2 Samuel 6:18-19 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
Over the 4th of July weekend our neighborhood was filled with the noise and smells of people hosting cookouts and parties. I think because last year we were in the midst of the pandemic, this year people went all out with their celebrations. In the passage above David has just completed bringing the Ark of the Covenant (Yep, that’s the one in the Raiders of the Lost Ark) into his newly established capital of Jerusalem. David was thrilled by this and threw a grand party complete with lots of food. Even with all the difficulties of life, and they are very real, there is so much to celebrate. Is God part of those celebrations? Are our reasons to celebrate and our ability to do so a result of what God has given us? Are they a way we can bless others “in the name of the Lord Almighty?” What are you celebrating this summer and why are you celebrating it?
1 Samuel 17:11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. The Philistine was the giant Goliath. He challenged a representative of Israel to come fight him to the death- winner takes all for his army. Goliath was big. The Israelites were scared. Fear is a gift from God. It can restrain us from doing something stupid or dangerous. But it can also keep us from being faithful or courageous. And the difference isn’t always easy to distinguish. When do you suck it up and take the next step forward and when do you wisely walk away? These are the things that deepen our prayer lives. What is your issue with fear?
1 Samuel 16:7 The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
I am a sports fan and had the childhood dream of playing baseball for a living. I never came even remotely close to that. Now that I am older and cheer on the Phillies, I think about the scouts that look at all the potential young athletes and decide who gets a shot and who doesn’t. Some have the bodies but not the long-term stamina and concentration that it takes to achieve these higher levels of performance. The above verse is told to Samuel, one of the Old Testament prophets, as he was looking for the next king of Israel. We evaluate people based on so many different characteristics: Physical beauty or strength, intelligence, wit and charm, or the ability to make money. In this verse we are told it is the inner qualities that matter more than the outer. How much time, energy and money do we spend developing our inner person as opposed to our outer; our faith, hope and love as opposed to our face, hair and clothes? What about us really matters to God?
1 Samuel 8:1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.
Samuel was a great prophet and as such a great political leader for Israel. This chapter will go on to talk about how the people come to him and ask him to appoint a king over them. Samuel is disappointed but God tells him to appoint a king because it was not Samuel they were rejecting but God himself. However, the verses following the one above explain, “his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” The kings of Israel would do some good things according to the Old Testament, but they would do many more bad things and lead the people to misery and destruction over the long haul. It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Good leaders do not always have children that follow in their ways. All of us are susceptible to the temptation to abuse power. Jesus came as one who would serve and not seek to be served. That is a different type of leadership.
saiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
This is part of the Old Testament reading for Trinity Sunday. One of the interesting features here is the “us.” Who is the “us?” It appears to be all the heavenly council, maybe even an illusion to the Trinity. At the very least, it is more than a “me.” As we think about Memorial Day, we remember that those soldiers didn’t go to war for any individual. They went for a government and a culture and a way of life that needed defending. We pray that no longer will blood be shed in violence. But even as we do, we thank God for those who heard the call to service beyond themselves and gave all in that cause. Who is the “us” that you stand ready to serve? To whom do you say, “Here I am. Send me”?
Ezekiel 37:4 Then [God] said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’”
There are a lot of crazy people in the religious world. There were people a long time ago who would live out their lives on top of a pillar. They are called stylites from the Greek word for pillar. Go ahead, you can google it if you don’t believe me. There are also people who stand on city street corners shouting messages about God. Or some who go from house to house to tell you what you should believe. Most of us have no desire to be those types and think the folks who do them to be strange at best. But look what God asked Ezekiel to do here- talk to a bunch of bones that might not have been there physically but just as a vision. There were those who thought the great prophets of the Bible to be crazy or deluded or even evil. Some thought of Jesus this way. What is the distinction between faithfulness and fanaticism? This past Sunday was Pentecost, a day we focus on the Holy Spirit. Certainly, we use our minds in deciding what to believe, but we don’t use just our mind. If we have faith, it is because something resonates with our minds and our emotions and something mysterious which I’ll call our spirits. This may sound crazy, but Spirit speaks to spirit, I guess. Where did your faith (or lack of faith) come from?
1 John 5:11 This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life. (The Message Bible)
In the park this time of year are dozens of baby geese following adults around n groups. They scurry about among the grasses helping themselves to the food found there. Eventually they make their way to the water to swim and drink, their legs constantly in motion. They are full of life! We see it so pervasively in the spring, this power of life to give life. It is the nature of God to give life, not just for a season or time, but in an endless degree. The message of Jesus in his words and actions is that God gives life, in this world and forever. It is a gift we receive not something we earn or create on our own. God wants us to be as full of life as the baby geese, now and forever, and “the life is in his Son.” How can you grab that gift today?
1 John 5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
This has been called “the most perplexing passage in the Epistle, and one of the most perplexing in the New Testament” (Barclay 127). If water represents baptism and blood the crucifixion this verse would indicate that there were some who believed Jesus became divine at his baptism and that the divine quality didn’t really participate in the death on the cross (after all, how can God die?). It is hard for us to wrap our minds around the statement that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. It is as hard as comprehending the Trinity and the church struggled to find adequate terminology. In the above passage the writer is saying God’s Spirit helps reveal the truth that Jesus was human just like us and died a death in that human body for us. If you have been present at the time of a baby’s birth you may remember water and blood being part of that process as well. Human life is a messy affair. How glorious of God to meet us in that mess!
1 John 4:17, 18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, (The Message Bible)
Is anything as comforting as home? Robert Frost once wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” (The Death of the Hired Man). If you know of homes where love is dominant you know how it embraces all that come to it and emits a measure of grace that says “you are welcome here,” “you are wanted here,” “this is where you belong in this moment.” John says that the ultimate home is not a place per se but the God of love, the God who forgives, the God who says “come to me.” When we are at home in God’s love, we are not trying to earn our keep or prove our worth or live up to some standard. We are where we ought to be and we have something wonderful to share.
1 John 3:23 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. (The Message Bible)
Last night was the Oscars with the famous Red-Carpet show, even if it was a little different this year. These are the beautiful people of Hollywood who embody the look that so many use as a standard and consequently find themselves lacking. Behind the glitz and the glamour is too often the worship of celebrity and the desire to approach it by imitating it or criticizing it. But the really beautiful people are the ones that are unselfconscious, who don’t ask to be admired or esteemed but who are so comfortable with themselves that they make others comfortable too. When we lose ourselves, we often find so much more, like God. It is a wonderfully challenging thought that we get what we ask for because we have developed a heart that wants what it has been given. Not an easy thing to do by human standards, but one of those impossible things the Bible says God makes possible. Bold and free before God! Isn’t that what you really want?