Sermon: “Which One of You, Having a Hundred Sheep”
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-7, Luke 19:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7)
Monday July 24 — Luke 5:27-32
From the very beginning, Jesus’ life and ministry created conflict with the leaders of the Jewish tradition into which Jesus was born. What he said and did pushed boundaries and challenged conventional wisdom. We don’t always understand the conflict because our world is very different from the world of first-century Israel. However, we can relate to the complaints about Jesus in Luke 5:30. According to the religious authorities, Jesus was spending time with the wrong kind of people. This was an affront to their sensibilities. What do you think about the accusations made against Jesus? What do you think about Jesus’ response? Where do you find yourself in this story?
- Prayer: Seeking God, thank you for calling people like me to follow Jesus. Teach me to look at the people around me with the same love and grace that you look at me. Amen.
Tuesday July 25 — Luke 7:31-50
The entire seventh chapter of Luke describes the many ways Jesus demonstrated God’s love for the poor and people on the margins of society. In his own words, Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Don’t forget that in Jesus’ day, tax collectors were often corrupt and were viewed as traitors to their own people. Yet not everyone saw Jesus’ love and concern for the poor and marginalized as “good news.” His words and actions provoked a response both then and now. How about you? How do you respond to Jesus’ words and actions in chapter seven?
- Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for the ways that I hoard your love for myself and resent the grace and forgiveness you offer to others. I need your grace more than ever. Amen.
Wednesday July 26 — Luke 15:1-7
By the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the message is clear: Jesus (and by extension God) cares for the least, the last, and the lost of society. But it is also clear that the focus of Jesus’ ministry bothered some of the people and they were grumbling. So Jesus told them three parables. Luke 15:1-2 are essential for a faithful interpretation of these parables. Jesus was telling the religious people that heaven rejoices when the lost are found and sinners (like us) repent and turn to God. Jesus’ parables force us to look at ourselves. Do we celebrate when the lost are found and sinners repent? Or do we resent God’s grace when it is offered to others?
- Prayer: Creator God, I am humbled that you care for me and sent your Son to find and save me. Today I repent of my sin and pray that others will do the same. Amen.
Thursday July 27 — Luke 15:8-10
The second of the three parables in Luke 15 is short and sweet. It continues the theme of lost and found and great joy in heaven when sinners repent. Through the parable, Jesus invites us to consider God’s perspective on human life. (God rejoices when humans turn back to God.) He challenges us to find joy in the abundance of God’s grace. He challenges us to share in Jesus’ mission to bring Good News to the poor and people on the margins of our society. How will you respond to Jesus’ challenge?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that my heart is too small. I confess my unwillingness to share Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized. Forgive me, I pray. Amen.
Friday July 28 — Luke 15:11-32
The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most familiar passages in Scripture. Most of us can relate to one (or more) of the main characters. Maybe you are a prodigal child. You’ve wandered to a far off place and need to return to God. Maybe you are a parent, anxiously waiting for the return of a lost child. Maybe you are an elder child, angry and resentful when generosity and mercy is offered to someone who does not deserve it. Where do you find yourself in Jesus’ parable?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your steadfast love and kindness. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for including me in your kingdom. Thank you.
Saturday July 29 — Luke 19:1-10
The account of Jesus’ encounter with Zaccheus in Luke 19 concludes with a verse that summarizes the entirety of the Gospel, and the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). There are several lessons in the story—the need for repentance and for bearing fruit worthy of repentance by giving to the poor (see also Luke 3:7-14)—but the primary point is that Zaccheus experiences salvation through his relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants to enter into your life today. Will you be “happy to welcome him”?
- Prayer: Lord of the Universe, I am amazed that you want to have a relationship with me. Come into my heart. Come into my life. I am happy to welcome you today. Amen.
Sermon Series: Tell Me A Story
Sermon: The Parable of the Great Dinner
Scriptures: Isaiah 25:1-10, Luke 14:15-24
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
We live in a culture that places great importance on networking and making sure you “know the right people.” The common rule of thumb is that the more people that you know, the higher you will rise. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of humility and hospitality. In this passage, Jesus encourages us to do the complete opposite. He tells his listeners: instead of seeking a place of honor, instead of trying to make connections, be humble and bless those who cannot repay you. What would our culture look like if this was the way we operated? We are encouraged to seek humility and hospitality over political or financial gain.
Prayer: We pray that we will extend the table to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
What do you think heaven is like? While we may think of angels and harps, the prophets imaged a great banquet. The prophets anticipated a heavenly banquet at the end of the days, when death would be swallowed up, tears wiped away, and disgrace removed, all as the culminating experience of God’s salvation. This would be the day that the faithful had been waiting.
Prayer: God we pray and wait for your heavenly banquet when we will feast in your heavenly presence.
““I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v.35) Just as we need food and drink to nourish our bodies, we need Jesus to nourish our lives, our bodies and souls. This means that we need to spend time with Jesus daily, we need to pray and read scripture and act with compassion and justice. These are the ways that we partake of the body of Christ. Spend time with Jesus everyday this week to make sure you are eating bread that will last.
Prayer: Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
What are you tempted by? In Jesus’ temptation, he was tempted to turn stones into bread so he wouldn’t be hungry anymore. But even in a state of hunger, Jesus replied: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (v.4) While temptation is a part of our lives, when we trust fully in God and remember that God is bigger than our temptations, we are able to remain true to the expectations of our faith.
Prayer: We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.
God provides for our every need. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert after escaping from Egypt, they did not know where they would find food and drink, and complained bitterly to Moses. When God heard their cries, he provided bread from heaven. Every morning for 40 years, God made sure the Israelites had enough manna to eat each day until they reached the border of Canaan. The hardest part of receiving God’s blessings is trusting that God will provide for us. It is much easier to complain than to give thanks for God’s provision. But this passage reminds us that God always provides for us. This week, give thanks for God’s blessings in your life.
Prayer: God we thank you for always providing for us.
The passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his death is one of the most important meals in our Scriptures. It represents Jesus’ sacrifice that was to come, the betrayal of his disciples, as well as a foreshadowing of the great banquet that is prepared for us in heaven. In this meal we see the fullness of the Biblical narrative: while we turned away, God loves us, and invites us to feast at his table. This week, when you sit down for supper, take a moment to remember this important meal.
Prayer: Thank you for inviting us to feast at your heavenly banquet.
Sermon Series: Tell Me a Story
Sermon: “A Man Had a Fig Tree Planted in His Vineyard”
Scriptures: Ezekiel 17:1-10, Luke 13:6-9
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Luke 13: 6-9
At the very core of the covenant God makes with Abraham is the promise and expectation of fruitfulness. As God makes this promise to Abraham: “I will make you very fruitful” (v.6), God also states an expectation that the fruitfulness of Abraham and Sara’s way of life will be a blessing to others. In the same way, God makes this covenant with us; God promises to make us fruitful with the expectation that we will use our fruitfulness to bless others. How can you bless others today?
Prayer: God, help us to use our fruitfulness to bless others.
“Only God gives the growth.” (v.7) Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth who were plagued with factions and divisions. Unfortunately churches today continue to struggle with power struggles and egos. This passage reminds us that t is not us that gives growth, but only God alone. While we are called to be laborers and servants, we are servants of God with a common purpose. We are challenged to put aside pride and arrogance and to be faithful servants of God.
Prayer: Humble us to remember that you alone give growth.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (v.2) While there is much fruit to be harvested, there are few that are willing to labor. In this passage, as Jesus sent out his disciples, he sends us out as well, and commands us to share the Kingdom of God to all we meet. Jesus calls us to work this week, will we respond? How can we be laborers that harvest fruit?
Prayer: Let us be laborers willing to work for the harvest.
In this passage, we are reminded that God is the vine and we are the branches. If we want to grow, we must abide in God. If we want to bear fruit, we must abide in God. If we want to live a good and fruitful life, we must be rooted in God’s grace that nourishes and sustains us. We must spend time reading the Bible and praying to God, otherwise, we will wither and fall. We are encouraged this week to make sure we have strong roots and foundations.
Prayer: God, you are the vine and we are the branches.
What practices, attitudes, and behaviors do we have that keep us from bearing fruit? While it is not easy, it is important for us to reflect on how we keep ourselves and others from bearing fruit. When we do that, we can heal and correct relationships and transform the world. Spend some time reflecting on where we need pruning and correcting in our lives.
Prayer: God, we confess that we still need pruning, guide us to bear fruit.
In this familiar parable, we are reminded of God’s extravagant mercy. While the Father had expectations for both of his sons, his love for them was not conditional on those expectations. When the prodigal son returns home, his Father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates because what was lost is now found! In our conversation about bearing fruit, let us also be reminded of God’s extravagant love.
Prayer: Thank you God for always loving us, even when we make mistakes.
Sermon: “Someone Sowed Good Seed in the Field”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, Matthew 13:34-43
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)
Monday July 3 — Matthew 13:24-30
Matthew’s Gospel summarizes the teaching ministry of Jesus in chapter 4: “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near'” (Matthew 4:17). This means that we should look for signs of God’s Kingdom in Jesus’ actions and in Jesus’ teaching. In Matthew 13, Jesus uses several parables, including the parable of the wheat and the weeds, to teach about the Kingdom. In them we find both grace and judgment, two of the Bible’s primary themes. How do you feel about what Jesus says in the parable of the wheat and the weeds? How do you live in the tension between the promise of God’s grace and the promise of God’s judgment?
- Prayer: God of Wisdom, increase my ability to understand Jesus’ teaching and apply it to my life. Teach me to trust you in all things. Amen.
Tuesday July 4 — Matthew 13:31-32
In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus compares God’s Kingdom with a tiny seed that grows into a great tree or shrub. He says that even though God’s presence in the world (the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven) often seems hidden and insignificant, it is still real and effective. Just as the seed will become a tree, the Kingdom of God will, in God’s time, be completely revealed and encompass all of creation. Do you ever question God’s plan for the world? Do you wonder about God’s timing? What will help you increase your confidence and faith?
- Prayer: Almighty God, forgive me when I doubt your presence in the world. Forgive me when I fail to have confidence and faith that the future is in your hands. Amen.
Wednesday July 5 — Matthew 13:33
In this single verse, Jesus tells a parable about a woman baking bread with yeast. He emphasizes that the yeast is thoroughly mixed in with and leavens three measures (approximately 50 pounds) of flour, which is an absurdly large amount. His point is that the although the Kingdom of God is thoroughly “hidden” in the world—like the yeast in the flour, its effect will ultimately become evident and obvious. Where do you see signs of God’s Kingdom at work in your life? Are you experiencing any of the leavening properties of God’s grace?
- Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the Good News about your Kingdom. Enliven my senses so that I can more fully experience your presence in my life. Amen.
Thursday July 6 — Psalm 78:1-4, Matthew 13:34-35
In Matthew 13:34-35, the narrator (Matthew) interrupts Jesus’ collection of parables with an explanation that Jesus was fulfilling promises made in the opening verses of Psalm 78. The point is that Jesus reveals the truth about God’s Kingdom, but the Kingdom of God, like the seeds and the yeast is mysterious and is hidden from view. Jesus’ Kingdom parables challenge us to look and listen carefully for God in the ordinary events of life. What do Jesus’ parables teach you about the way God works in the world? How can you train yourself to look for God in your daily life?
- Prayer: God of Wonders, grant me the gift of wisdom to recognize the wonders of your grace in my life and in the world around me. Amen.
Friday July 7 — Matthew 13:36-43
As with the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), Jesus explains the parable of the wheat and weeds to his disciples. His explanation emphasizes God’s future judgment of evildoers and causes of sin in the world. It is a promise that God’s Kingdom will be fully established and that God will ultimately be victorious over sin, death, and the forces of evil. How do you feel about promises of judgment? Are they frightening for you or are they hopeful? Have you rejected sin and the power of evil in your life? How can you learn to trust God for your past, present, and future?
- Prayer: Eternal God, I trust your judgment and willingly offer my entire life into your hands. I give myself completely to you today.
Saturday July 8 — Matthew 13:44-53
The 13th chapter contains the second of five collections of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s Gospel. It concludes with three more parables that work together to teach us that God’s Kingdom is both a present reality and a future promise. In response, we should be willing to give up everything we have so that we can receive something that is infinitely more valuable. We should trust that despite what we see and hear around us, the future is firmly in God’s control. Do you believe Jesus’ words about the Kingdom? How much are you willing to give up so that you can receive the promise of the Kingdom? Are you willing to trust God enough to surrender your life to God?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me when I fail to trust you by holding on to what I have. Today, I am willing to surrender everything. Amen.
Sermon: The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us
Scriptures: Psalm 121: 1-8, Luke 4: 16-20
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Luke 4: 16-20
“Follow me.” These are the words that Jesus says to Matthew, who was sitting at a tax booth. Jesus met Matthew where he was, at his workplace, and called him to a new life. How is Jesus calling you today? And how will you respond? Are you willing to stand up and follow Jesus?
Prayer: Give us boldness and courage to stand up and follow you. Amen.
“Remove the sandals from your feet.” When Moses came in the presence of God’s voice and call, he was instructed to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground. When God calls us to our life’s purpose, we too, stand on holy ground. This call may feel overwhelming, even terrifying (even Moses hid his face because he was afraid), but this call is sacred, and one that cannot be ignored or taken lightly. In what ways can we remove the sandals from our feets and hearts to hear and receive God’s call?
Prayer: God, we thank you for inviting us to stand with you on holy ground.
Jesus’ message of radical inclusion is one of the most difficult and powerful aspects of his message. Over and over again in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus included foreigners, outsiders, and the marginalized. He broke down barriers and challenged divisions. But this was not always receive well. In fact, when the people in the synagogue heard Jesus’ sermon about extending God’s spirit to outsiders, they became so angry that they drove Jesus out of town. How do we resist Jesus’ message of inclusion? How can we share in that ministry?
Prayer: God, help us to trust you to break down barriers.
While we cannot choose the circumstances of our lives, we can choose how to respond. When Joshua faced the death of Moses, he was called to be the new leader. Instead of complaining about the task or turning away, he stepped up to the task at hand. And he remembered God’s promise that the Lord God would be with him wherever he went. What difficult circumstances are you facing? How can we face them with strength and courage?
Prayer: Help us to be strong and courageous, to remember that you are with us wherever we go.
It is important to take time to give thanks for the milestones and blessings in our lives. It is easy to forget to stop and reflect on the journey, in both the challenges and joys that it brought. When David placed the ark in the tent , the Israelite people joined together in worship to praise God for God’s enduring love and faithfulness. Today you are encouraged to give thanks to God for the milestones in your life.
Prayer: We give you praise for important moments in our lives.
“I do not call you servants, but friends.” There is a big difference in the way we treat servants or workers than we do our friends. Friendship is one based on mutual love, intimacy, and choice, rather than a one-sided, distant, or forced relationship. Jesus calls us friends because he loves us, and now calls us to love others. How do we love Jesus as a friend?
Prayer: As you have loved us as a friend, help us to love others as friends.
Sermon: LEAD – Scott Bach-Hansen
Scripture Reading: Psalm 32:6-8, Isaiah 41:8-10
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:8-10)
Monday June 19 — Psalm 23:1-6
The 23rd Psalm is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It assures us that God will shepherd and guide us, even when we walk through the darkest valleys of life. The Psalm promises God’s provision and a glorious future at a heavenly banquet. But God’s promises require that we let God lead us—which is not easy for people who would prefer to be leaders, not followers. Do you find it difficult to allow God to be the leader in your life? What helps you trust God enough to allow God to guide your life?
- Prayer: Shepherding God, thank you for the promises of your presence in my life and a glorious future at the heavenly banquet. Grant me courage to trust you more fully. Amen.
Tuesday June 20 — Psalm 32:1-11
Psalm 32 celebrates the joy of God’s forgiveness. It calls us to confess our sin and trust in the life-changing power of God’s grace. The warning of verse 9 is clear: “Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding.” Too often, we are resistant to God. We don’t want to admit weakness, failure, or any other expression of our need for God’s grace and forgiveness. But the truth is that we find joy when we trust God and accept God’s love and forgiveness for ourselves. What is preventing you today from confessing your sin and receiving the forgiveness God offers?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I no longer want to hide from your presence. I have sinned and stand in need of your forgiveness. Forgive me, I pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Wednesday June 21 — Exodus 13:17-22
When the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, they began a 40-year journey through the wilderness. The Book of Exodus describes many of the trials and tribulations they experienced along the way. But through it all, God was with them. In fact, according to Exodus 13:21-22, it was God who led them. Think about the journey of your life. How do you experience God’s leading? What helps you discern God’s presence and God’s guidance in your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, on my journey through life, I too often go my own way and fail to allow you to lead me. Open my eyes and ears to see and hear your guidance. Amen.
Thursday June 22 — Luke 4:16-21
Just as the Spirit of God guided the Israelites (Exodus 13:21-22), the Spirit of God guided Jesus’ life and ministry. And just as the Spirit of God guided Jesus, the Spirit of God will guide us to accomplish the mission God gives us. Like Jesus, we have good news for people who desperately need it. And like Jesus, we are sent to “proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). In what ways is St. Matthew’s (or your church) continuing the ministry of Jesus? In what ways is your life continuing the ministry of Jesus in the world today?
- Prayer: Compassionate God, I know that you care deeply for people who are hurting and in need of your love and grace. Use me to share your Good News today. Amen.
Friday June 23 — Luke 9:57-62
Following Jesus is not easy. When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry we can relate to the unnamed people who were uncertain about what it meant to be Jesus’ disciples. If we are honest, we do not always want to go where Jesus leads us. We would much rather set our own terms for discipleship. We prefer to set and follow our own agenda, and not God’s. We don’t know what happened to the people Jesus met on the road. What we do know is how we will respond.
- Prayer: God of Love, I hear your call to follow Jesus, but I am afraid to surrender my life to your leadership. Forgive my reluctance and my lack of trust.
Saturday June 24 — Isaiah 41:8-10
Fear and doubt are powerful emotions. Too often, they prevent us from answering God’s call and living faithful and fruitful lives. That’s why “do not fear” is such an important phrase in Scripture. It appears, in some form, in more than 200 verses, from Genesis to Revelation. But being “fear-less” is not a matter of character or will power or human courage; it is the result of our willingness to trust God’s promises. Read and reflect on these words from Isaiah 41:10, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.”
- Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the calling me out of my fearful existence and into a new life of confidence and faith. Help me trust that you are with me. Always. Amen.
Monday June 12 — Psalm 30:1-12
The dictionary describes joy as a good feeling or positive emotion caused by something good or satisfying. However, the Bible doesn’t limit the joy of a believer to the transience of emotion. God’s people experience joy even when something bad is happening—even in the midst of suffering—because joy is a gift from God. When do you experience joy in your life? Is it only when you’re feeling good? Are you open to the possibility that joy is a gift from God, and that you can experience joy on both good days and bad days? Look for signs of joy today, no matter how you’re feeling. Receive God’s joy as one of life’s greatest gifts.
- Prayer: Gracious God, help me understand that joy is more than a positive feeling. Open my heart to receive the gift of joy that only you can provide. Amen.
Tuesday June 13 — Psalm 84:1-12
Psalm 84 reminds us of the joy we experience when we are in the presence of God. The final stanza of the psalm (verses 10-12) tell us that a day in the presence of God is far better than a thousand days anywhere else. Having a menial job (doorkeeper) in God’s house is better than a life of leisure anywhere else. We should take note of the “secret” of happiness described in verse twelve. Does Psalm 84 describe your journey of life? Do you find happiness in your trust of God? Do you walk daily in the presence of God?
- Prayer: Almighty God, forgive me when I focus on and complain about problems in my life. Forgive me when I forget that your love and grace is more than enough. Amen.
Wednesday June 14 — Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Thirty-eight times in the twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes, Qohelet (the writer) says of life: “all is vanity.” We may think that he is pessimistic and too negative, but that is not the case. Instead, “vanity” refers to the uncertainty of human life, which is contrasted with the permanence and certainty of God’s presence. Qohelet describes the reality of “toil,” but moves on, later in the book, to describe the possibility of enjoyment. The fragility of life can lead to despair, or to a sense of urgency to make the most of every moment. How do you respond to the realities and limitations of human life? Do you savor the journey of life? What can you do today to fully enjoy your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for reminding me of my mortality. Give me courage to trust that you are the ultimate source of peace and joy. Amen.
Thursday June 15 — Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
The first eight verses of chapter three contain a familiar list of the “times” of life. The point of the list is made clear in verse eleven: “God has made everything suitable for its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Even though we are unable to fully comprehend God’s ways, we can trust God. We can trust that, “whatever God does endures forever” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). This assurance of God’s goodness is the secret of a happy life. What “time” of life (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) are you experiencing today? Can you see/hear/feel/taste the presence of God in your life?
- Prayer: Faithful God, your ways are beyond my comprehension. By your grace, help me learn to trust you fully and completely, in good and bad times. Amen.
Friday June 16 — Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 3:9-15
Five different times Qohelet advises us to eat, drink, and be merry (see Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13, 5:18, 8:15, 9:17). He is not encouraging overindulgence or any kind of reckless, unhealthy, or dangerous behavior. He is saying that life is short and should be savored. Confidence in God’s love and grace makes it possible for us to experience joy and peace in any human circumstance. This does not mean that we ignore the realities of life, but rather that we remember: we only have one life to live. Review the past twenty-four hours of your life. How much joy have you experienced? How much peace? How much contentment?
- Prayer: God of Mercy, forgive my unwillingness to appreciate the gift that is life itself. Help me to fully experience joy and peace and contentment today.
Saturday June 17 — 1 Timothy 6:17-19
The New Testament Letters to Timothy contain words of wisdom for the next generation of church leaders. In the closing statements of the first letter, Timothy is instructed to warn wealthy members of the church to place their trust in God and not in their earthly riches and material possessions. Treasures in heaven are the true source of an abundant and joy-filled life (see Matthew 6:19-21), not the earthly treasure we want to accumulate. Believers are instructed to “be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). What do you think about this message for people who are rich? Does it speak to you? If so, how will you respond? Do you place your trust in earthly riches or heavenly treasures?
- Prayer: Loving God, forgive me for placing my hope in earthly riches and not in the ultimate treasure that you offer through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Series: Trip of a Lifetime
Sermon: Getting Ready to Go
Scripture Reading: Acts 2:1-4, Luke 14:25-33
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
Monday June 5 — Luke 3:21-22
In two short verses, Luke describes events surrounding the baptism of Jesus. As we read carefully, we discover that Luke focuses his attention, and ours, on what happens after Jesus was baptized. He tells us that while Jesus was praying the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a heavenly voice affirmed his identity as the Son of God. In the same way, we make ourselves available to God’s Spirit when we pray. In prayer today, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Remember that God loves you and that you are God’s beloved child!
- Prayer: Eternal God, remind me once again how much you love me. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I will have confidence to serve you as a beloved child. Amen.
Tuesday June 6 — Luke 9:18-27
When Jesus was getting ready to journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), he began to prepare his disciples for what was going to happen and make sure they understood the true cost of their discipleship. Jesus was the Messiah, but he would not be the kind of Messiah the disciples expected: he would be a suffering servant. Following him would require disciples to be willing to share in his suffering. How do you feel about Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23-24? Does the “cost” of discipleship affect your willingness to follow Jesus?
- Prayer: Faithful God, I am humbled by Jesus’ example, how he followed your will at all costs. Give me the courage I need to deny myself and follow him today. Amen.
Wednesday June 7 — Luke 14:25-33
As Jesus’ ministry progressed, he attracted quite a following. (As you read the Gospel, note how many times Luke mentions the “crowd.”) On his journey to Jerusalem he taught the crowds about God’s Kingdom and challenged them to make God’s Kingdom their highest priority. This is not easy, but God’s Kingdom is worth it. How has following Jesus changed your life? What is the next step in your journey of discipleship?
- Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for resisting your call to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Teach me to believe that following him will be my greatest joy. Amen.
Thursday June 8 — Acts 1:1-11
The first chapter of Acts continues where the Gospel of Luke ended. (Both Luke and Acts were written by the same author.) Before he ascends to heaven, the resurrected Jesus instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to empower their ministry. He said they would be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Like Jesus’ first disciples, we need the Holy Spirit to empower our service and our witness “to the ends of the earth.” In what ways have you experienced God’s presence and power so far this week? In what ways have you been a witness to God’s love and grace?
- Prayer: Loving God, I am humbled by your expectation to participate in the ministry of your church. Help me share your love and grace with someone today. Amen.
Friday June 9 — Acts 2:1-13
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the waiting disciples and gave them the ability to share the Good News about Jesus. As Pentecost people, we believe that God fills us with the Holy Spirit and makes it possible for us to share the Good News about Jesus with the world. Read the next section, Acts 2:14-36, and think about how you would tell someone about Jesus. How you would you describe your journey with Jesus so far? What difference does Jesus make in your life? How would you answer this question: why should someone follow Jesus?
- Prayer: Faithful God, fill me with the Holy Spirit today. Teach me how to tell others about Jesus. Send me to the people who need to hear the Good News.
Saturday June 10 — Acts 2:37-47
The final verses of Acts 2 describe the beginnings of the early church. In response to Peter’s sermon about Jesus (in Acts 2:14-36), 3,000 people were baptized and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their lives were shaped by teaching (about Jesus) and fellowship, breaking bread and praying together, worshipping God, and sharing their resources. How does the example of the early church inspire your life? How might your life be shaped by the same ways of responding to the Good News about Jesus? What’s the next step in your journey of faith?
- Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the witness of the early church. Help me continue to respond to the Good News as a member of your Church. Teach me your ways. Amen.
Series: Trip of a Lifetime
Sermon: Taking the First Step
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 7:24-29
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
Monday May 29 — Genesis 12:1-9
The Bible is full of journeys. In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of God are constantly on the move. The Book of Genesis describes the journeys of Abraham and Sarah and their offspring. It is a story of trust and obedience. God told Abram (he became Abraham in chapter 17) to “Go from your country . . .” (Genesis 12:1), and “Abram went” (Genesis 12:4). This is the way God works in our lives. God calls us and sends us into new places and asks us to simply trust and obey. Have you ever heard God sending you on a journey? How have you responded to God’s call and God’s command to “Go”?
- Prayer: Sending God, thank you for speaking your truth through the stories of the Bible. Grant me the courage I need to begin my journey and go where you send me. Amen.
Tuesday May 30 — Galatians 3:1-9
Paul, the New Testament writer, used the example of Abraham’s trust and obedience to encourage first-century believers. (See also Romans 4:1-9.) The larger question for Paul and his readers was: how are we saved? By doing good works? Or by God’s grace through faith? According to Paul, we are saved by grace through faith, just like Abraham who “believed God” and received the gift of righteousness. We begin our journey of faith when we “believe God” and experience the life-changing power of God’s love and grace.
- Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the promise of salvation through faith. I believe your promises and place my whole trust in your grace. Amen.
Wednesday May 31 — Deuteronomy 1:29-33
As Deuteronomy begins, Israel is refusing to enter the Promised Land because they are afraid of what they will encounter. Like the Israelites, we are often unwilling or, at the very least, uneasy about going where God sends us because we are afraid of what we will encounter. The promise of Deuteronomy 1:29-33 is worth remembering. It says that when we go where God sends us, God promises to go before us. Read Matthew 28:16-20 to see what Jesus says to his disciples about their journey of discipleship. Are you willing to trust Jesus and go where he sends you?
- Prayer: Almighty God, remind me once again that your grace is sufficient and that nothing I will ever face can separate me from your great love in Jesus’ Christ. Amen.
Thursday June 1 — Jonah 3:1-10
Jonah is one of God’s reluctant servants. Like a majority of Biblical characters, and like many (if not most) of us, Jonah resisted God’s call and tried to run away from God. The third chapter of Jonah’s story describes the amazing grace of God. When Jonah finally went where God sent him and proclaimed the message God gave him, we learn that “the people of Nineveh believed God” (Jonah 3:5, emphasis added) and were saved (see Jonah 3:10). What is preventing you from believing God and experiencing the fullness of God’s salvation today? What is preventing you from going where God sends you today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for being a reluctant servant. Help me follow the example of the people of Nineveh and believe the promise of your salvation. Amen.
Friday June 2 — Matthew 4:18-22
That Jesus calls ordinary people to be his disciples should not come as a surprise to anyone who has any familiarity with God’s story. This is the way God works, and as God’s Son, this is the way Jesus works. He calls ordinary people to follow him, to learn from him, and to participate in the work of God’s Kingdom. This is an invitation to begin life’s ultimate journey. Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, when Jesus calls us, we have a choice to make, a choice that requires trust and obedience. Have you chosen to follow Jesus?
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for calling me to be one of your disciples. Today I choose to follow you. I will follow where you lead me and I will go where you send me.
Saturday June 3 — Matthew 7:24-29
Soon after calling his first disciples, Jesus preached his most famous sermon: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). In it he describes the nature of God’s Kingdom and his expectations for his disciples. He covers a wide range of topics: loving one’s enemies, spiritual disciplines, the danger of judging others, money, the futility of worry, and the requirement to bear good fruit. The sermon ends with another choice. Will we follow Jesus’ teaching? Or not? What choice will you make?
- Prayer: God of Love, like the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount I am astounded by what I hear. With your help, I will build my life on the foundation of Jesus’ teaching. Amen.
Children’s Musical and Hymn Sing
Scriptures: Mark 2:1-12, Mark 12: 28-34
Some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Mark 2: 3-12
Jesus makes it clear that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love neighbor. On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets. In other words, these are the commandments that we turn to when we aren’t sure what decision to make, when we get confused about the right thing to do, or how to treat others. The greatest commandments help guide our everyday life and dictate our relationships with each other. This week as you face daily struggles and questions, turn to the greatest commandment that help bring our lives into focus.
Prayer: God, help us remember that the most important thing in life is to love you and to love our neighbors.
This passage is at the center of prayers that the Israelites recited daily called the Shema, which reminded the Israelites that there was one God and we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This is where the first part of the greatest commandment comes from and remains at the center of our faith. Loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind means that we cannot compartmentalize our faith, but that loving God must be a part of every aspect of our lives. How can we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind this week?
Prayer: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Amen.
One of the most important Levitical laws was that we love our neighbor as ourself! This was at the very foundation of what it meant to be in covenant with God. If we love God, then we must love our neighbor, this was nonnegotiable. This is unfortunately easier said than done–while it is easy to say we love our neighbor, it is much harder to put it into practice! This week, we are challenged step out of our comfort zones to talk to our neighbors this week.
Prayer: God, we pray for our neighbors today as we remember that you called us to love our neighbors.
In this miracle story, the true heroes are the friends who were willing to carry the paralyzed man to see Jesus. Who are the friends in your life that would be willing to carry you when you are in need? They are to be cherished! As we give thanks for the friends in our lives, we are also challenged to think about what kind of friends we are. Are we willing to carry our friends to Jesus so they can be healed?
Prayer: God we give thanks for the friends in our lives that are willing to carry us in times of need.
Often we take our friends for granted, making time for them only when it is convenient for us. In this passage, Jesus models for us what true friendship looks like: that we are to lay our lives down for the sake of our friends. In fact, Jesus loved us so much that he no longer called us slaves, but friends! True friendship is based on love, and Jesus’ command is for us to love each other, as Christ has loved us. How can we base our friendships on the model that Jesus gives to us?
Prayer: What a friend we have in Jesus, who claimed us as his friends.
What does it mean for Jesus to tell us to become like children? This isn’t an exhortation to find a time machine or to seek a fountain of youth. Instead, Jesus is challenging what “greatness” looks like in heaven. Greatness isn’t about power or status, instead it is about humility and faithfulness, virtues that we often shed as we grow older. But Jesus calls us to be like children! We are called to see with the fullness of the eyes of children, and to love with the purity of children’s hearts.
Prayer: God, let us be like children and receive your gifts with openness, honesty and unbridled joy!