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July 8

“Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:14 (NIV) 

Many who heard Jesus were astounded They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!” Mark 6:2

What people are referred to in Isaiah? If you read back a few verses it becomes apparent that it is the hypocrites. As one commentator writes “the sure doom of hypocrisy would come upon the hypocrites: not loving the light, they would lose the light they had.” Those verses talk about those who come to God with words, just repeating a formula they have learned, yet their hearts are far from God. Now they will see wonders as God is getting their attention. Another translation of Isaiah 29:14 from the Good News translation: “So I will startle them with one unexpected blow after another. Those who are wise will turn out to be fools, and all their cleverness will be useless.”

Those who think they are wiser than God, who know better than Him what to do, and who think they are clever enough to do their own thing will be startled by God’s actions. He will finally get their attention with “wonders in judgment” as one note says, and they might now really listen. Isaiah goes on to tell of the good things that will happen to others:  the humble rejoicing in the Lord and the needy rejoicing in the Holy one of Israel (Isaiah 29:19.) The land will be restored and those “who have an eye for evil will be cut down.”

Now we move to the Newer Testament and read in Mark that Jesus, preaching in his hometown, was astounding His listeners. Astound – his listeners were amazed, astonished, surprised, shocked – by what they heard from Him and what they saw happening. There were miracles happening, people were healed, and raised from the dead among other wonders. Yet many of the people took offense because they knew Him so well – they knew his family, his mother, sisters and brothers and knew him as a carpenter. Mark says Jesus could not do miracles there, except laying on of hands to cure the sick, because of the lack of faith of many of the people. Their lack of faith was something that amazed Jesus!

God does astounding things every day – Creation itself, new life, growing plants, people inspired to help others in need. Young people organizing and leading marches to get justice for all. Healing and comfort for all. We need to listen and see what God is doing each and every day and see what He wants us to do in this world.  

We confess, Father, that we look without seeing, listen without hearing and consider your wonders without comprehending. Open our eyes and awaken our sleeping hearts to respond to the glories that surround us on every side. Hep us to learn from Jesus how to love you and all you have created. Help us follow Jesus’ example of humbleness as we serve those around us. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

July 6

As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20.

On a special anniversary, my husband and I decided to splurge and go to a pricey restaurant for dinner.  Our waitress asked if we were celebrating and we told her of the number of our years together.  Our dessert was fancy and had a sparkler in it. A gentleman across the room, dining with his wife and friends, asked the waitress what we were celebrating.  When we had finished eating, the waitress came and told us that we had no bill, the gentleman across the room had paid for our dinner!

What a grace filled moment for us.  And for that man, I hope.  What his motivation was is a mystery.  But I think maybe God had a hand in it.

That story is a dramatic example of someone bestowing grace on others.  (We did not earn this gift).  But grace abounds in many stories if we but open our eyes and our hearts and pay attention.  The present pandemic has brought us many stories of people showing grace to others.  Although I cannot thank God for this frightening, killer virus, I praise him for the love he has put into people’s hearts and minds enabling them to do remarkable and loving things.

We live in community made up of many selves.  It is in that community where we can lose ourselves and love our neighbors.  It’s not that easy to do but we are called to do it.  And in doing it, we find our true selves.

Don and I plan to “pay it forward”.  I pray that when we do, that person or persons feels as blessed as we do.

Good and gracious God, give us eyes to see where grace abounds in our lives and in the whole world.  Thank you.  Amen
Joan Perlich

July 1

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24 

Anyone who loves God is known by him. I Corinthians 8:3

I was just listening to some summer pool safety tips. In grad school I learned a lot about the dangers of swimming pools (and swimming in lakes too) and the program reminded me that the number one cause of death for kids 1-4 is drowning. What can help prevent this? Some basic things like locked fences around pools, wearing proper flotation devices, teaching kids to swim.  But the main 3 things were: an adult must be watching all the time. For non-swimmers and the little kids, someone needs to be within arm’s length of the child. And, the one that reminded me of Jeremiah – remove the pool toys when the adult is not right there, maybe playing too. Kids cannot be seen behind some of these toys and they could go under and drown before anyone notices. They could be hidden from those watching.  Parents and other adults need to know the children, their abilities and to be continually on watch.

Our verses for today both talk about God knowing us, about Him seeing us; there is nowhere for us to hide. Some may see this continual watching by God as a scary thing. After all, we aren’t always acting the way we think we should. Isn’t this sort of like kids as Christmas nears? Santa is watching and looking for the naughty and nice. The nice, well-behaved child gets the good stuff; the naughty child gets the coal in their stockings. And Jeremiah tells us that God fills heaven and earth, there is nowhere to hide. No large pool toys to hide behind. So, maybe we have a scary vengeful God, just watching and waiting for us to disobey.

Luckily, that is not the situation. God’s watching is that of a caring parent. One who knows each and every one of us very well. He sees us wherever we are – but as a protective, loving God. One who is ready to listen to us, and to speak to us. Think of a shepherd who watches over the flock of sheep, keeping an eye on all of them since sheep are not the brightest animals around. Keeping them safe from danger and leading them to food and good water. Watching closely to protect them. Sometimes we may feel that God is not close to us. Jeremiah in verse 23:24 tells us that God is both near to us, and far away in that He is everywhere. This all powerful and all-knowing God actually has a personal relationship with all of His Creation. We can only thank Him for watching over us.

Merciful God, even when we feel that you are far away, help us to always remember your love and mercy. Help us feel the sound of you all around us in the wind in the trees, voices of others, and our own thoughts. Forgive us when our worries in this life overcome our reliance on you. May we always hear you with thankfulness when you call our names. Help us to do your will. In Jesus’ Name. Amen 

Chris Gabel

June 30

When You said “Seek My Face”, my heart said to You, “.Your Face O Lord, I shall seek”.  Psalm 27:8

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God.  Philippians 4:6

You enter a crowded room, looking for a friend. You stand on tiptoes, searching all around, your arm raised, ready to wave.  So many bodies, so many faces.

Faces are important.  All are different but all the same.  Each face has a nose, two eyes, a mouth.  But some faces are round, some long, some square.  Some faces are bright and friendly, ready to smile at any moment. Some are grim, maybe sad, some faces avoid you while some look straight into your eyes.  Some eyes are brown, some green, some blue or even black.  Yes, faces are important.  How would we recognize each other without a face.

God asks us to seek him, to seek his face.  Like the writer of Psalm 27, we are eager to do so.  But how?  We can gaze at the clouds, the sun, the flowers, the trees and all creation.  Or we can enter that crowded room again and search the faces, brown, white, black. And if we are expectant and reverent, we can see God in each of them.

“Breathe on me, breath of God, Fill me with life anew,

That I may love all that you love

And do what you would do.”  Amen

Joan Perlich

Hymn, #488, Lutheran Book of Worship, first verse

June 29

Daniel said, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me.” Daniel 6:22

We are persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:9

Daniel and the Lions’ Den is one of the first Old Testament stories that every child remembers from Sunday School. Daniel refused to stop praying to the one true God; therefore, his harsh punishment was to be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel continued to pray, and throughout the long night the lions did not touch him. Daniel was freed unharmed in the morning.

Faith is a seed that grows to fill our hearts, minds, and lives as long as we live. At times our faith is tested, but we have learned, as in the verse from 2 Corinthians, that we can suffer in many ways, but we cannot be destroyed. God is there; God knows our every trial and suffering; God hears our cries for help; God is on our sides; he cares; he redeems us, his children.

Will we have doubts, sorrows, and cares that seem too heavy to bear? We will, but we need to accept the help of those around us and believe that God is there for us and will not forsake us. God will never forsake us.

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Thank you for being there for us even when we face difficulties greater than we ever thought we could bear. You protect us from the evil one. We are your beloved children, marked with your cross. We have nothing to fear. Amen.

Florence Smallfield

June 24

For as the earth brings forth its shoots…so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Isiah 61:11 

A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:18

What is righteousness? The dictionary says it is “morally right or justifiable; virtuous.”  It means to behave with morals or basically to be good. (For those into recent uses it also can mean “very good, or excellent as in ‘righteous bread pudding’.”) So, righteousness would seem to be something to aspire to, something we want to be in our relationships with God and with our neighbors. However, it can be hard to be virtuous all the time we manage to not be so good many times.

In James we read that seeds of righteousness are sown in peace. Think about sowing seeds in your garden, or the farmers sowing in their fields. Sowing is done in peace; it doesn’t happen in the middle of brawls, or strife or armed camps. In contrast in verse 16 we are told that envy and selfish ambition lead to disorder. (and every evil practice too.) We are then to be sowing peacefully. As verse 17 says, good fruit includes being impartial and sincere, and full of mercy. Peacemakers are praised here, just like in the Sermon on the Mount. It can be really hard to be a peacemaker; we often want to leap in and just argue our own position without listening to others. Too difficult to do on our own, this something we need help with. We can get help from others who are doing this, from taking the time to listen and think, and then act. James says we get help with this with the wisdom that comes from heaven, from God. We are not alone.

God has provided righteousness for us already. In Isaiah 61:10 it says, “for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” .God provides not out of anything we have done or could manage to do but out of His abundance grace and care for His creation.

Patient God, we need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help us be agents of peace, justice, and love, and to lead us to serve those who are treated unjustly or are oppressed. Teach us the way of peacemaking. Show us today a situation where we can make wrong become right. We seek to follow the teaching of our Lord: to love one another as sisters and brothers this day and forever more. Amen.

Chris Gabel

June 22

“O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night?”  Jeremiah 14:8

“But the disciples urged Jesus strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’  So he went in to stay with them.”  Luke 24:29

A common picture I remember from childhood is a picture of Jesus knocking on a door.  What would I do if Jesus, visibly, rang my doorbell?  Would I welcome him inside without a second thought?  Would I stall, have my husband keep him waiting outside, while I scramble to hide reading, certain glasses, and other “behavioral evidence”?  Would I change how I talk with my family?  Would I want him around indefinitely, or would his presence cramp our style?  We forget – because we don’t take time to think about it – that God watches as we sleep, as we greet and live each new day, our going out and our coming in, knowing our innermost thoughts and seemingly unseen actions.

The disciples walking to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus when he stopped to talk with them.  Mary did not recognize his voice in the garden.  Martha felt a clean house and food on the table would mean more to Jesus than good conversation.  Peter would deny ever knowing him. 

Though these don’t look like “the picture”, Jesus comes to be with us in the quiet, in nature, in the needs of others, in the comfort and caring of those who love us.  We pray that our thoughts, our speech and actions, our hospitality will be worthy of the divine.  As Paul reminds us, the stranger we welcome – or turn away – may be an angel in disguise, even Jesus himself.  Once you invite him in …..… he never leaves.

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest …”  and stay.  Help us see you in others, to treat them with kindness and respect, and to love them as we would want to be loved.  I pray that you will help me live so that others will see your light in me.  Amen

Verla Olson

June 17, 2020

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Psalm 100:2 

Give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance of the saints in the light. Colossians 1:12

The theme for today is thankfulness. Thankfulness includes feeling gratitude and expressing appreciation. Psalm 100 is a psalm for giving thanks. Go ahead and read through the whole psalm, it doesn’t take long to read all five verses. We are urged to do this as we worship the Lord. Is this how we worship? It may seem that we think, oh it’s the weekend, we have to go to church and make it through an hour-long service. Just going through the motions, following along, listening to the music but not really singing along. Yet the Psalmist says we should enter God’s presence with singing – maybe we should sing as we enter the sanctuary? That would certainly catch people’s attention. (At least when the pandemic finally allows us to worship in sanctuaries again.)

The first portion of Colossians is titled “Thanksgiving and Prayer.” The two go together, part of prayer is to give thanks to God. Paul writes in this letter against being over ceremonial –or lots of rules about food, drink, and festivals. The emphasis is on the simple gratitude for all that God has done for us, thankfulness, giving thanks to God, the Father, our creator. The one who sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit so that we could all be saints. That sounds like something to be thankful for!

With all the difficulties in our world today it might be hard to think of anything to be thankful for. Separation from others, perhaps depression, and anger at recent events all make it a bit difficult to live in thankfulness. Perhaps we should be starting each day with thanks to God for the morning, for the sun or the rain, for the heat or the cold, for all the beauty of nature and for all the good people that He created. For all the problems, depression, and anger we experience we know that God is with us, all of us. He will give us the strength to help others as we work on solving these major problems. As the Psalmist wrote in 100:1 – Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, we offer praise unto you and sing, “Glory Alleluia.” May our praise be a sweet incense to you. Father of light, we are your children. We know that you inhabit the praise of your people and we are strengthened by our praises. Help us to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

June 10

The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.  I Kings 17:16 

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, [Jesus] gave thanks and broke the loaves. The he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. Mark 6:41-42 NIV

Our verses today deal with God supplying what is needed. In both situations it appeared that there was nowhere near enough food. In I Kings 17, we read of a drought all over the land. Elijah has been sent to an area with water and ravens to feed him, but the water dries up. God tells him to go to a place where a widow lives who will give him water. He gets there, asks for water and a little bread. She will go get the water but for food there is only enough flour and oil for one more meal; she and her son will eat that and then die. Elijah tells her to use that to make a small meal for him, and then make something for her and her son. She does as he asks, and we have verse 16: the jar of meal was not emptied, and there was always oil. She and her son were provided for as long as the drought lasted.

Jesus feeding the 5,000 is a familiar story. So important that it is related in all 4 gospels. Jesus takes the contribution of one person, and, after giving thanks, breaks the bread and has it distributed. Truly a miracle to feed so many from what seemed like so little. Maybe that inspired others to take out food they had brought and share with others which would also be a miracle. I think Jesus might have been around here these past two weeks. A school asked for 87 bags of food supplies with a specific list of needs; they received 20,000. Cars were lined up for 14 blocks by one estimate to donate food and baby supplies and paper products.

There is an abundance of things in this world that God created and filled with supplies for us. We are to be good stewards of this earth. Unfortunately, products are not always evenly distributed. Many have more than enough, and maybe too much. I read that some rent storage units and just fill them with the extra stuff that they never actually use. Others don’t have enough. Kids that don’t have three nourishing meals a day. Not enough money for safe housing, or clean clothes that fit. Parents in need of diapers and other baby supplies while others have enough to waste.

For the widow and her son, they were near death. For the crowd, there would have been thousands of hungry people. Yet God was able to make bounty appear from nothing. Often we feel that all we have to contribute is such a small amount that it won’t make any difference. Yet we can all do something; we can start by listening. Listen to what the needs are. Meet those needs we can and join with others to do more. Thank God for all He has given us and ask for His help in sharing.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for a bountiful world. Thank you for providing meal and oil for the widow, and multiplying the fish and bread for the crowds. Save us from times of worry when we lose sight of your faithful provision to your people. Use us to feed the hungry and clothe the poor in this world. God our provider, our hearts praise and sing with gratitude for your merciful provision in our depths of need. Hallelujah, praise the Lord, for his excellent greatness! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen

Chris Gabel

June 8

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.”  Isaiah 40:2

“The 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

I grew up with the King James Bible.  I recalled (double-checked my old Bible) that the KJ translation of Isaiah 40:2 used the word “warfare” rather than “service”.  That old word speaks to me today, if not tenderly.

Seventy-six years after D-Day, 75 years after WWII ended, the current National Geographic features interviews with some few remaining WWII survivors.  The author sought out not just US soldiers but British, Russian, German, and Japanese; nurses and decoders; Holocaust and bombing survivors.  Different people are quite alike.  Peace treaties signed, hats tossed into the air – for many the war didn’t end.  They relived and dreamed war with all its inhumanity.  A Tuskegee airman said “I just want them to be remembered as good citizens who helped protect their country ‘even in the face of discrimination’.”  There would be such “battles” for decades to come … even to this day. 

Many of us still live and dream the demons of fear and mistrust, having fought in a war or not.  Made in the image of God we can be quite ungodlike.  The human race is not capable of overcoming jealousy and lust for power; greed and misuse of resources without regard for future generations.  Of course, Isaiah was speaking about a Savior … and we surely need one.

If we, as individuals, can’t go into the mix with a shovel and broom, we serve peaceful purpose being open minded, kind and hospitable.  Last Wednesday on my morning neighborhood jaunt I saw something new.  A nearby neighbor had placed a statue of St. Francis by his doorstep … a reminder I need to pray the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.  Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.  Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.  Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy …”  Amen

Verla Olson