and keeping all that wealth for ourselves. Here the admonition is to give back to God what He has provided for you. It is the first fruits of the crops that are to be given to the Lord, through offerings to the priests. The absolute best of what is possessed is what is to be given.

Other verses from this chapter tell us what is important, rather than just accumulating wealth. In verse 5: “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” And in verse 13: “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.” For it is better than silver, and gold and rubies.  

God knows we like to cling to our possessions, to be secure through having enough money and more if we can. Of course, we have to be able to pay for things, for food, shelter, clothing. For all those things God wants us to have. But our focus needs to remain on the Lord and what He has given us. We can use our wealth, which compared to much of the world we really do have, to do God’s work. To support food banks, and homeless shelters, and affordable housing projects. We can use our time as well to support all kinds of projects that benefit those in need. We can support those that currently are anxious or depressed with everything that is happening in our world. And we can do this as a way to honor our God. 

Luke writes that we should lend with no thought of being repaid, no thought of getting anything in return. That is a short verse out of a longer passage where we are told to do this with our enemies. Not just lending to friends, or those that may be in need, but actually to those that we don’t get along with. Jesus says, also in verse 35, “love your enemies, do good to them.”  This sounds really hard to do. How can we possibly just hand over our hard-earned money to “those people?” Jesus says our reward will be great, we will be God’s children. And even, that the Most High is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Maybe with God’s help we can try to be as Jesus’ example shows us – loving to all, even those we don’t like.  

Lord, out of the abundance you give, you only desire our hearts in return. Forgive us for thinking that our things are ours. Help us to set aside our selfishness and honor you with all we have Open our hearts and our hands, trusting in you to supply our needs. Amen.  

Chris Gabel 



September 14

“You shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.”  Isaiah 41:16

“We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  Romans 5:11

Moses did not understand how he, a tongue-tied shepherd, could persuade a powerful pharaoh to free his slaves.  Abraham and Sarah did not understand how they, such an elderly couple, could conceive a child.  Mary did not understand how she, a virgin, could give birth … a child who would save us from our sins.  Through times of wonder and likely some fear, they committed themselves to following God’s direction, and God stayed with them.  When Peter and Thomas denied knowing Jesus and doubted, he did not stop loving them. 

Far from being a self-made [man], I have learned these past months how much I depend on others.  I am not good at being alone.   I have learned there is pleasure in small things.  I need to recognize them as blessings from God and be grateful.  I have learned there are behaviors and circumstances (my own and others’) I find uncomfortable.  I need divine help for compassion and empathy, redemption and peace.  As a child I memorized:  “ I believe that I cannot by own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.  But the Holy Ghost has called … enlightened … sanctified and kept me …”  I do not understand Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into Heaven, but I believe in him and trust him.  I do not understand how God can forgive every sin, love every human being enough to die for them, but I believe he does.  Jesus understands human feelings and failings.  He loves us just the same.

Lord, as human beings we cannot understand your ways and infinite love for all of humanity.  Thank you for those who care for us and encourage us.  Help us see your direction for us, and by your Holy Spirit, may we feel your peace in our everyday lives.  Amen

Verla Olson



September 9

Let those stand up and save you, who gaze at the stars, and at each new moon predict what shall befall you. See, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them. Isaiah 47:13-14  

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace. Hebrews. 13:9 

[The New Living Bible translation of Isaiah 47:13: “All the advice you receive has made you tired. Where are all your astrologers, those stargazers who make predictions each month? Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds.”]  

Does getting lots of advice from different sources make you tired? I read a phrase in the paper this morning: “I find perpetual uncertainty to be exhausting,” in reference to all that is occurring in our world today. When making a decision, it seems the more advice you get, the harder it can be to finally decide. 

In our life we sometimes look all over for guidance. We want to follow God’s plan for our lives, but that can be really hard to discern. In Babylon, as Isaiah notes, people regularly consulted astrologers who predicted the future by looking at the stars. In fact, they originated astrology and horoscopes and probably used astrologers more than other nations. They looked for messages from the gods in this manner. The Israelites find themselves in this culture, here they were in exile and it must have been tempting to listen to them. Stargazing would seem so real and tangible, and here were all these astrologers predicting the future. Isaiah, of course, sets them straight. These astrologers and their gods cannot save anyone. They can’t even save themselves from what is coming, the fall of Babylon. 

It can be tempting to listen to voices other than God’s. People today still read horoscopes, many just for entertainment, but there are others who plan their lives and believe in this system. There are many other voices in our world giving advice and promising a plan to follow, false prophets as the Bible calls them. So much easier to just listen to them and don’t worry about whether it is true or helpful at all. All you need to do is follow the steps they lay out and all will be well, even as they contradict each other and what we know to be true.

We do not have to make things so complicated; there is no need to search out magical words to say or steps to follow. We can meet and talk with others as we discern what the Bible says to us. We can be still and listen for God’s voice amid the cacophony of the world. After all we have a God who planned our salvation through Jesus Christ for us before we were even born.. We have God’s Word in the Bible; we have His promises that we can trust.  

Forgive us, God, for the ways we make life more complicated than needed. We may look for signs in the moon and stars. We listen to many voices, hoping for an easy truth. Yet here you always are, speaking words to us about your grace and salvation through Jesus. Teach our hearts to trust that your grace is more than enough for us. Thank you, gracious God, for your firm foundation, guiding hand, and never-failing love. You are the way, the truth, and the life. Forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Chris Gabel 



September 2

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. For he commanded and they were created. Psalm 148: 3, 5  

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11 

There is a poem and song:  

“All things bright and beautiful 
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”
Verses go on to say the birds, the flowers, mountains, rivers, sunrise, cold weather and warm, our Lord God made them all. 

The Psalmist in the praise Psalm 148 tells many parts of the creation to praise God. The sun and the moon and the stars, all those heavenly objects they knew about, those are told to praise the Lord that made them. Read the whole Psalm, there are a lot of parts of creation praising the Lord. If you need to read some more uplifting praises, the Psalms around 148 are also full of praise. 

In Genesis we read that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. We hear this again all the way in Revelation at the end of the Bible. There are creatures in heaven who are praising God. Again, He is praised for creating everything. Where would we be if God hadn’t created us and this marvelous world we have around us? Even those in heaven are praising. This might make us feel sort of small and unimportant, just one tiny piece of everything in this glorious creation. Yet God made us in His image. He cares deeply about each and every one of us no matter who we are, where we were born, or how well off we are. All parts of creation are important and meant to work in harmony. 

Master Designer, with a majestic and gracious hand, you created all things bright and beautiful. We bow before you in worship because you alone are worthy of our thanks and praise. Sometimes, we feel so small, Lord. What are we compared to your majestic creation? Help us remember we each have our part to play in your symphony of Creation.  Today let us praise you so that others will hear of your glory. Amen. 

 Chris Gabel 



August 31

“Know that the Lord is God.”  Psalm 100:3

“Indeed he is not far from each one of us.  For “In him we live and move and have our being.’”  Acts 17:27-28

Early March there was foreboding, but never mind.  Surely things would look up soon, as usual. We would welcome Spring and our sanctuary would be beautiful with Easter flowers, as usual.  We would sing Alleluias together and gather with family; but wait.  Then Summer would come and there would be fireworks and parades, vacations, as usual; but wait.  Graduations, anniversaries and birthdays would be celebrated, as usual; but even good-byes would have to wait. 

We’re a bit shaken.  Still waiting for the usual people are now wondering “What will we do when autumn comes?”  Some are gathering supplies and will build birdhouses, hem newborn blankets, knit baby caps, sew quilts, as usual.  There will be jigsaw puzzles, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit … same place, same face, our new “2020 usual”.  But with waning daylight some are anxious about dwindling outdoor opportunities – recreation and patio gatherings.   Restaurant owners face outdoor eating losses.  Parents with young children needing daycare scramble with uncertain, changing schedules.   People are lonely.

We learned this year that we don’t readily know what to do when we can’t do what we thought we would do.  This “trip of a lifetime” didn’t come with travel insurance.  Or did it?  Even as we wonder what we will do next, we have a Constant.  We ARE living, moving, being … whether at home or out and about in whatever fashion … God is not far from each one of us.  God would post “We’re in this together.” 

“Our strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”, each day remind us of the blessings of family, friends, church … conversation with those we love, especially with You.  “You know when we rise up and when we sit down.  You know our thoughts” … (Psalm 139:2) … and you love us still – our “trip insurance”.  Amen

Verla Olson



August 28

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you. Psalm 63:1

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” John 7:37

David was in the wilderness and knew exactly what thirst was. He knew the pain of no longer being able to function or think properly, because he was wracked with thirst. He says he is in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Yet, he seeks the Lord first and compares the need for God to the need to be satisfied with water to drink, and names need for God first.

In the verse from John Jesus is speaking to those around him, many who believed him to be the Messiah, and many who believed that he was not the Messiah. Some even thought that Jesus was a prophet. His promise of living water confuses the crowd, many of whom are Pharisees. In John 8:12, Jesus spoke to the crowds saying,’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Water, light: our need for both to sustain our lives helps us to understand that our need for God in our lives is of primary importance. Can we always feel his presence? Perhaps disappointments are heavy on our hearts, and God seems far away. But when we turn to God and allow him to quench our innermost thirst by accepting his promise of abundant life, we restore our deep satisfaction in being a child of God.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving us life through your living water. Lift us up when we turn from you to our unhealthy doubts and desires. Bring us back to knowing that you have the abundant life which is all we need and which all of us need. Thank you for the deepest satisfaction available through our faith in your mercy. Amen.

Florence Smallfield

 



August 25

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Psalm 23:5

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table. A woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?”  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me.”  Mark 14:3-4,6.

In Sunday worship yesterday, Brittany, leader of our children and youth, talked about characters with “super powers”.  I have not watched any movies in which there are heroes with super human powers.  Well, maybe Superman and Batman and Robin, many years ago.  But then she asked the children what their super powers were, comparing them with gifts from God.

Some people, maybe most, wonder what their special gift is.  I think it is easier for people to see the gifts in others than in themselves.  I also think it’s important to know what special gift God has given you. 

In the Bible story about Mary and Martha, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’ feet while Martha attends to other tasks, women’s work.  Jesus was pleased with Mary, saying that she had made the better choice.  Sometimes I think that Martha gets a bad rap.  Perhaps she believed that her gift was hospitality, preparing food for guests and for Jesus.

Jesus wants our attention.  He wants us to walk with him every day, being aware of his presence and talking to him often.  In our busy lives, and in our humanness, we often shut Jesus out, thereby perhaps missing what he wants to tell us or where our path should go for that day.

“What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.  (Hans Urs von Baldhaser).

Pay attention to our Lord. It is like giving him the gift of yourself.

Holy God, forgive us when we allow our lives to entangle us and not pay attention to you.  Help us to acknowledge and give you thanks for the special gifts which you give to everyone.  Empower us to use our gifts for your glory.  Amen

Joan Perlich



August 21

You are wearied with your many consultations. Isaiah 47:13

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3

In his book, Messy Spirituality,* Michael Yaconelli describes his term, messy spirituality. “This may sound shocking to some, but spirituality is a home for those who don’t have life figured out, who don’t know the Bible as well as they could, and who don’t have their spiritual lives all together–the rest of us who thought there wasn’t a ‘rest of us,’ Christians who are trying to follow Jesus the best we can.” 

He says later in the description, “Spirituality looks like whatever you and I look like when we’re thinking about Jesus, when we are trying to find Jesus, when we are trying to figure out what real Christianity looks like in the real world.”

When we don’t have the answers and are maybe even angry with God–

“Oh, God, where are you? Help me!”

“I feel so alone. Why can’t I feel his presence when I need him right now?”

“Why, God, did you let this happen?”

Sometimes we are grateful and joyous–

“Oh Lord, thank you for this glorious day!”

“Thank you, I found what I’ve spent hours looking for.”

“Thank you for the faith that I see in family members and friends.” 

In good times and challenging times we need to remember that we are God’s child, no matter what befalls each one of us, or, no matter what we do. To trust like a child is difficult, but that is what Jesus expects of us. 

Pray unceasing is what we do when we think about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My cousin calls those the “God knows” prayers. God knows what is in our thoughts and can tell when we speak to him, whether it be in a silent thought of thanks, a scream of lament, or the innocent trust of a child’s good-night prayer.

When one of our children was a preschooler, we had a family friend staying with us while his wife was a patient at University Hospitals. One evening our friend was very hopeful, because his wife was feeling much better, and he was telling us about her welfare. That night when we got ready to do bedtime prayers, our son folded his hands and yelled, “Hey God, Jesse’s better!” There was no doubt in our son’s mind that God was listening. Can we have that kind of innocent faith and trust? We need to seek innocent faith and trust in God to know that we are one of the rest of us, each and every one of us, a beloved child of God.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for calling each one of us your child. We falter by relying on our own ineffective insights when we fail to turn to your loving arms. Thank you for bringing us back. Continue to give us the guidance we need, through your word, to kneel in reverence, sincerity, and total trust. In your awesome and blessed name, Amen.

Florence Smallfield   



August 20

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 

The verse from John immediate takes me back to childhood days of Vacation Bible School and confirmation camp, singing We Are One in the Spirit (They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know that we are Christians by our love). I’m imagining as I write this that you now have that tune in your head, too! 

We are living in a time of great division among people and factions and political parties and beliefs, not only our country but also around the world. Some might say, or be tempted to say that it’s the worst time ever, but if we look back through history, there have been many times of disagreements and fighting and war. There are also people who, while we have gone through eras of peace and prosperity, have wrongfully been held back because of their race or religion or anything else that people might be held down for. When the world healed for us, things have stayed the same, or even gone further into the valley of despair. 

As Christians we have faith and trust in God that things will get better, as it has always seemed to do, and that peace and love will increase, but if we want people to know that we are Christians by our love, we should more openly show that love to ALL people, including all those who are equally deserving of prosperity and peace but who have not received it. 
 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: 

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy. 

 

O divine Master, grand that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

(Peace prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi)

Peace,

Lynda Tysdal