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Devotions from Pastor Glen - the week of 5-24-20

5/30/20

Romans 9:18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 So then he (God) has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

Paul, Paul, Paul! He is so hard to understand. In Romans he makes long arguments in Romans about why God acts as God does. Here he talks about the fact God chooses some for salvation and not others. Does God harden hearts? Do we choose to be hard or do circumstances beyond our control simply make us hard? The simple answer is that we truly don’t know why some get salvation and others don’t. It is one of life’s mysteries. I can’t believe God is simply being arbitrary. Yet there are hints of the type of person God connects with. My sister Barb is quite different than either of my parents, or anyone else in our family. My parents had a hard time connecting with her because she was more distant. Did they love her less because of that distancing tendency? No. But they related to her far less, because no matter how much they tried to draw her close, she remained distant. Maybe God offers mercy to those whom God knows will accept that mercy. Joseph did. Jacob did. David did. Paul did. Those who remain distant from God (even when approached) have, at least in part, chosen to do so. Beyond that I simply don’t know.

Merciful God, we thank you for the gifts of salvation and mercy that we can’t quite understand. Amen.
5/29/20

Romans 9:18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 So then he (God) has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.
Paul, Paul, Paul! He is so hard to understand. In Romans he makes long arguments in Romans about why God acts as God does. Here he talks about the fact God chooses some for salvation and not others. Does God harden hearts? Do we choose to be hard or do circumstances beyond our control simply make us hard? The simple answer is that we truly don’t know why some get salvation and others don’t. It is one of life’s mysteries. I can’t believe God is simply being arbitrary. Yet there are hints of the type of person God connects with. My sister Barb is quite different than either of my parents, or anyone else in our family. My parents had a hard time connecting with her because she was more distant. Did they love her less because of that distancing tendency? No. But they related to her far less, because no matter how much they tried to draw her close, she remained distant. Maybe God offers mercy to those whom God knows will accept that mercy. Joseph did. Jacob did. David did. Paul did. Those who remain distant from God (even when approached) have, at least in part, chosen to do so. Beyond that I simply don’t know.

Merciful God, we thank you for the gifts of salvation and mercy that we can’t quite understand. Amen


5/28/20

Luke 6:3-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 3 Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” 5 Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

I have been thinking about ways of doing church during this pandemic. We come to worship in a building that is often empty or nearly so during the week. At the church I serve, before COVID-19 there were piano lessons and an occasional class or group. But for the most part it was empty except for Sunday morning. Now, in the midst of this viral challenge, the church is empty except for a few people and few hours on Wednesday when we tape the weekly service. In other words, not much has changed. Maybe things should change. Can we afford a mostly empty building in the future? How can we use it more for God’s kingdom? It is easy to fall into patterns, ways of doing things. Those patterns can become rigid in our minds, just like it was for the Pharisees back in Jesus’ day. Jesus and his disciples broke those rules today when they harvested a bit of grain on the Sabbath to eat as they were walking along. To the Pharisees that was forbidden Sabbath work. To the disciples it was survival. How have your ways of relating to God changed during the Coronavirus shutdown? Are those changes truly bad, or just different, and maybe even better?

Lord of the Sabbath, help us to discern the good and bad that this pandemic has wrought. May we cling to the good we have discovered or rediscovered in this crisis, and not simply return to our previous lives. Amen

5/27/20

Nahum 1:7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him…

Nahum is a Biblical book we hardly hear from. There are very few commentaries on it. We don’t read it in church. Nahum predicts the fall of wicked Ninevah. The reason is that Nahum is overshadowed by another prophet predicting the fall of the great Assyrian city Ninevah. That prophet was Jonah. When Jonah convinced Ninevah to repent, God saved the city from destruction.
But a generation later, Ninevah was back to its wicked ways so Nahum (and not long after the prophet Zephaniah) spoke out against Ninevah. Before long, it was destroyed. A modern equivalent to Ninevah might be New Orleans. New Orleans’ “big easy” corruption extends to it government, and so it was especially hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, and now has been devastated by COVID-19.
Nahum tells us good people are hardy and strong. Corrupt people are weak at heart, and will fail sooner or later. They can’t cope well when a crisis hits. That’s why cities like Ninevah- and New Orleans- are doomed to destruction. If we follow God, however, our very God-given character will protect us in hard times. That’s the way we were intended to live, as God’s good people.

Good God, give us sound character so we can withstand the storms of life. We put our refuge in you. Amen.

5/26/20

Esther 5 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Esther is a hard book for us modern people to connect with. We have a hard time imagining the culture of Jews stuck in captivity in Persia. Even harder is the fact that God is nowhere mentioned in this book. Esther is more of a cultural history than a religious one, though it does mention how one of the Jewish religious festivals got started. Several times in Christian history it was almost thrown out of our Bible. Yet we have it now. What can we gather from it? In the quote above, a young woman dared to approach a king uninvited. She risked her life to do so. She did it to save her people. I believe God gave her the courage to do so. In fact, there is a translation of the book in Greek that includes a prayer to God to give her courage. It’s included in what we call the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is part of Catholic Bibles but not our Protestant Bibles. We 21st Century folk should remember and honor this book for a couple of reasons. First, like the story of Joseph in Egypt, that God works through history to bring salvation to God’s people. Second, Esther shows us what God uses to do that: us! Just like Joseph, Esther was, for all practical purposes, a slave who rose in favor to do great things for her people. Like Joseph, because of her faith and courage, Esther made great things happen to help others. Like Joseph, She is an inspiration.


God of All History, work through our history today to preserve your church during COVID-19. Inspire us and give us courage to help others. Amen.

5/25/20

Psalm 17:1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) A Prayer of David. 1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.

Once I had a math teacher who was also very compassionate. I did poorly on a test, and he asked me why. I was honest. I told him I’d had a fight with my girlfriend. He gave me another chance. He had me retake it, with some new questions. I have forgotten his name, but not his kindness. I think my honesty was the key. If you speak the truth, you think the truth, as well. And you act on the truth. How does David know his cause is just? Because he speaks and thinks on truth. The more honest you are, the closer you are to what God wants. You know the difference between a just and an unjust cause. That’s why those who understand God well get their prayers answered more often. It’s not favoritism. It’s simply that the honest don’t ask for what God doesn’t want. Then why should we pray? Why doesn’t God act without us? Because God wants us to understand God’s divine nature and wants us to be part of shaping our world.

Just God, show us Your will, so we can help bring justice to the world. Amen.



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