Revelation 3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
This message for the church in Philadelphia (in western Turkey, not eastern US) was a joyful message. Jesus says that this small church has a path to do good things that can’t be changed by evildoers. The possibilities for good are endless when you hold fast to God’s will. He speaks a true word to the small church. It doesn’t matter how big a church you are. What matters is how faithful a church you are. If a church (like yours) keep’s the word of God and not given into worldliness, God can do good things with you, not matter how big or small a church is. Every church in Revelation is different and so is every church in America. Every church is a different reflection of God’ goodness. Infinite goodness is reflected in every good church in different ways, and in each of us Christians.
Good Lord, show us the path to goodness that we may bring joy to the world as the church in Philadelphia did.
Psalm 16 1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Have you ever felt that you were worthless? I have. I make a stupid statement without thinking. I make an error which wastes a great deal of time. I am careless with a machine that could harm somebody. Nowadays, I stop myself when I say that to myself. It doesn’t help. In fact, if you think you’re worthless you are MORE likely to make mistakes than if you think well of yourself. David (who wrote this Psalm) understood that all good things come directly or indirectly from God. Either God made it or made someone or something that made a good thing. Practically, this means problems whenever we step out on our own apart from God. If we are not praying to do God’s will and remain humble, we can do much harm. And even if we do good to others, we must beware. We can do good not to simply do good, but instead to show off, or do good only to prove that we are good people. Whenever we step away from God, we (and others) are in danger. But when we stay in touch with God through prayer, God can guide us and protect us.
Holy God, help us to lean on you, and never stray from your presence. Amen
Timothy 2:11-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
Who was the most selfless person in your life? A parent? Grandparent? Teacher? I can think of several people who were in different ways. My father, when I was younger. He worked 60+ hours a week to support our family. My mother when I was older. She worked outside the home, yet did nearly all of the cooking and cleaning in our house. I can remember in school the teachers who would jump to get to me when I needed help, and always had time when I needed it.
Yet clearly the final answer of the most selfless person for all of us was Christ. He was surely selfless: coming down from heaven, living and teaching and then dying on the cross. What does it mean to die with God in verse 11 above? It means to be as selfless as Christ was.
Lord, teach me to set aside my ego and live for others selflessly. Give me the courage to follow your example. Amen.
1 Kings 15:1-3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. 3 He committed all the sins that his father did before him; his heart was not true to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father David.
Much of the Old Testament is filled with histories, with places, times and events that seem almost irrelevant to us. In Kings and Chronicles, the kings of Israel are evaluated one by one. Many are evil, some are average. A few are extraordinarily good. Even the good kings occasionally sinned badly, as David did with Bathsheba. What would it look like if we likewise evaluated the goodness of our presidents the same way? Our system of government guards against dictators, but I suspect we would find them more like the kings of Israel than we’d like to admit. It is hard to control power that others give you, and to use it wisely. We can thank God that we do not have power like that, and we should pray for those who do. The Bible is primarily a set of books that tell the story of who we are, who God is, how we relate to God and vice versa. Histories like the verses above really help us to understand ourselves, and how much we need God’s help to live as good people.
Wise God, show us who we are and teach us how to use the power we have as your children ought to. Amen.
Deuteronomy 24:14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns.
I have been horrified by recent scenes on TV and the internet of police actions and protester actions. I have witnessed the aftermath of such actions as I travelled through Minneapolis to help those poor who, since the riots, have had limited access to food. The vast majority of these Mpls poor are NOT rioters.
Many in this country are poor laborers, as there were in Israel. The laborers in Israel were oppressed, otherwise there would be no need of the pronouncement of Deut. 24:14 above. So many of the poor laborers in this country are oppressed, too. All races can be poor workers, and race doesn’t really matter. All races hurt.
Poor workers in America are feeling the COVID-19 crisis far more than others. Their risk is higher. Their infection rate is higher. Their unemployment rate is higher. Their access to testing and hospital care is limited. All that is just as true outstate as it is in the inner city. Inner city poor are worse off, however. They live packed in poor neighborhoods prone to disturbances when people get stressed. Disturbances in Mpls. and elsewhere across the country show that. Now essential stores have been destroyed. What is the Christian thing to do?
Good Lord, as you challenged Israel, so challenge us. Challenge us to rethink how we Americans treat the poor of this country, whether resident or no-residents. Help us as a society to do better. Amen.
Psalm 27:13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Yesterday morning, Erika and I were unable to “go to church” (view our on-line service). We were busy. How? Buying and organizing groceries. Erika works as a fundraiser for an inner-city Minneapolis Lutheran school. After the recent riots, all of the grocery stores in that area were closed. Thousands of people were left without access to food of any sort. Because poor folks often live hand-to-mouth, many of the families of the children who attend the school had nothing to eat. These people had had nothing to do with the unfortunate destruction of property there, yet were suffering for it. Most of them had no vehicles and busses weren’t running, either. Spontaneously on Saturday, the teachers of Erika’s school got together via Zoom and planned how to handle the situation. Donors gave thousands of dollars, food was bought and brought in, scores of volunteers descended on the school. We handed out the food on Sunday afternoon. I saw ‘the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Good Lord, we bring your goodness to others. Help us to help others during this unsettling time. Amen
Psalm 27:4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 4 One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
Churches are wonderful, comforting buildings. We especially realize the “comfort” part, now that we have been deprived of meeting together for nearly 3 months. We can’t inquire in his temple very easily now days. Or can we?
Most churchgoers really appreciate beautiful church buildings. Ironically, most church buildings are more “beautiful” now that they are empty. No people to mess up the building means maintenance folks from around the country have finally gotten “caught up” with all those chores they just never seem to get to. The perfect church would be a work of art, a museum to God, untouched by human hands. Or would it?
Beautiful is not the same as comforting. A place can really be “homey” only when it is well-used and well loved. It’s people that make a church comfortable. It’s God and people together that make a building holy and special.
How do you connect with other people without a church building? How do you connect to God without a building? It is good that we learn how to do just that, because even when things are normal, most of us are out of churches far more than in churches. We must learn to live “in the house of the Lord” at all times, not just on Sunday. Then, when in-building services are restored, it will be a boost to an already established Christian life.
Almighty God, teach me how to live in your house always, not just during worship on Sunday morning. Amen.