Week of July 27–August 2, 2015 – The Bread of Life by David Rainey
Read 2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a
Meditation: The prophet Nathan tells King David a story about a rich man stealing from a poor man. When David reacts to the obvious injustice, Nathan courageously declares, “You are the man!” Nathan’s call to confession moves David, but the story speaks to us all about our own sinfulness and hope for redemption.
      That the Bible has preserved this exchange is notable. After all, David, the most revered king in Israel’s history, is a political powerhouse whose leadership and faith inspire his people. He is the shepherd boy who took on Goliath, the poet whose songs filled Israel’s hymnbook. The authors of scripture could have downplayed or deleted David’s capabilities for great evil and deception. Instead, the scripture lays it all out, as if to say, If even King David can engage in such sinfulness, surely we have sin to confess. And if God forgives David’s sin and redeems his life for further service, surely that is the case for us!
      Nathan remains David’s friend through all his indiscretions. Who knows how long David might have woven his tangled web if the Lord had not used Nathan to intervene. Nathan confronts David with the truth. To his credit, David confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He realizes that in sinning against Bathsheba and Uriah, he has wounded the God who loves them all.
      David’s story goes beyond simple embarrassment to pain and tragedy. We note that David’s confession does not erase the consequences of his sinful acts. But the good news is that everyone—David, you, and I—can receive grace and continue to live.
      O God of grace, I hear your call to confession. I thank you that my sin does not have the last word. Amen.

Week of August 3–9, 2015 – Loving God through Troubling Times by Jane Herring
Read 2 Samuel 18:5–9
Meditation: The story of Absalom’s rebellion is on the verge of its tragic climax. These dramatic and murderous events are part of a series of disasters that began with David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Now father and son will meet on the battlefield. The day of battle between David’s seasoned army and Absalom’s conscripted soldiers has come.
      There is no happy ending to this story. Unlike the prodigal son, Absalom will not return home to make amends and become part of the family again. Battles are deadly, not life-giving.
      Absalom’s story warns us of our vanity, of self-righteous revenge, of greed for power and control, and of obsessing over others as the source of our problems. While we may not have deadly armies to set marching in battle against our enemies, our emotional battles with ourselves and others can be spiritually deadening.
      What threatens to deaden you spiritually? How can you be honest about the battles you wage and turn to God instead?
      Holy God, cut me free of anything that threatens my moral and spiritual well-being. Put my feet on your path and walk with me. Give me the strength and hope I need to grow in stature and in grace with you. Amen.

Week of August 10–16, 2015 – To God Belongs Eternal Praise by Titus O’Bryant
Read 1 Kings 2:10–12, 3:3–14
Meditation: God comes to meet us. God comes to us in our limitations and weaknesses, in our failures and misunderstandings. Solomon discovers this aspect of God’s character early in his reign. The royal historian who authored the books of the Kings of Israel notes how Solomon demonstrates his love for the Lord by following David’s example—except for his practice of offering sacrifices at pagan places of worship. We know Solomon as a wise man who gives way to the folly of marrying many wives and worshiping many gods. This story indicates the roots of both his great wisdom and his foolish idolatry.
      Yet the most striking character in this story is not Solomon at all (or even David) but the God who comes to meet Solomon. God does not wait for Solomon to straighten out every aspect of his life. God has no interest in Solomon’s knowing all the right answers or gaining a deeper level of maturity. God meets Solomon exactly where he is—questioning, uncertain, inexperienced, vulnerable, making mistakes, worshiping with pagans.
      God meets us in the same way. God is not looking for the holiest of saints to grace with divine presence. God does not wait for us to earn divine favor. God wants to join in our lives exactly where we find ourselves, just as we are. Do you feel hampered by indecision, lost in uncertainty, or weighed down with guilt? God will come to meet you, bringing divine presence—not because of your greatness but because of God’s.
      Gracious Lord, thank you for joining us in our ordinary, everyday, mistake-filled lives. Open our eyes to see you at work and our hearts to feel your presence. Amen.

Week of August 17–23, 2015 – Communion with God by Kristen E. Vincent
Read 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10–11
Meditation: In seminary my ethics professor asked us to write an argument to support the significance of coming together for worship. My own Sunday morning routine seemed mundane, hardly significant. But the assignment—inspired by my professor’s thought-provoking lectures—changed my way of thinking. I sat in church one morning and looked around at the congregation. Like me, they had gotten out of bed and embarked on their morning routine before coming to church. For some, the morning activities were slowed, weighed down by depression, grief, anxiety, or loneliness. Still others were conflicted about whether to come to church, wanting instead to sleep in, play golf, get caught up on work, or do something else entirely. But here they were, sitting in their pews. They had chosen to come and worship God. Their reasons for coming would vary. Very few, if any, would name the real reason we are here: God called, and we responded.
      That is what makes gathering for worship significant: Whether we realize it or not, we are responding to God’s call to come into God’s presence to praise and worship God. In today’s passage, Solomon calls the nation of Israel and its leaders to assemble. It is a momentous occasion: They are dedicating the new temple in Jerusalem. Everyone gathers to watch as the priests carry the ark of the covenant into the temple for the first time. At that moment, the glory of the Lord fills the temple with a great cloud. God is here in this place. That is significant, indeed.
      Loving God, you have called us to reconnect with you. Help us listen and respond. And in so doing, help us inspire others to respond as well. Amen.

Week of August 24–30, 2015 – Words of Life by Matthew Nelson
Read Song of Solomon 2:8–13
Meditation: Much singing goes on around my house. My daughter especially is a little songbird. She will repeat the latest tune or melody over and over as she dances around the house in her ballet dress. Her passion and joy are palpable. These songs seem to get “stuck” in a loop within her heart and mind, being repeated over and over again. That’s how it is with a tune; it captures you. The words and the tune come together and draw us into their rhythm. They speak to our heart.
      In this text, the woman sings of her “lover” coming to announce a new season. The winter has passed. A new season is present; “the time of singing has come.” “The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17, CEB). I delight in this interaction because it serves as a metaphor of our relationship with God. God sings to us, calling us each day to a new season of singing and dancing. God offers mercy, forgiveness, and grace each morning. God offers words for our hearts to sing over and over—to ourselves...and to the world around us.
      As you begin this new week, give yourself permission, maybe even instruction, to usher in a season of singing the words of life sung by our Creator. Sing songs of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, because you are God’s Beloved!
      Gracious God, thank you for your song of grace. Enable our hearts and lives to sing in tune with your grace. Amen.

Week of August 31–September 6, 2015 – A Share in the Household of God by Elaine Eberhart
Read Proverbs 22:1–2, 8–9, 22–23
Meditation: He stood outside the donut shop of my building at the university, wanting a dollar or a cup of coffee. His name was William, and we talked each morning before I left to deal with e-mail, calendars, and meetings. He would be absent for days at a time and upon his return would tell me that he had been sick.
      Most mornings I bought him a cup of coffee when I bought my own. Sometimes I was busy and gave him a dollar. And sometimes I was too late to do more than wave. Whatever I did, I always had a sense of guilt. Was I doing enough?
      Dennis, a colleague, and I shared the same office coffeepot. Though our paths didn’t cross often, we sometimes stopped to say hello when crawling over each other in the tiny break room. I saw him talking to William one day, taking my place as the coffee buyer. I asked him about the situation when we got to our office. Yes, he knew William. He knew he had a drinking problem; they talked about the lost days when he would go on a binge. Dennis tried to get William a job at the donut shop. He talked to the manager and took William to meet her. William wouldn’t apply, but Dennis was working on him, he said.
      What accounted for the difference in the way we talked about William—Dennis with his determination that William get a job, I with my fear of not doing enough for him? We were both concerned about William, but I saw William as someone I felt obligated to help in just the right way. Dennis saw William as he saw himself, someone who needed others to make it through life’s challenges, large and small.
      Thank you, God, for those who teach us to help and those who teach us to accept help. Amen.