Sermon: Powerful Lessons
Scripture Reading: Exodus 19:3-6 and Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. (Exodus 19:4-5)
Monday August 13 — Philippians 2:1-11
In our earlier readings in Exodus we find the Israelites crying out to God for help. In Philippians, Paul is reminding the church that God cares for them through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the model of how to love one another. So as we live more like Jesus we will answer the cries of those in need. The Philippians know how they should live together because of the love of Jesus, and so do we. What does it look like when we are “of one mind” and we “don’t give in to selfish ambition or conceit (vs. 3)?” Consider how you have been loved in community, at St. Matthew’s, school, work, with friends or family. How can you extend that love to others?
Prayer: Emmanuel, God with us, atune my heart to love as you love. Help me to be of one mind, the mind of Christ in all I say and do. Amen.
Tuesday August 14 — Matthew 18:19-20
It was so easy for the Israelites in Exodus to feel abandoned by God, suffering in slavery and continually oppressed by the Egyptians. Jesus is speaking to a community that is also oppressed, this time by the Roman government. They are struggling to understand how to live together. Jesus reminds them that even when things are difficult whenever they gather they are not alone but with God. There are so many ways that we struggle today. When have you encountered God’s love with others? Today, consider a new way you can gather with others and experience God’s love.
Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes so I may witness your love in community today. Remind me that in loving you I am never alone. Amen.
Wednesday August 15 — Ecclesiastes 4:1-12
In Matthew, Jesus tells us “where two or three are gathered, God is with them (Matt. 18:20).” Ecclesiastes 4 shares a similar message, but teaches us that when we are working with someone else the work is (naturally) easier and the burden is lighter. Think of a time when you tried to accomplish a task on your own and were unsuccessful. How long did it take you to ask for help? This scripture asks to think about the difficulties we all face and to choose to face them with someone instead of alone. How can you share your burdens with someone else and lighten your load?
Prayer: Everpresent God, when I struggle to see you, when life is difficult, when I feel alone, enable me to share my burdens with others. Amen.
Thursday August 16 — Luke 5:18-25
This scripture about the paralytic is told in the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. Each author tells the story differently, but they all share that a group of people carry someone to Jesus to be healed. This passage from Luke is unique. Jesus “saw their faith” and forgave the man of his sins (vs. 20) and then healed him. It is the faith of all the people that peaks Jesus’ interest and he chooses to respond. What does it look like when a community cries out to God to respond to suffering in our world? What suffering do you witness and God calls you to respond?
Prayer: Calling God, you draw my attention to places of pain and suffering. Sometimes I look away. Today, give me a clear heart to answer you call and love your people. Amen.
Friday August 17 — John 15:12-17
In this scripture from John, Jesus is foreshadowing his own death. He tells the disciples, “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (vs. 13).” But, Jesus is also teaching the disciples, and us about who we are called to be as Christians. Christianity is not a private faith but a faith lived out in fullness within a community. Jesus wants the disciples to know that loving one another isn’t passive but active. When we choose to love one another in community we will bear fruit, God’s kingdom will be known on earth, and our world will be transformed by God’s love (vs. 16). How can you choose to reach out to someone with Christ’s love today?
Prayer: Sending God, you invite me each day to live out may faith more fully. Today your scripture calls me to extend your love beyond myself. Equip me to share your love with others. Amen.
Saturday August 18 — 1 Corinthians 13
This scripture, often read at weddings, is actually written to a community that was struggling to understand how to live with one another. They privileged those who had wealth and blocked their servants from taking communion (1 Cor. 11). But the apostle Paul wants them to have a vision for how they should be loving one another. Read through this passage, particularly verses 4-8, a few times. When have you loved others this way? When have you made mistakes and not loved as you are called? What’s one thing you can work on to love others as Christ loved us?
Prayer: Forgiving God, it can be hard to show love through patience, kindness, humbleness. The list keeps going on… Give me strength to love as you have called us to. Amen.
Sermon: The Power of Stories
Scripture Reading: Exodus 4:27-31, Exodus 13:3-10
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year. (Exodus 13:6-10)
Monday August 6 — Exodus 4:27-31
The call stories of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 3 & 4), concluded with a meeting of the entire “congregation” of the Israelites. There, Aaron shared the entire story (of God hearing the prayers of the Israelites, calling Moses and Aaron to lead the people, and performing signs and wonders), and as a result: “the people believed…and worshipped” (Exodus 4:31). This is what the Church does every week. We tell the stories of what God has done through Jesus – and we believe and we worship. Which stories of God’s deeds inspire you to believe and worship?
- Prayer: Amazing God, thank you for all that you have done in my life and in the world around me. Because of these wonders, I believe, and I worship you. Amen.
Tuesday August 7 — Exodus 6:2-13
For the second time in the Exodus story, God’s name was revealed to Moses. (See Exodus 3:13-22). In many English translations, God’s name is written as “The Lord” (all uppercase). This represents the Hebrew letters YHWH. In Hebrew tradition, God’s name was too holy to be spelled out, which is why “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7) is one of the ten commandments. This was very important to the Israelites. Why might it be important for you?
- Prayer: O Lord my God, teach me your ways and transform my life. Keep your name holy in my heart and mind. Purify both my thoughts and my words today. Amen.
Wednesday August 8 — Exodus 7:1-13
The first part of Exodus 7 fulfills the promises God made to Moses. As instructed, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand that he let God’s people “go out of his land” (see Exodus 7:2, and Exodus 7:6.) As promised, God was with them and empowered their ministry. With God’s help they performed signs and wonders in Pharaoh’s presence. No unlike Pharaoh, today’s world demands signs and wonders from followers of Jesus. Think about how your life (what you do and say) might be signs and wonders for people who are looking for God.
- Prayer: Almighty God, I know that the ultimate sign of your presence is a transformed human life. Use me to show your love to people who are desperately seeking you.
Thursday August 9 — Exodus 12:21-28
In response to Pharaoh’s hardened heart, Egypt experienced ten plagues on its land and its people. The conflict intensified as the plagues progressed, culminating with the Passover, which protected the Israelites from the final plague, the death of the firstborn children. This is such an important story that Moses commanded the Israelites to continue observing the Passover as part of their salvation history. As a Christian, what helps you remember your salvation story?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death by your love and grace. Teach me to live life that is worthy of my salvation. Amen.
Friday August 10 — Exodus 13:3-10
Biblically, the Passover commemorates Israel’s escape from the death of the firstborns, while the Festival of Unleavened Bread commemorates Israel’s exodus from Egypt (when they could not wait for bread to leaven). The primary purpose of these festivals is to remember what God has done. In the same way, we remember what God has done for us when we eat the bread and share the cup of Holy Communion. How does our Sacrament help you remember what God has done?
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus, and for the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Help me to remember who I am – and whose I am.
Saturday August 11 — Exodus 14:10-22
The Israelites’ deliverance from the Egyptian army as they crossed the Red Sea is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. The first thirteen chapters of Exodus have dramatically built up to this climactic event. But it is really just the beginning of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. In the same way, being saved by grace through faith is just the beginning of our discipleship journey. Salvation is the beginning of abundant life with God – in this world, and the next.
- Prayer: God of Grace, help me trust in your gift of salvation and live an abundant life of faithful service as a disciple of Jesus – in this world and the next. Amen.
Sermon: The Power of Fear
Scripture Reading: Exodus 1:6-22, Exodus 2:1-10
So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (Exodus 1:18-21)
Monday July 23 — Genesis 37:23-28
In order to understand the context for the story of Moses, we have to go back to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, starting in chapter 37. Earlier in Genesis, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt during a time of famine, but they did not stay. When Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, the movement of the family of Israel into Egypt began. For the complete story of how the family of Israel found themselves in Egypt, read the entirety of Genesis 37-50 this week. Consider the importance of context for our understanding of the Bible’s message.
- Prayer: Faithful God, I am grateful that you journey with me throughout the course of my life. You guide my life, even when I am not aware of where I am going. Amen.
Tuesday July 24 — Genesis 42:1-5, 18-25
After Joseph was established in Egypt as a high-ranking member of Pharaoh’s court, there was a famine in Israel. As a result, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. The events described in Genesis 42-45 illustrate the unexpected ways God works in our lives. God does not make bad things happen, but God has the power to take the raw material of our lives—both good and bad—and make something new. How have you experienced the life-changing power of God recently?
- Prayer: God of Wonder, I am constantly amazed at the breadth and depth of your love and grace. Continue to work your miracles. I am ready for you to make all things new. Amen.
Wednesday July 25 — Genesis 47:27-31
By the end of the book of Genesis, the family of Jacob has settled in Egypt. The final chapters of Genesis describe Jacob’s death and burial; Joseph’s act of forgiveness toward his brothers; and Joseph’s death. The Israelites (the family of Jacob) had taken a journey (over many years) that they never would have predicted. It wasn’t the journey they had planned, and yet they discovered—at every turn—that God was with them. What helps you trust in God when the twists and turns of life take you in directions you were not expecting?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your patience and persistence. When I fall, you pick me up. When I get lost, you find me. Give me the courage I need to trust you always.
Thursday July 26 — Exodus 1:1-14
The opening verses of the book of Exodus describe the passing of time and the success of the Israelites in Egypt. They also describe the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians, who were led by a king “who did not know Joseph.” It’s a lesson about the importance of understanding our history. It’s also a lesson about the power of fear. When we forget our story – who we are and how we arrived in our current situation – we can be too easily driven by fear instead of faith. Which aspects of your story help you remain faithful in the midst of changing circumstances? What helps you remember your story?
- Prayer: Almighty God, inspire in me today a desire to remember who I am and whose I am. Help me to see your presence in my life and live by faith, not by fear.
Friday July 27 — Exodus 1:15-22
Shiphrah and Puah are heroes in the story of Moses and the Israelites. They were midwives who had been instructed by the king of Egypt to kill all of the baby boys born to Hebrew women. But Exodus 1:17 tells us that they “feared God” and refused to carry out the king’s order. In this context, fearing God is about experiencing awe and wonder in God’s presence. It’s about having a relationship with God that leads to obedience and confidence in God’s unconditional love. What is your confidence in God’s unconditional love inspiring you to do today?
- Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for the many ways I fail to place my complete confidence in the promises of salvation and your unconditional love. Help me to trust and obey.
Saturday July 28 — Exodus 2:1-10
“God works in mysterious ways” is an overused cliché, but it seems to be an appropriate way to describe the series of events surrounding the birth of Moses. Looking back and remembering these events inspired later generations of Israelites to have confidence that God is at work in their lives and in the world. In their darkest days, God called and prepared Moses to serve God’s purposes for the salvation of God’s people. In the same way, God calls and prepares us to serve God’s purposes for the salvation of the world. Do you believe that God is at work in the world today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for calling and preparing people like Moses – and me – to serve your purposes in the world. Help me to see your hand at work in my life.
Sermon: Good Dirt
Scripture Reading: Luke 8:1-8 and Luke 9:1-6
He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:3-5)
Monday July 16 — Luke 8:1-15
Beginning in Luke 8:11, Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower. Jesus teaches that good soil is like those who hear and receive God’s word fully and then choose to “bear fruit.” Another way of saying that is: good soil is when we listen to God’s word and show that God’s word is with us in our daily lives. Living God’s word can be as simple as a kind act, volunteering at church or as challenging as directly addressing the injustice in our world. Spend time in prayer and reflection today about how you stay in God’s word and live God’s word in your life.
• Prayer: God with me, I have placed your word in my heart so Imay know you more. Guide me to live in your ways today and every day. Amen.
Tuesday July 17 — Psalm 25:1-10
This Psalm, written by David, is an example of someone seeking to live in God’s word. David asks God to “Lead me in your truth, and teach me (vs. 5).” David recognizes the reality of our own imperfection, but asks God to show him mercy and love. You may have experienced denying God and God’s call in your life. Consider if you have missed an opportunity to follow God call? How did God show you grace in the midst of that? The Psalm ends with a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Today, remember that God’s call is not a “one and done,” but instead God’s call continues through each of for our lifetime. How can you choose to respond to God’s call today?
• Prayer: Calling God, I lift up my soul to you and seek your call in my life. Teach me to listen for your voice and respond to your love. Amen.
Wednesday July 18 — Isaiah 6:1-8
The story of Isaiah being called by God is vivid. Seraphs with six wings that touch Isaiah’s lips with burning coals? Sounds terrifying. It is in this way that Isaiah encountered God and was able to respond “Here am I (6:8).” God does not always call in such extreme ways. Sometimes God’s call is gentle (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). God’s voice is often a calling to see the hurt and pain in the world, to see the needs of God’s people, to care for others and for God’s creation. Pause sometime today, and ask God to help you hear God’s voice, ask to see the needs in the world or to recognize God in creation. Wonder today, about your own calling.
• Prayer: God of Isaiah, I wish to hear your call in my life. I ask that your powerful and awesome presence be in my life so I can respond like Isaiah saying, “Here am I.”
Thursday July 19 — 1 Samuel 3:1-11
God called Samuel very differently than God called Isaiah. And, it took Samuel a few times, and the help of Eli, to be able to recognize that God was calling. This story reminds us that 1) God doesn’t give up on calling us… God just keeps calling; and 2) God uses people in our lives to help us respond. Who has God used in your life to call you? or Who is God using right now to call you? How can you choose to respond like Samuel and say, “Speak for your servant is listening (vs. 11)?”
• Prayer: In community God and through others we know you more. Inspire me to recognize your calling in my life through the witness of others. Show me how to serve you each day. Amen.
Friday July 20 — Acts 2:36-39
In Acts 2, Peter has been fervently preaching; so much so that people think he is drunk! But the crowd pays close attention when Peter tells them everyone can receive God’s love and forgiveness. They eagerly ask the apostles “How can we respond?” Peter tells them these promises are available for all people and it is God who is calling them. While we know how personal God’s call is (like Isaiah and Samuel) it is amazing to see that God’s call is for everyone. Imagine what our world would be like if we all answered God’s call! Pray today for God’s call to not just be heard in your life, but for God’s call to be heard all around the world.
• Prayer: God, you love and grace are available for all people. Help me envision a world where all can respond to your call. Help me to be a person who invites all to seek you. Amen.
Saturday July 21 — Acts 2:41-47, John 10:10
As we consider the greatness of God’s call we wonder about what God’s call looks like. Acts 2:41-47 is a glimpse living out God’s call in community. Each need was provided for, they shared meals, they praised God and had glad, generous hearts. John 10, tells us that Jesus came so that all may have abundant life. Abundant life is witnessed in Acts – and it is the amazing potential of life in Christian community. When we all respond to God’s call, God’s people are cared for and we share in abundant life. What a wonderful vision of God’s kingdom here on earth! When have you experienced God’s kingdom here on earth? What can you do to share in abundant life with others?
• Prayer: Abundant God, I seek to experience your kingdom on earth and to bear witness to your kingdom each day. Grant me your vision of abundant life so I may live into it each day. Amen.
Series: Unsettled: Asking the Tough Questions
Sermon: Just Ask!
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, Mark 4:35-41
A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)
Monday July 9 — Acts 2:22-38
Of all the questions we find in the Bible, it is likely that none are more relevant than the question asked at the end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon: “what should we do?” (Acts 2:37). Most of us have asked a similar question at some point in our lives: what I am supposed to do now? We know that an encounter with the living God calls for a response. And we know that we spend our entire lives living out that response. So, we are always asking, what should we do (now)?
- Prayer: Loving God, thank you for sending your Son and your Spirit into my life. Help me know what I am supposed to do with my life, starting today. Amen.
Tuesday July 10 — Matthew 20:29-34
The Gospels are very clear that our relationship with God requires that we both ask and receive. It’s not that God doesn’t already know what we need, but that in our asking, we acknowledge that God is the one who gives good gifts to God’s children (see Matthew 7:11). The question Jesus asked the blind men is the same question he asks us: “what do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32). How do you answer that question? What do you want Jesus to do for you?
- Prayer: Healing God, open my eyes and ears to see and hear you more clearly today. Grant me courage to honestly ask for what I need and trust that you will provide.
Wednesday July 11 — John 5:2-9
The question Jesus asked the man who had been ill for 38 years is similar to the question he asked the blind men in Matthew 20, “do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6). The answer seems obvious, but it is not. Sometimes we resist change, even if it is change for the better. We are comfortable with the status quo. Another way to phrase the question Jesus asks is, “do want to experience new life.” For many of us the answer is “no.” How do you answer Jesus’ question?
- Prayer: Merciful God forgive me for resisting the new life you offer through Jesus Christ. Forgive me for being afraid of the unknown. Make all things new in me today.
Thursday July 12 — Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
In his letter to the Romans, Paul asks and answers a series of questions, starting with, “what then are we to say about these things?” (Romans 8:31). The answer is simply that God is for us and that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). This is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible. No matter where we go or what we face in life, God is with us. Nothing—past, present, or future—can separate us from the love of God. That truly is Good News. Do you believe it?
- Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the promises of Scripture. Thank you for promising that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus. Help me trust in you.
Friday July 13 — Mark 4:35-41
Jesus’ questions in Mark 4:40 hit close to home. If we trust Jesus, we can face life unafraid. Yet like Jesus’ first disciples, we experience fear and doubt, despite everything we know about God’s power and Jesus’ promises, despite the life-changing power of God’s grace offered to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are like the father of the sick child in Mark 9:14-29 who pleads to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24.) What helps you strengthen your faith?
- Prayer: God of Grace, I believe, yet my faith is weak. I experience fear and doubt. Help my unbelief. Strengthen my faith. Grant me courage to face life without fear.
Saturday July 14 — Luke 11:1-13
When Jesus teaches us to pray, he teaches us to ask for what we need: for God’s name to be holy; for God’s Kingdom to come; for our daily bread; for forgiveness of our sins; and for freedom from trials and tribulations. He insists that God desires to give us what we need to live faithful, abundant and fruitful lives. What God wants to give us most is God’s own self: the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is ask—and receive. In prayer today ask God for what you need. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Prayer: Holy God, thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. Grant me what I need to serve you and experience your love and grace. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Series: Unsettled: Asking the Tough Questions
Sermon: Questions are the Answer
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:7-12, Matthew 12:9-14
He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. (Matthew 12:9-13)
Monday July 2 — Matthew 7:1-6
Jesus often used questions to challenge his disciples and the religious leaders to think about their own lives. In his teaching about the dangers of judging others, he asks questions that cause us to look at ourselves: “why do you see the speck ….?” and “how can you say to your neighbor …?” (Matthew 7:3-4). He was clearly making a point. But he was also inviting us to increase our awareness of our own need for God’s grace. Spend time reflecting on Jesus’ questions this week.
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for judging others. Help me to be willing to honestly and openly examine my own life and trust in the power of your life-changing grace. Amen.
Tuesday July 3 — Matthew 7:7-12
When we answer the call to follow Jesus, we walk through a doorway to the amazing new world of God’s Kingdom. When Jesus says that we only have to knock for the door to be opened, he is talking about prayer and about the life of discipleship. Like a loving parent, God promises to love and care for us, providing what we need. But God also invites us into a new way of living – a way of living that is described in Matthew 22:34-40, loving God and loving our neighbors. Are you willing to walk through the door that Jesus has opened for you? What’s holding you back?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and inviting me to be a citizen of your heavenly Kingdom. Grant me the courage I need to fully trust in you. Amen.
Wednesday July 4 — Matthew 12:9-14
Jesus’ action on Sabbath days was one of the causes of conflict with the religious authorities. In today’s passage, the authorities asked Jesus a question, hoping that he would incriminate himself. (Sabbath law prohibited a wide variety of actions that were considered work—including curing sickness.) Jesus responds with a question that forces his hearers (and us) to consider what God desires for our lives. Read Matthew 12:7 and Matthew 12:12. What do these verses teach you about what God desires for your life?
• Prayer: God of Love, I believe that you desire mercy and that you want me to do good. Teach me how to follow Jesus by showing mercy and doing good every day Amen.
Thursday July 5 — Matthew 21:23-27
By the 21st chapter of Matthew, we know that the religious authorities were plotting against Jesus and actively trying to undermine his ministry. (See Matthew 12:14.) They tried to trick him. They questioned his authority. According to Luke 20:20, they even sent “spies” to trap him. In response, Jesus used questions to turn the tables and force his interrogators to acknowledge the truth for themselves. How do questions (from Jesus and others) help you discover God’s truth for yourself?
• Prayer: Almighty God, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, your Son. I surrender myself to your authority. Reveal your truth to me through Jesus. Help me see clearly. Amen.
Friday July 6 — Matthew 21:28-32
The parable of the two sons begins with a question, “what do you think?” (Matthew 21:28.) The parable and Jesus’ commentary on it are intended to expose the religious leaders’ hypocrisy—to the leaders themselves. It is also a warning to all of us whose actions don’t match our words. Jesus holds up a mirror, which helps us see ourselves clearly. If we can answer Jesus’ questions with honesty and humility we will take our own steps on the “way of righteousness” (Matthew 21:32) What do you think?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, forgive me for not seeking and doing your will for my life. Forgive me for the many ways I fail to live up to the example and teaching of Jesus. Amen.
Saturday July 7 — Matthew 21:33-45
When Jesus tells he parable of the wicked tenant, his audience includes the chief priests and the Pharisees (Matthew 21:45). It was a parable about them, but it is also about us. We are the tenants in God’s vineyard and we are expected to cultivate the fruit of faithful living and good works (while never forgetting that the vineyard belongs to God!) So what kind of tenants will we be? Will we be like the chief priests and Pharisees? Or will we produce fruits of God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: God of High Expectations, help me to understand that you have great plans for my life and want me to produce fruit. Keep reminding me that I serve your purposes. Amen.
Series: Unsettled: Asking the Tough Questions
Sermon: The Leading Question
Scripture Reading: John 1:35-42, Matthew 18:1-5
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5)
Monday June 25 — John 1:35-42
The Bible is full of questions. In the Gospels, Jesus asks and is asked questions throughout his ministry. Jesus uses questions to both challenge and encourage. In today’s passage from John, we read about an exchange of questions between Jesus and his first disciples that concludes with an invitation from Jesus to “come and see” (John 1:38-39). Many of us have questions. We need to remember that Jesus takes them seriously and invites all of us into a relationship with him, where we too can “come and see” for ourselves. What questions do you want to ask Jesus?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for inviting me to follow Jesus? Thank you for the ability to learn and grow. Help me to trust you and go wherever Jesus wants me to go. Amen.
Tuesday June 26 — Matthew 18:1-5
When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1) they were probably hoping he would affirm their own status as leaders in God’s Kingdom. This is a very human request. We all want to feel like we are important. (See Matthew 20:20-28 for another example of this theme.) In his response, Jesus’ challenged them (and us) to cultivate humility. It wasn’t easy then. It is not easy now. How might you cultivate the kind of humility Jesus requires?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for seeking recognition instead of humility. Help me to trust that true greatness comes from following Jesus’ teaching and example. Amen.
Wednesday June 27 — John 6:60-69
The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel describes Jesus’ feeding of the multitude and the conversations that follow. The final paragraphs of the chapter, as in John 1, contain an exchange of questions. The power of John’s Gospel is that it invites us into the Gospel story – into our own conversation with Jesus. So, how would you answer Jesus’ questions? Do you ever want to “go away” (from Jesus)? Do you believe that Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68)?
• Prayer: Holy God, like Simon Peter, I believe that Jesus has the words of eternal life. Give me the courage I need to trust him, even when I am tempted to “go away.” Amen.
Thursday June 28 — Mark 10:17-22
Today’s passage begins with a universal question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). The man had lived a good life, but according to Jesus he lacked one thing, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor …” (Mark 10:21). Like the man in the story, we may struggle with Jesus’ response. After all, we are saved not by good deeds, but by God’s grace accepted in faith. But we also know that God’s grace has the power to transform our lives – if we let it. How have you applied Jesus’ response to the question to your own life? What might be holding you back from completely following and obeying Jesus?
• Prayer: Eternal God, like people throughout history, I long to spend eternity with you. I accept your saving grace and ask you to help me obey and follow you completely. Amen.
Friday June 29 — Luke 9:18-27
It seems clear that when Jesus asked his disciples, “but who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20) he knew that they had no real conception of what kind of Messiah Jesus would be. Even after telling them about what would happen to him, they could not grasp the meaning and implications of a crucified Messiah. Knowing all that you know right now, how do you answer Jesus’ question, “who do you say that I am?”? What does it mean to you that Jesus is, “the Messiah of God” (Luke 9:21)?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that like Jesus’ first disciples, I struggle to comprehend the meaning and implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Help me understand. Amen.
Saturday June 30 — John 14:1-7
Thomas is a hero for many of Jesus’ followers. According to the Gospels he was unafraid to express his doubts and ask questions that others might not be willing to ask. When he didn’t understand what Jesus’ meant, he asked for directions, for clarification. Many of us are afraid to acknowledge our doubts, our fears, our uncertainties, or even our questions. But Jesus honored Thomas. He loved him, and taught him, just as he loves and teaches us. What questions do you have for Jesus today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, I believe that you can handle my doubts, fears, questions, and even my lack of faith. Increase my faith today. Use my questions to help me learn. Amen.
Sermon: What Makes a Family
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8, Mark 3:31-35
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
Monday June 18 — Psalm 15
This short Psalm asks and then answers a very important question: who may come into the presence of God? Each of the answers to the question are worth our time and attention. The commands to speak the truth, not use our tongues to slander others, or do evil to our friends and neighbors hit particularly close to home. We know how easily we can hurt people close to us with what we say about them. This week, pay attention to what you say about people who are not present? Do you build them up? Or do you tear them down? Using Psalm 15, think about what God expects of you.
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for expecting the best out of me. Help me live up to your expectations for my all aspects of life.
Tuesday June 19 — Matthew 7:12-14
The Golden Rule is an excellent guide when speaking about our friends, neighbors, and members of the church family. Jesus’ teaches us that we should talk about others the way we want others to talk about us. Most of us want our friends to defend us and speak highly of us, but many of us do not defend our friends and speak highly of them when they are not in the room. Many of us choose to take the easier path. Answer this question: how do I want my friends and neighbors to talk about me? Then use your answer to guide your conversations when you are talking about other people.
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to obey the teaching of Jesus. Forgive me when I choose the easy path instead of the right path.
Wednesday June 20 — James 2:8-13
James reminds us of the words Jesus quoted when he was asked which commandment is the greatest of the commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Like the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment serves as a valuable guide for everyday life. However, we cannot forget that Jesus also answered the question: who is my neighbor? (See Luke 10:15-37) How have you treated your neighbors today? Have you loved your neighbors “as yourself”? If not, why not?
- Prayer: Loving God, fill me with your love, so that I might share your love today with everyone who is my neighbor.
Thursday June 21 — James 3:3-6
In describing the power of the tongue, James says that words can start a fire the way a spark sets a forest ablaze. It is very difficult to extinguish a forest fire. In the same way, it is very difficult to stop gossip from spreading out of control. The best way to control gossip is to prevent it from starting in the first place and extinguish it before it is out of control. How do you feel about gossip? Is it harmless fun? Or is it dangerous and hurtful? When you hear gossip about someone, do you fan the flames, or do you try to put out the fire?
- Prayer: God of Wisdom, grant me the courage and self-control I need to keep silent and hold my tongue when necessary. Use me to put out “gossip” fires.
Friday June 22 — James 4:11-12
Using our words wisely means that we choose carefully when we speak to one another and when we speak about one another. James warns us about the danger of speaking evil against our brothers and sisters. His warnings about speaking evil are set in the context of his warnings about “friendship with the world” (see James 4:1-10). The fact that everyone else spreads gossip, doesn’t mean that we should spread gossip. What kind of gossip (or hearsay) are you tempted to spread about others? What helps you resist the temptation to gossip?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I am humbled in your presence. Cleanse my heart and mind so that I can fully obey your teaching.
Saturday June 23 — Ephesians 4:15-16, 25-32
The Bible is clear: we must, “grow up in every way . . . into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). This “growing up” includes learning to control our tongues and to think (and pray) before we speak. The rules for a new life include “putting away falsehood,” “speaking truth to our neighbors,” saying “only what is useful for building up,” and “being kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:25-32). Which of these instructions for growing up into Christ are easiest for you? Which of these instructions are most challenging? Which have you done more of this week: build up or tear down?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, fill me with your Spirit and renew my heart and mind. Transform my life. Help me grow up into the full stature of Christ.
Sermon: “And This is My Prayer…”
Scripture: Philippians 3:9-11
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 3: 9-11
Monday June 11 – Philippians 1: 27-30
Paul encourages the community in Philippi by telling them to live a life worthy of the gospel. Living worthy lives means standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side, and not being intimidated by what challenges us. This life is not an easy one, in fact, Paul warns that it may come with suffering. But when we are willing to live in this way, we become pure and blameless, and produce the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God, help us to live lives worthy of the gospel.
Tuesday June 12 – Philippians 2:1-11
Humility is one of the most essential things that characterizes true Christianity. In fact, humility is one of the characteristics that set Jesus apart from all other religious leaders. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus demonstrated profound humility, giving his own life to demonstrate his love. We are called to imitate Christ’s humility, to be of same mind, the same love, and of one mind, so that we could have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Let us humble ourselves , and share in your Spirit.
Wednesday June 13 – Philippians 2:12-18
Joy is a central theme in the book of Philippians. There are over 15 explicit references to a form of joy (or rejoice). But joy is not just about having no worries or concerns, or dependent on circumstances but about the gift of grace that comes in Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul wrote this letter from prison suffering because of the gospel. But Paul urges this church to be complete in joy, then they will shine like stars in the world.
Prayer: Let our joy be complete in you.
Thursday June 14 – Philippians 3:1-11
Too often we reduce faith to getting all the rules right. But in this passage, Paul reminds us that true righteousness is not based on what we do right, but what Christ has already done for us. Paul warns us against false teachings that idolizes “right actions” above surrender to Jesus Christ. What actions do we substitute for true faith and how can we seek true righteousness in Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Less of me, more of you.
Friday June 15 – Philippians 3:12-4:1
We are called to press on towards the goal! It is easy to give up on faith when life gets hard or when we get discouraged. But Paul encourages us to press on towards the goal because waiting for us is the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus! Today we are encouraged not to give up, but to press on towards the goal.
Prayer: Let us press on towards the goal.
Saturday June 16 – Philippians 4:10-20
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. As Paul gives thanks to this church in Philippi, he names that while his circumstances have not been easy, while he has suffered much, been hungry and thirsty, he has learned the secret of not giving up in the midst of life’s circumstances: that through the faith of Jesus Christ, he is strengthened to do all things. How can we find strength through Christ to live with joy and passion?
Prayer: Strengthen us to do all things in your name.
Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: From Church to Kingdom
Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13, Revelation 1:1-6
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:2-4)
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6)
Monday June 4 — 2 Samuel 7:8-17
When the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah, he says that, “God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David…and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). This means that Jesus’ birth fulfills the promise made to David through Samuel. Because God kept this promise, we can have confidence that God will keep other promises – and that God’s Kingdom will endure forever. In the midst of our fears and doubts, we can trust God’s promises. Which promises of God are you trusting this week?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your faithfulness and for keeping your promises. Help me to trust you more fully and believe in your Kingdom promises.
Tuesday June 5 — Luke 4:42-44
The primary subject of Jesus’ preaching ministry was the Kingdom of God. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowds that he was sent (from heaven) to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). Through Jesus, God is doing something new and offering new life in a Kingdom that is unlike any Kingdom the world has ever known. What does Jesus’ good news mean for you? Do you believe that God is doing something new in your life and in the world?
- Prayer: God of Amazing Grace, thank you for the gift of new life through Jesus. Give me courage to believe the good news and live as a citizen of your eternal Kingdom.
Wednesday June 6 — Luke 9:1-6
Not only did Jesus proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, he also commissioned and sent his disciples to expand the reach of his ministry. Like Jesus, they were to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). As the Body of Christ, the Church continues Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming God’s Kingdom in both word and deed. In what ways does your life reflect the good news of the Kingdom? How might you share the good news of God’s Kingdom with someone this week? In prayer, ask God to give you the courage you need.
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my reluctance to share the good news of your Kingdom with others. Fill me with your Spirit so that my life will reflect my faith in you.
Thursday June 7 — Luke 11:1-13
We know that, during his earthy ministry, Jesus spent much time in prayer, often separating himself from others to be alone with God (see Luke 5:16). One time his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. His response forms the outline of what we call The Lord’s Prayer. (An extended version of the same prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13.) We should note that Jesus does not teach us to pray for the Church or the Church’s mission, but simply to pray that God’s Kingdom will come (on earth, as it is in heaven). The eternal Kingdom (promised in 2 Samuel) is God’s ultimate goal and is the subject of faithful prayer. Use The Lord’s Prayer to guide your own prayer today.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your name be holy. Let your Kingdom come, and your will be done in my life, and in the world. Let me experience your grace and power today.
Friday June 8 — Revelation 1:1-6
The entire New Testament describes the cosmic conflict of kingdoms: the kingdoms of the world versus the Kingdom of God. The Revelation to John uses rich and expressive imagery to illustrate this conflict at the end of the first century. The purpose of the Revelation is to remind God’s Church that God is faithful, and that God will ultimately be victorious. The Revelation calls the Church to worship God, no matter what is happening around them. What helps you worship God, even on the most difficult days of your life?
- Prayer: Almighty God, sometimes in the darkest hours I experience fear and doubt. I am grateful for the witness of Scripture that teaches me to trust you and worship you.
Saturday June 9 — Revelation 21:22-27
In the end, God wins. That’s the good news that helps us live and work and pray and worship with confidence and faith. Centuries of believers have found hope in the final chapters of the Revelation, which describe the new heaven and new earth, the holy city, and the river of life. What we discover, when we read these chapters is that there will be no temple (church) in the holy city. The church will have served its purpose and will no longer be needed. It is a vivid reminder that God’s Church is temporary. How will you help God’s Church point to God’s eternal Kingdom?
- Prayer: Holy God, you alone are worthy of my praise and worship. I confess my need for your grace. Write my name in the Lamb’s book of life today. Amen.