Sermon: Hope for the Best
Scripture Reading: Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12
“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus” – Romans 15:5
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday, December 9, Jeremiah 29:11-13
Plans to give you a future with hope… These words from the prophet Jeremiah to those who are exiled in Babylon provide comfort as they were told to prepare for a long stay in captivity. A long stay away from their home. We can imagine their fear and anxiety. As we read these words now we consider all the things that hold humanity captive – greed, selfishness, addiction. What things hold you captive today? How can you choose to live in hope and seek God with all your heart?
Prayer: God of hope, help me to come to you, to call your name and live in the hope you offer each day. Amen.
Activity: In this season of giving, how can you offer hope to those you meet? Invite someone to the Christmas Cantata or to the Arts, Poetry, and Songs on December 15 at 9:00 and 11:15am. Tell them about the hope you experience in worship at St. Matthew’s.
Tuesday, December 10, Romans 5:1-5
Sometimes these words are read to say that suffering should be tolerated. Instead read this passage recognizing that even in the midst of suffering God is at work – and even more so that God continues to pour love into our hearts as we suffer. Where do you see suffering today? How can you offer hope? How can you choose to receive God’s love today?
Prayer: God of great LOVE, show me how to live in the hope and love you offer each day. Amen.
Activity: Read the prayer list, or sign up to be on our prayer ministry emails. You’ll see people who are struggling with illness, family members who are concerned for loved ones, and the desire for peace in our world. Pray for those on the list, or those you see in emails. Ask that receive God’s love and hope.
Wednesday, December 11, Luke 1:46-55
Mary, at discovering that she is pregnant, chooses to magnify the Lord. It is hard not to hear her song of praise as a song of hope. But her song isn’t just hope for her, it’s hope for all of creation. The lowly are lifted up, there is mercy for those in fear, the hungry are fed (vs. 50-52). This is the promise and hope of the coming Christ. This Advent as we prepare for Jesus again read Mary’s song of praise and share in her hope. How can you live like Mary today?
Prayer: God, today my soul magnifies you. Allow me to share your hope and love with all I meet.
Activity: Read Mary’s Song of Praise again. Print out a copy and circle the words that stand out to you, or just jot down a few words as you read it. Listen for God’s call on your life as Mary shares her joy at how she is called by God. What new places might God be calling you to serve in?
Thursday, December 12, Psalm 71:1-5
“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust (vs. 5).” Hope and trust are intimately connected in this Psalm. The choice to hope in something is often the choice to trust. When we hope in the coming of Christ, we are trusting that God has a plan for our lives and our world. And that in the end, God’s plan is for all creation to be saved and delivered. The Psalmist chooses not just to trust and hope, but to take refuge in God. How can you choose to take refuge in God today?
Prayer: God my rock and refuge, guide me to trust and hope in you. Amen.
Activity: In what places in your life do you find refuge, rescue or solace? At home, in nature, with friends and family? How do you encounter or see God in those places of refuge? Be intentional about seeking places of refuge today.
Friday, December 13, Isaiah 11:1-10
In these verses in Isaiah a beautiful picture is painted of God’s Kingdom. The NRSV refers to it as the “Peaceful Kingdom.” This passage speaks of the incredible hope of the vision and intention God has for the world. Today we are invited to be part of and live into this Kingdom. When you read this Scripture what phrases or words stand out to you? What vision of the Kingdom do you most hope for? Pray today for this vision and for our world.
Prayer: God of wisdom and understanding. Today I hope and pray for peace. Help me to be a witness to your peace in this world. Amen.
Activity: The opening of this Scripture talks about life growing out of a dead stump. The promise of the peaceful Kingdom begins with the hope of new life. Where do you see new life springing up during winter? How can you witness the hope of new life in your own life? Today, focus on new life.
Saturday, December 14, Matthew 11:7-19 (Read the Message version)
As Jesus speaks about John the Baptist he shares that “the lowliest person is ahead of” even John! This Scripture focuses on the hope in the good news of God’s Kingdom. Not unlike the vision painted in Isaiah 11, we are reminded that in God’s Kingdom the lowest, marginalized, and unseen are valued and come first. Look around you today. Where do you see those on the margins or those who might go unseen? Pray for them and invite God to help you to find ways to work towards God’s Kingdom each day.
Prayer: Holy God, plant the vision of your Kingdom in my heart today. Remind me to care for the lowest and the least. Amen.
Activity: Instead of just looking out for those who are the margins. Choose to serve, learn about our Advent offering organizations, Weyanoke, Homestretch and UMCOR WASH. Find out how you can connect to these local and international ministries. How do you see those on the margins being served?
Series – A New Day is Dawning
Sermon – Wake Up
Scripture Readings: Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24:42-44)
Monday December 2 — Isaiah 2:1-5
The words of the Old Testament prophets are prominently featured during the Advent and Christmas seasons. At this time of year, we read their words through the lens of Jesus’ birth and can affirm that Jesus is the Messiah that the Israelites were expecting. They help us understand what kind of Messiah the Israelites expected, which then helps us understand what the Gospel writers tell us about Jesus’ life and ministry. What does Isaiah teach you about God’s plans? As you anticipate Christmas, what are you expecting God to do in your life?
• Prayer: God of Eternity, I am thankful for the message of the prophets who help me prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Help me understand their message. Amen.
Tuesday December 3 — Psalm 122
Psalm 122 is a prayer for peace. As you read and pray these words, consider how they relate to yesterday’s reading from Isaiah, especially Isaiah 2:4. The question we need to consider right now is: how does Jesus bring peace to our lives? Another question is: how does Jesus bring peace to our world? What can you do today that will help you experience the peace that Jesus offers? What can you do today to that will share the peace of Jesus with others?
• Prayer: God of Peace, our hurting and broken world is desperate for Good News. Fill me with your peace today, so that I might be an instrument of your peace for others. Amen.
Wednesday December 4 — Matthew 24:36-44
We read passages like this one during Advent, because we not only anticipate and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ coming at Christmas, we also anticipate and prepare for Jesus’ return. There is a past, present, and future aspect to Advent. Before his death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus instructs his disciples to “keep awake” (Matthew 24:42). He doesn’t mean that we should never (physically) sleep. He means that we should be alert and ready for his return. How does your expectation that he will return affect your life right now? Does it make a difference?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, thank you for reminding me of your promise that Jesus will return. Let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Thursday December 5 — Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus’ parable about the bridesmaids teaches us that faithful discipleship includes being ready for Jesus to come at any time. We do not want to be caught by surprise and left out of the banquet feast. Clearly, this is pointing to Jesus’ ultimate return, which could happen at any time. But it also teaches us to be alert for what God is doing in our lives right now. Which spiritual disciplines help you pay attention to what God is doing in your life? What is God doing in your life right now?
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for too often sleepwalking through life and failing to notice all that you are doing in my life and in the world. Help me wake up. Amen.
Friday December 6 — Romans 13:11-14
New Testament writers expected Jesus to return during their lifetime. There was a sense of urgency to their message and the fact that Jesus’ return was delayed was troubling to them. As time passed, first-century Christians began to see that Jesus’ delay was a gift of God’s grace, allowing them time to share the Good News. The problem was that the passing of time led to complacency. Do you think the continued delay of Jesus’ return is creating a sense of complacency in your life or in the ministry of the Church? How might you reignite a sense of “missional” urgency?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, thank you for the message of Advent, which reignites in me a desire to share the Good News of your life-changing love and grace with others. Amen.
Saturday December 7 — Revelation 3:1-6
The Revelation to John is a pastoral letter written to seven churches in Asia (see Revelation 1:4). The whole of the Revelation is for all churches and all believers, but chapters 2 and 3 contain specific messages for their unique situations. The message to Sardis echoes what Jesus says in the Gospels and the apostle Paul says in his letters: “Wake up!” If we take this message seriously, it means that we will “wake up” to our need for God’s grace and “wake up” to the promise of salvation through Jesus. Let Advent be your “alarm clock.” It’s time to wake up!
• Prayer: Merciful God, I am grateful for your love and grace and the gift of salvation. Thank you for this wake-up call. Open my heart and mind to receive the gifts of Christmas. Amen.
Series – This is God’s Church
Sermon – Building Our Relationships with Each Other
Scripture Readings: Zechariah 7:8-14, Romans 12:9-21
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.… Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:9-10, 16-18)
Monday November 25 — Leviticus 19:9-18
Relationships in the Bible are both vertical and horizontal. We are invited into a covenant relationship with God (vertical), which leads to transformed relationships with others (horizontal). Old Testament law describes both relationships in great detail and insists that the two relationships cannot be separated. In other words, we cannot claim to be in relationship with God without having appropriate relationships with others — particularly those who are vulnerable. Give thought today to how your relationship with others reflects, and impacts, your relationship with God.
• Prayer: Eternal God, help me look honestly at my life and my relationships today. Give me the courage I need to love others the way you love me. Amen.
Tuesday November 26 — Zechariah 7:8-14
The mission of the Old Testament prophets is to proclaim God’s message to God’s people. These statements often begin, “Thus says the LORD…” (see Zechariah 7:9). Prophets remind God’s people of God’s covenant expectations, describe consequences of disobedience, and offer hope for a new future. Today’s passage reminds us that God cares about our relationships with “one another” (Zechariah 7:9) and that there are consequences for our disobedience (Zechariah 7:13-14). Based on your reading of Zechariah 7:9-10, how will God judge your relationships with others?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I know that I am expecting to show mercy to others, just as you show mercy to me. Forgive me for my failures. Help me to do better this week. Amen.
Wednesday November 27 — Romans 12:1-8
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome can be divided into two sections. The first section is devoted to the Gospel message of God’s saving grace (see Romans 5:1-11 for a summary). The second section describes the consequences of salvation: the new life in Christ. The first few verses of the twelfth chapter call us to allow the transforming power of God’s grace to have access to our lives. It’s easier said than done. What do you think God wants to do in your life right now?
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the gift of salvation. Open my heart and mind to receive your Spirit, so that my life will be good and acceptable in your sight. Amen.
Thursday November 28 — Romans 12:9-21
In many editions of the New Testament, the heading for Romans 12:9-12 is, Marks of the True Christian. We often read these verses as prescriptive, meaning that this is what we are supposed to do. That is appropriate, but these verses are also descriptive, meaning that they describe the kind of person we will be when we accept God’s grace. The point is that salvation changes our relationship with God, and it changes the way we live our lives in relationship with one another. How well does this passage describe your life right now? Where are your growing edges?
• Prayer: Loving God, on this Thanksgiving Day, I know that all of the blessings of my life come from you. Help me to be thankful and live with gratitude every day. Amen.
Friday November 29 — John 13:31-35
In some of his final words to his disciples (before his death and resurrection), Jesus says something quite extraordinary. He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Consider the implication of what Jesus is saying here: the way we treat one another is a witness to our discipleship — our commitment to following Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus is reflected in our relationships with others. What are your human relationships saying about your relationship with God?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his teaching and the example of his sacrificial love. Help me be one of his faithful followers. Amen.
Saturday November 30 — 1 Peter 4:7-11
One of the threads running through the New Testament is that first century Christians believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. This gave a sense of urgency to their discipleship. As stewards of God’s grace — and everything else that God provides — they would expect Jesus to hold them accountable (see the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30). In this light, Peter says, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, …” (1 Peter 4:8). How would you describe your stewardship of God’s love and grace as you look forward to Jesus’ return?
• Prayer: God of Great Expectations, enliven in me a sense of anticipation that you will return. Help me be ready by maintaining a constant love for others. Amen.
Series – This is God’s Church
Sermon – Building Our Relationship with God
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8, Colossians 3:12-17
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:14-17)
Monday November 18 — Deuteronomy 10:12-22
One Bible commentator calls today’s reading, “the essence of the law.” These verses outline God’s expectations for the Israelites and a valuable summary of God’s expectations for us, which are for our benefit (see verse 13). They include loving and obeying God, connecting our relationship with God and our service to others, and worshipping God and God alone. Give some thought this week to your relationship with God. What helps you draw closer to God? What gets in the way of your relationship with God? What can you do this week to take the next step?
• Prayer: God of High Expectations, thank you for loving me and revealing your will to me through your Word. Teach me your ways. Draw me closer to you this week. Amen.
Tuesday November 19 — Psalm 95
The 95th Psalm is a hymn of praise which includes a call to obedience. It serves as a meaningful reminder that our relationship with God—formed in faithful worship—is expected to result in obedient action. In other words, our relationship with God is not simply a private matter, limited to thoughts and feelings. God cares about what we think and feel. God also cares about what we do and how we live our lives. Do some honest reflection. How does worshipping God change your life? How does your relationship with God impact the decisions and actions of your daily life?
• Prayer: Faithful God, today I renew my commitment to living a life that is pleasing to you, a life that reflects your love and grace. Transform my worship and transform my life. Amen.
Wednesday November 20 — Hebrews 10:19-25
Because God’s love has been poured out for us through Jesus, we can confidently live our lives in the presence of God as citizens of God’s Kingdom. That promise is not just about life after death. It is a promise for our lives today. That’s why the writer of Hebrews challenges us to “provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) and calls us to meet together (for worship, learning, fellowship, and service). When we experience God’s grace, we are transformed. We need to meet together as God’s Church to live faithful and meaningful lives. When and where have you recently experience God’s grace? In what ways is God transforming your life right now?
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the gift of your Church, through which I experience your love in worship, learning, fellowship, and service. Amen.
Thursday November 21 — Colossians 3:12-17
The 3rd chapter of Colossians uses the image of clothing to describe how we “put on” the characteristics of Christian life. Then in verse 16, it uses worship-related images: Scripture (“the word of Christ”, teaching/preaching, and music (“psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”). But most importantly it insists that everything we do is done in the name of Jesus. Use Colossians 3:12-17 to review your life. What kind of clothes are in your spiritual wardrobe? Is everything you do consistent with the “name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17)?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I all too often fail to live the kind of life that pleases you and follows Jesus’ example. Help me do everything that I do in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Friday November 22 — Revelation 4:8-11
The New Testament Revelation to John describes God’s vision for the completion of the Kingdom. It affirms that, in the end, God wins. It also affirms that, in God’s Kingdom, we will worship God. The images of worship are found throughout Revelation. It is a poetic and powerful reminder that the primary response to God’s presence in our lives is praise and worship. Spend some time today worshipping God. In your own way, offer God praise and thanksgiving. Hint: the Psalms are a wonderful resource for personal worship and prayer.
• Prayer: Almighty God, inspire in me today a desire to respond to your presence in my life with worship. You alone are worthy to receive my praise and adulation. Amen.
Saturday November 23 — Isaiah 6:1-8
Isaiah’s response to God’s call in his life is the response that God desires from everyone: “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Like Isaiah, we feel unworthy to worship or serve the living God, and (like Isaiah) our worship and service are not dependent on our goodness. We worship and serve because God is good. God calls us and sends us. Have you experienced God’s call in your life? How have you responded? Are you willing to say to God, “Here am I; send me!”?
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for failing to trust your grace and failing to respond to your call. Here I am, Lord. Transform my life. Use me. Send me. Amen.
Series – This is God’s Church
Sermon – Empowering All People
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 8:17-19, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. (Deuteronomy 8:17-19)
Monday November 11 — Deuteronomy 8:1-10
One of the Bible’s primary commands is to “remember …”. There are more than 200 occurrences of “remember” in the NRSV version of the Bible. Remembering what God has done in our lives strengthens our ability to keep God’s commandments. When we remember that God was with us during difficult moments of the past, we can approach the future with confidence and faith. Can you look back in your life and find moments when God was with you — even if you were not aware of God’s presence at the time? How does that memory help you trust God more fully today?
• Prayer: Ever-Present God, thank you for your faithfulness. Open my eyes and ears to see and hear your presence in my life today. Increase my ability to trust you. Amen.
Tuesday November 12 — Deuteronomy 8:11-20
The 8th chapter of Deuteronomy could have been written in the 21st century. Like the Israelites, we are easily tempted to forget God when life is good. We can be tempted to think that we are the source of the blessings we enjoy in our lives. We believe that “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). What helps you remember God when everything is going well? Which spiritual disciplines increase your awareness of God’s blessings?
• Prayer: Loving God, grant me the gift of increased awareness of your blessings. Teach me to remember you when life is good, not just when bad things are happening. Amen.
Wednesday November 13 — Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Tithing is one of the spiritual disciplines that increases our awareness of God’s blessing in our lives. Giving back to God the first fruits, the first ten (10) percent, of what we’ve received is an act of trust and obedience. We trust that the ninety (90) percent that we keep is more than enough — because ultimately everything we have and everything we are comes from God. Giving God the first ten percent, is a tangible way of affirming that God comes first in our lives. Consider how you decide how much you return to God through the church. What does it say about your trust and obedience?
• Prayer: Generous God, I know that everything I have and everything I am comes from you. Today I commit myself to putting you first in every aspect of my life. Amen.
Thursday November 14 — 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Several New Testament passages refer to the collection that the apostle Paul and his colleagues are receiving for the church in Jerusalem. The 8th and 9th chapters of 2 Corinthians are essentially fund-raising letters and reveal some important truths about why we should be generous and care for people in need. One is that our generosity is a tangible demonstration of our faith in God. A second is that generosity is Christ-like behavior. How does your generosity and your attitude toward sharing your resources reflect your faith and the example of Jesus?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the example of Jesus, who willingly gave up everything for my salvation. Help me learn how you want me to follow his example. Amen.
Friday November 15 — 2 Corinthians 9:1-5
Another reason that Paul and his associates are receiving a collection for the saints in Jerusalem is that it is a ministry (see 2 Corinthians 9:1). We often think of financial contributions to the church from a transactional perspective: paying for a service we receive. But generosity is not only a spiritual discipline, it is also a ministry. Like other kinds of ministry, God uses our generosity to change lives — including our own. How has your life been changed by someone’s generosity?
• Prayer: Almighty God, sometimes I forget how powerful you really are. I forget that you can use my gifts to change the world. Help me to remember and trust you with my life. Amen.
Saturday November 16 — 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
The conclusion of the apostles’ fund-raising efforts is focused as much on God as it is on the Corinthians that the apostles are trying to influence. It is about God’s blessings and the Corinthians’ relationship with God. Ultimately, the Corinthians’ generosity — and ours — is an act of worship. We glorify God when we trust and obey. (That’s why we receive tithes and offerings in worship services.) Reflect on your whole life, including your giving. How does your whole life glorify God?
• Prayer: Glorious God, at my best, I give you all the glory. Grant me the courage I need to glorify you with every aspect of my life, including my financial resources. Amen.
Series – This is God’s Church
Sermon – Living and Growing as Disciples of Jesus
Scripture Readings: Colossians 1:9-14
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12)
Monday November 4 — Psalm 1
There are images of growth throughout the Bible — both Old and New Testaments. The 1st Psalm uses the image of a tree to compare the two ways we can choose to live our lives. Like a tree that soaks up water from the stream so that it can bear fruit, we can choose to soak up the living Word of God’s teaching, grow to maturity, and bear the fruit of a faithful life. When we do, we live the life that God intends. In what ways does your life reflect the choice God desires? Are you growing to maturity? Are you deeply rooted in God’s Word and God’s grace?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your Word, revealed in both Scripture and in Jesus? Nurture my life and faith so that I will grow to maturity and bear good fruit. Amen.
Tuesday November 5 — 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Much of Paul’s correspondence with the church in Corinth is about divisions and conflict. It’s comforting to know that there has been conflict in the Church from the beginning, but sad to realize that conflict and divisions have for so long prevented the Church from fulfilling its mission. In dealing with the divisions, Paul points to the Church’s purpose — to grow and to be God’s field and God’s building. It is vital that we remember that it is “only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7) How are divisions and conflicts in the Church today hindering the growth that God desires?
• Prayer: God of Life, create in me a desire to seek your purposes for my life and for the Church. Remove anything and everything in me that hinders the growth you desire. Amen.
Wednesday November 6 — Colossians 1:1-8
The opening paragraphs of the letter to the Colossians reinforces the image of growth that is a primary thread running through the Bible. As followers of Jesus, we know that we will grow and mature in our understanding and our faithfulness. The grace of God changes our lives and every day we grow closer to the example of Jesus and the life God intends for each of us — and for the Church. Are you aware of the changes God’s grace is making in your life? In what ways are you becoming more like Jesus?
• Prayer: Gracious God, fill me with your Spirit and change my life today. Mold me and make me more like Jesus. Show me how to live the life that you intend for me to live. Amen.
Thursday November 7 — Colossians 1:9-14
Today’s passage in Colossians makes it clear that God is the one who makes it possible for us to “lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, …” (Colossians 1:10). It reminds us that living and growing as disciples of Jesus is more about what God has done, and is doing, in our lives than what we do. Our part of the process is to allow God to have access to our lives through worship, prayer, study, service, giving, and other spiritual disciplines. What is God doing in your life today?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, grant me the courage I need to trust you with my life. Help me lead a life that is worthy of your son, Jesus. Give me strength to serve you more fully. Amen.
Friday November 8 — 1 Peter 2:1-5
The letters of Peter were written to the Church. That’s an important distinction: it reminds us that the Bible is not just about our personal (individual) relationship with God — the person we are supposed to be and the life we are supposed to live. The Bible is about the community of believers. Much of it is written using plural language. So, we take 1 Peter 2:4 seriously when it says to “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” Note that it doesn’t say to “build yourself into …”. It says, “let yourselves be built …”. What do you think that means?
• Prayer: Loving God, forgive your Church for failing to allow you to have complete access to our life together. Build your Church into the spiritual house it needs to be. Amen.
Saturday November 9 — 1 Peter 4:7-11
Remembering that 1 Peter is a letter written to the Church, we (the Body of Christ) are expected to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). To be a steward means that we are to trust and share God’s grace the way God would trust and share God’s grace if God were in our place. In other words, we are to follow the example of Jesus, who was the Word of God in the flesh (see John 1:14). What might Jesus say about your stewardship of God’s grace?
• Prayer: God of Grace, help me follow Jesus’ example and be a good steward of your grace. Show me how to live my life in a way that gives you glory through Jesus. Amen.
Series – This is God’s Church
Sermon – Sharing Our Faith
Scripture Readings: Philemon 1:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. (Philemon 1:4-7)
Monday October 28 — Psalm 51
The 51st Psalm is one of many psalms that are attributed to King David. It is a penitential psalm that is David’s response to being confronted by Nathan after his affair with Bathsheba. (For the full story, read 2 Samuel 11 and 12.) We often read and pray this psalm on Ash Wednesday as we confess our sins and our need for God’s grace. What’s noteworthy is that when David asks to be restored to the “joy of [God’s] salvation” (Psalm 51:12), he promises to share his faith. How might Psalm 51 apply to your life? How would you describe your own experience of God’s grace?
• Prayer: Forgiving God, I confess that I am a sinner and need your grace and forgiveness. Restore me to the joy of your salvation and help me share my faith with others. Amen.
Tuesday October 29 — Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:6-8
The prologue to Luke’s Gospel sets the stage for the story of Jesus’ life and ministry that follows. Luke tells Theophilus that what follows was written, “so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:4). Consider the possibility that Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is a resource that allows everyone who reads the Gospel to be a witness to everything that God has done. How does your life testify to what you have learned about Jesus?
• Prayer: God of All Ages, thank you for the faithfulness of the Gospel writers who have told us what we need to know about Jesus. Help me testify to what I’ve learned. Amen.
Wednesday October 30 — Luke 24:28-35
The account of Easter evening, when Jesus journeyed to Emmaus with Cleopas and his companion, ends with the two disciples experiencing their hearts burning and returning to Jerusalem to share the good news of their encounter with the resurrected Jesus. According to Luke, they simply told the others “what had happened” (Luke 24:35). Think about your own relationship with Jesus. How can you tell someone else about what has happened in your life?
• Prayer: Faithful God, I am amazed that your son, Jesus, died for me and was raised for me. Show me how to tell the story to someone who needs to hear it today. Amen.
Thursday October 31 — Luke 24:44-49
Before he ascends to heaven, Jesus leaves his disciples with instructions. (Every Gospel and the book of Acts has an account of Jesus’ commission to his disciples.) He says that they are witnesses of all that has happened — and witnesses are supposed to testify. He also says that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed. How might you share your experience of the life-changing power of God’s love and grace and your experience of God’s forgiveness?
• Prayer: Merciful God, grant me the courage I need to acknowledge my sin and my need for forgiveness. Grant me the courage I need to tell someone about your grace. Amen.
Friday November 1 — 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
The New Testament is clear that Jesus’ earliest disciples took seriously Jesus’ commission to be witnesses and share their experience of God’s love and grace in both word and deed. The opening verses of the first letter to the Thessalonians affirms that the Gospel is shared in both word and deed. The good news is both proclaimed (in words) and embodied in the lives of the believers. The Thessalonians “imitated” Paul and “became an example …” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). Consider your life, what is it saying about what you believe? How does your life proclaim the good news?
• Prayer: God of Love, I know that all too often my actions do not match the words I profess as a follower of Jesus. Forgive my failure to trust and obey. Show me your way. Amen.
Saturday November 2 — Philemon 1:1-7
Even though it is only nineteen (19) verses in length, Paul and Timothy’s letter to Philemon has challenged Bible readers and interpreters from the time it was written through the present age. Focus today on the prayer of thanksgiving in verses 4-7. Read these words again. How might they apply to your life? Would someone be able to pray this way about you? What needs to happen in your life so that “the sharing of your faith may become effective …” (Philemon 1:6)?
• Prayer: Gracious God, make the sharing of my faith effective today. Help me be aware of the good that I can do in your name and for your sake. Help me share my faith. Amen.
Sermon – Growing Up Together
Scripture Readings: Luke 2:39-47, Luke 2:48-52
When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. (Luke 2:48-52)
Monday October 21 — Psalm 92
The message of the Scriptures is consistent: to live is to grow. Both the Old and the New Testaments use the natural world to understand and explain the ways of God. Just like the trees put down roots in order to grow and flourish (see Psalm 1:3), God’s people put down roots in God’s grace and love in order to grow, flourish, and bear fruit in the world. Prayerfully read Psalm 92:12-15. What do you think about these words? Have you “been planted” in the house of the Lord? Is righteousness growing and flourishing in you? Is your life bearing fruit?
• Prayer: God of Creation, thank you for the beauty of the world around me. Help me grow in righteousness and bear the fruit of love. Amen.
Tuesday October 22 — Isaiah 53:1-12, Luke 2:25-35
The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is often read in worship services on Good Friday, recognizing that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the suffering servant who poured himself out in death and bore the sins of the people. Even when we read the stories of Christmas, we are aware that Jesus grew up to be a “man of suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). This is why Simeon said to Mary, “and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Think about the person Jesus grew up to be and what his life would accomplish. Compare the image of the manger with the image of the cross. How would you feel if this were your child?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, help me to understand how both Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death are Good News. Help me trust you fully. Amen.
Wednesday October 23 — Luke 2:34-40
Matthew and Luke are the only Gospel writers that tell us anything about Jesus’ early childhood. Matthew tells us about the holy family’s escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23), and Luke tells us about Jesus’ dedication in the temple. Luke also emphasizes that as Jesus grew up, he grew in wisdom and strength. Not only does this summary (in Luke 2:40) teach us that Jesus will be strong and wise, but it reminds us that we should also be growing in strength and wisdom as Jesus’ disciples. Reflect on your life today. In what ways are you continuing to grow in wisdom and strength?
• Prayer: Gracious God, I commit my life to you today. Help me to love you in worship, grow in my faith, and serve you more fully. Amen.
Thursday October 24 —Luke 2:41-52
This scene in Jesus’ life serves as a transition from his birth to his adult life and ministry. Luke wants us to know that Jesus grew up in a faithful Jewish household and that he had a special relationship with God. Luke 2:42, like Luke 2:40, summarizes Jesus’ growth, emphasizing that he increased in wisdom—his understanding of God’s Word and God’s ways. Reflect today on your role in helping future generations increase in wisdom and understanding of God’s ways. Are you setting a good example? Are you personally growing in your own faith and wisdom? In what ways do you practice your faith?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to grow in wisdom and understanding of your ways. Teach me how to live and practice my faith. Amen.
Friday October 25 — Mark 4:26-32
Not only did Jesus grow in wisdom, he used images of growth from the natural world to teach his disciples about God’s Kingdom. He wanted them to grow in their understanding and their ability to live faithful and obedient lives. He wanted his teaching to bear fruit in their lives. If we are faithful disciples of Jesus, we will grow, not only in our ability to trust in God’s promises, but also in our obedience and our desire for our lives to bear fruit in the world. Reflect back on the last 12 months of your life: what is different about you? How have you changed? How have you grown in your discipleship?
• Prayer: Merciful God, plant the seed of your Word in my heart today. Grant me the courage to trust you to change my life. Amen.
Saturday October 26 — 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
The second letter to the Thessalonian church begins with a word of thanksgiving. The author gives thanks to God because the Thessalonians, “faith is growing abundantly, and the love . . . for one another is increasing.” He goes on: “Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). Could someone boast that your faith and love for others is growing abundantly? What needs to change in your life right now so that you experience abundant growth in faith and love?
• Prayer: Loving God, I am thankful for your presence in my life. Give me the desire and the ability to grow in faith and love in the coming days. Amen.
GPS October 13, 2019
Sermon: Emulate Christ
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-10, John 13:31-35
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34-35, The Message
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday October 14- John 13:1-17
In this familiar passage, Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet. We see, the disciples’ teacher and leader, our Savior, Jesus acting as a servant. He washes his disciples’ stinky, callused, tired feet AND THEN Jesus commands them to love one another as he loves them. We hear the story so many times we may have forgotten the radical-ness of what Jesus is commanding. Love with total and extreme humility. How are you loving with humility today?
Prayer: Humble God, teach me to love with humility like your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Activity: Today, place yourself intimately in the Scripture. Use all your senses as you read the passage. What do you hear, see, smell, taste, and feel as you read? During the day recall the senses you experienced in this Scripture. How can you choose to emulate Christ today?
Tuesday, October 15- Luke 15:11-32
The parable of the Prodigal Son, comes directly after two other parables of the lost and found. What we witness in all three parables of Luke 15 is a God whose love does not ever give up. God’s love is extraordinary. God’s love extends to those of us who are lost and struggling. Look around for those who are lost – or remember a time when you were lost. How can you love EXTRAordinarily like God today?
Prayer: Searching God, thank you for always seeking the lost and finding us with your extraordinary love. Amen.
Activity: Read the story of the Prodigal Son in a busy and bustling place today; the grocery store, a mall food court, a metro station. Wonder about the experience of being lost. Do you notice people who look lost today or do you feel lost in the crowd? Pray for God’s love to be known with those who are lost. Pray that you will receive God’s love when you feel lost.
Wednesday, October 16- Matthew 25:34-40
The King in this parable tells those who have gathered, “the blessed,” that when they cared for the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, imprisoned strangers they were caring for the King. When we love others the way Christ loved us we are loving God fully. What opportunities do you have to serve those in need this week? Sign up for Rise Against Hunger, volunteer with a new mission. Find a way to show your love for others and love God this week.
Prayer: God of love, I desire to serve your people and show you love. Equip me today to be your servant. Amen.
Activity: Visit St. Matthew’s website and check out all of the missions we are involved in or visit the Welcome Desk at St. Matthew’s and pick up a Missions brochure. Pray for each of the missions at St. Matthew’s individually and those who are leading missions. Do you feel called to any of the Missions or eager to learn more? Try a new way to serve God today.
Thursday, October 17-Luke 14:12-14
Jesus gives a clear command in this passage. This Scripture isn’t just about emulating Christ, but about following Christ’s commands. In Luke 14, we see Jesus teaching that we should invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to our banquet table. And following this passage in Luke 15, Jesus eats with tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus is commanding and then leading by example; reminding us to be in relationship and care for those who are different from us. How are you extending God’s love to those who are different from you?
Prayer: Christ, my Lord, guide me to find ways to love those on the margins. Amen.
Activity: Have lunch, a cup of coffee, a “watercooler chat” with someone you don’t know as well, or someone who is different from you. Focus on learning about their story – not about telling your own – what surprised you? What challenged you? How can you learn and grow in your love for God as you encounter people who are different from you?
Friday, October 18 – Luke 9:23-25
In verse 23, Jesus tells the disciples to “deny themselves.” Or, to let go of their selfish desires and choose to live as Jesus has modeled for them. One way to consider this Scripture is to hear Jesus’ call to reckless love. Reread the Scripture. How are you being called to let go of selfish desires? How is Jesus calling you to give up your life to share God’s reckless love? Today, look for opportunities to put others before yourself.
Prayer: In your extraordinary love and grace I desire to live, O God. Equip me to deny myself and lift up your love. Amen.
Activity: Consider your conversations today. How many times do you talk about yourself? How much do you talk about what you want? How often do you try to push your own ideas, agenda, or perspective? Today, listen to other’s perspectives first, try to understand their ideas before suggesting your own, invite others to tell their stories before sharing your own.
Saturday, October 19 – Mark 12:30-31
Our Reckless Love sermon series began with Mark 12 – love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself. We have focused on beginning with love, expanding our circles, lavishing love, having openhearted love, valuing the vulnerable, and emulating Christ. How has your understanding of God’s love changed? How can you continue to work towards loving recklessly? Spend time reflecting on God’s love in your life today and work to extend that love to others.
Prayer: God of reckless love, today I start with love, expand the circle of those I love, guide me to lavish love on others with a full and open heart. Teach me to value the vulnerable as I work toward emulating Christ. Amen.
Activity: Write out the words, “Love God, Love Neighbor.” Write them on a few post-its and leave them as a reminder in your car, at your desk, on your mirror. Or, write it on paper and color or decorate the paper and post it where you’ll see it everyday. You could even take a poster board and the words “Love God, Love Neighbor” and color and decorate with your family or friends. Place the poster board in a community space or your Sunday School room. Spend time in prayer today and reflect on how you can truly love God and love your neighbor.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Value the Vulnerable
Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:16-18, Mark 5:1-13
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. (Mark 5:2-5)
Monday October 7 — 1 John 3:16-18
The biggest challenge for many people who want to follow Jesus is understanding what he means when he insists that we must, “love your neighbor as [y]ourself” (Mark 12:31). For many of us, love is a positive feeling or emotion. But for Jesus, love is a decision that we put into action on behalf of another person. In other words, the love that Jesus’ commands, and models, is love that seeks the best for another person, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). How have you practiced Jesus-like love in the past few days? How might you put love into action today?
• Prayer: Loving God, continue to transform my heart and mind so that I choose, everyday, to put my love for others into action. Help me learn to follow Jesus. Amen.
Tuesday October 8 — Exodus 22:21-27
The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, insists that caring for vulnerable people is one of the highest priorities for God’s people. Resident aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor represent vulnerable people in the world of the Bible. They are at a disadvantage because of their circumstances and rely on the support of others. What we discover in the Bible is that God cares deeply about how we treat them and care for them. Who are the most vulnerable people in the world today? How are they treated by God’s people?
• Prayer: God of All People, grant me the courage I need to advocate for vulnerable people in the world. Open my eyes to see others the way you see them. Amen.
Wednesday October 9 — Luke 7:11-17
In Jesus’ own words, he has come to “bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), and the widow in Nain is someone who needs some Good News. Jesus’ love for the woman is put into action when he restores her son to life. This is one of many examples, in the Gospels, of Jesus acting on behalf of people who were on the margins of society. Jesus’ disciples — then and now — are faced with a decision: will they follow Jesus’ example and continue his ministry. What will you do?
• Prayer: Merciful God, if I am honest, I too often ignore or look past people who are on the margins of society. I too often fail to follow Jesus’ example. Forgive me, I pray. Amen.
Thursday October 10 — Mark 5:1-13
Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20) teaches Jesus’ disciples several important lessons. First, it teaches us that the Spirit of God working through Jesus is more powerful than any evil spirit — or anything else that we will ever face. Second, it teaches us that love for neighbors must include the vulnerable people, who live on the margins of society: the man lived in the tombs. (See tomorrow’s GPS reading for another lesson.) How might you apply these lessons to your own life and experience?
• Prayer: God of Compassion, thank you for having compassion on me and loving me despite my faults and failures. Show me how I might share your love with others. Amen.
Friday October 11 — Mark 5:14-20
The second half of Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20) serves as a model for faithful discipleship (which would likely have been very troubling to many of the first readers of Mark’s Gospel). While some in the community are afraid of Jesus (because of what he did), “demoniac” wants to be his disciple. So Jesus sends him back to his home to tell his story. Is it possible that Jesus is sending you to someone or someplace to share your story?
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me the courage I need to tell the story of how your love and grace has changed my life. Send me to the people who need to hear it. Amen.
Saturday October 12 — Acts 3:1-10
All four of the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — demonstrate over and over again the way Jesus loves his neighbors, including (or especially) those who are not loved by anyone else. The message of the New Testament is both consistent and insistent: Jesus’ disciples are expected, and empowered, to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world. The challenge is to believe that the same power that was at work in Jesus then is available to us now. Do you believe that God has empowered you to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, forgive me for not believing that your power is at work in the world today. Open my heart and mind to trust you and allow you to guide my life. Amen.