Week of November 3–9, 2014 – Heeding God’s Direction by Claudio Carvalhaes
Joshua 24:1–3a, 14–25; Psalm 78:1–7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Matthew 25:1–13
Scripture Overview: This week’s passages speak of ultimate commitment or of the return of Jesus, or they speak in parables that reflect a protagonist who has been delayed in an anticipated appearance. Living so far from the time of the texts makes it difficult to appreciate the urgency with which the issues arose in various communities and the crises they precipitated. In the Bible, eschatology provides the framework for ethics, the context in which believers are called to right conduct. It is the coming advent of God that demands from and warrants for the people of God a distinctive style of life. The text from Joshua 24 resonates to eschatological themes in its insistence on unswerving loyalty to Yahweh. Israel is given an opportunity at the Shechem assembly to define itself by identifying its God. Israel is shaped by its understanding of the nature of God in whom the people are asked to hope. Jesus calls for readiness to face the delay of the bridegroom. A lack of preparedness results in a devastating verdict from the bridegroom: “I do not know you.”
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Joshua 24:1–3a, 14–25. What gods do you choose to serve? How does that service manifest in your life?
Read Matthew 25:1–13. Where do you “buy” oil for your lamp? What practices keep your light burning?

Week of November 10–16, 2014 – Walking in the Unexpected by Judith Jenkins KohatsuPsalm 123; Judges 4:1–7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11; Matthew 25:14–30Scripture Overview: In the book of Judges, we find a woman confidently leading a patriarchal nation as though it were an everyday occurrence. The psalm reminds us that the need for mercy reduces each and every one to a posture of outstretched hands and upturned eyes. To sing such a song on the way to worship, as was traditionally done, is to prepare the mind and heart for the possibility of whatever blessing may be given upon arrival. In First Thessalonians we overhear an apostle’s exhortation to live openly and expectantly regarding God’s future—alert to the coming of Christ but also aware that the Christ may come in sudden and unanticipated ways. Finally, a parable in Matthew runs counter to our instincts to safeguard that which we treasure, challenging us to consider the ways in which faithfulness involves a strange coupling of risk and reward.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11. We need to be appropriately equipped as we make our way through life. How does your spiritual practice equip you for faithful and obedient living?
Read Matthew 25:14–30. Where are your growing edges in investment management?

Week of November 17–23, 2014 – Power Made Perfect by Erica L. SchemperEzekiel 34:11–16, 20–24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15–23; Matthew 25:31–46
Scripture Overview: The universal rule of God, expressed in Christ the Shepherd-King, is a dominant theme in all this week’s texts. Both Old Testament texts dwell on the nurturing, protecting role of the Shepherd-King, whose people we are. Ezekiel 34 gives the shepherd’s guiding and defending role a political twist by condemning the succession of shepherd-kings who have neglected and exploited the flock. Both New Testament passages celebrate the victory of Christ: The enthroned Son of Man of Matthew 25 separates the flock, and the risen Christ of Ephesians 1 is seated by God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” Christ guarantees God’s completed reign.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Psalm 100. Reflect on the story of your own life and the lives of your spiritual forebears. What parts of the story make you want to sing?
Read Matthew 25:31–46. Consider the reminder that all people, in their neediness, are members of Jesus’ family. Commit to seeing each person you encounter as an opportunity to be nearer to Jesus.

Week of November 24–30, 2014 – Keep Awake! by Marty G. BellIsaiah 64:1–9; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19; 1 Corinthians 1:3–9; Mark 13:24–37Scripture Overview: Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Isaiah 64:1–9. Where have you discovered God in your life transitions?
Read Mark 13:24–37. How often do you allow fear and doom to encroach on God’s future of blessing?

Week of December 1–7, 2014 – The One Who Changes Everything by Jonathan C. WallaceIsaiah 40:1–11; Psalm 85:1–2, 8–13; 2 Peter 3:8–15a; Mark 1:1–8Scripture Overview: Hopeful anticipation characterizes this week’s texts. God’s people have come to terms with their inability to save themselves. Isaiah 40 states that Jerusalem has “served her term” in bondage to sin; a new era is about to dawn. Psalm 85 continues the theme of old sins forgiven, emphasizing an urgent need for some fresh outbreak of God’s initiatives. Harmonious and responsible relationships are to dominate the hearts of the people. Thoughts of righteousness and peace also pervade the passage from Second Peter. Yet the focus is clearly on Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will be sudden and unannounced; the new creation will then appear. The Gospel text focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus as John the baptizer comes to sensitize all hearts to the advent of the One promised long ago.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Isaiah 40:1–11. God’s word of comfort brings challenge as well. How are you preparing the way of the Lord?
Read 2 Peter 3:8–15a. How are you using this time of Advent waiting to move toward more faithful living?