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.

Easter 3, Monday, Year B

Inspired by Jeremiah 30:1-11a

“On that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will break the yoke from off his neck, and I will burst his bonds, and strangers shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” Jeremiah 30:8-9 (NRSV)

Despite all our best efforts at self-determination and independence, every single one of us is enslaved to something or someone. We spend more money than we make and are enslaved to our debtors; we value the esteem of others and are enslaved to society’s expectations. We insist on the primacy of our own autonomy and are enslaved to limited choices and imaginations. No matter what, life on earth means answering to someone or something else.

The Lord God saw the plight we were in, saw the way we exploited each other and were exploited ourselves. He saw us struggling in our enslavement, answering to masters not worthy of the authority they’d usurped. He offered to redeem us and take us into his service, sending his Son to show us the way. We are still in service, and we still have a yoke upon us, but we share it with the One who is gentle and humble in heart, and whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

It is so much better to serve the One who created us, knows us, loves us, and has already given his life for our gain than to serve the cruel and selfish taskmasters that trick us into slavery with their offers of freedom and self-determination.

Let us pray. Gentle Lord, you are the ultimate authority in the universe. Encourage us to turn to you, that in your service we may be freed from the false promises of worldly possessions and acclaim. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

Inspired by Luke 24:36b-48

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Luke 24:44-45 (NRSV)

The disciples were observant Jews who had been taught the Hebrew scriptures since they were young boys. Some of those scriptures dated back several hundred years, some of them a thousand years, and some of them recorded oral tradition that had been around for much longer than that. Scholars had been studying them for centuries, and believed they knew what the scriptures meant.

Yet the scriptures record some of God’s activity in the world, and God’s activity in the world is ongoing. Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures in light of his own life, death, and resurrection. Words that had not changed and had been studied, prayed over, and lived by for generations suddenly had a new meaning, a new application, and a new call to action.

Two thousand years later the written words that make up both the Hebrew scriptures and what we call the New Testament are as fixed as if they’d been engraved on stone tablets. But God’s activity in the world is still not complete. He is still engaged with his creation, and he is still sending his Spirit to his people, opening their minds to the scriptures and helping us to find new meaning, new applications, and new calls to action based on his ongoing activity. The bible is a static document, but it tells the story of our dynamic God.

Let us pray. Living God, your story continues through today. Help us to understand your activity in the past, that we may recognize your activity in the present and follow your guidance into the future. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 3, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Luke 22:24-30

“A dispute also arose among [the apostles] as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But [Jesus] said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.’” Luke 22:24-26 (NRSV)

Throughout history the majority of the world’s population could be divided into two categories: those who were in authority and those served those who were in authority. Those who were in authority had a deep and sincere interest in keeping their authority, and they worked to maintain or elevate their status. Those who served were sometimes treated as though they were invisible or expendable. The servant class, though largely voiceless in society, also postured among themselves for position. Everyone in both classes was ranked, knew where their peers ranked, and were focused on achieving a higher rank for themselves, because with greater power comes greater privilege.

But God in Christ turned such power structures upside down. The Lord of all, the Ultimate Power of the universe, became a lowly human, a member of the peasant class of a conquered and oppressed people, and came to save the most wretched and undesirable among us. He showed respect to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners, and taught that true power is not marked by privilege and status, but by love and grace. He taught this by his own example, and he charged that those who follow him also follow his example.

The world is still divided into classes, and individuals still posture for the best position with the best privileges. But in the kingdom of heaven, status is awarded based not on power and authority, but on humility. To have true power and authority, one must be willing to take the place of and even give himself up for the most wretched and undesirable among us, just as God in Christ did for us.

Let us pray. Humble Lord, you used your power to show us humility and grace. Help us to humble ourselves, that we may seek the everlasting rewards of your kingdom rather than the fleeting privileges of this world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 3, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Daniel 10:2-19

“I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves.” Daniel 10:7 (NRSV)

We are the center of our own lives; it is virtually impossible for it to be otherwise. Even the most humble and selfless of us must first tend to our own needs for food, shelter, and clothing before we can see to the needs of others. And most of us tend to many more of our own wants and needs than just those simple basics before we turn to others.

Given that so much of our lives are lived with us at the center, it is difficult for us to remember that not everything in the world revolves around us. Especially God. God works in many and various ways, through many and various people, and any given individual is not entitled to every vision, revelation, insight, or sign that God provides. There were others with Daniel when he received his vision, and they were able to sense that something was going on, but for them it was nothing more than a fear deep enough to compel them to run and hide. The vision was for Daniel, and for Daniel alone. It came to him because of who he was and what he had done, and what he would be able to do with the information that vision provided. Daniel was unique, and the vision sent to him by God could only be of value to him.

We are each important to God’s plan of salvation for the world; we each have a role to play. But we each have a different role. Rather than feeling slighted or jealous because God chooses to use someone else in a particular way, remain humble, and seek to discern how God is using you. You also are unique, and can do things for the kingdom of God that no one else is capable of doing.

Let us pray. Holy Lord, you’ve blessed each of us with a particular mix of gifts, abilities, experiences, and perspectives. Open our hearts and our minds to your insights, that we may use what you have given us to further your work in the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 3, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by 1 John 2:18-25

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24 (NRSV)

We accumulate so much knowledge over the course of our lives. We learn multiple facts and if, how, and when to apply those facts to our decision-making. Some of the information we acquire is mere trivia, some of it is helpful when applied properly, and some of it is so important and profound that we internalize it, and it helps to shape every aspect of who we are in this life.

The story of God’s love for humanity is one of those pieces of information that can be a formative and guiding principle in our lives. Through the bible and those around us who faithfully follow the Lord, we have heard how God created the world and everything in it, and called it good. We have heard how he has guided and blessed his people throughout history, and how he sent his Son to be the salvation of the world. We have heard from the beginning of the love and grace God offers to us each and every day. The knowledge of what God has done for us and is still doing for us is no mere bit of trivia; it has the power to be the defining element in our lives, informing how we act and interact with the world around us.

You can hear the story of God’s enduring love, file it away as a simple fact to be recalled if the situation warrants it, and go about your business with no thought whatsoever of the Lord and his blessings. Or you can hear the story of God’s enduring love and let it fill you with his grace, keeping you always embraced in his mercy, aware of his presence and guidance, and open to his abundant blessings.

Let us pray. Everlasting God, you sent your Word to abide in us, turning us toward your love. Help us to embody your Spirit of peace and humility, that we may live our lives abundantly and in communion with you. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 2, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Mark 12:18-27

“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” Mark 12:26-27a (NRSV)

When we lose a loved one, we often try to comfort ourselves by imagining that person in heaven. Such imaginings usually include a sense of peacefulness, natural beauty, perhaps being reunited with other loved ones who have gone before, and being freed from whatever pain and suffering may have marked this person’s life on earth.

Such images can be helpful, and may not be inaccurate. But they are incomplete. For the place where we go when we depart this life is far less important that the One we go to—we go to be in the presence of the Lord.

Heaven is a kingdom, and the Lord God is king. He embraces our loved ones fully and gently, surrounding them with his love, showing them with their eyes unfettered by the worries and influences of this world how his glory sustains everything that is, that was, and that will be, and how nothing escapes his tender mercy.

And we need not wait to die to be embraced by the Lord our God, for the kingdom of heaven is here now, in this place, in this life, and the same God who cares for our departed loved ones also cares for those of us still in this world. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Lord of the living embraces all who are, who were, and who will be.

Let us pray. God of life, your Son defeated death. Comfort us in the knowledge that we are never beyond your tender care, whether in this life or in what we call death, that we may live fully for you now and not fear the life to come. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 2, Monday, Year B

Inspired by 1 John 2:3-11

“Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.” 1 John 2:10-11 (NRSV)

We are imperfect people. We do things that hurt other people, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes carelessly, sometimes with full foreknowledge and intent. We do these things to strangers, to acquaintances, and even to people we know and love. Sometimes we believe we’re justified because we’re ‘right,’ and sometimes we delight in seeing the other person hurt because we believe that they ‘deserve’ it.

We’ve all hurt people, and we’ve all been hurt. It’s part of being human. But part of being Christian is getting beyond that.

Being a Christian is no shield against hurt. As Christians, we will still suffer pain at the hands of other people, even other Christians. But as Christians, we have the example of Jesus Christ, who lived the law of love so well that he loved and forgave the very people who were murdering him as he was dying, and he loved and forgave the close friends and disciples who denied and betrayed him. With that love he conquered death and gave us life, and with that love he enabled his followers to end the cycle of hurt and pain, and move forward with love and holy purpose. They’d hurt Jesus, and he loved and forgave them, freeing them from guilt and shame. The gospel they went on to preach was one of freedom and mercy in Christ, rather than the hate and retribution that would have been expected by their behavior towards their friend and teacher.

Holding on to hate towards someone who wronged us might feel natural and right, but it blinds us to the love of Christ, and it enslaves us to darkness and cycles of violence. Free yourself from such darkness and dare to love, not just for the benefit of the person who wronged you, but for your own benefit, as well.

Let us pray. Merciful Lord, you met our anger, abandonment, and betrayal with love and forgiveness. Help us to follow your example and love others as you loved us, that we may be freed from the darkness and revel in your holy light. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

Inspired by 1 John 1:1-2:2

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” 1 John 1:1 (NRSV)

Christians are often accused by nonbelievers as having ‘blind faith in silly superstitions.’ Those who make such statements are asserting that we’ve simply heard a story someone made up a long time ago and unquestioningly accept it as truth and fact.

But mature faith is not blind. Mature faith looks for evidence of the truth of God’s story in one’s own life and environment. A question that is asked so often in seminary and clergy circles that it’s become almost a cliché is, “Where is God in this situation?”

The Christian story was first told by those who had witnessed it firsthand. The disciples saw the risen Christ with their own eyes. They heard him speak, observed him respond to them and answer their questions. They touched him with their own hands. And they told others not only what they’d heard, but what they’d experienced. As time wore on and the story continued to spread, the way people experienced God in Christ changed, but they still experienced him not only through stories they’d heard, but in things that they’d seen and touched, and in the way that they’d been touched themselves.

Even today, believing Christians can still describe some personal event in their lives that demonstrated the truth of the story they’d heard that’s been making the rounds for a couple of millennia. Our experience allows us to continue to tell that story, enabling those around us and those who will come after us to measure their own experiences against that timeless story, and know that it is indeed the word of life.

Let us pray. Living God, you are the One who was, who is, and who will be. Open our hearts, our minds, and our senses to your presence, that we may experience your truth in our lives. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 2, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 133

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 (NRSV)

Christians often talk about the unity of the Church, even though the Church actually appears to be highly fragmented and divided. How can there be unity when there are so many different denominations, styles of worship, traditions, and even doctrines?

The body of Christ imagery that is so prominent in the letters of Paul is very important and helpful for understanding this. Unity does not mean uniformity. The heart looks and functions nothing like the skin, yet both are absolutely necessary for the survival of a body. The eyebrow helps keep sweat out of the eyes, allowing the eyes to perform their function better. Eyes allow a person to see obstacles, that information is processed by the brain, and the legs and the feet react accordingly, preventing the person from tripping and breaking their wrist. Eyebrows, eyes, brain, legs, and feet, all functioning differently, yet together they protect the wrist.

It is true that we in the body of Christ spend too much time judging and diminishing the importance of other Christians. It is not the diversity within Christianity that causes the fragmentation and division, but the accusations and dismissals of our own brothers and sisters in Christ. Imagine how well the gospel could be proclaimed if only we spent less time defining who is a ‘true’ Christian versus a ‘so-called’ Christian, and more time being the expression of the Church that we are called to be.

Let us pray. Lord God, you are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God. Help us to embrace the wondrous diversity of traditions and cultures you have blessed us with, that we may use the variety of our gifts to reach out to all your people. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.