The Holy Trinity, Year B

Inspired by Isaiah 6:1-8

“Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 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!” Isaiah 6:6-8 (NRSV)

Like Isaiah, we deserve to stand in terror before the holiness of the Lord God, because we too are sinful people living among other sinful people. None of us deserves to stand before the throne of the Holy One and live, because our sins have earned us nothing but death.

But by the will of God, the touch of a coal which had been burning on the altar was enough to cleanse Isaiah of his sins, and he was able to stand blameless before the throne of God. And by the will of God, the death and resurrection of his Son is enough to cleanse us of our sins, so that we too may stand blameless before the throne of God.

When Isaiah was cleansed by the coal, the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Without knowing where, when, to whom, for what, or for how long, Isaiah responded to the call by crying out, “Here am I; send me!” He was bold and he was rash, but he knew he’d deserved death and had been given life instead. Isaiah wanted to use that life to serve the one who had given it to him.

God still has work for us to do. Because of the grace of God in Christ, your guilt has departed you and your sin is blotted out. You stand blameless before the throne of the one who gave you new life. How will you answer his call?

Let us pray. God of holiness and might, you have chosen to blot out our sins and cleanse us of our guilt. Strengthen us to boldly respond to your call, that we may use the new life you have given us to be your faithful servants in the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Holy Trinity, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by John 15:18-20, 26-27

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18 (NRSV)

Hate. Such strong language, especially when compared to how much Jesus has to say about love in John’s gospel. But here he is, suggesting to his disciples that the world would indeed hate them, just as the world hated him before them, just as the world hated God before Christ came.

The world is God’s good creation, but it is fallen and groaning for redemption. That fallen state causes humanity’s judgment to be clouded, and we cannot always recognize what is helpful and what is harmful. God is good, and desires our salvation, but just as a drowning man might fight off his would-be rescuer, we fight off God’s good efforts to save us from our peril. We have a strong aversion to God’s salvation because, like the drowning man, accepting his help means we have to stop flailing about and just let go, trusting that we won’t perish even though every part of our being is convinced that we will.

Jesus came to save the world, and he commands his followers to love one another in the face of the world’s hate. We ourselves understand the world’s hatred, because we also were drowning along with it. But when Christ called us we stopped flailing, and we discovered that by letting go and trusting our lives to God not only did we not sink to the depths, we experienced a life more beautiful and meaningful than we could every have imagined.

There are many around us still drowning, and we are called to proclaim Christ’s salvation, encourage our fellow humanity to stop fighting him off, and let him carry them to safety. Many will hate our efforts and fight us off, but buoyed by the love that our Savior has for us and commanded of us, we can remain faithful to our call.

Let us pray. Savior God, you alone are our salvation. Support us with your love, that we may overwhelm the world’s hate with that love. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Holy Trinity, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Romans 8:9-11

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” Romans 8:11 (NRSV)

Throughout history people have struggled to understand our relationship with the Divine. Some have believed that we ourselves are divine; others have believed that we are nothing but crude matter, and that anything or anyone divine must avoid us for fear of being contaminated by our filthy base elements. Both understandings have influenced various cultures’ worldviews, with either the individual being elevated as all-important and all of creation there to cater to the individual’s pleasure, or the individual being considered no better than the animals, and freedom from this profane creation as the only hope of ever even glimpsing the divine.

Even today it isn’t very difficult to find people who live according to one or the other of these two beliefs. Yet the truth is far more nuanced.

We are creatures, formed by God along with the rest of creation. But unlike the rest of creation, we were formed in God’s own image, and he breathed his Spirit into us and gave us life. We have his Spirit dwelling in us now. This does not make us equal to God, or divine in our own right, but it does suggest that the Divine One was not afraid of being contaminated by our filthy base elements. Quite the contrary, not only did God create us in his image and give us his breath of life, but he also took on flesh of his own, and was born human as Jesus. Jesus lived, suffered, and died as a creature, but that was not the end of the story. God also raised Jesus from the dead, conquering death for all creation and promising new life to his children.

We are not divine, but the Spirit of the Divine One dwells in us. We are creatures, but we are beloved creatures, beloved enough to have the Spirit of God with us and in us at all times as we live in this good creation.

Let us pray. God of life, you created the world and called it good. Help us to understand our proper place in your creation, that we may be good stewards of your good earth and all who call it home. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Holy Trinity, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Isaiah 1:1-4, 16-20

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 16-17 (NRSV)

What does faithful living look like? According to many adherents of Christianity, faithful living means abiding by a strict morality code. Such adherents put their faith in acting or dressing modestly, avoiding ‘worldly’ pleasures such as movies or literature that are not explicitly Christian, and preaching against the dangers of sexually immoral lifestyles.

Living according to a strict morality code can help to keep one focused on God, but is not itself what makes a good Christian.

The word of the Lord that came to Isaiah was for the people of Israel whom God called a sinful nation, utterly estranged from God. His instruction for them was to cease to do evil, learn to do good, and then that ‘good’ was defined: seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. The evil that the Israelites were doing that was so offensive to God had nothing to do with sex or leisure activities; the evil that God wanted the Israelites to turn from involved practicing injustice, oppression, and disregard or exploitation of the poor and marginalized.

What does faithful living look like? It looks like someone working to see that justice is served regardless of the power or social status of the parties involved. It looks like someone giving up some of their own comforts and even rights in order to protest the forced labor of those who have no choice other than to provide goods or services at a price lower than their work is worth. It looks like someone lending their voice to the plight of those who have no voice of their own, whose interests and wellbeing are beneath the concern of those in power. Those are the behaviors that God considers moral, and practicing them is how we can answer God’s call to live faithfully.

Let us pray. God of justice, you sent your Son to rescue the oppressed and help the disenfranchised. Save us from our evil ways, that we may reflect his grace in our lives and do the same. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by John 20:19-23

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” John 20:19 (NRSV)

There are many things to fear in this world. We fear instability, poverty, lawlessness. We fear injustice, chaos, persecution. Sometimes we have very clear images of exactly what we fear, and sometimes we know the faces of the people we fear. Many of us live in constant fear, venturing out only when we have to, looking over our shoulders when we do, hiding behind the safety of locked doors when we can.

Even if we aren’t consciously aware of our fear, many of us are ruled by it nonetheless. We make our decisions based on it, and we limit our interactions with others and the world because of it. What if I’m rejected? What if I’m ignored? What if I’m made a fool of? What if I fail? Better to not try at all. So we lock ourselves away, and hope that those we fear will never find us.

But no matter how deeply we bury ourselves, Jesus will always seek us out and offer us his peace. No matter how hunted we may feel, Jesus will bring us respite. No matter how risky or frightening the situation might seem, Jesus will stand with us, and remain with us, and assure us that he has already conquered death for us, so we have nothing to fear.

Let us pray. Lord of peace, you have already conquered that which we fear most. Let your peace reign in our hearts, that it may drive out all fear and we may engage with the world confident of your grace and love. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NRSV)

Our modern society operates as though life is a zero-sum game. If there are going to be winners, then there has to be losers. There are limited resources, and some will be the ‘haves’ while others will be the ‘have-nots.’ We all want to make sure we’re the winners and the ‘haves,’ and while we may not actively spite the losers or the ‘have-nots,’ we are certainly guilty of overlooking them, or of making up reasons to justify their unfortunate circumstances as appropriate or deserved.

But that’s not the community that God in Christ has called us to. The Lord our God created this world and all its resources, and he made sure that there was enough for everyone. He created humanity with wondrous diversity, and he made it clear that only when we honor each other’s differences and contributions can all people live with the dignity that God intended and with sufficient resources to meet everyone’s needs.

Rather than looking at those who suffer and thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I,” let us instead suffer with them, and work to alleviate their suffering as though it were we who suffered. Rather than being envious of those who have achieved more than we have, let us celebrate that they are using the gifts that God has given them to do well, and let us strive to do the same.

We’re all in this world together. We’re all in this life together. We’re all living by God’s grace. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. Living as though we are responsible only for our own happiness not only denies the good gifts of God’s grace, but also guarantees that we will never achieve the complete satisfaction and contentment that only comes from recognizing God as Lord.

Let us pray. God of abundance, you created this world and everyone in it. Enable us to see the world and its inhabitants as you see us, that we may recognize that we all possess dignity and honor, and that we are all connected to one another. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Monday, Year B

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone…All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11 (NRSV)

What is the proper way to serve Christ? Most churches spend a good deal of time encouraging their members to serve Christ, and many of them have pretty clear ideas about how their members should do that.

And most of those ideas are good examples of how one might serve Christ. However even the most creative, innovative congregation is going to be limited in its vision. Each individual person is a member of the body of Christ in his or her own right, and each individual person has a unique blend of gifts, experiences, and perspectives which can be used for the good of the Church as well as all of God’s creation. Churches should certainly encourage each of their members to discern what their gifts are, and they should certainly be willing to give some suggestions on how those gifts might be used. But churches must beware of valuing certain gifts over and above others, because that can lead some members of the body of Christ to mistakenly believe that they have nothing of importance to offer, or that God has forgotten them, or that they don’t belong in the fellowship of believers.

No matter who you are, no matter what your position in life and society, you have a place in the body of Christ. You have gifts that are needed for proclaiming the gospel to the world, even if those gifts are more solitary, understated, or behind-the-scenes than we usually think of evangelical proclamation to be. God created you thoughtfully, lovingly, and with a purpose in mind that you and you alone can accomplish, using the gifts that you have, which may not necessarily be the gifts that everyone else sees and recognizes.

Let us pray. Lord of all, you created each of us individually. Help us to discern our gifts and the gifts of others, that we may work in harmony to proclaim your good news to the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Day of Pentecost, Year B

Inspired by Romans 8:22-27

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:26 (NRSV)

God is the creator and we are his creation. He is holy, and we are sinners in need of his grace. With all that we’ve done against him and his creation, be it intentionally, accidentally, or thoughtlessly, it is no wonder many of us fear to approach him in prayer. We don’t know what to say, or else we fear saying the wrong thing and making our situations worse.

But God wants us to approach him in prayer. He has sent us his Spirit not only to guide us in our ways, but also to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When we don’t know what to do, the Spirit will encourage us in the ways of righteousness. When we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit will pray for us.

We are welcome and encouraged to bring our concerns, our desires, our praises, our fears, and our thanksgivings to God. If we have something to say, God wants us to say it. But even when we don’t know what to say, God still wants us to come before him in prayer, and his Spirit will express those feelings which defy words, which defy explanation, but which help define us. God knows us to our very core, even better than we know ourselves, and when we trust his Spirit to guide even our wordless prayers we will grow closer to the One who created us out of his love, who redeemed us with his mercy, and who sustains us with his grace.

Let us pray. God of life, you sent your Spirit to guide us in our ways and bring us closer to you. Enable us to trust in your Holy Spirit, that we may indeed grow closer to you in our prayers and in our lives. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Exodus 15:6-11

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?” Exodus 15:11 (NRSV)

In this day and age, it’s very hard to be truly impressed by something. To one degree or another we’ve seen it all, done it all, been everywhere, and we know all the tricks. Even when we do acknowledge that something is impressive in one way, we’re very quick to point out all the other ways in which it falls short.

Many of us live in a constant state of disappointment because we want to find something that is truly worthy of our adoration, but everything we put our faith into fails. Money loses its value, beauty fades, power and prestige are fleeting, and relationships require compromise. Even while we may take some contentment or satisfaction out of some or all of those things, none of them is impressive enough to warrant our adoration.

Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places. All those things—money, beauty, power, even love—we set up before ourselves as gods, but none is God. God alone is worthy of our adoration; God alone is impressive in every way and disappointing in none.

Put your faith in the One who created the world and everything in it: the One who is more valuable than the world and all its contents, the One who created the very concept of beauty, the One who is all-powerful, and the One who is himself love. Put your faith in the One who gifted his people with all these good things, and worship the giver instead of the gift.

Let us pray. Magnificent God, your majesty is beyond our comprehension. Remove the cynicism from our hearts, that we may experience anew the wonder evoked by your awesome works. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 33:12-22

“A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.” Psalm 33:16-17 (NRSV)

We have many resources at our disposal. Some of us have great wealth, some of us have great physical strength, some of us have a keen intellect, and some of us have an ability to connect with people well. Some of us have elements of all those things; some of us have other resources and abilities entirely. But none of us can save ourselves, and all of our earthly resources will fail us when we need them most.

All that we have is from God, and he gave us what we have so that we can live according to his will in the world that he created. All that we are is from God, and he made us who we are because he loves us, and we have an important role to play in his creation and in his kingdom.

Whatever challenges we may meet, whatever trials we may face, we are encouraged to use whatever gifts God has given us to stand firm in his word. But remember that our deliverance is from God, not from ‘our’ resources, and his grace and mercy will not fail us when we need him.

Let us pray. Omnipotent God, your steadfast love endures forever. Turn our hearts toward you, that we may recognize your grace in all that we have. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.