Easter 5, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Amos 8:1-7

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances.” Amos 8:4-5 (NRSV)

It seems as though every week there’s another news item about another company that has been found engaging in deceitful, predatory, or even dangerous practices in order to cheat their customers and maximize their own profits. Sadly, none of this is new.

In the days of Amos, over seven hundred years before Christ, nearly three thousand years before our present age, injustice was the rule of the day. The trade and commerce that was necessary for a functioning society had been transformed from the exchange of goods and services for a fair price to the hoarding of profits by cheating and exploiting consumers and workers. The poor and needy were forced into slavery while the rich sat back in leisure and ceased to contribute to their community’s well-being.

That injustice caught God’s attention, and it deeply offended him. That was not what he’d created humanity for; it was not what he’d willed for his world. Yet despite how many times we’ve been punished for our greed and injustice, we still persist in turning away from God and taking advantage of others for our own personal comfort and gain.

Jesus Christ is the final word on God’s justice. It’s not too late to turn from our evil ways and seek the one who suffered the greatest injustice of all in order to secure our salvation. If you’re taking advantage of others, turn to Christ and accept his forgiveness, so that you might live a better life. If you’re being taken advantage of by others, turn to Christ and accept his comfort, for he knows your plight and will guide your ways.

Let us pray. God of justice, you desire your people to treat each other fairly and with dignity. Turn us back toward you, that we may know your will and follow your ways of righteousness. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Micah 7:8-20

“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” Micah 7:8 (NRSV)

In this troubled and sinful world, it is easy to lose hope. The powers of greed, hatred, and apathy seem to get the upper hand so often, and those of us who try to live according to the will of the Lord may wonder why we’re fighting so hard when it seems as though we can’t possibly win.

But following the Lord was never promised as the easy road, and our challenge is to remain upright in a fallen world. With all the sin in the world, those who use sin as their weapons and justifications have no shortage of ammunition, and the upright will occasionally suffer defeat.

But though our battle is located in this world, this world does not set the terms of engagement, and this world does not have the last word. The Lord our God transcends this world, and strengthens his people with his divine love. And though it is certain that we will at times fall, God will raise us up again. And though it is certain that we will at times sit in darkness, the holy light of God shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Because though this is a fallen and sinful world, it was the will of the Father to send his Son not to condemn the world, but to save it.

Let us pray. Savior God, you are the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. Grant us the courage to remain true to you, that we may not lose our hope in difficult times. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 95

“In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.” Psalm 95:4-5 (NRSV)

Where can you go to see the wonders of God? Anywhere! Where can you go to be sheltered in God’s loving hand? Everywhere!

All the world and everything in it is God’s. He lovingly formed and crafted the earth, and he continues to form and shape it even today. In the beginning, after he created each element of the world that we know, he declared it ‘good,’ but he never declared it ‘done.’ God creates and recreates his world each day, and he renews his love for us just as often.

No matter where you are—in the depths of depression, in the heights of euphoria, in the tumult of chaos, or in the certainty of stable circumstances—God is with you, guiding you, renewing you, forming you, and loving you.

Let us pray. Eternal Lord, you are with us at all times and in all places. Bless us with the knowledge of your presence, that we may take comfort in your tender care. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Monday, Year B

Inspired by 1 Samuel 16:1-13

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NRSV)

Our human eyes are so easily deceived. We see beauty and think goodness; we see height and think strength. Yet there is no real correlation between what we see and what we perceive.

God alone is capable of looking into our hearts and seeing what is truly at the core of our being. God can see our deception, our greed, and our cruelty, and no amount of physical grooming or conditioning can hide those things. But God can also see through our displays of confidence and bravado to the uncertainty, the guilt, the shame, and the fear that we’re desperately trying to hide.

We can’t hide our true selves from God, and we shouldn’t try. For God knows our sin, knows our need for salvation, and sent his Son to comfort and redeem us. He will forgive us our sins of deception, greed, and cruelty, and grant us the certainty of his love, take our guilt and shame upon himself, and reassure us in our fear. His grace can transform us from the inside out, so that all who look upon us will be able to see the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us pray. God of understanding, you are not deceived by the images we project. Touch us deep within our hearts, that we may know your abiding love and live according to your grace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Inspired by John 10:11-18

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” John 10:17-18 (NRSV)

Jesus the Son said that the Father loved him because he lay down his life so that he might be able to gain it back again. The full impact of that statement gets lost in the translation, but Jesus is talking about the resurrection. He willingly laid down his life, meaning he willingly died, so that he might take possession of life once again.

And then he goes on to be perfectly clear that no one took his life from him; it was his and his alone to give, and he gave it. And when he took possession of it again, it was more fully his than when he’d just been born into humanity. When that had happened, he’d had life, just as each of us has life. But when he took it up again, he owned it in such a way that it was fully and utterly his, subject to his will.

As much as we all like to think we have that much control over our own lives, the truth is we don’t. We only have life, we don’t own it. But Christ our Lord, the Lord who is our shepherd, does own it, and because of that, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even when we succumb to death, our life does not come to an end, because that is not God’s will. The goodness and the mercy of the Lord shall follow us forever, and we will live under the Lord’s guidance and protection, forever.

Let us pray. Living God, you are the creator of all and the giver of life. Help us to embrace the life you have given us, that we may recognize your authority and experience life as you mean for us to experience it. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Mark 6:30-34

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31 (NRSV)

At times it seems as though the Lord’s work will never end. There are always more relationships to tend, more people to help, more preparations to be made. Sometimes we get so tired, but how can we justify taking a break from our service if those we are trying to help don’t get a break from their suffering?

Serving the Lord is not only about the work we do for him. Yes, we are called to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings, but we are also called to be comforted and refreshed ourselves. We are called to be workers in and for the kingdom of God, but in the end it is God who saves the world and those who are in it, not us. Taking a rest from our labors not only refreshes and strengthens us to do more work later, but it also reminds us that God works in many and various ways, and that his work will continue even while we go away to a deserted place and rest a while.

Let us pray. God of comfort, you know the limits of our endurance. Help us to recognize our own limits and needs, that we may be healthier and stronger laborers for your kingdom. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 23

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (New King James Version)

One thing that many people have in common is the fear of death. All we know, all we’re familiar with, is this life. Sure, we have faith in the life to come, but faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Knowledge is what we have with absolute certainty. We know this life; we’re living it. We can have faith in the life to come, but we don’t know it yet.

But the words of this psalm assure us that death itself is not evil, and that even as we confront death, whether we succumb to it at that time or not, the Lord our shepherd is with us. We can be comforted by the tools of the shepherd: the rod he uses to beat off the dangers that come to harm us, and the staff he uses to find the way for us when we can’t find it ourselves, when we’re not sure where we’re going. With his rod and his staff, our shepherd is there to guard us and to guide us, in this life and in the life to come.

Let us pray. Eternal God, death is neither enemy nor obstacle to you. Grant us the comforting knowledge of your presence on both sides of death, that we may not fear the unknown in this life. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 4, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 23

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (New King James Version)

The Lord, our shepherd who guards us and guides us, knows what it is to be tired, knows our need to be fed. The Lord feeds us and nourishes us, sustains our bodies and our spirits, and makes us whole. There is nothing we need that the Lord doesn’t provide, and the Lord provides everything that we need. Anything we feel we’re being denied is because we’re moving away from the shepherd, trying to find our own way as helpless sheep in a fallen world, and we get angry when the world doesn’t do what we want it to. But the shepherd does not leave us to go astray, and is always nearby, ready to guide us back to where we should be, back to the place where the dangers are not overwhelming, back to where we’re safely under the careful and caring eye of the shepherd, who will see to all our needs.

All this the shepherd does not because we’re exceptionally valuable in and of ourselves, but because the Lord has declared us valuable. And it’s for his own sake, because he has chosen to love us and to care for us, that he continues to nourish and sustain us, and guide us through this fallen and often dangerous world. As John’s gospel tells us, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. He has chosen to make his life with his flock, and because he cares for them so much, he knows them as his own, and those who are his own know him. There is danger in this fallen world, and Jesus is willing to put himself between us and that danger to keep us safe.

Let us pray. Divine Shepherd, you know better than we do what our needs are. Help us to follow you, that we may enjoy the blessings you graciously give us, and not seek after those things that would draw us away from you. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 3, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Proverbs 9:1-6

“‘You that are simple, turn in here!’ To those without sense [Wisdom] says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’” Proverbs 9:4-6 (NRSV)

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Foolish people can know a lot of things because knowledge, if not applied properly or well, can amount to no more than the ability to recall certain facts. Wisdom, however, is a way of life.

Wisdom can be acquired with or without formal education and with or without knowledge of various facts. Wisdom is an outlook, a way of interpreting the world, and a way of interacting with that world. Those who are ‘simple’ or ‘without sense’ react moment to moment, rarely looking beyond their own immediate concerns and comforts. They have little understanding of the long-term consequences of their actions. But wisdom has something better to offer. She too is able to address your immediate concerns and comforts, as well as the concerns and comforts of others, today, tomorrow, and into the future. Her rewards are much longer lasting than those that simplicity has to offer, and her ways result in a much more peaceful and harmonious world.

Regardless of the circumstances of your life, where you were born or what station you hold in your culture and society, wisdom is calling out to you. Whether you choose to adopt her way of life and walk with insight or not is up to you.

Let us pray. God of wisdom, you desire the world to live in peace and harmony. Enable us to lay aside our immaturity and embrace wisdom as our way of life, that we may walk in your ways, cognizant of the interrelationships of all your creation. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 3, Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by 2 John 1-6

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” 2 John 3 (NRSV)

God is with us always. In times of trouble, in times of joy, in times of mundane ordinariness, he is with us. He is with us in our solitude, and he is with us in our companionship. And he is with everyone else, at all times and in all places, as well.

Imagine how our encounters with other people might be different if we began each conversation—verbal, written, or electronic—with a reminder that God’s grace, mercy, and peace is present with us. How might it change the way you speak to your coworkers? How might it change the way you speak to you family members? How might it change the way you speak to store cashiers, strangers on the street, or salespeople at your door or calling you at home?

Not every encounter we have is pleasant; sometimes we need to state and enforce boundaries, address a conflict, or disagree with someone’s opinion or course of action. But imagine how these difficult conversations might be different if both parties were reminded first that both are beloved children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. God of all, you lavishly shower your grace and mercy upon all your people. Remind us of the truth of your love, that we may treat everyone with the respect that your children deserve. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.