Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Kingdom Collaborators
Scripture Readings: Luke 9:1-6, Luke 10:1-12
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 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.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)
Monday June 17 — Luke 4:38-44
The beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel reveals the tension between our human desire to receive and keep God’s blessings for ourselves and God’s desire that these blessings be shared with others. The crowds wanted Jesus to stay and serve them, but Jesus insisted that he “must proclaim the good news of the kingdom” (Luke 4:43) to others. Like the crowds described by Luke, we sometimes find ourselves wanting Jesus to serve us alone. How might you resist the desire to keep Jesus to yourself? How might you share the good news of the God’s Kingdom today?
• Prayer: God of Many Blessings, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Open my heart to receive your blessings through him and then share them with others. Amen.
Tuesday June 18 — Luke 9:1-6
The mission of the twelve (in Luke 9:1-6) is an important development in the Gospel. Until this point, the ministry of sharing the good news of the Kingdom has centered on Jesus. Now, the same power and authority – and responsibility – is given to the apostles. (Don’t forget that the word “apostle” means “messenger” or “one who is sent.”) Note how their ministry included “bringing the good news and curing diseases” (Luke 9:6). In other words, the apostles’ served whole persons, body, mind, and spirit – helping them experience life as God intended for them.
• Prayer: Eternal God, grant me wisdom to understand that you not only want the best for me, but that you also want me to seek the best for others. Amen.
Wednesday June 19 — Luke 9:10-17
The account of Jesus feeding the multitude not only demonstrates that the power of God was at work in him, it also illustrates Jesus’ (and God’s) intention to provide for the daily needs of the crowds that were following him. This tells us something about God. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to ask God to “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). We have to believe that God will answer the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. We also believe that God will use us to answer that prayer for others. Read Luke 9:13 and think about how that verse might apply to your life.
• Prayer: God of Abundance, help me remember that you not only promise to provide for my needs, you also want to me to share what I have with others. Amen.
Thursday June 20 — Luke 10:1-12
After sending the twelve apostles on a Kingdom-mission in chapter 9, Jesus sent another, larger, group of disciples ahead of him to minister to the people and announce that, “the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:9). What’s striking is that we know nothing about these disciples. They are anonymous. All we know is that Jesus “appointed them” and “sent them” (Luke 10:1). And they went. The point is that Jesus calls and sends people like them (and us) to serve his Kingdom purposes in the world. What call from God are you hearing today? How are you responding?
• Prayer: Faithful God, when I hear your call, I often make excuses and am reluctant to go where you send me. Give me the courage I need to trust you more fully today. Amen.
Friday June 21 — John 20:19-23
The primary report of how the Holy Spirit came into the lives of Jesus’ disciples is found in the Pentecost story described in Acts 2, but John’s Gospel has a different account. John 20:21-22 says that, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Or in other words, Jesus sent the disciples – filled with the Spirit – to continue his ministry. Do you see yourself as someone who has been sent (into the world) to continue Jesus’ ministry?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for resisting your call and not believing that you have sent me into the world to continue Jesus’ ministry. Fill me with your Spirit today. Amen.
Saturday June 22 — Acts 5:12-16
The New Testament is clear that Jesus’ Kingdom ministry did not end with his ascension to heaven after his resurrection. In fact, the New Testament describes the many ways that Jesus’ disciples, with God’s help, were able to do the same kinds of things that Jesus did: announcing the good news of the Kingdom and helping people live the life that God desires for them. We are expected to do the same. Review the past week. How have you collaborated with Jesus’ Kingdom ministry?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for including me in the work of your Kingdom. Thank you for filling me with your Spirit and empowering me to serve your purposes in the world. Amen.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Life as God Intends
Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-4, Ephesians 2:1-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Monday June 10 — Acts 1:1-11
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Biblical story of God’s presence in the world continued in a fresh and powerful way. The New Testament book of Acts (which was written by Luke, the Gospel writer) describes how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of Jesus’ disciples to continue his ministry in the world. When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, it not only gives us comfort, it empowers us to continue Jesus’ ministry, share the Good News, and change the world. How are you experiencing the Holy Spirit today? Can you sense the Spirit empowering you to serve God?
- Prayer: God of Resurrection Power, continue to prepare my heart and mind to receive your Spirit, and give me the courage I need to let your Spirit guide my life today. Amen.
Tuesday June 11 — Acts 2:1-6
In Acts 2, Luke describes the birth of God’s Church. On the day of Pentecost (which was a Jewish festival), the Holy Spirit descended and the waiting disciples (see Acts 1:4-5) were filled the God’s power and began their ministry of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom to the world (represented by the “Jews from every nation …” in Acts 2:5).God’s promise of filling waiting disciples with the Holy Spirit is still being fulfilled every day. What is the Spirit doing in you today?
- Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit into my life and empowering me to share the Good News. Thank you for changing my life. Amen.
Wednesday June 12 — Acts 2:37-47
Starting with verse 5, the second chapter of Acts describes the beginning of the Church’s ministry—ministry that was empowered by the Holy Spirit. It includes a message preached by Peter and the response of the listening crowd. Luke also describes the character of the early Church. We know this is an idealized summary of what the Holy Spirit can do and what God desires for us, so we can read it as a description of Kingdom life – life that God intends for us and for everyone. What do you think of this description of Kingdom life? Is it good news for you?
Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for not always allong your Spirit to guide my life. Forgive me for the ways I fail to live the Spirit-filled life you desire. Amen.
Thursday June 13 — Matthew 5:13-16
The Bible is clear that our salvation is a gift that we have not earned and do not deserve. We are saved by grace, which we accept in faith. The Bible is also clear that when we accept God’s grace, our lives are transformed, and God uses us to continue Jesus’ ministry and change the world. By God’s grace, we perform good works and serve as salt and light for the world. One Bible commentator says that Kingdom people are to be “a good, not useless, presence in the world.” What good works will the world see in you today?
- Prayer: God of Light, let the light of your Son shine in my life so brightly that my life produces the kind of good works that will reveal your love and mercy to the world. Amen.
Friday June 14 — Colossians 1:9-14
Today’s reading connects three important themes: the power of God (through the Holy Spirit); God’s Kingdom (into which we are “transferred”); and the good works that are pleasing to God (the life that God intends.) It also adds the image of growth and bearing fruit. In other words, we never stop maturing as citizens of God’s Kingdom and our lives reflect (in tangible ways) the power of God. This invites some personal reflection: what difference is God’s Spirit making in your life? what difference are you making in the world?
- Prayer: Loving God, I confess that I do not always allow your Spirit to have complete access to my life. Forgive me and help me trust you more fully every day. Amen.
Saturday June 15 — Ephesians 2:1-10
Many Christians are familiar with this summary of the Gospel found in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” But too often we use these words to excuse ourselves from seeking to do good works. We fail to read and consider verse 10, which says, “For we are … created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The point is that we are saved to do good works, not to avoid them. What does it mean for you to be created for good works?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of salvation. Thank you for creating me for good works. Thank you for helping me become the person you want me to be. Amen.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Praying with Eyes Wide Open
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 43:18-21, Matthew 6:7-15
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Monday June 3 — Isaiah 43:18-21, Revelation 21:3-5
An important aspect of Christian discipleship is believing and trusting that, through Jesus, God is doing something new and special. Sometimes, we think that we are the ones who have to change the world, but when we read Isaiah 43 and Revelation 21, we discover that God is way ahead of us and is already at work in our lives and in the world. In response, we learn to pay attention to what God is doing and trust God with our lives and the world around us. This week, as you use this GPS, pay attention to when and how you see God at work in your life and the world around you.
• Prayer: Ever-Present God, thank you for doing a new thing in my life and in the world around me. Give me the courage I need to trust that you are already at work. Amen.
Tuesday June 4 — Isaiah 65:17-25
In the penultimate chapter, Isaiah comes back to the promise that God is doing something new. Revelation 21:1 echoes Isaiah 65:17 and points to God’s glorious future. However, the promise of God’s new creation is also for us today. This is what God desires for us and for our world. This is life as God intends. This is the shape of God’s Kingdom, which, through Jesus, has come near (see Mark 1:15). Do you believe it? What signs of God’s Kingdom are you seeing today?
• Prayer: God of Creation and New Creation, help me to perceive your Kingdom work in my life. Tune my senses and open my heart to notice your presence in the world. Amen.
Wednesday June 5 — Matthew 6:7-15
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples (and would-be disciples) about growing deeper in their relationship with God through giving alms (to the poor), praying, and fasting. His teaching on prayer provides an outline for what we call The Lord’s Prayer. In it, we are taught to pray for God’s Kingdom to come (now and in the future). We have to believe that if we pray as Jesus taught us, God intends to answer our prayer. We should be praying with our eyes open, so that we can see what God is doing and help God answer the prayers of others. What are willing to do today to help someone else experience God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: Faithful God, your promise to answer my prayers is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give me. Continue to teach me how to pray with confidence and faith. Amen.
Thursday June 6 — Luke 11:1-13
Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on prayer is much shorter than Matthew’s. But it is still focused on asking and looking for God’s Kingdom to come into the world and into our lives. In verse 13, Jesus teaches us that what God most desires to give us is the Holy Spirit. As you anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Sunday June 9), ask God to prepare you to receive the gift once again. Consider what steps you need to take to open yourself to God’s presence and power.
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for doubting your promises and not trusting in the presence and power of your Spirit. Prepare me to receive the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friday June 7 — John 10:22-30
In prayer, we not also tell God everything that is on our hearts and ask God for what we need, we also listen for the sound of God’s voice. What we discover is that God longs to be in relationship with us through worship, prayer, Scripture, Christian community, the Sacraments and other means of God’s grace. Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd and his sheep know his voice and follow him (John 10:16, 27). What helps you listen for the Good Shepherd’s voice?
• Prayer: God of Love, I am humbled by your promises and the gift of eternal life. Help me to listen for your voice, trust what you say, and go where you send me. Amen.
Saturday June 8 — James 1:1-8
Wisdom is a gift from God. That is one of James’ primary messages and he encourages us to ask God for it. After all, James says, God “gives to all generously and ungrudgingly” (James 1:5). But James also says our asking and receiving requires that we trust God and “ask in faith, never doubting” (James 1:6). Consider your relationship with God. How strong is your faith? Are you able to trust God? Or do you have doubts? In prayer, ask for wisdom, and for faith.
• Prayer: Eternal God, Thank you for the gifts of wisdom and faith. Remove my doubts and help me grow in my ability to seek and trust your will for my life every day. Amen.
Sunday May 26 – Genesis 18:1-15, Mark 8:17b-18
“Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” – Mark 8:17b-18
Monday May 27 – Matthew 5:43-48
We are reminded that God offers all of us the very best, “the sun to warm us and the rain to nourish us (Matt. 5:45 MSG).” Jesus then invites us to give the very best to others (Matt. 5:47). In this Scripture, Jesus calls us to love the unlovable. But, how often do we turn this command inward? How often do we try to love our true whole selves? Our true selves, our God-created selves, are to be “children of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:45).” Today, pause and reflect on loving and welcoming the stranger within you; the parts of you that you deny, cover up and hide. God loves all you and you are a child of God.
- Prayer: God, my creator, help me to acknowledge and welcome the “stranger” pats within me. Help me to love myself and recognize the beauty in how you created me. Amen.
- Activity: Write an imaginary dialogue between you and stranger within. Identify an aspect of yourself you do not welcome. Let this stranger have its say and respond to with your own thoughts and feelings.
Tuesday May 28 – Deuteronomy 10:17-19
In Deuteronomy 10, God is reminding the Israelites that they were strangers in Egypt as they move from slavery and to freedom. God connects the need to love the stranger with the Israelites experiences of being the stranger. Remember the times when you were powerless, vulnerable, and lost. Being the stranger is an experience of disorientation. We may experience disorientation in our church family; with pastoral changes, worship changes, or even the large United Methodist denomination. These experiences of “lost-ness” force us to return to being the stranger. As you experience this vulnerability how can you be more available to the truth that God radically welcomes all strangers? How can you experience God’s incredibly open and wide arms?
- Prayer: God of the stranger, remind me when I feel disoriented that you are reaching out to me. As I feel disoriented God, welcome me once again into your love and grace. Amen.
- Activity: Try getting lost! Not literally, but figuratively. Try out a new Sunday School class, visit a new small group, try a different worship service. How can you be present to your own vulnerability and uncertainty and receive the fullness of God’s welcome?
Wednesday May 29 – 1 Peter 3:8-9
Debate about politics, about faith and beliefs, about church seem to be everywhere. We have the opportunity to welcome strangers who believe differently than us and recognize them as children of God. Welcoming those with different beliefs than our own is not about agreement but instead about genuine engagement. Instead, approach those you disagree with, with a “tender heart and humble mind (1 Pet. 3:8).” Instead of being concerned with who is right, be concerned about recognizing them as God’s beloved.
- Prayer: God who loves all people. It can be hard for me to love as radically as you do. Give me a tender heart and humble mind to love like you. Amen.
- Activity: Engage in conversation with someone at work, a family member or in church who you might disagree with. Instead of trying to convince them of your view or defend your perspective, invite them into conversation with these words: 1) Tell me more about how you arrived at your view about this, 2) Tell me more about how it is important in your life right now. You may not resolve your disagreement, but you may gain understanding.
Thursday May 30– Matthew 25:35-36
In Matthew 25, Jesus calls us to see himself, to see Christ in the least likely of places. We are invited to see Christ in prison or detention centers, in sickbeds, as the hungry, and the lost. This parable connects the most vulnerable persons among us with Jesus himself. If we are truly called to welcome the way that God welcomes, we must see Jesus in each person we encounter – even when we least expect to see Jesus. Where can you challenge yourself to see Jesus today? Practice witnessing Jesus in every face you see at work or at church. How does this reorient your perspective?
- Prayer: Jesus I want to see you in each person I see today. Challenge me to recognize you in the least and most vulnerable around me. Amen.
- Activity: Set aside an hour today – each person you encounter presume that Jesus is present in each person. Ask God to see Christ in each person. How does this impact your day? How did you welcome Jesus as you practiced seeing Jesus in each person you met today?
Friday May 31 – Philippians 2:4-8
When we are the host or hostess we would never serve a plate or drink empty. But, in this Scripture Jesus “emptied himself (Phil. 2:7).” Jesus who is our host, chooses to be emptied to serve God. When we are intentional about emptying our pretenses, releasing our anxieties and assumptions, we make room to receive the abundance of God’s welcome. What assumptions do you need to release today to receive a full welcome from God? How can you create empty space in your heart to receive God’s hospitality?
- Prayer: God of great abundance, I ready myself and empty myself today to be filled by your welcome. Today, I pray that you cultivate my heart to make room for your love. Amen.
- Activity: Take 15 minutes today and don’t schedule a thing! No chores, no commitments, no TV, no music; just empty space for God. How does the empty space feel? Do you encounter God in a new way?
Saturday June 1 – Isaiah 43:18-19
Welcome can happen when we experience something new. Isaiah reminds us that God takes the old and former things and makes them new (Isa. 43:18). Kingdom hospitality requires the risk of experiencing a new thing. It may even require that we enter times of wilderness and desert trusting that God will make a way to receive and welcome us (Isa. 43:19). How can you be intentional about encountering God’s welcome in something new this week? Read a different version of the Bible, listen to new music, talk to someone at church you haven’t met yet. How does God welcome in the new things for you?
- Prayer: Holy God, I invite your welcome to spring forth in my life in new ways. Help me to perceive your invitation to things that are new and surprising. Amen.
- Activity: So often we connect hospitality with food. So, try a new restaurant this week, make a new recipe, or shop at a different grocery store. What was it like trying something new or different? How did you feel welcomed? What new things can you continue to welcome in your life?
Sunday May 19th – Matthew 13:9-17
The Message: Are you listening to this? Really listening? – Matthew 13:9
Monday May 20 – Matthew 13:1-9
This week of devotionals for our GPS will include several parables from Matthew about God’s Kingdom. But, this parable talks about the sower and the seed and not the Kingdom. This parable asks of us if we are listening and ready to receive the news about God’s Kingdom. Today, pause and consider if you are ready to receive God’s Kingdom? Are you ready to be surprised, to grow and be challenged by the Kingdom God has planned for all of us?
- Prayer: Gracious God, you welcome us each to be members of your Kingdom. Prepare our hearts to be receptive to your Kingdom today. Amen.
Activity: Spend time reflecting on God’s Kingdom today, write down or draw your thoughts. How would you describe God’s Kingdom? Save your reflections for the end of the week. Have your ideas and thoughts changed?
Tuesday May 21 – Matthew 13:31-32
This week for the GPS we are reading from The Message. We’re used to hearing the story with the mustard seed but today we read it with “pine nuts.” When we read this parable we learn that God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom that grows so large that people make a home in the Kingdom. How is God’s Kingdom your home? What steps could you take today to feel at home in God’s Kingdom? Are there people who are not able to make a home in God’s Kingdom? How can you welcome them?
- Prayer: Welcome me into your Kingdom-home today God and help me to choose to welcome people into your home, as well. Amen.
Activity: When has church felt like home to you? This next time you are at a church look for signs of “home.” Did you notice anything different or new?
Wednesday – Matthew 13:33
In this single verse parable, we see the image of God’s Kingdom in a woman kneading dough. We knead dough for three reasons, 1) to mix the ingredients, 2) to promote the formation of gluten which binds it together, and 3) to help the dough ferment and grow. How different would the Kingdom of God look if we were intentional about kneading our lives together as a community of faith? How can you practice “kneading” at St. Matthew’s?
- Prayer: God, today I ask that you knead me together as part of your Kingdom. Help me to grow and learn to develop into a full member of your Kingdom. Amen.
Activity: Bake some bread today or sometime this week. Buy some yeast and spend some time kneading. How does it feel to spend the time waiting and working for something to develop? What do you need to wait and work for to develop here at St. Matthew’s?
Thursday – Matthew 13:44-52
This set of Scriptures includes three parables about God’s Kingdom and one about being a student in God’s Kingdom. Each parable reveals something unique about God’s Kingdom. The first shows how something small can have incredible value. The parable about the pearl reinforces the great value we should place on God’s Kingdom. The third parable about the casting of the fishnet refers to the future coming of God’s Kingdom. The final parable is reminder that as members of the Kingdom we are trained to convey the message of God. We are called to share the incredible value of the gift of God’s grace and love in God’s Kingdom. How do you share God’s Kingdom?
- Prayer: God, today help me to value your Kingdom and share its value with others. Amen.
Activity: Consider what things (or treasures) you value most; a wedding ring, a gift, a family heirloom. Why do they hold value in your life? What stories do you tell about these treasures? What stories do you tell about God’s Kingdom? Write down your story of God’s Kingdom. Share the story with a friend or family member.
Friday May – Matthew 18:23-35
This parable is a more difficult one. As we read it we may feel condemned. In one moment the king shows grace to the servant. When the servant does not show mercy the king is angered and has the servant tortured. You may wonder is that what God has planned for me? What about God’s abundant mercy? Instead, read this Scripture as an opportunity to consider your motivations in forgiving someone. Where is your heart centered when you choose to show mercy? Are you showing mercy to extend God’s love or to benefit yourself? How can mercy in your life be Christ-centered? How is mercy a part of God’s Kingdom?
- Prayer: God of mercy, forgiveness is hard. Sometimes I hold on to pain and struggle to have a heart that focuses on the love that Jesus offers me. Mold my heart today to be more like Jesus. Amen.
Activity: When was the last time you asked for forgiveness from someone? What was it like to feel the assurance of forgiveness? When was the last time you offered forgiveness to someone? How did it feel to forgive them? If God’s Kingdom is one of forgiveness who do you need to forgive today.
Saturday – Matthew 20:1-16
We read about the abundance of God’s grace in this parable. This gift is surprising because it is in its very nature egalitarian and equitable. In God’s Kingdom we all receive the same gift of love and grace. But sometimes, we feel as if we have been treated unfairly; we doubt that God’s love can be so capable of offering such radical grace. When have you witnessed the abundance of God’s grace? How can you both accept and extend God’s grace to others – whether deserved or undeserved?
- Prayer: God of great abundance, your grace surprises us with its generosity. Help me to accept that gift and share your grace. Amen.
Activity: Doodle or visualize the word grace today. What others words do you connect with grace? Love, mercy, justice, righteousness? How do you witness God’s grace at work in the Kingdom today?
Monday May 13 — Philippians 2:5-11
Philippians Chapter 2 is often referred to as the “Christ Hymn.” Most likely, this Scripture was a very early Christian hymn. This passage of Scripture is at the foundation of how we understand the character of our king, Jesus Christ. The king we serve is not one who abuses power, who manipulates, who sees his kingdom as something to exploit. Instead our king is the one who emptied himself, who humbled himself, who was obedient to God, who lived our life and died our death. Read verses 6-11, and consider how you can live the way Christ lived. How can you model your character and life after Christ today?
Tuesday May 14 — Jeremiah 10:6-7, 10
The words in verse 10 are particularly powerful, “he is the living God and the everlasting king.” We each experience the love and grace that God offers us through Jesus Christ both in this moment (our living God) and forever (the everlasting king). What does it mean for you that our king is both living now and everlasting? What steps can you take to help you receive fully the grace that God offers you in every moment? Consider today how you can intentionally embrace the gift of God’s grace in every moment.
Wednesday May 15 — John 14:1-7
John 14 is a Scripture we often use in funerals. These words provide us comfort in times of difficulty. It is so easy in our world to become burdened and overwhelmed. We stress about family, health, jobs, finances, our church, our government, our world. In the middle of these struggles we radically proclaim that our focus is on the life that God wants us to lead by claiming Jesus as our way, truth and life. How can you focus today on who Jesus calls you to be? How can you receive comfort from proclaiming Jesus Christ as your Lord?
Thursday May 16 — Psalm 96
Psalm 96 provides us vivid imagery of our Lord and king. Our king is a saving king, who does good works for the people, who is strong, fair, and righteous. The Psalmist sees all these things in our king through wonders of creation. What does the beauty of God’s creation teach you about God’s character? During the day pause to reflect on the wonder of creation. Reflect on who God is in your life.
Friday May 17 — Matthew 10:5-7
Jesus tells the twelve go to Israel (our people) and proclaim that “The kingdom of heaven has come near (vs. 7).” Here in Matthew 10 the disciples go to the people they know the best and proclaim to their friends and neighbors that God’s Kingdom is near. This Scripture reminds us that we can encounter the love of Christ in our homes, grocery stores, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We don’t have to go far to see that God’s Kingdom in available and present. How can you witness God’s Kingdom in the places you know best today?
Saturday May 18 — Isaiah 9:2-7
This is a Scripture we often associate with Christmas Eve and the birth of Christ; as Christians we read it and see the characteristics of Christ in the words “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (vs. 6).” How do you need Jesus Christ to be present to you today as your counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace? Spend time today reflecting on these different aspects of Jesus.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – The Kingdom is Good News
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10, Mark 1:1, 9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:9-15)
Monday May 6 — Mark 1:1-15
The first thirteen verses of Mark’s Gospel serve as a prologue and introduction. They set the stage for the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry in verse 14. Unlike Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel, Mark does not include any birth narratives. But instead jumps right in with the (adult) ministries of John (the Baptist) and Jesus. Verses 14-15 serve as a summary of Jesus’ preaching ministry: in Jesus, God’s Kingdom is present in the world; this is good news and calls for a response. The rest of the Gospel will describe the Kingdom and God’s desired response. The question is: does the Kingdom of God sound like good news to you?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am thankful that you have sent Jesus into the world to be The King – on earth and in heaven. Help me to trust and believe the Good News. Amen.
Tuesday May 7 — Luke 4:14-21
Luke’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry begins with an appearance by Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown. He read from Isaiah (in chapters 58 and 61) and announced that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled. Knowing that God’s Kingdom was the primary subject of his preaching, these verses help us understand that the coming of Jesus is indeed good news, especially for people who were typically believed to be excluded from the blessing of God: the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. The question is: does this sound like good news to you?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for not understanding the scope of your love and your amazing grace. Forgive me for assuming that your love is only for people like me. Amen.
Wednesday May 8 — Luke 4:42-44
The final verses of Luke 4 connect Jesus’ preaching (Luke 4:16-21) and healing (Luke 4:31-41) with the Kingdom of God. In other words, the Kingdom of God is the life that God intended for everyone: free from the power of sin and death, whole, and healthy. This sounds like good news, but not everyone saw Jesus’ teaching and ministry as good news for them. Read Luke 4:22-30 and prayerfully reflect on why someone might resist or reject the good news of God’s Kingdom.
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gift of new life through Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me and setting me free from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Thursday May 9 — Isaiah 52:7-10
Over the centuries, Isaiah 52:7-10 has been interpreted in a number of ways and quoted in a number of other passages. The primary message is that God’s messengers take many forms and have the joy of announcing the good news of God’s salvation. We hear God’s messengers announce good news at the birth of Jesus. We hear Jesus announcing the good news of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ disciples are charged with continuing Jesus’ ministry of announcing good news. But here’s the truth: in order to announce the good news, we must believe the good news. Do you?
• Prayer: God of Creation, I long to experience your peace and sing praises in response to the good news of salvation. Open my ears to hear the good news. Amen.
Friday May 10 — Luke 1:30-33, Luke 2:8-12
The word “angel” simply means “messenger.” The angels in the Christmas story are messengers announcing that the birth of Jesus is good news, and that “of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). The baby born in Bethlehem is “a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Jesus’s birth initiates God’s Kingdom on earth, which is why Jesus’ birth is “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). How is the coming of God’s Kingdom good news for you?
• Prayer: God of Joyful Life, thank you for constantly showing me your love and grace. Open my heart to experience the abundant and joyful life you offer me every day. Amen.
Saturday May 11 — Romans 10:14-17
In his letter, the apostle Paul reminds the Romans of God’s great offer of salvation to everyone. He quotes Isaiah as a reminder that God, throughout the ages, has sent messengers with the good news of saving grace. His point is that we experience salvation when we hear and respond to the good news. This promise (that God sends messengers) requires that we pay attention and be willing to listen when the messengers tell us about Jesus. Are you looking for good news? Are you open to the possibility that God is speaking to you today? Will you listen?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, grant me the ability to pay attention to your messengers. Help me learn to notice signs of the good news all around me, every day. Amen.
United Methodist Women’s Sunday
Sermon – “Doubt, Faith, and Action.”
Scripture Readings: Psalm 150, John 20:19-31
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:26-29)
Monday April 29 — John 10:7-18
The Bible has much to say about the identity of Jesus. He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and so much more. In the Gospels, Jesus often talks about himself cryptically, revealing his true nature in parable and metaphor. John’s Gospel includes what are called “I am” statements, through which Jesus reveals himself to be “bread of life,” “living water,” “the good shepherd,” “the gate,” and so much more. What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the way”? What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the good shepherd”? Read Psalm 23 and think about how Jesus fills the role of shepherd in your life?
• Prayer: Shepherding God, lead me to abundant life. Guide me and protect me today and every day. Amen.
Tuesday April 30 — Matthew 16:13-17, 20
When Jesus asks his disciples about the “word on the street,” they tell them what they’ve heard. When he asks them what they believe, Peter affirms that Jesus is the Messiah. However, Jesus insists that they not tell anyone (that he is the Messiah). Remember that the Hebrew word for “messiah” means “deliverer” or “anointed one” and that “christ” is the Greek equivalent. Can you think of reasons Jesus would not want to spread the word that he is the Messiah (the Christ)? What kind of Messiah do you think the people were expecting?
• Prayer: Saving God, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that he will deliver me from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Wednesday May 1 — Matthew 16:21, Romans 5:16-21
One reason Jesus does not want the disciples to announce that he is the Messiah is because he is not the kind of Messiah the people were expecting. He is a suffering servant, not a military hero. Jesus will “deliver” the people through his death and resurrection. The Christian message is that we (humanity) can only be saved by grace. We need the grace that God offers through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Have you accepted God’s grace for yourself?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I need your grace. I believe it is the only way I can have a relationship with you. Amen.
Thursday May 2 — Matthew 16:13-19
Many people in North America believe in God but have no desire to be part of a church. Even among active church members there are a variety of reasons why the church is important to them. It is easy to think of church simply as a worthwhile human institution and forget that Jesus founded the church. According to the NRSV translation of the New Testament, Jesus says, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added.) Why is church participation important to you? Is it simply a good thing to do, or do you need the church?
• Prayer: God of History, thank you for the church. Help me remember that I need to be in a Christian community. Amen.
Friday May 3 — Colossians 1:9-23a
The New Testament consistently describes the church as the Body of Christ, declaring that Jesus is the head of the Body. This means that: (1) the church continues the “bodily” ministry of Jesus in the world, doing what Jesus did in his earthly ministry; and (2) that individually, we are “members” of the body (1 Corinthians 12:27). How have you been joined to other believers as a member of the Body of Christ? Have you made your gifts and abilities available to Jesus? How is God using you to transform the world?
• Prayer: Transforming God, I am willing to serve you today. Use me in your eternal project to change the world. Amen.
Saturday May 4 — Hebrews 10:12-25
One of the reasons we need the church is because the church helps us to be the people God wants us to be. The church is the place where we can make and keep the commitments that change our lives: worshipping, growing, serving, sharing, and giving. Christian discipleship is not a self-help project. It is a group effort, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Remember Hebrews 10:24-25 whenever you are tempted to go it alone. What help do you need to become the person God wants you to become? What can you do to help someone else?
• Prayer: Loving God, my life is incomplete without you and other people. Help me be the person you want me to be. Amen.
Sermon – The Decision to Believe
Scripture Readings: John 20:1-18, John 20:24-31
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. . . . Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (John 20:1, 6-8)
Monday April 22 — John 20:1-10
On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross and was buried in a garden tomb. Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, she thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body. So she went to get the disciples. Slowly, but surely, they came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but they did not yet fully understand the whole story. Sometimes we are like Mary and the disciples. We do not fully understand the meaning of Easter. How has God helped you increase your faith and your understanding of the Good News of Easter?
• Prayer: Living God, help me grow in my faith, and understand the true meaning of Easter. Prepare me to encounter the risen Christ in my life today. Amen.
Tuesday April 23 — John 20:11-18
In the garden, Mary Magdalene has an encounter with Jesus, but she does not recognize him until he calls her by name. Like the Good Shepherd that he is, Jesus knows his flock and calls every one of us by name. (See John 10:3,14.) The Good News is that Jesus knows and loves us before we know or love or even recognize him. God’s love and grace are present in our lives before we can know or name them. The living Christ is ready and able to open our eyes so that we can see him and follow him. Where have you encountered the living Christ today? Will you ask him to open your eyes so that you can see and follow him?
• Prayer: Eternal God, despite the fact that I often do not recognize your presence in my life, I believe that you know and love me. Amen.
Wednesday April 24 — John 20:19-31
The second part of John 20 includes Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples (John 20:19-23) and his relationship with Thomas, and Thomas’ need to see in order to believe (John 20:24-29). What Jesus tells Thomas is a message for us: seeing Jesus in the flesh, in first-century Israel, is not a requirement for Christian discipleship. If we are willing, we can hear the Good News of Easter—and believe. What is preventing you from believing the Good News of Easter? Are you willing to believe in God’s life-changing resurrection power?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I doubt the Good News of Easter. Help me to believe in the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.
Thursday April 25 — John 21:1-14
The final chapter of John’s Gospel serves as a transition between Jesus’ earthly life and ministry and the continued ministry of his disciples (the Church). We know that the resurrected Jesus is the one who both commissions the disciples (John 20:21-23) and empowers the disciples to perform miracles (John 21:6). The point is that the power of God that was present in Jesus’ earthly ministry will be available to Jesus’ disciples as they continue to serve in his name. In light of the resurrection stories in John 20 and 21, how have you experienced Jesus’ commission and Jesus’ power? Where is Jesus sending you? What is Jesus sending you to do?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for Jesus and for the gift of salvation. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I might serve you today. Amen.
Friday April 26 — John 21:15-19
Jesus’ final conversation with Simon Peter demonstrates the life-changing power of God’s grace. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, is offered grace and is able to affirm his love for Jesus and his willingness to serve as Jesus’ representative in the world. The work of the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11-18) is passed on to Peter. Everyone who loves Jesus is expected to fulfill the commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Jesus? If so, how will you fulfill Jesus’ command to love and care for others? How is your love for Jesus evident in your love for others?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I love you. I love your Son, Jesus. And I love your Holy Spirit. Let your love flow through me into the world. Amen.
Saturday April 27 — John 21:20-25
The Gospel According to John ends where it begins: with an invitation from Jesus to, “Follow me” (John 21:19, 22). When we decide to follow Jesus, we may not know where he will lead us, but we can trust that he will be with us. We can trust that he will be our shepherd, our guide, and our Savior. And that, through him, we will find eternal rest and peace. Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow him? If not, what is preventing you? Take the next (or first) step on your journey today.
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me courage to take the next (or first) step in my journey of discipleship. With your help, I will follow Jesus. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Surrender
Scripture Readings: John 12:12-15, John 10:1-6, 14-18
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:14-15, 17-18)
Monday April 15 — John 13:1-38
During supper with his disciples, Jesus got up from the table and washed their feet. Peter’s response is a clue that this was an extraordinary event. In a world of unpaved roads and open-toed footwear, washing feet was essential, but it was usually done by servants, not by the master or host. Jesus sets an example for all of us. Even though we may not wash dirty feet, Jesus calls us to serve others with the same kind of love and humility. What do you think about Jesus’ example? Do you prefer to serve or be served? Are you willing to follow Jesus’ example?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your Son, Jesus. Grant me courage to follow his example and be your servant in the world. Amen.
Tuesday April 16 — John 14:1-15:17
Chapters 14 through 17 in John’s Gospel contain Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples. In this section, he prepares them for his departure — for when he will no longer be with them in the flesh. Jesus reassures his disciples that he will come again and take them to their heavenly home, and that God will send the Holy Spirit to be their Advocate. The ultimate promise is found in John 14:3. It is similar to the promise made in Matthew 28:20, which is that the living Jesus Christ will be with us. Always. How do Jesus’ words in this section of the Gospel provide you comfort and peace? Which promise is most comforting to you?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, I long to be in your presence. Send the Holy Spirit into my life to guide and comfort me all my days. Amen.
Wednesday April 17 — John 15:18-16:33
The promise of the Holy Spirit is a central theme in Jesus’ final discourse. Five different times he tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will be their Advocate and will teach them everything they need to know. When the Holy Spirit is present in their lives, Jesus’ disciples will continue to experience his presence and will be empowered to continue his ministry. The Holy Spirit will be the source of the disciples’ continued learning and growth as they follow and serve Jesus in the world. How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? How is the Holy Spirit helping you to learn and grow?
• Prayer: Gracious God, open my heart and mind to receive and trust in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit today. Guide my life. Amen.
Thursday April 18 — John 17:1-26
After teaching his disciples, Jesus prays for them and for everyone who will believe in him through their witness. He prays for the Church universal. He prays for us. He prays that we, the Church, will be in the world but not of the world. He prays for our unity, the unity of the Church, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). Do you believe that God will answer Jesus’ prayer? If so, how do you see his prayer being answered in your life? Do you see signs of love? Do you see signs of unity? Are you helping to answer this prayer?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to love my brothers and sisters in the Church. Use me to help answer Jesus’ prayer for unity. Amen.
Friday April 19 — John 18:1-40
John’s entire account of Jesus’ life and ministry has been moving toward the events described in chapters 18 and 19. John 18:4-5 are critical verses. They fulfill the promises Jesus made in John 10:17-18. Jesus’ life is not taken from him. As the Good Shepherd, he lays it down “of [his] own accord” (John 10:18). As the suffering servant, he freely offers himself for the sins of the world. This is the ultimate sign of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Have you accepted the gift of God’s love? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Today, I believe in Jesus. Amen.
Saturday April 20 — John 19:1-42
On the cross, we see the paradox of the Gospel. The man who was crucified was — and is — the King of the Jews. God’s Messiah was not an earthly leader. He was not the kind of king the people wanted (see John 6:15) or expected. He was the suffering servant, the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Spend time today thinking and praying about what Jesus’ death means to you. Allow the darkness of his death help you prepare for the light of Easter.
• Prayer: God of Love, I can’t comprehend the depth of your love. I am ready and willing to follow and serve the crucified Messiah. Amen.