Week of June 8–14 2015 – A Time to See by Harrell Nation Jr.
Read Psalm 20
Meditation: The reason many people leave the Christian faith after a brief sojourn is “unanswered” prayer. I take this to mean when a person discovers that God is not Santa Claus, he or she can’t find reason to remain within the fellowship of the church.
I don’t believe in unanswered prayer. I believe every prayer we pray receives an answer in one of three ways: yes, no, we’ll see. We have to understand and accept the fact that no is a valid answer. We also need to understand that often the thing we need most is no thing.
The psalmist gives voice to a prayer for those intangible things. Things like presence, peace, hope, assurance. These are the things that get us through those dark valleys and hard times, because these things we hold in our hearts. And these things hold our hearts; they keep us from falling into discouragement and despair.
Every prayer receives an answer. When the answer doesn’t come for those things we can hold in our hands, we can count on God’s being present in our heart.
Father, help me see and believe that your no will serve me better than a yes for what I want. Help me trust when I can’t see the answer to my prayer. Amen.
Week of June 15–21, 2015 – God’s Anti-bullying Campaign by Michael W. Waters
Read 1 Samuel 17:1a
Meditation: Undoubtedly, the Philistines intend to cause Israel great harm. Yes, war stirs on the horizon. The Philistines know that the opportunity to secure victory lies in assembling the largest number for battle. Israel has to view this gathering of the Philistines as disturbing. Knowing that your enemy—the greatest threat against your present well-being and your future existence—is gathering its total military force to do battle with you is a troubling proposition. Indeed, the very thought of warfare can often breed intimidation. Surely Israel faces this sobering reality as fear permeates its army’s ranks.
Intimidation is a ready tool of a bully. When skillfully employed, intimidation can result in a concession of defeat before the battle has even begun. When we witness our own bullies—familiar troubles and obstacles, known heartaches and setbacks—as they begin to “gather” against us in full force, we too can feel intimidated, fearful, and discouraged about our final outcome. If we are not careful, we will give up and pronounce our certain defeat before any weapon “is fashioned against [us]” (Isa. 54:17).
Life happens, and sometimes as life happens and challenges gather, we face intimidating prospects. We can either concede defeat to bullying circumstances, or we can prepare ourselves for battle by relying on our great Defender.
God, when bullying circumstances gather against me, help me not to succumb to intimidation and concede defeat but to trust you to take care of me. Amen.
Week of June 22–28, 2015 – Healing and Salvation by Taylor W. Mills
Read 2 Samuel 1:1, 17–27
Meditation: Something about the death of a special friend or relative stirs in us a desire to “say something” in the person’s memory. It’s as if death evokes a verbal response from us on a foundational level. So when I meet with a family to prepare a funeral or memorial service, I ask the members if anyone will want to give a eulogy following the homily that I will preach.
The deaths of Jonathan and Saul so move David that he sets forth guidelines. The Israelites are not to mention their deaths in the hearing of the enemy. No refreshing dew or rain will fall on the mountains; no oil will anoint Saul’s shield any longer. It will sit and rust.
Contrast David’s words with psalms of lament in the Bible. Often these psalms, while expressing a profound sadness, invoke God to act, deliver, forgive, or heal. David seems resigned to the fact that God can do nothing. David has not lost faith in God, but perhaps David’s abiding trust in God assures him that he can pour out his grief.
Just as there is an appropriateness to reverent silence in the face of death, there is also a natural desire to “say something” when someone dies. I know someone who writes letters to his deceased father and keeps them in a notebook. Others might speak aloud when they visit a burial site, even if they are alone. In such ways the grieving stand in solidarity with our prolific poet David who helps us put words to our grief.
Author of Life, sometimes words are all we have in our grief. Yet it is through words, even words of profound sadness, that we can feel your caring love. Where we need silence, grant us silence; but when we need words, give us words. Amen.
Week of June 29–July 5, 2015 – Balance of Power by Margaret L. Fleming
Read Psalm 48
Meditation: This morning, I awoke, unbolted my bedroom door, turned off the security alarm, and unlocked the dead bolt on the back door to let the cat out. I live in a safe neighborhood in a safe city. Round-the-clock police and fire protection and medical assistance will arrive within minutes if I call. My security system will summon authorities for a break-in or a fire. I live in a fortress.
Contrast that world with the world of the psalmist who experiences life from a position of vulnerability and powerlessness. And yet, for the psalmist, Jerusalem—specifically the God who lives in that city—is his sure defense, his mighty fortress. God’s steadfast love assures everything.
The psalmist speaks of his awestruck wonder of both the city and the God who lives there. He recalls the history of attacking forces who, when they view the city, find themselves “astounded” with praise; they flee with gratitude, having acknowledged the impenetrability of the city and its God—glad to be spared.
Most of us spend our lives building fortresses of knowledge, wealth, and prestige so we can escape feelings of vulnerability. Yet our sense of power is illusory. We will experience loss in life again and again. But when we, like the psalmist, consider the “city of our God” and the God that sustains that city, we too raise our voices in praise and wonder. We too will trust in the fortress of God’s power, the wideness of God’s mercy, and the steadfastness of God’s love.
Remembering first our weakness, let us ponder God’s steadfast love. Amen.