Monday, October 28, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

"Zacchaeus' tree", Jericho, Palestine, via Wikimedia Commons
Lectionary readings for this Sunday include Psalm 119:137-144 and Luke 19:1-10. The passage from the Gospel of Luke tells the well-known story of Zacchaeus. After reading the text a couple of times, consider the following:
  1. What was Zacchaeus' profession?
  2. Why was he unable to see Jesus?
  3. What does he do to overcome this obstacle?
  4. What were Jesus' first words to Zacchaeus?
Finally, on your journey toward Sunday, ponder one last question: "When was the last time I put forth a great deal of effort to be with Jesus?"

Our worship this Sunday will include the celebration of All Saints' Day.

Come, let us worship our Lord and give thanks for those who, while they walked the earth, enriched our lives in endless ways.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector via Google Images

In preparation for worship this Sunday, read Luke 18:9-14. In this reading, to whom is Jesus speaking? What is the prayer of the Pharisee? In contrast, what is the prayer of the tax collector?

May the following excerpt from Albert Nolan's book, Jesus Before Christianity: The Gospel of Liberation help you imagine the radical nature of Jesus' teaching in this parable. 
It is difficult for us to imagine the shock with which the parable of the publican and the Pharisee must have been received. The Pharisee is depicted as an exemplary man of religion. He does even more than is required of him by law: he fasts twice a week. There is no suggestion that he was a hypocrite. He does not take the credit for his own virtue; he thanks God for it. The publican or tax collector, on the other hand, although he asks God for mercy, makes no attempt to mend his ways and to make restitution for all the money he has [likely] stolen.
Jesus' verdict on these two men must have sounded outrageous. The sinner is pleasing to God and the virtuous man is not. Why? Because the sinner did not exalt himself as superior to men like the tax collector...[The Pharisee lacked compassion.] Without compassion all religious practices and beliefs are useless and empty...
 ...The piety and good works of the dutiful religious man made him feel that God was on his side. He did not need God's mercy and forgiveness; that was what others needed. The sinner, on the other hand, was well aware of his desperate need for mercy and forgiveness and of his need to change his life...
I find it particularly interesting that in the end, both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in need of the same thing but in different ways and for different reasons. What they both needed most was the love of Jesus. 

As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday. Until then, may the Lord bless you and those you love.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lord's Prayer by James Tissot via Wikimedia Commons

In worship this Sunday, we will look carefully at Luke 11:1-13. The first section of this reading is Jesus' response to a request from the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray." In the second section Jesus provides an example of persistent prayer.

Take some time to sit quietly with the text, reading it through at least twice. During the first read-through, you might simply note what intrigues you most. During the second reading, you might try to put yourself in the story, perhaps as one of the disciples or as the friend who is seeking bread for an unexpected guest. How do you hear Jesus' teaching from this point of view?

Finally, consider the following:
  1. Someone else has been teaching his disciples how to pray. Who?
  2. How does Jesus' model prayer begin?
  3. What other components are present in the prayer?
  4. Why does the man go to his friend's house at midnight?
  5. What is the result of the man's persistence?
  6. What "good gifts" do you seek from the Father's generous hand? How persistent are you?
As you journey toward Sunday, may the Lord bless you and those whom you love.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

Via Google Images
In preparation for worship this Sunday, read through Luke 17:11-19 two or three times, slowly and prayerfully. Who are the main characters? What intrigues you most? In your own faith walk, when have you cried out to the Lord, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!"? When have you bowed before the Lord with a cry of thanksgiving?

May the following prayer penned by Bernard Thorogood allow you to experience the gospel reading on a deeper level:

Healing God, we praise you for the Christ

who, without fear, met those with leprosy

and gave them new life.

May that healing touch

reach the fears and darkness of our world.

Touch us, caring Jesus,

            to take from our hearts

            that fear which makes us keep our distance

            from all deep agony.

Touch us, caring Jesus,

            to heal that fear for ourselves

            which bars us from understanding

            mental illness, disfigurement and the approach of death.

Touch those, caring Jesus

            who have been segregated, rejected, cast adrift

            because they offend our competitive society.

And touch with hope, healing Jesus,

            those who give themselves to combat

            grim illness and all that threatens life.

            I am come that they may have life

            and may have it in all its fullness.

            Even so, come, Lord Jesus.[i]

As you journey toward Sunday, may the Lord richly bless you and those whom you love.


[i] Bernard Thorogood, in A Restless Hope: Prayer Handbook 1995.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

Image via Google Images

In preparation for worship, read Luke 17:5-10. What strikes you as most important about this passage? Take time to read it a second time, paying particular attention to what happens around the "table." 

Sunday, October 6 is World Communion Sunday. In light of our celebration, I invite you to meditate on the following blessing written by Jan Richardson.

And the Table Will Be Wide
A Blessing for World Communion Sunday[i]

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere
will be the feast.

As you journey toward Sunday, may you be blessed by the warm rays of the sun and the sure knowledge of God's embrace.

[i] Jan Richardson @