Week of April 27–May 3, 2015 – Abiding in God by Jennifer Moland-Kovash
Read Psalm 22:25–31
Meditation: We turn to the psalms during times of sorrow and grief, during times of joy and delight. They provide words for our hearts when we cannot form them on our own. Today’s psalm sings praise to the Lord who rules over the nations and garners remembrance from all the ends of the earth. The psalmist reminds us that this praise doesn’t belong only to us in our hearts or homes or congregations or cities or countries. All the ends of the earth, all the families of the nations will worship. Praise to the Lord comes from corners of the earth we’ve never seen and from the hearts and voices of those we do not know.
This all-encompassing praise does not stop with the current generation either. It reaches back to those who sleep in the earth and forward to those future generations who will be told about the Lord. Those whom we never met? They praised the Lord. Those who will come after us, whom we might never meet? They will praise the Lord. Everyone will bow down to praise.
From these verses we glean three reasons for such praise: The poor shall eat and be satisfied. The Lord rules over the nations. The Lord has delivered the Lord’s people. The expansiveness of this praise can overwhelm our mortal minds. So big! So many! So much! But the gift of this psalm’s message comes in the reminder of our connection to one another in our praise of the One who calls us together. In all that we do and all that we are, with all that we have, we praise the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Lord, along with those from every corner of this magnificent world, I praise you. Raising my heart and voice with those from the past and the future, I praise you. Amen.
Week of May 4–10 2015 – God Leaves the Sidelines by William Turpie
Read Psalm 98
Meditation: Singing is not one of my gifts, so when the psalmist invokes us to “make a joyful noise to the LORD” this is a fastball moving right past my zone of recognition. Yet I love it when a favorite song comes on the radio or in a worship service—nostalgia overwhelms me and my emotional state gets reset. As I ponder this psalm I am struck by its emphasis on creation swelling with praise for the God of “steadfast love.” The poet must be recalling God’s solid engagement with Israel through all of its moments of rebellion and deceit. Sadly, God’s chosen people turned around only when God was the last resort. I’ve often acted in similar ways. For me the psalm anticipates the steadfast love that is sounded in God’s promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
The poet’s images depict the whole of creation bending forward with praise and emotion. As I read the words through several times, I am moved past whatever lonely morass I have crawled into, past my anguish about the future, and past my tendency to stand on the sideline. I feel compelled to participate in the swell of praise that spills over into all creation. I have to sing along—no matter how poorly I may do it. Finally, the psalmist notes God’s coming judgment. It too will unfold in a special way—in righteousness and fairness. These two concepts are intimately connected with each other. Even in that time of accountability—what we will hear above all else is how righteous and fair is the God we have embraced.
Lord, help me to realize that a simple expression of praise can overwhelm my present despair and replace it with relief—even joy. Amen.
Week of May 11–17, 2015 – God’s Prayer for Us by Tricia Nowacki
Read Psalm 1:1–3
Meditation: I cannot imagine “delighting” in a law. I appreciate laws that serve the common good, but they do not bring me joy. Laws established by government restrict harmful actions; they do not try to bring out the best in humanity; they seek to prevent the worst.
On the other hand, the law of God does not restrict; it liberates. Today’s psalm refers to the law represented by stipulations written in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. As Christians, we approach the law in a different light, the light that Jesus shed on it. When a lawyer asks Jesus which commandment in the law is the greatest, Jesus replied, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:38–40). As Christians, we understand the commandment to love God, neighbor, and self as the most crucial. We bear the imprint of our eternally loving, communal, reconciling God; we damage ourselves, hurt others, and dishonor God when we do not live out who we truly are. If we sink our roots deep and drink from the way of love, we will flourish in the life-giving ways God intends. We will yield our “fruit in its season.” We can choose our source of nourishment; we must continually and actively choose to immerse ourselves in God’s law of love.
God of love, we are your children made in your image. Help us to acknowledge this fact. May we continually immerse ourselves in your law of love. Amen.
Week of May 18–24, 2015 – When the Spirit Comes by James Harnish
Read Romans 8:22–27, Acts 1:1–5
Meditation: My nine-year-old grandson enjoys building a fire in the fireplace at my lake house. He keeps adding more wood until it burns like Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. I have trouble convincing him to wait for cooler weather to build a fire.
The final week of the “Great Fifty Days” from Easter to Pentecost finds us with the first followers of Jesus, waiting for the fire (the Holy spirit) to fall on them. The risen Christ has told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise that John the Baptist first announced, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).
Like my grandson waiting through the summer for the “fire season,” living by faith means learning to wait. No matter how many times we have experienced Pentecost, we are always waiting, longing, praying for the fire of the Spirit to fall fresh upon our lives. That’s what we mean by hope.
Paul says that waiting in hope is essential to our salvation. He asks the rhetorical question, “Who hopes for what they already see?” (CEB). If all our hopes are fulfilled, we will no longer hope. “But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience” (CEB).
But we do not wait alone. Like a woman in labor, the whole creation joins us in breathless anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s salvation. Even as we remain still, the Spirit for whom we are waiting is already present in the most deeply hidden, most inarticulate longings of our souls. Waiting for Pentecost is a little like telling my grandson to wait for fire season.
O God, teach us to live in hope that the Spirit who is already at work within us will descend upon us with fire. Amen.
Week of May 25–31, 2015 – Power and Mystery, Glory and Grace by Lee Hull Moses
Read Isaiah 6:1–7
Meditation: This passage is full of imagery that boggles our twenty-first-century minds: creatures with six wings call to one another across the vast throne room; the Temple’s foundation trembles at the sound of their voices; smoke fills the room; live coals rest on the altar; and God is so big that just the hem of God’s robe fills the entire worship space.
Incredulous, we are tempted to turn the page and dismiss these words as the fanciful imaginings of an ancient and unenlightened people. But perhaps we ought not be too quick to leave Isaiah and look for God’s presence in tamer and more understandable places. After all, it is good news—is it not—that we worship a God who is bigger and more powerful than anything we can imagine. God’s incomprehensibility to human minds is part of God’s nature. We can’t understand God; that’s part of the mystery. That’s what poetry is for and art and music and creative endeavors of all kinds—all serve as attempts to capture that which cannot be put into words: love, grace, beauty, power, truth. Visions like Isaiah’s remind us that the God we worship lies beyond our ability to describe.
When we stand in the presence of such mystery, we may not understand God, but we can understand who we are: We are not God—we are human, capable of and prone to sin. “I am lost,” Isaiah cries, “for I am a man of unclean lips!” But nearly in the same instant, the seraph touches his lips and makes him clean.
God’s grace—like God’s power—is mysterious and beyond our capacity to fully understand.
Almighty God, calm our fears and help us to trust in the mystery of your power and your grace. Amen.
Week of June 1–7, 2015 – With Eyes of Faith by P. Joel Snider
Read 1 Samuel 8:4–9
Meditation: The elders of Israel paid no attention. When they said to Samuel, “Give us a king to govern us,” they already had a king. The confrontation with Pharaoh in Egypt was a struggle between two kings, Pharaoh and Yahweh, to see which would possess the Israelites. The ark of the covenant symbolized God’s leadership as a conquering king at the head of an armed column as it led them into the Promised Land. Moses, Joshua, Samuel represented God to the people, but no one ever called them kings or rulers because Israel had only one king: the Lord. Therefore when the people ask Samuel to appoint a king over them, their request displeases God because the leaders and the people have missed the point of their relationship. God tells Samuel, “They have rejected me as their king” (NIV).
The Israelites fail to see that, although God’s presence is invisible, God’s sovereignty extends to every corner of life. Their request for a king to make them like the nations is no different than our desire for practical solutions to daily problems. The Israelites do not think God is the best king for the real world of wars and alliances. We think Jesus fails to offer realistic help in our work, school, finances, politics. Which of us takes seriously Jesus’ command to give to whoever asks and to turn the other cheek to repeated offenses?
God’s leadership, then and now, applies to the real world. To say “Jesus is Lord” has consequences for every area of our lives. Faith is trusting and obeying God’s will, even when the world’s ways seem more appealing.
O God, teach me today to follow your ways. Give me strength to obey, even when other ways seem more practical.. Amen.