“Revelation 1:8 I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
What are Alpha and Omega? They are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha looks just like our letter capital A and Omega looks like a horseshoe Ω. If you’ve seen the two together on a church altar or parament or pulpit, now you know what they are. We have a similar expression in English, “from A to Z,” which mean “everything.” Notice above that the verbs get all messed up when talking about God, too, because God is outside of time. God is in all times, and in a sense in no time, because God created the universe and time with it. Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. These are comforting words from John’s Revelation. An outbreak of a virus or a even the life of a country is, for God, no time at all. I don’t want to downplay the impact of any event or the suffering it entails. But this passage emphasizes that God is there from time immemorial, to help, support anmd guide us through ALL times. And all times will pass, and in the time to come, we will be together with God in God’s time, forever. That will make the worst that this world has more bearable. Thanks be to God!
God of Eternity, Help set our sights on forever, to remember that all suffering will pass. Amen.
Luke 12:22-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Welcome to May! It’s a gorgeous spring day: 60s and sunny with a slight breeze as I write this. This date, May 1st, used to be called May Day. It takes me back to my childhood, when kids in my neighborhood would exchange May baskets (filled with popcorn and candy) on May 1st like schoolkids today exchange valentines.
It is hard to think about worrying on a lovely day in the beginning of spring. But it isn’t a bad time to be thinking about worrying. When is the best time to prepare for a storm by fixing a leaky roof? It sure isn’t when it’s starting to rain!
Why does Jesus want us to think about worrying? That’s easy. It’s because we spend so much time worrying. We spend so much energy worrying. Some worrying is good, if it encourages us to prepare for bad things that might happen. But most of us go ‘way overboard on worrying.
Scientists have learned that over time, if we worry, we can actually change the chemistry of our brains so we are more anxious. In other words, if we worry a lot, we will worry even more in the future. And we will miss many of the good things in life.
How do we stop this viscous cycle? We prepare for what we can, and trust the rest to God. Turning our thoughts to the good things in life that God has given us, like sunny May days, can surely help us do that.
God of Hope and Beauty, help us to work through our worries quickly and dwell on the lovely parts of the world you have created. Amen.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Today’s Scripture in another example of a verse that many people claim shows a giving standard in the Old Testament. But if you look closely at this verse, the standard is not a standard at all, at least not one that’s being followed. Malachi is complaining because people are bringing less than the 10% tithe. In fact, one can argue that in the OT the 10% tithe was a standard that was more of a goal. Why? It is talked about almost 40 times in the Old Testament.
Only if people are not doing something, do you make a law. Once a law is truly established, leaders don’t complain about people not doing it. There is no sense talking about a law repeatedly if it’s something that people do anyway. The prophet Malachi is prophesying to people are not doing it.
The tithe is a good standard, but it must not be taken as absolute. Some Christians believe 10% is a magic number: you are not blessed when you give 9.95% of your income, but suddenly at 10% you are. It doesn’t work that way. Some people can afford to give 10%, others can’t- God knows that. Other richer people can afford to give 10% without effort. In fact, statistically, poorer people give away a greater percentage of income than the rich, though the amount is less.
What I can say is, the more you give, the more likely you are to be a generous person. The more you can give to someone in need, the more likely their hearts will be transformed. It’s the heart that counts. Don’t get hung up on amounts or percentages. God will bless generous givers.
Lord, Giver of Everything, show me how much money I really need to live on; touch my heart so I can be a good steward of what you give me.
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
It feels to me as though we are being asked to leave our country behind, and travel to a brand-new world. Only it’s not God asking us to leave, it’s Covid-19. Where does that leave us?
God is still with us. If we trust God, we can get through uncertain times. It may not be a comfortable journey. But we are no different than Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Paul, Peter, Martin Luther and anyone else who follows God’s direction. Though God didn’t cause COVID-19, God will lead us through this mess to a better place than we are now.
At times like these, people come back to faith, if they have faith. Times like these burn away everything in life that is not important. Young children may barely remember the Coronavirus, but they will remember spending extra time with their parents (if their parents are not essential workers). My wife Erika will remember her birthday when our teenage kids were willing to play boards games with her. How many happy family memories will we have as a result of this pandemic?
God of Abraham, lead us through these strange times. Help us to focus on you, and on the other basic, essential things in our lives and trust your word. Amen.
I Thessalonians 5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
The early Christians lived as if the world was about to come to an end. When Jesus said he would return, they believed it would be in their lifetime. They knew that earthly security was fragile and transient. At any time, life as they knew it could end and earthly plans could be upended. We in America have lived for the last 50 years in relative stability. There have been no World Wars and no country invading us in that time. Incomes have mostly increased for Americans and, on average, we have more space in our houses than ever before. Even 9/11 was a single event, not the beginning of many such catastrophes. That’s why the coronavirus has hit us so hard. We are simply not used to pandemics, or anything which requires us to change our way of living for an extended time. The early church has much to teach us. The world will change. No security system or army or wealth can protect us from every possible threat. We have seldom lived with the kind of insecurity the early church did. Yet we have seldom lived with the kind of security, the early church had, either. Their trust in earthly things was minimal, but their trust in God was complete. If we learned how to put our trust in God the way the early church did, we might be happier. Not because there are fewer tragedies if we do, but because we would focus beyond these events, and on the stability of eternity.
God of All Power, remind us that earth and its pain are temporary, but your love and joy are eternal. Amen.
Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
It’s not often you hear a Christian quote a verse from Leviticus, a Biblical book of laws. And yet it is important that we Christians have at least a passing familiarity with the book Why, you might say, since Jesus Christ has fulfilled all the laws and we don’t have to worry about them anymore? The reason is simple. To understand the writers of the Old Testament, you need to step into their shoes. Leviticus was one of the five books of Moses, one of the first five books of the Old Testament. To step into the writers’ shoes, you have to understand Leviticus because they did. It was no different for the New Testament writers. Many of them quote Leviticus. If you don’t understand Leviticus, then you can’t understand what Peter says in 1 Peter, for example. The point of Leviticus was to show people how to be holy. The people of Israel were grateful for the book, because with it, they knew how to please God. Without Leviticus, the people of Israel were on shaky ground, because they didn’t know how to please God. And they feared God would punish them when they messed up without meaning to. Being holy had two parts. First, being holy meant understanding what God’s character was like. The closer we get to what God wants for us, the closer we get to God. Second, being holy prepares us for heaven. If we aren’t holy, Heaven might be a confusing and unpleasant place. Being holy prepares us for heaven.
Holy God, we thank you for showing us how to be holy. Help us to bring heaven to earth by being holier. Amen.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Since Christ rose from the dead on that first Easter morning, we Christians are free. How are we free? We have a different relationship with God We are subjects of the King no longer. We are children of God. Christ made us children in his resurrection. We are also free with respect to God’s commandments. No longer do Christians have to deal with the many laws of the Old Testament (616 to be exact). They were a burden to the Jews, because if you broke even one of those laws, you were required to do elaborate rituals to make it up to God. We Christians can ask God’s forgiveness and it’s done. We must not use the law as an excuse (God forgave me, so you have to), however. We do what we can to make up for our sins against others. That is what love does. Our “law,” then, is to love. We have the maturity and responsibility to love others. That is something the Spirit helps us with. With the Holy Spirit helping us, we can make wise decisions as God’s children.
Spirit of God, thank-you for the freedom you give us. Teach us what it means to love more fully each day. Amen.