Monthly Archives: April 2007

June 17

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1 Kings 17:8-16

Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 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.
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A little background: Ahab was a king of Israel, and he was the worst, most wicked king ever. He had a little pagan/idolatry problem. When he married Jezebel and started worshiping Baal (a pagan god of fertility), the God of Israel had had enough. Through the prophet Elijah God caused a drought to cover the land. Elijah had to go into hiding so the king wouldn’t kill him. At first he hid by a river, and the birds brought him food (kind of like Snow White). But then the river dried up (remember the drought), so in this text God tells Elijah to go stay with a widow in Zarephath. One thing that really jumped out at us: the woman has only a little meal left, just enough for one last supper for her and her son. Elijah promises her the jar won’t run out, and then asks her to give him a little meal first. That’s the magic moment: a miracle has been promised but not seen. In the moment, the woman has to sacrifice, to give up her last little bit of food, trusting the promise. It’s an amazing example of faith—faith as action, faith as taking the risky, fateful step, trusting that the promise will come true. We are prudent Presbyterians living in a hedge-your-bets world. What might it mean to step out in faith like this, for us as individuals and a community? What might it mean to risk what we’ve got, trusting that there will always be enough?

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June 3

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
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The text for this Sunday is really the Proverbs text, but I included the 1 Cor. text to give you a hint where I’m going. The Proverbs text is this famous (or, in some quarters, infamous) poem about the wisdom of God, personified as a female (possibly a child), the first born of creation, dancing before God. Here and elsewhere it is suggested that the “wisdom of God” is built into creation itself; i.e., the very ground we walk on and the air we breathe is filled with God’s wisdom. So what is God’s wisdom? The 1 Cor. text shows how the early Christians understood this. Christ, particularly Christ crucified, showed us God’s wisdom. This seems to suggest that what we see in the cross—the suffering love of God—is the very foundation of reality, the basic stuff of life. How might our lives be different if we imagined as the foundation of everything, not “power” as traditionally understood, but God’s suffering love?

May 27

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Pentecost!

Romans 8:14-17

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Our conversations at the LSG focused on the second line: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” Sometimes it seems like we live as slaves to fear, whether as individuals, as a congregation, or as a culture. We fear so many things: death, of course, but also loss of control, loss of freedom, loss of meaning. This text calls us to boldness. We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” — an amazing calling. But there is one little caveat: “if, in fact, we suffer with him.” Christ suffered because he loved. (The word “passion” has this double meaning: both what we’re passionate about (what we love) and also what causes us to suffer (as in, The Passion of the Christ).) We live out our bold calling by loving what Christ loved, being passionate about what Christ was passionate about.

May 20

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(off-lectionary)
Confirmation (11am)
prayer and witness for Colombia (9am)

1 John 3.1-2, 3.18-24, 4.10-12

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

In the LSG we talked about this text reminding us of baptisms, since the first sentence is one that is often used in baptismal liturgy. John here kind of gives a commission to the baptized. Since on this day we confirm youth, using this text that was used at their baptism is particularly appropriate–as they confirm the faith of the church, their own faith, and the promises that were made for them are now promises they take up for themselves.

We discussed some key sentences: “what we will be has not yet been revealed” and “let us love in truth and action” and “since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” Ultimately we came down to the last sentence, though: that when we love one another, people see God. Everything begins with God’s love, and our task is to reveal God through love of others. God’s love is contagious!