Sermon: All God’s Kingdom
Scripture Reading: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16
Monday October 15 – Luke 11:11-13
Before you read the scripture, pause and consider the requests you daily make in prayer. Prayers for loved ones, or those sufferings, prayers for blessings or provisions. Now read the scripture and wonder about how God has answered or responded to these prayers. This scripture describes basic needs a child would request. What basic needs do you lift up to God? How can you ask God to provide for necessities in your life? Activity – Try a new form of prayer and draw your requests and petitions to God.
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came to teach us and to show us in action what God is like. Embed in my heart a picture of a God in whose caring presence I can have a childlike trust.
Tuesday October 16 – Psalm 78:4-7
We, as faithful Christians, have received God’s love and grace in our lives. Our response to that love and grace is to share it with others. Psalm 78 is an instructive song that chronicles God’s redeeming acts in Israel’s history. The best way to teach children how to love God and love their neighbors is to model love and forgiveness for them. Children are important in God’s kingdom. Who shared God’s love and grace with you as a child? Lift them up in prayer today. Activity – Today, look at the St. Matthew’s website. Look at the ministries we have for children and service opportunities. Consider where God may be calling you to care for children.
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have proved through the history of your people how great your love and patience are for your children. Move us to share your stories with the children around us. Bless your children, for they have inherited your promises. Amen.
Wednesday October 17 – Matthew 18:1-5
This scripture is very similar to the Mark 10 scripture. However in Matthew, Jesus calls the children to him (in Mark 10, the children are brought up to Jesus) to answer the disciples question “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It is easy to be caught up in our world that is obsessed with status. The disciples were worried about status, too. In Jesus’ world, children had no status. Who are the persons in our world we should notice who have no status? Activity – Today, notice the people around you. Pray for them, be open to caring for them. Lift them up to God. And consider, how this impacts your own status in our world.
- Prayer: Loving God, you valued children enough to tell your followers to be more like them. Guide me in growing a faith that is trustingly child-like. Amen.
Thursday October 18 – Isaiah 43:18-19
This passage from Isaiah reminds us that God is continually creating in our world. One way we see this concretely is through babies and children. The world we often feel accustomed to, offers new mysteries each day to children as they grow and develop. How can you choose to view the world in a new way today? What can you pray for to experience the world in a new way or see the world in a new way? Activity – Try something new today. Visit a new restaurant, listen to new music or podcast. Take a walk in a new park. Or just take a different route home from work. Where did you encounter God?
- Prayer: God, you are continually making things new. Help me to recognize you in the new and unexpected places. Amen.
Friday October 19 – Romans 12:2-5
Minds transformed? To be honest, it reads like a lot of work and effort. It would be easier to just go along in our world, without considering how God is continually working on us. This brief scripture from Romans 12 teaches us to continual discern; to continual seek God’s call and God’s will in our lives. In pursuing transformation from God, we can find what is good, acceptable and perfect in God. This is a difficult task, but, as Romans 12, continues, we are one body with many members. We don’t discern God’s will on our own but with our community. Activity – Today, talk to someone in the St. Matthew’s family. Ask about how they are discerning God’s will. Engage more deeply in our community of faith.
- Prayer: God, you call us to strive towards your good and perfect will. This is difficult on our own. Thank you for the community of St. Matthew’s. Guide us as we work together towards your will for our church.
Saturday October 20 – Joel 2:28, Acts 2:14-18
We often talk about God calling Abraham or Moses when they were elderly. But the prophet Joel, quoted by the apostle Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, made it clear that God called people of all ages to the work of God’s kingdom. These passages remind us that in all God’s kingdom there is no one too old or too young to participate in building God’s kingdom here on earth. Our scriptures remind us that God has a future planned for all God’s kingdom. Activity – As we look ahead to the transitions at St. Matthew’s where is your place in helping to build God’s kingdom? Consider your place and then, talk to someone from a different generation. How do they imagine their place at St. Matthew’s and in God’s kingdom?
- Prayer: Loving God, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inspire me to work to build your kingdom here on earth with all people. Amen.
Sermon: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
Scripture Readings: Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 14:4-13
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
Monday October 8 — Matthew 9:9-13
One of the most extraordinary aspects of Jesus’ ministry was the way he related to people on the margins of society, especially people who had been labeled, “sinner.” This would have included prostitutes, people accused of adultery, and tax collectors (who were considered traitors because they worked for the Romans and often collected more money than necessary to line their own pockets.) These are the kinds of people Jesus loved. Do you share Jesus love for sinners?
• Prayer: Loving God, expand my capacity for loving others today. Help me follow the example of Jesus and love all people, include people I think are sinners. Amen.
Tuesday October 9 — 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Romans 14:4-13
The New Testament very clearly warns us that we are in no position to judge another person. We don’t know what is in anyone’s heart. The only one qualified to render judgment is God, and we are not God. Earlier in the letter Paul told the Romans that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and then reminds them that “each of us will be accountable to God” (Romans 14:12.) Spend time today reflecting on your own life and your need for God’s grace.
• Prayer: God of Grace, I aware of the depth of my sin and my failure to do your will. I need the undeserved gift of your grace, today and every day. Forgive me in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Wednesday October 10 — Matthew 7:1-5
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus makes several striking statements about God’s expectations for our lives. None of Jesus’ words are more challenging than today’s reading from Matthew 7. Jesus teaches us that we will be judged at the same intensity and by the same criteria that we judge others. Instead of being hypocrites, we should examine our lives before we judge our neighbors. What do you think when Jesus says, “do not judge” (Matthew 7:1)? Is he talking to you? How will you respond to Jesus’ teaching?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I often focus too closely on the faults and failings of others. Shine your light into my life so that I can see myself the way you see me. Amen.
Thursday October 11 — Acts 11:2-18
Christians in the early Church, like Christians today, struggled to follow Jesus’ example of loving their neighbors when they firmly believed that their neighbors were sinners. Romans—especially Roman soldiers—were sinners according to the early Church. As a result, many in the 1st century Church refused to associate with them or eat with them. Peter’s message in Acts 11, which follows his experience in Acts 10 describes a healing (or conversion) experience. God opened Peter’s eyes to see God’s will more clearly. Who is God opening your eyes to see more clearly?
• Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes to see others the way you see them. Help me to see the ways you are at work in the lives of people I might ignore or reject. Amen.
Friday October 12 — Luke 19:1-10
Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus is another example of the life-changing power of God’s grace. Instead of judging Zacchaeus, Jesus shared a meal with him. In Luke’s account, we discover the way God works. Zacchaeus’ change of heart and mind (his repentance) happened after he experienced the love of God in his meeting with Jesus. According to Luke, Jesus’ love for Zacchaeus (not his judgment) changed Zacchaeus’ life. How has God’s love changed your life?
• Prayer: God of Unconditional Love, thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to be my Savior and my friend. Today, I chose once again to follow him. Amen.
Saturday October 13 — 1 Peter 1:17-2:3
One of the themes of Peter’s epistles is that following Jesus leads to a transformed life. When we encounter the living Christ and accept the grace and forgiveness that he offers, we are not left unchanged. Through the power of God’s love and grace, we set aside our old lives, “all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander” and “grow into salvation” (1 Peter 2:1, 2) In other words, we learn to love and live the way Jesus loved and lived. That’s God’s goal for our lives.
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am grateful for the teaching and the example and the love of Jesus, even when it confronts and challenges me. Help me to grow into salvation. Amen.
Sermon: God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 23:12-14, 2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Monday October 1 — 2 Timothy 3:14-17
As Christians, we believe that Scripture is central to our life of faith and discipleship. Like John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist movement) we are people of “one book,” the Bible. We can affirm, with Timothy, that the Scriptures provide what is necessary for salvation, for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Is reading and studying Scripture a regular part of your spiritual life? Are you being trained in righteousness?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift that is the Bible. Use it to teach me your ways. Help me to grow in my understanding of your will for my life. Amen.
Tuesday October 2 — John 1:14-18, Hebrews 1:1-3
Even though we often call the Bible the Word of God, we read in both the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is the primary way God is revealed to us: Jesus is the Word of God. In Jesus, “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). This means that if we want to know God, we need to know Jesus. If we want to know God’s will for our lives, we follow Jesus as his disciple; we follow his example and obey his teaching. In what ways does your life reflect the teaching and example of Jesus? Where is God leading you to grow?
• Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage I need to follow Jesus’ example and obey his teaching. Mold and shape my life so that Jesus is reflected in me today. Amen.
Wednesday October 3 — Matthew 5:38-48
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is one of the most meaningful—and most challenging—collections of Jesus’ teaching in any of the four Gospels. It describes the great expectations he has for his disciples and challenges them to look beyond the letter of “the Law” (the Hebrew Scriptures, which are our Old Testament) to God’s intention. He interprets the Scripture for them. In what ways do Jesus’ teaching and example challenge your understanding of God’s expectations for your life?
• Prayer: God of Great Expectations, forgive me for the ways I ignore Jesus’ difficult teaching and challenging words. Help me to trust him and trust you as I live my life. Amen.
Thursday October 4 — Luke 15:11-24
Jesus’ parable about a father and the father’s two sons is one of the most familiar and meaningful passages in the Bible. Even non-Christians understand the idea of a “prodigal son.” The familiarity of the story means that we sometimes miss the extraordinary nature of Jesus’ message. Compare this story with what Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says about rebellious children. Jesus’ description of God’s amazing grace confronted the conventional wisdom of his day and challenges our understanding of God and God’s willingness to forgive. How do you feel about God’s gift of grace?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I struggle to understand the breadth and depth of your love for me, and for all of your children. Thank you for your gift of grace. Amen.
Friday October 5 — John 8:2-11
Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery is another example of Jesus’ confounding the expectations of the religious leaders of his day. The scribes and Pharisees wanted to know if Jesus would uphold the law—which commanded that the woman be stoned to death (see Leviticus 20:10). In his action (in this case, his inaction) he revealed God’s offer of forgiveness and God’s desire for repentance. What do you think about what Jesus did? How might you have responded?
• Prayer: God of Love, open my eyes to see the world the way Jesus sees the world. Help me to receive and share the gift of forgiveness that Jesus offers the world. Amen.
Saturday October 6 — John 4:7-10, 15-18, 25-30
One of the most important themes in the New Testament Gospels is that Jesus constantly rejected the conventional wisdom of the Jewish world in which he lived. The religious leaders, his disciples, and the variety of people that he encountered in his ministry were surprised, confounded, confused, astonished (see John 4:27) and often quite upset at the things Jesus did (and did not do), including his willingness to engage with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Do the stories of what Jesus said and did ever upset you? Have you ever been astonished by Jesus?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior, my teacher, and my guide. With your help, I will follow him wherever he leads me. Amen.
Sermon: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle
Scripture Readings: Psalm 46:1-11, 1 Corinthians 10:11-14
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult….God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns….The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-3, 5, 7)
Monday September 24 — 1 Corinthians 10:11-14
The phrase, God won’t give you more than you can handle, is commonly based on 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.” The problem is that this passage (and this verse) are specifically about not giving in to the temptation to worship idols. We can confirm God will help us resist the temptation to turn away from God. But this verse does not mean that we will be able to handle every situation that comes our way. How do you experience God’s help as you resist the temptations that you face every day?
• Prayer: God of Eternal Strength, open my eyes to see clearly the temptations that I face every day. Help me resist the lure of idols that entice me to turn away from you. Amen.
Tuesday September 25 — James 1:12-18
One of the strongest of the temptations we face every day is to believe that God causes bad things to happen in our lives. What we do believe is that God’s gives us freedom and we experience the consequences of being imperfect, fallen people who live in an imperfect, fallen world. We also believe that God is the source of “perfect” gifts—gifts that God offers freely and generously. What gifts have you received from God today? How are God’s purposes being fulfilled in your life?
• Prayer: Generous God, thank you for pouring out the abundance of gifts that I receive every day. Fulfill your purposes in and through my life today. Amen.
Wednesday September 26 — Numbers 11:10-17
In the wilderness, Moses heard the Israelites weeping and complaining. According to Numbers 11, Moses was displeased and took his own complaints to God. He was overwhelmed by the responsibility. It seems that God had given him more than he could handle. But instead of judging Moses for lack of faith, God instructed him to share the responsibilities with seventy elders. Too often we assume that God intends for us to “handle” every burden on our own. Is that true for you? How might God be helping you bear your burdens through the support of others?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, I am grateful that you are available when I pray, even when I complain about burdens I carry. Today, I acknowledge my need for your help. Amen.
Thursday September 27 — Jeremiah 20:7-9, 14-18
The prophet Jeremiah had a deeply unpopular message for the Israelites and their leaders. In fact, Pashur the priest (one of the religious leaders) put Jeremiah in stocks in order to punish him and teach him a lesson (see Jeremiah 10:1-6). As a result, Jeremiah cried out to God. We can hear the anguish in Jeremiah’s words. These words are powerful reminders that we can take everything to God in prayer—even our anger and despair. What do you need to take to God today?
• Prayer: Loving God, I am humbled by your presence and your willingness to listen when I cry out in anger and despair. Thank you for the breadth and depth of your love. Amen.
Friday September 28 — 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul’s letters are filled with passages that describe the pain and suffering that he and other first century disciples experienced. He told the Corinthians that he and Timothy “were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself” (2 Timothy 1:8). Later he told them about the thorn that never left him. His point was that, in his weakness, he discovered the power and grace of God. How have you experienced God’s strength when you have “despaired of life itself”?
• Prayer: Almighty God, it is hard for me to admit that I am helpless and need your help. Help me to acknowledge my weakness and experience your power and grace. Amen.
Saturday September 29 — Romans 8:35-39
The good news, as described in Romans 8, is that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 39). Paul and his partners in ministry had experienced everything he listed in verse 35 (and more), but he could affirm that they were “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (verse 37). This same confidence and faith are available to us when we can accept that God loves us, and that God is with us. Do you believe this?
• Prayer: Ever-Present God, sometimes I miss your presence in my life because I am so near-sighted that I can’t see past my own life situation. Help me to accept your love. Amen.
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.