Sermon: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
Scripture Readings: Psalm 121:1-8, Philippians 2:12-18
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. (Psalm 121:1-8)
Monday September 17 — Philippians 2:12-18
The familiar statement—God helps those who help themselves—is partially true. When we experience God’s grace, we are called to respond. God expects us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But we know that salvation is not something we can accomplish on our own, so we rely on the promise that God is at work in us and is the one who makes it possible for us to “work out [our] own salvation.” How are you experiencing God’s help as you work out your salvation?
- Prayer: Eternal God, help me to experience your presence in my life this week. Show me how to fully receive your grace and forgiveness and work out my salvation.
Tuesday September 18 — Psalm 68:4-6, Psalm 82:1-4
While we fully believe that God helps us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), we also believe that God helps us when we cannot help ourselves. In Biblical times, widows and orphans were people who had nothing and nobody. They had no social or legal status in society and could not help themselves. But the Bible is clear that God cares about them and expected the faithful to help them, even when they couldn’t help themselves. Do you know any people who—for any number of reasons—cannot help themselves? How can you help them?
- Prayer: Loving God, thank you for caring about people on the margins of society, people who are helpless to help themselves. Show me how I can join you in helping them.
Wednesday September 19 — Daniel 9:15-19
Daniel’s prayer for the people of Israel (which begins in Daniel 9:4) is a confession of sin and a desperate plea for God’s help in a time of trial (the Babylonian occupation of Jerusalem). Daniel’s hope is that God will hear his prayer—not because of Daniel’s piety, but for “[God’s] own sake,” and “on the ground of [God’s] great mercies” (Daniel 9:17, 18). The truth is that God responds to our prayers not because we are good, but because God is good. How do you feel about this truth?
- Prayer: Righteous God, thank you for hearing and responding to my prayer today. Forgive my sin and teach me your ways. Help me to see and trust in your goodness. Amen.
Thursday September 20 — Romans 8:5-11
Romans 8 describes the contrast between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh. In this instance, “in the flesh” refers to the sinful human condition of being separated from God. Because we are “in the flesh,” we are unable to live up to and into the fullness of God’s dream for our lives. We need the Spirit of God to work in our lives. We need God to accomplish for us what we are unable to accomplish for ourselves: our salvation. Are you aware of God’s Spirit dwelling in you?
- Prayer: God of Grace, I am aware that, on my own, I am unable to overcome the power of sin and death. fill me with your Spirit and raise me to new life through Christ Jesus.
Friday September 21 — Ephesians 2:1-10
The Good News of the Gospel is that, through Christ, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith. It is not our own doing or by any manner of helping ourselves. In fact, when it comes to the power of sin and death, we are unable to help ourselves. Only when we come to that realization are we able to put our whole trust in God’s grace. The good we are able to do is a result of God’s grace; it is not a means to earn God’s grace. How are you responding to God’s offer of salvation?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess my sin and humbly acknowledge my need for your forgiveness. I put my whole trust in your grace and promise to follow Jesus.
Saturday September 22 — 1 Corinthians 4:4-7
The apostle Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians addresses the reports he had heard about the divisions that were developing among the believers. Some Corinthians were claiming to be superior to others, based on which one of the teachers (Paul vs. Apollos) they followed. They believed that their relationship with God was a result of their good judgment and wise discernment. Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 4:7 cuts to the chase, for the Corinthians and for us: “what do you have that you did not receive?” The truth is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.
- Prayer: Almighty God, despite my desire to control my own life, I know that everything—including life itself—is a gift from you. Help me to live as if I really believe it.
Sermon: Everything Happens for a Reason
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)
Monday September 10 — Galatians 6:7-10
The Bible is consistent: there are consequences for human action. We reap what we sow. This works in two ways. First, there are often painful consequences for sinful behavior: we hurt ourselves; we hurt others. Sin damages relationships (with God and with others) and can only be healed by grace and forgiveness. Second, there are positive consequences for “doing what is right” (Galatians 6:9): we are blessed when we follow Jesus and bless others. This is what God desires for us and from us. In light of this truth, how will you “sow to the Spirit” (Galatians 6:8) today?
- Prayer: God of Truth, help me understand that there are consequences for every action. Help me to also understand the life-changing power of your love and grace.
Tuesday September 11 — Job 4:1-9
God’s people have always struggled with the relationship between suffering and sin. Job’s “friend” Eliphaz represents the commonly held view that Job’s suffering must be the result of a moral or spiritual failure: he must have sinned. The message of Job’s story challenges us to think carefully about “why bad things happen to good people.” Is the story of Job helpful for you? How do you reconcile the suffering of innocents with the Bible promises of divine justice?
- Prayer: God of Wisdom, grant me the courage I need to wrestle honestly with the challenges raised by the story of Job. Grant me the courage I need to trust you. Amen.
Wednesday September 12 — Job 42:1-8
The story of Job ends with a powerful reminder of God’s majesty and God’s mystery. The point is simple: God is God and Job (and we) are not! (You can read God’s message for yourself in Job 38-41.) Job’s response to God in Job 42 is what sets Job apart from his friends. Despite his suffering and despite God’s unwillingness to directly answer Job’s questions, Job is humbled and, however unwillingly, affirms his trust in God. In the end, God’s anger is directed toward Job’s friends. What will help you follow Job’s example? How might you cultivate the patience of Job for yourself?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my stubborn unwillingness to fully trust that you are God and that I am not. Teach me to trust you, even in the midst of pain and suffering.
Thursday September 13 — Exodus 34:5-9
The powerful statement that God is “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …” (Exodus 34:6-7) immediately follows the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf—a violation of the first commandment. The promise of God’s steadfast love and forgiveness is good news to all who have sinned. Do you believe the good news that you are forgiven?
- Prayer: God of Grace, I confess that I have sinned and fallen short of your glory. I need your forgiveness. Renew my confidence in the life-changing power of your grace. Amen.
Friday September 14 — Romans 8:22-28
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he describes both the Good News of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ (in chapters 1-11) and God’s desire for our response (in chapters 12-16). He does not tell us that we will not suffer or face hardships. Instead, he assures us that no matter where we go or what we face, God is with us. Even though God does not desire or cause our suffering, God continues to transform our lives. How have you experienced the promises God makes in Romans 8?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit that intercedes for me in times of weakness. Help me to experience your presence at all times and places.
Saturday September 15 — Deuteronomy 30:19-20
One of the most important words in Scripture is, “remember.” Fifteen times in Deuteronomy, the Israelites are instructed to remember who they are and whose they are. Like the Israelites, God also calls us to be people who remember. When we remember what God has done and what God expects of us, then like the Israelites, we have everything we need to choose life. What do you need to remember today? What will help you choose to obey God’s commandments so that you can experience the abundant life that God promises?
- Prayer: God of Heaven and Earth, help me remember your promises. Today, I choose to obey your commandments. Today I choose to live an abundant and fruitful life.
Sermon: Food For The Journey
“The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you. He got up and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”
1 Kings 19:7-8
Monday September 3 — Mark 14:22-25
Read Mark 14:22-25 a few times, maybe even listen to it with your eyes closed. Imagine being one of the disciples sitting with Jesus, your friend and teacher for the Passover meal. Jesus tells you that the bread you eat and the wine you drink is his body and blood. Imagine your confusion. Imagine your fear when you hear Jesus say that he will not share a meal like this with you again until God’s kingdom is on earth. How would that change the meaning of the meal for you, a disciple? How does it change the meaning for you, a disciple today? In what ways is the communion meal sacred for you? What do you want to learn or take away from this holy meal?
Prayer: Loving Savior, sharing a meal with you reminds me of your abiding love and grace. Help me to find ways to celebrate your sacred love and sacrifice this week.
Tuesday September 4 — 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, 33
In this letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul is teaching them how to receive communion. He wants to make sure they know that communion, is not only sacred and meaningful, but happens in community. There are things that divide the church in Corinth, like wealth and privilege, ethnicity and gender, Paul reminds them to not be divided but to be the Body of Christ as they participate in the Lord’s Supper. Reflect on the times you have received communion and what the body of Christ should be like. How have you witnessed the body of Christ through this meal?
Prayer: Christ, you have united your people through the gift of communion. You continue to teach the church to be one body. Bless me with a unifying spirit and heart to serve you and others.
Wednesday September 5 — Isaiah 55:1-2
This scripture from Isaiah reminds us that we are all invited to receive abundant life from God. The opening of Isaiah 55:2 asks us “Why do you labor for that which does not satisfy?” Isaiah is calling attention to the way people strive for things that do not feed us. What do you labor for, how do you spend your energy and money? This scripture teaches us that God offers all that can satisfy us. How can you follow God’s call today and choose to serve God instead of things that do not satisfy?
Prayer: God who provides, you have invited me to the water to receive all I need. Help me to find ways to serve you today.
Thursday September 6 — Psalm 78:23-25
Psalm 78 recalls how God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness with manna and how Elijah was fed bread by an angel. For all that they would face, the Israelites and Elijah were sustained through these gifts from God. The Israelites and Elijah were sustained through these gifts from God for all that they would face. Can you recall a time when God provided for you or when you received something in abundance? Sometimes, God’s providence and abundance isn’t in material things but in the support and love that surrounds us through friends, family, or our church community. How have you known God’s love and abundance in community? How can you extend God’s love and abundance to others?
Prayer: God, I ask that you open my eyes today to witness the ways you provide for me through those around me.
Friday September 7— John 6:1-14
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 in John shows Jesus’ miraculous abundance. Jesus provides for the people who have been following him, who have been receiving teachings and who are eager to learn from him. The gospel of John is the only gospel that does not include the Passover meal. Instead, Jesus provides for the needs of the people who followed him. When have your needs been met or when have you been spiritual fed by following Jesus? How can you follow Jesus today?
Prayer: Jesus, focus my heart today to follow you more closely. Set your words as a seal upon my heart so I remain close to you.
Saturday September 8 — John 15:1-5
Jesus invites us to abide in “the vine,” in John 15. As we abide in Jesus we will “bear much fruit.” This is a different understanding of abundance. Fruitfulness, is about success, fruitfulness is not about how we are serving God. Jesus promises abundant fruitfulness is this scripture. Instead of providing for our needs, Jesus invites us to go into the world and share the good news of God’s love and grace. As we go to serve God, we will abide in Jesus and bear fruit. How can you abide in Jesus? When have you borne fruit? How can you work towards fruitfulness?
Prayer: God of abundance, today you ask me to go out and serve you. Guide my actions so that I may be fruitful in sharing your message of love and grace.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 25:1-7, Isaiah 6:1-8
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8)
Monday August 27 — Deuteronomy 6:10-15
In the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy, we find the Great Commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We also find a warning about forgetting God (when life is good) and putting God to the test (by not trusting God’s faithfulness.) The point is that we are expected to worship God, serve God, and not follow any other gods or idols. As God’s children, we serve God and God alone. In what ways are you tempted to forget God or put God to the test? What helps you fulfill God’s Great Commandment?
- Prayer: God of Love, teach me to obey your Great Commandment. Help me worship and serve you and you alone. Help me trust you more fully with all of my life. Amen.
Tuesday August 28 — Luke 4:1-13
At the outset of his ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted in the three different ways. The second temptation was to give his allegiance to the devil in return for worldly power. Even though we are not the Son of God, we are also tempted to trust our own power and/or the world’s power instead of God. We do well to remember Jesus’ response (in Luke 4:8) whenever we are tempted to serve anyone but God. What helps you resist the temptation to trust your own power instead of God? What helps you resist the temptation to use worldly power?
- Prayer: Merciful God, help me be honest with myself and with you. Forgive me when I give in to the temptation to trust anyone (including myself) or anything other than you. Amen.
Wednesday August 29 — Luke 22:24-30
When we choose to follow Jesus (see Luke 5:1-11), we learn to become Christ-like servants. But too often we are like Jesus’ first disciples who were more concerned with human greatness, status, and importance than they were with being servants. In Luke 22 and 23, the contrast between Jesus’ ultimate act of service for others—his suffering and death—and the disciples’ concern for self and status is intentional. Would you rather serve or be served? How does your relationship with Jesus affect your answer to the (previous) question?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of Jesus, who chose to serve, not to be served. Give me a servant heart. Help me to be more like Jesus every day. Amen.
Thursday August 30 — 1 Timothy 4:11-16
1 Timothy is a letter from a mature, experienced follower of Jesus to a young leader in the next generation of the Church. The letter describes the desired qualities and characteristics for serving God and encourages leaders to set an example for other believers in both “speech and conduct” (1 Timothy 4:12). Being (too) young does not disqualify anyone from leadership and service. What excuses do you use to disqualify yourself from serving God? What kind of example do you set for others?
- Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage I need to live my faith more fully and set a positive example – in both speech and conduct — of love, faith, and purity. Amen.
Friday August 31 — Numbers 8:5-13
From the beginning, God set aside men and women to serve as leaders of God’s people. Numbers 8 describes the consecration of the tribe of Levi (see Numbers 3:5-10) so “that they may do the service of the Lord” (Numbers 8:11). One of the great themes of Scripture is that God calls and empowers people to serve the Lord according to their gifts and abilities. Every one of us is called by God and empowered to share God’s mission and serve God’s purposes in the world. How has God called and empowered you to serve God’s purposes in the world? What are your gifts? How do you use your gifts for God?
- Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me when I fail to seek and fulfill your purpose for my life. Use me and the gifts you’ve given me for your mission and your ministry.
Saturday September 1 — Acts 6:1-7
In the early days of the Church, seven deacons (the word, deacon, means, servant) were identified and commissioned to help distribute the food (probably during the communal meals.) Their service was necessary for the mission of the Church to be accomplished (see Acts 6:7). Likewise, our willingness to serve others in simple or even menial tasks (as opposed to being served by others) is necessary for the mission of the Church to be accomplished today. Are you willing to serve others—and help God change the world?
- Prayer: Eternal God, today I choose to serve you by serving others, so that the mission of the Church will be accomplished in the world. Use me to change the world. Amen.
Sermon: The Power of Promise
Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:2-5, Exodus 17:1-7
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” (Exodus 16:4-5)
Monday August 20 — Exodus 16:2-5
One of the themes running through the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was that the people constantly “complained against Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 16:2). Their complaint was that life as a slave in Egypt was better than taking the risk of trusting God in the wilderness. In response, God promises manna (a fine, flaky, bread-like substance.) The bread from heaven was both a sign of God’s providence and a test of the Israelites’ willingness to trust God’s promises. What signs of God’s providence have you seen recently. What helps you trust God’s promises?
• Prayer: Merciful God, open my eyes and ears to see and hear the signs of your presence all around me. Grant me confidence to trust in your promises always. Amen.
Tuesday August 21 — John 6:25-35
According to John’s Gospel, after the crowd was fed using just five barley loaves and two fish, they continued to ask Jesus for signs that would help them believe him. Like the Israelites long before them, they wanted assurances of God’s presence, but were blind to all that God was doing in their midst. Jesus challenged them to see that the bread they received from him was a sign that he himself was the “bread of life” (John 6:35). Do you believe that Jesus is the “bread of life” for you?
• Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for continuing to ask for signs, when I have the assurance of your love and the gift of abundant life through your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday August 22 — Exodus 17:1-7
Even after the Israelites received manna from heaven, they continued to quarrel and complain against Moses. Their faith was weak, and they were still not able to trust God on their journey through the wilderness. Despite their immaturity, God did not abandon them; God continued to provide for them. This is good news for all of us who struggle to fully trust God and grow in our relationship with God. In prayer, acknowledge your need for God’s grace and God’s provision.
• Prayer: God of Eternal Life, I hunger and thirst for the food and drink that only you can provide. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the living water and the bread of life. Amen.
Thursday August 23 — Exodus 32:1-14
Despite God’s instructions to the contrary (Exodus 20:1-6) and the Israelites’ vow of obedience (Exodus 24:3), they still implored Aaron to make for them a golden calf as a replacement for Moses (and God.) Exodus 32:7-10 describes God’s anger toward the people. But in Exodus 32:11-14, Moses convinces God to remember God’s own covenant with Abraham and offer grace. Like the Israelites, we are too easily tempted turn away from God and worship (and trust) idols of our creation—idols like money, status, power. Like the Israelites, we need God’s grace.
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for being tempted to turn away from you and worship idols that are created by human hands. I need your grace every day. Amen.
Friday August 24 — Exodus 34:5-10
According to Exodus, God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai on four different occasions. At the final meeting, God’s character is revealed to Moses. God is ultimately a God of mercy, grace, steadfast love, and forgiveness. The truth is: we receive God’s forgiveness not because we have done anything to deserve it. Like the Israelites, we are too often stiff-necked people (Exodus 34:9). God forgives us because it is the very nature of God to forgive. Receive God’s love and grace today.
• Prayer: God of Steadfast Love, I am humbled by the undeserved gift of your forgiveness. Transform my life by the power of love and grace. Make me a new creation. Amen.
Saturday August 25 — Psalm 145:1-21
The reputation of the Old Testament is that God is angry, demanding, harsh, and eager to punish sinners. While passages in both Testaments can be interpreted in that way, there is another prominent Old Testament theme: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9). How might you fulfill the second verse in the 145th Psalm: “Every day I will bless you,and praise your name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:2)?
- Prayer: Almighty God, with your help I will remember your goodness, and give you praise. My life will reflect your glory and I will share your love every day of my life.
Sermon: Powerful Lessons
Scripture Reading: Exodus 19:3-6 and Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. (Exodus 19:4-5)
Monday August 13 — Philippians 2:1-11
In our earlier readings in Exodus we find the Israelites crying out to God for help. In Philippians, Paul is reminding the church that God cares for them through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the model of how to love one another. So as we live more like Jesus we will answer the cries of those in need. The Philippians know how they should live together because of the love of Jesus, and so do we. What does it look like when we are “of one mind” and we “don’t give in to selfish ambition or conceit (vs. 3)?” Consider how you have been loved in community, at St. Matthew’s, school, work, with friends or family. How can you extend that love to others?
Prayer: Emmanuel, God with us, atune my heart to love as you love. Help me to be of one mind, the mind of Christ in all I say and do. Amen.
Tuesday August 14 — Matthew 18:19-20
It was so easy for the Israelites in Exodus to feel abandoned by God, suffering in slavery and continually oppressed by the Egyptians. Jesus is speaking to a community that is also oppressed, this time by the Roman government. They are struggling to understand how to live together. Jesus reminds them that even when things are difficult whenever they gather they are not alone but with God. There are so many ways that we struggle today. When have you encountered God’s love with others? Today, consider a new way you can gather with others and experience God’s love.
Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes so I may witness your love in community today. Remind me that in loving you I am never alone. Amen.
Wednesday August 15 — Ecclesiastes 4:1-12
In Matthew, Jesus tells us “where two or three are gathered, God is with them (Matt. 18:20).” Ecclesiastes 4 shares a similar message, but teaches us that when we are working with someone else the work is (naturally) easier and the burden is lighter. Think of a time when you tried to accomplish a task on your own and were unsuccessful. How long did it take you to ask for help? This scripture asks to think about the difficulties we all face and to choose to face them with someone instead of alone. How can you share your burdens with someone else and lighten your load?
Prayer: Everpresent God, when I struggle to see you, when life is difficult, when I feel alone, enable me to share my burdens with others. Amen.
Thursday August 16 — Luke 5:18-25
This scripture about the paralytic is told in the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. Each author tells the story differently, but they all share that a group of people carry someone to Jesus to be healed. This passage from Luke is unique. Jesus “saw their faith” and forgave the man of his sins (vs. 20) and then healed him. It is the faith of all the people that peaks Jesus’ interest and he chooses to respond. What does it look like when a community cries out to God to respond to suffering in our world? What suffering do you witness and God calls you to respond?
Prayer: Calling God, you draw my attention to places of pain and suffering. Sometimes I look away. Today, give me a clear heart to answer you call and love your people. Amen.
Friday August 17 — John 15:12-17
In this scripture from John, Jesus is foreshadowing his own death. He tells the disciples, “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (vs. 13).” But, Jesus is also teaching the disciples, and us about who we are called to be as Christians. Christianity is not a private faith but a faith lived out in fullness within a community. Jesus wants the disciples to know that loving one another isn’t passive but active. When we choose to love one another in community we will bear fruit, God’s kingdom will be known on earth, and our world will be transformed by God’s love (vs. 16). How can you choose to reach out to someone with Christ’s love today?
Prayer: Sending God, you invite me each day to live out may faith more fully. Today your scripture calls me to extend your love beyond myself. Equip me to share your love with others. Amen.
Saturday August 18 — 1 Corinthians 13
This scripture, often read at weddings, is actually written to a community that was struggling to understand how to live with one another. They privileged those who had wealth and blocked their servants from taking communion (1 Cor. 11). But the apostle Paul wants them to have a vision for how they should be loving one another. Read through this passage, particularly verses 4-8, a few times. When have you loved others this way? When have you made mistakes and not loved as you are called? What’s one thing you can work on to love others as Christ loved us?
Prayer: Forgiving God, it can be hard to show love through patience, kindness, humbleness. The list keeps going on… Give me strength to love as you have called us to. Amen.
Sermon: The Power of Stories
Scripture Reading: Exodus 4:27-31, Exodus 13:3-10
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year. (Exodus 13:6-10)
Monday August 6 — Exodus 4:27-31
The call stories of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 3 & 4), concluded with a meeting of the entire “congregation” of the Israelites. There, Aaron shared the entire story (of God hearing the prayers of the Israelites, calling Moses and Aaron to lead the people, and performing signs and wonders), and as a result: “the people believed…and worshipped” (Exodus 4:31). This is what the Church does every week. We tell the stories of what God has done through Jesus – and we believe and we worship. Which stories of God’s deeds inspire you to believe and worship?
- Prayer: Amazing God, thank you for all that you have done in my life and in the world around me. Because of these wonders, I believe, and I worship you. Amen.
Tuesday August 7 — Exodus 6:2-13
For the second time in the Exodus story, God’s name was revealed to Moses. (See Exodus 3:13-22). In many English translations, God’s name is written as “The Lord” (all uppercase). This represents the Hebrew letters YHWH. In Hebrew tradition, God’s name was too holy to be spelled out, which is why “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7) is one of the ten commandments. This was very important to the Israelites. Why might it be important for you?
- Prayer: O Lord my God, teach me your ways and transform my life. Keep your name holy in my heart and mind. Purify both my thoughts and my words today. Amen.
Wednesday August 8 — Exodus 7:1-13
The first part of Exodus 7 fulfills the promises God made to Moses. As instructed, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand that he let God’s people “go out of his land” (see Exodus 7:2, and Exodus 7:6.) As promised, God was with them and empowered their ministry. With God’s help they performed signs and wonders in Pharaoh’s presence. No unlike Pharaoh, today’s world demands signs and wonders from followers of Jesus. Think about how your life (what you do and say) might be signs and wonders for people who are looking for God.
- Prayer: Almighty God, I know that the ultimate sign of your presence is a transformed human life. Use me to show your love to people who are desperately seeking you.
Thursday August 9 — Exodus 12:21-28
In response to Pharaoh’s hardened heart, Egypt experienced ten plagues on its land and its people. The conflict intensified as the plagues progressed, culminating with the Passover, which protected the Israelites from the final plague, the death of the firstborn children. This is such an important story that Moses commanded the Israelites to continue observing the Passover as part of their salvation history. As a Christian, what helps you remember your salvation story?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death by your love and grace. Teach me to live life that is worthy of my salvation. Amen.
Friday August 10 — Exodus 13:3-10
Biblically, the Passover commemorates Israel’s escape from the death of the firstborns, while the Festival of Unleavened Bread commemorates Israel’s exodus from Egypt (when they could not wait for bread to leaven). The primary purpose of these festivals is to remember what God has done. In the same way, we remember what God has done for us when we eat the bread and share the cup of Holy Communion. How does our Sacrament help you remember what God has done?
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus, and for the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Help me to remember who I am – and whose I am.
Saturday August 11 — Exodus 14:10-22
The Israelites’ deliverance from the Egyptian army as they crossed the Red Sea is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. The first thirteen chapters of Exodus have dramatically built up to this climactic event. But it is really just the beginning of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. In the same way, being saved by grace through faith is just the beginning of our discipleship journey. Salvation is the beginning of abundant life with God – in this world, and the next.
- Prayer: God of Grace, help me trust in your gift of salvation and live an abundant life of faithful service as a disciple of Jesus – in this world and the next. Amen.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
It’s hard to believe that this is the first week of August. The summer seems to have gone by very quickly and whether we like it or not, fall is on the way. Just as families are getting ready for the start of school, around the church we are preparing for fall and, dare I say, winter (the first Sunday of Advent is only 121 days away.) Because everyone is so busy, I want to share a few important dates with you so that you can add them to your family calendar. Look for details about these and other services, programs, activities, and events in newsletters, worship bulletins and announcements, and weekly emails.
• August 26 – Youth Mission Sunday. Our youth will share experiences from the music tours and mission trips at all three services.
• September 8, 10:00 a.m. – United Methodist Women’s Welcome Back Tea. All women are invited for this fun event.
• September 9 – Fall Kick-Off. Inspiring worship followed by a church picnic on the lawn.
• September 30, 2:00 p.m. – Fall Service Day. We will partner with the United Methodist student ministry at George Mason to package 40,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger.
• October 14 – Children’s Sabbath. Our children help lead worship as we celebrate ministry with and for children in the church and community.
We have a couple more weeks in our school supply drive for Weyanoke Elementary School. But since Virginia’s tax-free weekend starts today and ends Sunday, I hope you will pick up a few items that will help the children at Weyanoke get a good start to the school year. In case you need it, here is a list of the supplies that we are collecting: inexpensive headphones (no ear buds), Ziploc bags (sandwich and gallon size), colored dry erase markers, Lysol wipes, tissues, backpacks, two pocket folders, composition books, and loose-leaf paper. You can put your donations in the marked bins in the church library. The deadline is August 19. Thank you for supporting this important mission project.
In last week’s eNote, I shared some information about the called General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019. I want to remind you that, if you want to know more, there will be a General Conference briefing on Wednesday August 8 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at St. Georges UMC (4910 Ox Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030). The session is free, but participants are asked to register. Additional details and registration information is available at this link.
On Sunday morning, we will be continuing our summer sermon series about Moses. This week we will be talking about The Power of Stories. The stories of the Exodus have been told and retold for thousands of years. They encourage us to think about the stories of our own faith. Why are stories so important to us? Which stories of our faith are most encouraging? What helps us remember who we are and whose we are? I hope you’ll join us in worship as we think about these questions and more. The Scripture readings will be Exodus 4:27-31 and Exodus 13:3-10.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday morning.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope you are doing well today and have made it through the wet weather this week without any problems.
I’ve been enjoying my preparations for the Moses sermon series we started last Sunday. The story of Moses and the people of Israel is both fascinating and instructive. As I said in last week’s message, this is the defining story of the Jewish people. It is a story of salvation and understanding the Exodus helps us understand more fully our Christian story. I hope you’ll join us for worship if you’re in town. (Don’t forget that If you are traveling, you can listen to our audio live stream on Sunday morning or a recording of the on our website later in the week.) I also hope that you will use the Grow-Pray-Study Guide to read through the story and reflect on its meaning for your life. I think you’ll be blessed if you do.
This second message in the series is about God’s call of Moses and Moses’ response. When we take this story seriously, we learn about God and we learn about ourselves. We discover that we are more like Moses than we might expect. The message is entitled, The Power of People. The Scripture readings will be Exodus 2:11-25 and Exodus 3:1-12.
St. Matthew’s Jeremiah Project Team has been hard at work in the Front Royal and Winchester area this week. They complete their projects today and return home tomorrow (July 28). I know they have appreciated your prayers and support. The Bi-District (Arlington and Alexandria Districts of the UMC) Youth Mission Trip returns to Virginia on Monday (July 30). Three members of the St. Matthew’s Church family are participating in that trip. They have also appreciated your prayers for their safe travel and their ministry. You will have an opportunity to see and hear about all of our youth’s summer mission programs on August 26. At all three services on that Sunday, members of the Music Tour, Appalachia Service Project, Jeremiah Project, and Costa Rica Trip will tell us about their experiences. Youth Mission Sunday is a great annual tradition and you will want to join us as we celebrate youth ministry at St. Matthew’s.
Finally, the report of the Commission on a Way Forward was made public through the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church. It is a long document that contains petitions (changes to the Book of Discipline) for the three plans that have been proposed, which will be considered at a called session of the General Conference in February 2019. The entire report of the Commission on the Way Forward is Exhibit D, which begins on page 131 of the document.
If you would like to know more, there will be a General Conference briefing on Wednesday August 8 from 7:00 – 8:30pm at St. Georges UMC (4910 Ox Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030). The session is free, but participants are asked to register. Additional details and registration information is available at this link. Please keep the entire denomination in your prayers, especially the 860+ delegates to the General Conference who will be making difficult decisions about the future of our Church.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Sermon: The Power of Fear
Scripture Reading: Exodus 1:6-22, Exodus 2:1-10
So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (Exodus 1:18-21)
Monday July 23 — Genesis 37:23-28
In order to understand the context for the story of Moses, we have to go back to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, starting in chapter 37. Earlier in Genesis, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt during a time of famine, but they did not stay. When Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, the movement of the family of Israel into Egypt began. For the complete story of how the family of Israel found themselves in Egypt, read the entirety of Genesis 37-50 this week. Consider the importance of context for our understanding of the Bible’s message.
- Prayer: Faithful God, I am grateful that you journey with me throughout the course of my life. You guide my life, even when I am not aware of where I am going. Amen.
Tuesday July 24 — Genesis 42:1-5, 18-25
After Joseph was established in Egypt as a high-ranking member of Pharaoh’s court, there was a famine in Israel. As a result, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. The events described in Genesis 42-45 illustrate the unexpected ways God works in our lives. God does not make bad things happen, but God has the power to take the raw material of our lives—both good and bad—and make something new. How have you experienced the life-changing power of God recently?
- Prayer: God of Wonder, I am constantly amazed at the breadth and depth of your love and grace. Continue to work your miracles. I am ready for you to make all things new. Amen.
Wednesday July 25 — Genesis 47:27-31
By the end of the book of Genesis, the family of Jacob has settled in Egypt. The final chapters of Genesis describe Jacob’s death and burial; Joseph’s act of forgiveness toward his brothers; and Joseph’s death. The Israelites (the family of Jacob) had taken a journey (over many years) that they never would have predicted. It wasn’t the journey they had planned, and yet they discovered—at every turn—that God was with them. What helps you trust in God when the twists and turns of life take you in directions you were not expecting?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your patience and persistence. When I fall, you pick me up. When I get lost, you find me. Give me the courage I need to trust you always.
Thursday July 26 — Exodus 1:1-14
The opening verses of the book of Exodus describe the passing of time and the success of the Israelites in Egypt. They also describe the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians, who were led by a king “who did not know Joseph.” It’s a lesson about the importance of understanding our history. It’s also a lesson about the power of fear. When we forget our story – who we are and how we arrived in our current situation – we can be too easily driven by fear instead of faith. Which aspects of your story help you remain faithful in the midst of changing circumstances? What helps you remember your story?
- Prayer: Almighty God, inspire in me today a desire to remember who I am and whose I am. Help me to see your presence in my life and live by faith, not by fear.
Friday July 27 — Exodus 1:15-22
Shiphrah and Puah are heroes in the story of Moses and the Israelites. They were midwives who had been instructed by the king of Egypt to kill all of the baby boys born to Hebrew women. But Exodus 1:17 tells us that they “feared God” and refused to carry out the king’s order. In this context, fearing God is about experiencing awe and wonder in God’s presence. It’s about having a relationship with God that leads to obedience and confidence in God’s unconditional love. What is your confidence in God’s unconditional love inspiring you to do today?
- Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for the many ways I fail to place my complete confidence in the promises of salvation and your unconditional love. Help me to trust and obey.
Saturday July 28 — Exodus 2:1-10
“God works in mysterious ways” is an overused cliché, but it seems to be an appropriate way to describe the series of events surrounding the birth of Moses. Looking back and remembering these events inspired later generations of Israelites to have confidence that God is at work in their lives and in the world. In their darkest days, God called and prepared Moses to serve God’s purposes for the salvation of God’s people. In the same way, God calls and prepares us to serve God’s purposes for the salvation of the world. Do you believe that God is at work in the world today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for calling and preparing people like Moses – and me – to serve your purposes in the world. Help me to see your hand at work in my life.