Easter 2, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Daniel 2:1-23

“Then Daniel went to his home and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions with the rest of the wise men of Babylon might not perish. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel 2:17-19 (NRSV)

The ways in which God is merciful are many and inexplicable. Daniel and his companions were in Babylon as the spoils of war. Their land had been conquered, and they had been conscripted into service in the Babylonian king’s court, being found to have more knowledge and wisdom than the Babylonian magicians and enchanters. They didn’t want to be there, and they had no loyalty to this king, this kingdom, or those in it. They were Judah’s conquerors and oppressors.

Yet when the king was plagued by troubling dreams that the Babylonian wise men could not discern, Daniel prayed for mercy from God. Yes he would have been executed along with the Babylonian wise men, but those who are ruled by hate and vengeance would gladly give their own lives if it meant that many of their oppressors would die along with them, and the conquering king would continue to suffer. But Daniel was merciful to the king and the king’s wise men, and prayed for God’s mercy on them, which allowed God to show his mercy to those who might never have had a chance to experience it.

Sometimes when it seems as though all is against us and there is no hope for a better future, God will give us a chance to be merciful to those who do not deserve our mercy, to be loving to those who do not deserve our love, and thus overcome the seemingly impenetrable darkness with a blinding beam of God’s holy light.

Let us pray. Merciful God, you take pity on us in our lowly state. Help us to show mercy to others, that all may come to know your grace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter 2, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Acts 2:42-47

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:44-45 (NRSV)

Whenever the church starts to talk about money, people get uncomfortable. How much to give to the church, how much to give to charity, how you should prioritize your expenses—most people just don’t want to hear it.

Some of this discomfort comes from individual selfishness, but some of it stems from the knowledge that resources taken for the sake of a ‘greater good’ are often mismanaged or even stolen. Or there may be disagreement as to what really constitutes a ‘greater good,’ and those whose money is taken feel that those who are taking it are giving it to those who don’t deserve it.

There is a big difference between having your money taken from you to support the betterment of all, and freely giving what you have to those who are in need. In the early church, those who believed voluntarily gave what they had to the community, trusting that it would be distributed as needed. Whether or not someone deserved the assistance did not matter; whether or not they needed it did. It is in this way that they lived and honored the grace they had received through Jesus Christ: he died for us because we needed his salvation, not because we deserved it.

Let us pray. Generous God, you sent your Son to die for us even though we were sinners, because we needed your grace in order to be saved. Help us to see our own resources as tools of your kingdom, that we might use what we have to help your people who are in need. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 118:1 (NRSV)

Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the troubles of the day. We look around us and see what may seem like an impossible situation, and we can’t imagine how things are ever going to improve. Despite our best efforts, it feels like on our best days we’re merely maintaining the status quo, but on most days we’re losing more ground. And when we’re in the middle of a situation like that, it feels as though our endurance is waning, and forever is bleak.

But our mortal minds cannot truly fathom ‘forever’; we have only the most limited idea of time. And while our human endurance can indeed wane, we rely on the One whose endurance can withstand any crisis, any calamity, and any apostasy on our part. Our God is good, and his steadfast love endures forever. While we struggle through our days, using up what little strength we have, he is there, replenishing our strength enough to get us through the next day, and the next, and the next, until eventually we realize that things have been changing for the better, and we have actually gained back some of that lost ground, and are still moving forward.

Whatever your troubles may be this day, they are not trouble enough to defeat or even hinder the Lord, whose love for you will never wane, and who is with you, sustaining you with his love, at all times.

Let us pray. Eternal Lord, your steadfast love endures forever. Help us face the troubles of our time with strength and hope, that we may reflect your love for us in good times and in bad. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by Genesis 1:20-2:4a

“And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” Genesis 2:2-3 (NRSV)

Most of us will probably complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to do what needs to be done. We’re so busy with jobs, errands, household tasks, family obligations, and maintaining social relationships that we simply don’t have time to just stop and rest.

But we were created in the image of God, and God rested after a hard week of work. God created not only the world and everything in it, but he also created the very days by which that work was measured. In all God created seven days—six in which he worked, and one on which he rested—and of those seven days only the day of rest was specifically blessed.

Keeping a Sabbath day of rest is not a legalistic commandment loaded with rules and prohibitions which must be observed. Keeping a Sabbath day of rest is a gift from God to us, on top of the whole creation he’s already given into our care. God created the world that he turned over to us for our stewardship; he knows how difficult our work is. And he also knows that a day of rest, blessed and hallowed by him, is not a shirking of our duties, but a recognition of all the gifts God has given us.

Let us pray. Gracious God, you know how difficult our work is. Help us to observe the day of rest you have blessed us with, that we may be refreshed and renewed as we begin anew each week of caring for your wondrous creation. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Easter Monday, Year B

Inspired by Genesis 1:1-19

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:11-12 (NRSV)

Where can one look today to see a miracle? Everywhere! When God created the heavens and the earth, he created them in such a way that the world would renew itself and bring forth life. Therefore the natural processes of the world are not done independently of God, but are in fact ongoing miracles of God’s good creation.

The soil of the earth grows trees that produce fruit for people to eat, shelter for birds and animals, shade for humans, cleansing benefits for the air, and seeds to reproduce themselves. Each and every one of these activities is a miracle; each and every tree is a miracle! Every blade of grass, every animal on the land, every bird in the sky, every fish in the sea, every human being that is born is part of God’s ongoing creation, a miracle of life created by the Holy One.

God still can (and does) perform other, more spectacular and unusual miracles, but the simple fact of our existence, the world bursting with life around us, and the heavens surrounding our planet are all miracles we can behold every day.

Let us pray. Creator God, you are the source of all life. Help us to recognize your ongoing creation, that we may be good stewards of this earth and all that is in it. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day, Year B

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 (NRSV)

No matter what we’ve done, no matter how many horrible mistakes we’ve made, no matter how much we feel as though we’ve worked in direct opposition to God, we are never beyond his reach for salvation and sanctification. Paul was not a follower of Jesus with the original apostles. Quite the contrary, Paul worked to actively persecute and tear down the community of believers that the original apostles were working so hard to build up. Yet his conscious and active opposition against the church of God not only did not make him ineligible for God’s salvation, but God used Paul’s zealotry and reputation as tools for proclaiming the gospel of the Lord.

God knows that we’re not perfect, and he doesn’t expect us to be. God knows our weaknesses and failings, and through his grace he is able to turn them into strengths and assets. The message of salvation is God’s message, and he uses all types of messengers to proclaim it. The people who still need to hear his message have weaknesses and failings of their own, and they’re more likely to receive that message from someone they can relate to, i.e. someone who can testify to the fact that they didn’t have to change into something they’re not in order to receive God’s grace. God’s grace enables us to become the people we’ve always wanted to be, the people we were meant to be, the people God created us to be.

Let us pray. Merciful God, you take our failings and turn them around for your good purposes. Help us to recognize your grace in our lives, that we may boldly proclaim your love to all who still need to hear it. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.