Music Sunday – “Let There Be Christmas” / Advent, Poem, Songs & Art
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:3-5, Luke 1:78-79
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)
Monday December 17 — Luke 1:5-25
The first chapter of Luke’s Gospel begins with a brief prologue and continues with an extended narrative that intertwines the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus. We discover in Luke 1:36 that Mary and John’s mother, Elizabeth, are related. Luke includes the details surrounding John’s birth because John was an important character in the Gospel story and the account of his birth affirms that John and his ministry are part of God’s plan. In reading about Zechariah, do you see yourself. Do you ever have doubts? If so, you are in good company. How might the Christmas story inspire you to deeper faith and more confidence in God’s presence in your life?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I often have doubts that paralyze me and prevent me from trusting and obeying your will for my life. Strengthen my faith today. Amen.
Tuesday December 18 — Luke 1:39-45
Jesus’ mother Mary and John’s mother Elizabeth are both pregnant with anticipation of their babies’ births when Mary visits Zechariah and Elizabeth at their home. The intersection of the two mothers emphasizes the primacy of Mary’s yet-unborn son. John will be a prophet, used by God to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus will be the Savior of the world, God’s Messiah-King. In verse 45, Elizabeth praises Mary’s faithfulness, reminding us to follow Mary’s example and trust in God’s faithfulness. How might you grow in your ability to trust God today?
- Prayer: Faithful God, thank you for the example of Mary, and everyone who trusts in your faithfulness. Give me the courage I need to trust you with my life.
Wednesday December 19 — Luke 1:57-66
Luke is clear that the birth of Elizabeth’s son John is a gift from God. (Remember what Luke tells us in Luke 1:7.) In fact, John’s birth fulfills all of the promises made to Zechariah in verses 13-14. This is one of the Gospel’s themes: God keeps promises! As we will discover, the ministries of both Jesus and John fulfill promises made by Israel’s prophets. God is the ultimate promise-keeper. Which of God’s promises are you trusting God to keep?
- Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, the promise of salvation is the greatest gift I can ever receive. Thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Thursday December 20 — Luke 1:67-80
In response to the birth of John, his father, Zechariah, spoke (or sang) his own prophecy. In Christian tradition, Zechariah’s song is called the Benedictus. It celebrates God’s faithfulness and the promise of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Its final stanzas describe the miracle of Christmas: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). How does God’s light shine into the darkness of the world today?
- Prayer: God of Light, thank you for the power of your love and the amazing gift of your grace. Shine your light in my life. Use me to reflect your light in the world today.
Friday December 21 — Isaiah 40:3-5
During the season of Advent, the Church often listens to the voices of the Old Testament prophets in anticipation and preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, into the world. The 40th chapter of Isaiah anticipates the coming of God’s messenger (John the Baptist) to prepare the way for God (and God’s Messiah.) This passage challenges us to prepare a way for God to access our hearts and transform our lives. Are you ready for Jesus to come (again) into your life at Christmas?
- Prayer: God of Glory, continue to prepare me for Christmas. Clear out everything in my life that might prevent me from experiencing the miracle of Christmas this year.
Saturday December 22 — Luke 3:1-17
John’s ministry in the wilderness fulfills the promises made in Isaiah 40:3-5. As Jesus’ ministry is about to begin, John calls the people to prepare for his coming through repentance, service, compassion, and justice. John is clear that the Good News about God’s salvation through Jesus, the Messiah, requires a response – not just in our hearts and minds, but in our lives. We are expected to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). In what ways are you responding to the Good News of salvation? In what ways does your life bear fruit worthy of your repentance?
- Prayer: Gracious God, I am humbled by the gift of salvation and transformed by the life-changing power of your grace. Help me bear fruit worthy of my repentance.
Series: Christmas Through the Eyes of Mary
Sermon: Amazed, Astounded, and Astonished
Scripture Readings: Luke 2:33-38, Luke 2:41-51
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:46-51)
Monday December 10 — Luke 2:28-51
Amazement is an instinctive response to the message of the Gospel. On multiple occasions, Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Book of Acts, tells us that people were amazed at something related to Jesus. He tells us that when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple eight days after his birth, they were amazed at what Simeon told them. When 12-year-old Jesus “got lost” in the temple, “all who heard him were amazed” (Luke 2:47). Two different times, we are told that Mary “treasured” what she was seeing and hearing (Luke 2:19, 51). What aspects of the Gospel story amaze you? How might you allow yourself to be amazed by the Christmas story this year?
- Prayer: God of Wonder, thank you for your Son, Jesus. His presence in my life is truly amazing. Open my heart to experience the miracle of Christmas once again.
Tuesday December 11 — Luke 4:31-37
When Jesus healed the man “who had the spirit of an unclean demon” (Luke 4:33), the people “were all amazed” (Luke 4:36) by the authority with which Jesus spoke and the power he commanded. Amazement is one of the characteristics of worship. When we encounter the presence and power of God, we stand in awe and we respond with praise and thanksgiving. Think back over the past few days. What kinds of amazing things has God been doing in your life?
- Prayer: God of Power, I confess that I too often take your presence for granted and fail to notice the signs of your power at work in my life. Help me see you more clearly. Amen.
Wednesday December 12 — Luke 8:22-25
When the Gospel writers tell us how Jesus calmed the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, they illustrate how the power of God flowed in and through Jesus’ life. It helped them make the case that Jesus was truly the Son of God – someone who commanded “the winds and the water” (Luke 8:25). The question Jesus asked the disciples in the boat is the same question he asks us today: “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:28). When you face the storms of life, what helps you keep your faith? When you are afraid, what helps you trust in God’s presence and power?
- Prayer: Loving God, when I face storms in my life, I often struggle to trust you completely. Forgive my doubts and fears. Give me courage. Strengthen my faith today.
Thursday December 13 — Luke 24:1-12
Nothing in the Gospel is more amazing than the resurrection of Jesus. People who are long-time followers of Jesus can easily forget the astounding (outrageous?) claim of the Easter message: a man who was put to death on a cross was alive three days later. Even more astounding is the claim that the same power that raised Jesus from death to life is at work in our lives – giving us new life every single day and promising us eternal life with God. All of this is a gift, freely offered to everyone. Have you accepted the gift of salvation? Renew your commitment to Christ today.
- Prayer: God of Grace, I am amazed and astounded that you would forgive my sins and offer me new and eternal life. I accept your gift today. Thank you, God. Amen.
Friday December 14 — Acts 2:1-13
God’s amazing deeds did not stop with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The coming of the Holy Spirit into the world empowered the disciples to share the Good News in the languages of the world. Those who heard them were “amazed and astonished” (Acts 2:7) that ordinary men and women could act and speak with such power. What kinds of Holy Spirit-inspired words and deeds evoke the same kind of response from the world today? What is God doing in your life that amazes and astonishes your friends and family?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I am humbled by the thought that you can use me to do amazing things on your behalf. Fill me with your Spirit; use me to change the world.
Saturday December 15 — Acts 3:1-11
The Book of Acts describes in great detail how the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ followers to continue his ministry in the world. For example, just as Jesus healed a paralyzed man (see Luke 5:17-26), God used Peter and John to perform the same kind of miracle outside the Beautiful Gate. Once again, the people were amazed and astonished at what God was doing. What needs to change in your life to allow God to do amazing and astonishing things through you?
- Prayer: Merciful God, remove in me everything that interferes with the working of your power. Make me a channel through which hope, peace, joy, and love freely flow.
Series: Christmas Through the Eyes of Mary
Sermon: Beginning with the End
Scripture Readings: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Acts 1:8-14,
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:12-24)
Monday December 3 — John 2:1-12
Mary, the mother of Jesus appears a number of times in the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. We are most familiar with the Christmas story, but there are other significant scenes, including the first miracle story in John’s Gospel—turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Here we see Jesus and Mary interacting as a typical mother and son. But we should notice that Mary believes that Jesus can do something about the wine shortage. In other words, she had faith. How might you develop the same kind of faith in the power of Jesus? Where have you seen the power of Jesus at work in your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for teaching me and helping me believe in your power. Help me to trust in your power and let you change my life today.
Tuesday December 4 — Mark 3:19b-35
Mark’s account of Jesus’ homecoming (see verse 19b) puts his relationship with his family in a different light. His family wants to restrain him because they think he has lost his mind (verse 21). Then Jesus seems to reject his family by saying that his true family is made up of the people who do the will of God (verse 35). It tells us that what Jesus does is so extraordinary that even his family (the people who should know him best) don’t understand. Have you ever thought that what Jesus says and does (and expects us to do) seems crazy or foolish? Do you follow him anyway?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for having moments of doubt and disbelief. Help me trust you enough to follow Jesus, even when it seems foolish.
Wednesday December 5 — Mark 6:1-6
One of the themes of Mark’s Gospel is the spiritual blindness of the disciples and the people who didn’t see Jesus as the Son of God and didn’t trust him or believe his message. In another visit to his hometown (Nazareth), Jesus is rejected by people who question him: who does he think he is? They were offended by his words and actions and ran him out of town. Read Mark 10:46-52 and see what Jesus does for people who suffer from spiritual blindness.
- Prayer: God of Power and Might, like many others, I struggle to see clearly and follow Jesus. Heal my blindness so that I might experience your abundant life. Amen.
Thursday December 6 — John 19:25b-37
In a poignant moment, John’s Gospel describes Jesus’ love for his mother as she watched him die on the cross. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Mary was warned that “a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). One of the ways that Mary endured the death of her son was through the community of believers. She had been a witness to Jesus’ entire ministry and would now be part of the community of believers who would continue his ministry. That’s how we endure tragedies in our lives too, through the support of the Christian community. During Advent, reach out to someone who needs your love and care.
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the Church. Thank you for surrounding me with your family, where I can find help and support in painful and difficult times.
Friday December 7 — Acts 1:8-14
The first chapter of Acts, describes Jesus’ final post-resurrection appearance and his final instruction for his disciples: “you will be my witnesses …” (verse 8). One often-missed detail in this account of the formation of the Church is the presence of Mary (see verse 14). She was with Jesus throughout his earthly life and was part of the community of believers following his ascension into heaven. Before Jesus was born Mary said, “let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). We can imagine that she said the same thing many times in her life, including the day Jesus’ commissioned her. Can you pray the same prayer that Mary prayed?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I stand today with Mary and hear Jesus commission me to be his witness to the ends of the earth. Let it be with me according to your word. Amen.
Saturday December 8 — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Mary and the rest of the early Church lived with the expectation that Jesus would return and that the promises of God’s Kingdom would be fulfilled. Many, if not most, of the first century followers of Jesus expected his return in their lifetime. It gave urgency to their mission and hope to their lives. Advent invites us to renew our own hope and live (and serve) with the confident expectation of Jesus’ return. When we pray “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) we are asking for both the present and future reign of Jesus in our lives and in God’s world. Pray the Lord’s Prayer today.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your name be holy in my life and in your world. I ask for your Kingdom to come into my life and for Jesus to reign in my heart today.
Monday November 26 – Psalm 118:1-6, 28-29
The first line of Psalm 118 reminds us of why we give thanks to God. We give thanks to God because of God’s love, because of who God has been in our lives and in the lives of others. This passage has a clear refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Today, wonder about how you have encountered God’s love in your life. Today, whenever you say “thank you,” remember the refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever.” How will that change your outlook during the day?
Prayer: God, today as I give thanks I remember that your steadfast love endures forever. Help me to keep those words in my heart and mind. Amen.
Tuesday –November 27 Colossians 3:1-17
This scripture from Colossians describes what it is like to have new life in Christ. New life in Christ is about compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. It’s also about living in community with love. New life in Christ is about being the body of Christ (vs. 15). The final verse in this scripture asks us to give thanks for this new life. When have you given thanks for the body of Christ? What can you give thanks for here at St. Matthew’s? This week, share a word of thanks with our St. Matthew’s community.
Prayer: God, through the gift of you son Jesus, we experience new life. Guide me as I give thanks for new life in Christ. Clothe me each moment in your compassion. Amen.
Wednesday – November 28 Matthew 26:26-28
Matthew 26 describes the very first celebration of the Lord’s Supper. In verse 27, we see Jesus giving thanks. We understand that Jesus is giving thanks to God for the gifts of the bread and the wine. When we take communion we use these same words of Jesus and give thanks as well. It is important for us to practice giving thanks. How are you developing this practice of giving thanks in your daily life? Are you giving thanks before meals? Are you keeping a gratitude journal or using an app on your phone? Maybe, your just sharing things you are grateful with friends or family?
Prayer: God, remind me today that practicing thankfulness is important. Inspire gratefulness in me and enable me to give thanks each day. Amen.
Thursday – November 29 Psalm 95:1-7
Giving thanks happens personally to God. Giving thanks happens between individuals. And, giving thanks also happens as a community in worship. Psalm 95 shows thanksgiving as a part of worship. When we enter the presence of God we should enter it with thanksgiving. Have you imagined giving thanks as a form of worship? How can you incorporate thanksgiving in your daily life as a part of your relationship with God? How can your thanksgiving be a prayer?
Prayer: God, today I ask to come into your presence with thanksgiving. Turn my thanksgivings into opportunities to worship you more. Amen.
Friday -November 30 Psalm 96:1-2
Every scripture in the Grow Pray Study Guide this week has been about thanksgiving. This Psalm is about praise. Thanksgiving is generally specific. Praise is not particular, but for the wonder and glory of who God is, was, and will be. We are called to praise God every day. How can you incorporate times of praise into your thanksgiving? Think of things you can praise God for today.
Prayer: Eternal God, I praise you today for your enduring grace and love. Lead to me to give thanks and praise each and every day. Amen.
Saturday – December 1 Revelation 7:9-12
Praise and thanksgiving to God are not just a daily activity but a constant and eternal activity. Focus on thanksgiving and making it a daily practice may become mundane; or even like going through the motions. At the heart of this scripture is a scene of “great multitude that no could count” giving thanks to God. Our gratitude isn’t limited to our lives today but is part of our life with God for all eternity. Today, invite God to be part of your thanksgiving, to inspire your gratefulness, and to increase your gratitude.
Prayer: God of every season, turn my thanksgiving into eternal praise for your grace and love in my life. Shift my limited focus to the wider vision of your love. Amen.
Series: With Grateful Hearts
Sermon: Give Thanks in Every Situation?
Scripture Readings: Philippians 4:4-9, Ephesians 5:15-20
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Monday November 19 — 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18
When Paul instructs the Thessalonians to “give thanks in all circumstances,” he adds “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). His point is that we always choose gratitude, no matter what we are going through or what our circumstances might be. Even if we don’t feel grateful, we can choose to be grateful, because that is God’s will for us – and because we believe that God knows what is best for us. What might help you choose to be grateful today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, help me to keep my focus on you, no matter what my circumstances turn out to be today. Give me the courage I need to choose gratitude at all times. Amen.
Tuesday November 20 — Psalm 42:1 – 43:5
Psalm 42 and 43 go together, even though they are divided into separate chapters in our Bibles. Together, these psalms form a prayer to God in a time of distress. They serve as a model for us: the good news is despite life’s trials and tribulations, we can still find hope in God. We can still offer praise and thanksgiving to God. In fact, we could say that offering praise and thanksgiving to God is one of the keys to experiencing the presence of God during the most difficult days of our life.
• Prayer: Gracious God, my soul longs for you, and in response to your great love, I give you praise and thanksgiving for the promise of your presence in my life. Amen.
Wednesday November 21 — Mark 14:22-26
The Christian Sacrament of Holy Communion is also known as the Eucharist. The English word “eucharist” is derived from a Greek word that means “thanksgiving” and “grateful.” The Gospels emphasize that when serving the bread and wine to his disciples, Jesus gave thanks. Even in his darkest hour, knowing that his death was imminent, Jesus was grateful. We can imagine that he didn’t feel particularly grateful – for his (painful) death, and the betrayal and denial of his disciples – but he still gave thanks to God. How might God be calling you to follow Jesus’ example today?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gift of salvation that is offered through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thank you for the life-changing power of your grace. Amen.
Thursday November 22 — Ephesians 5:15-21
For many families, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated around a table overloaded with generous amounts of food and drink. While the Bible encourages feasts and festivals that celebrate the goodness of God – and even says that “it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (Ecclesiastes 3:13) – the Bible also warns us not to be foolish and over indulge. It is more important that we be filled with the Spirit of God. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. “Give thanks to God…” (Ephesians 5:20).
• Prayer: Giver of All Good Gifts, Fill me once again with the Holy Spirit. Help me give thanks for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friday November 23 — Luke 4:16-21, Isaiah 61:1-3
According to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus began his ministry in Nazareth by reading from the Book of Isaiah. The verses quoted in Luke 4:18-19 are from Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 61:1-2. The point is: Jesus fulfills the prophet’s promise that God would deliver God’s people. These short verses point to the promised “jubilee” (see Leviticus 25) and offer hope for salvation. They describe God’s plan. This is God’s will. As you think about the future, what inspires hope in you? Do you look forward to the salvation that Jesus promises in Luke 4:18-19?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, it is all too easy to give up hope when life seems to be falling apart. I am thankful that future is in your capable hands. Fill me with hope. Amen.
Saturday November 24 — Philippians 4:6-13
What is striking about the encouraging conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is that he is writing from prison (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul is able to express gratitude, experience the peace of God, and rejoice greatly (Philippians 4:6, 7, 10) despite his circumstances. He even instructs the Philippians to follow his example (Philippians 4:7). How might you follow his example in your life? What will help you rejoice and trust and offer thanks and praise to God?
• Prayer: God of Peace, I offer my whole life to you and entrust myself to your care. Guard my heart and mind with your peace, today and every day. I pray in Jess’ name. Amen.
Series: With Grateful Hearts
Sermon: Made for Gratitude
Scripture Readings: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Luke 17:11-19
And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:14b-19)
Monday November 12 — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians ends with a series of exhortations. Throughout his letters, he uses similar language to urge new Christians to faithful life. He calls on them to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. (See Philippians 4:4-9 for another example.) We should remember that first century life was not always easy, especially for followers of Jesus. But they discovered that their relationship with God could be filled with both gratitude and joy, even in most difficult of circumstances. As far as you are able, “give thanks in all circumstances” this week.
• Prayer: Eternal God, help me be able to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances this week. Help me remember that gratitude is one of the keys to a meaningful life. Amen.
Tuesday November 13 — Luke 17:11-19
Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the ten lepers has meaning on a variety of levels. It demonstrates Jesus’ love for people on the margins of society. Lepers were outcasts—literally cast out of their communities—and one of them was a Samaritan, a “foreigner” according to Jesus’ own words. But most importantly, this story describes the life-changing power of God’s saving grace, which was received by the one leper when he gave thanks for the gift of healing. Have you thanked God for the gift of salvation that God gives you through Jesus?
• Prayer: God of Saving Grace, thank you for healing the brokenness of my heart and forgiving my sin. Thank you for making me whole. Thank you for saving me. Amen.
Wednesday November 14 —Luke 22:14-19
Giving thanks was an integral aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry. We can imagine the human emotions Jesus experienced at the last meal with his disciples, yet he took bread, gave thanks to God, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples. Following Jesus’ example, in churches around the world, we still take bread, give thanks to God, break the bread and share it, as Jesus’ disciples. Read John 11:41-44 and note that in his prayer for Lazarus, Jesus first thanked his heavenly Father. The point is: if Jesus practiced gratitude, so can we. When and where will you be thanking God today?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for not acknowledging the many ways you have blessed my life. Forgive me for not practicing gratitude each and every day. Amen.
Thursday November 15 — Luke 8:4-8, 11-15
In his parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus’ describes the fruit-bearing nature of God’s kingdom. The sower (God) sows the seed so that it will bear fruit! Jesus also describes the need for the seed to be cultivated in good soil. Many of our lives are more like the seed that fell among the thorns, “choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). Gratitude is one of the spiritual disciplines that cultivates the soil of our lives so that God’s word can bear fruit in and through us. How does your practice of gratitude this week help you be receptive to God’s word?
• Prayer: Loving God, I find myself in Jesus’ parable every day. Sometimes I am like the path. Sometimes I am a nest of thorns. Let your Word find good soil in me today. Amen.
Friday November 16 — 1 Timothy 6:6-10
One of the primary concerns of the New Testament’s Letters to Timothy is that the pursuit of godliness can be derailed by our love for money and our insatiable desire for more and more. If we desire the kind of contentment we find in the New Testament, we will continue to practice gratitude. We will recognize the blessings we have received. We will acknowledge that they are a freely given gift from God. And we will be thankful. Every day. For what are you most thankful today?
• Prayer: God of Abundance, I know that I am blessed in ways that I do not deserve. Yet I always want more and more. Forgive me. Grant me the gift of contentment today. Amen.
Saturday November 17 — Psalm 92:1-4
The 92nd Psalm has a heading in most translations that says that it is, “A Song for the Sabbath Day” (NRSV). It calls God’s people to worship the Lord with praise and thanksgiving. It is an invitation for the community to gather and praise God together. It reminds us that worship is first and foremost a declaration of God’s goodness (praise) and an expression of gratitude (thanksgiving) for all that God has done, is doing, and promises to do in our lives. Count your blessings today. Prepare your heart and mind to worship God tomorrow.
• Prayer: Almighty God, prepare my heart and mind to worship you in praise and thanksgiving. Help me focus my attention on you and you alone. Amen.
Series: The Good Life
Sermon: Success and the Good Life
Scripture Readings: Galatians 6:7-10, Matthew 22:34-40
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)
Monday November 5 — Matthew 22:34-40
There are many keys to living the good life. We’ve considered several of them: gratitude, purpose, simplicity (creating margin), and generosity. But the most important keys to the good life that God desires for us are found in relationships. Jesus makes this clear. We experience the good life when we love God with our entire being and love our neighbors in the same way that God loves them. As you think about the most important relationships in your life, think about ways that you might strengthen them this week. How might you grow in love for God and neighbor?
• Prayer: Loving God, I know that the only way I can obey Jesus’ command to love my neighbor is by loving you. Help me increase my love for you this week. Amen.
Tuesday November 6 — 2 Peter 1:3-8
The good news is that in Jesus God has given us everything we need to live the good life. In 2 Peter 1:5-7, we find the characteristics of the good life that are made possible by God’s divine power (see 2 Peter 1:3). Use Peter’s list (faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love) to review your life. Which of these characteristics are most evident in your day-to-day living? Which of these characteristics need your attention?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for giving me everything I need to live the good life. Help me continue to grow in knowledge and love for you and your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday November 7 — 2 Corinthians 9:5-15
On his missionary journeys, the apostle Paul received an offering for the church in Jerusalem. The purpose of the offering was two-fold. First and foremost, Paul wanted to bless the believers in Jerusalem in their time of need. But he also wanted the Corinthians to experience the blessing of being generous and living out Jesus’ command to love their neighbors. He says that their generosity glorifies God (2 Corinthians 9:13). How is God glorified in your daily living?
• Prayer: God of Grace, you call us to love our neighbor, not just with words, but in actions. Inspire in me a desire to glorify you by caring for people in need. Amen.
Thursday November 8 — Romans 12:9-21, 13:8
Since the time of Jesus, loving people in real and tangible ways (not by simply thinking good thoughts or saying the right words) has been the hallmark of Jesus’ followers. Paul emphasizes the characteristics of Christ-like love in several of his letters. (See Galatians 5:14 for another example.) Think about your experience with other believers in the Church. How do you think non-Christians view believers? Do you think love is the hallmark of Christians in the world today? Jesus says that they will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). Is that true for you?
• Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for failing to love you and my neighbor without hesitation or reservation. Make love for you and my neighbor the hallmark of my life. Amen.
Friday November 9 — Colossians 3:9-17
Through his letter to the Colossians, Paul instructs us to pay attention to the wardrobe of our hearts, not just the wardrobes found in our closets. He says that Jesus’ followers are to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love. By wearing these “clothes” every day and nurturing our relationship with God, we will be able to fulfill the command found in Colossians 3:17. Do everything in the name of Jesus today and see what happens.
• Prayer: Almighty God, I am humbled by the contrast between your expectations and the reality of my life. Today I choose to seek your will in everything I do. Amen.
Saturday November 10 — 1 John 4:7-12
If we want to live the good life, we will need to improve our love life, that is: our willingness and ability to love God and love our neighbor every moment of every day. This is where Jesus is pointing us in Matthew 5:48. But the truth is that without God’s love abiding in our hearts, we will never be able to love as we should. If you want to improve your love life, accept the good news that God loves you, forgives you, and saves you (from the power of sin and death) through Jesus. Spend time in prayer today. Accept God’s gift of love. Nurture your love life. Live the good life.
- Prayer: Gracious God, today I confess my need for your forgiveness and I accept your gift of saving grace through Jesus. I know you love me and I choose to follow Jesus.
Series: The Good Life
Sermon: Money and the Good Life
Scripture Readings: Malachi 3:7-10, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17-19
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Monday October 29 — 1 Timothy 6:6-19
Let’s be clear, the Bible does not say that having money or possessions is bad. The Bible is very clear, however, that we can too easily be seduced by the lure of wanting more (and more.) We can too easily believe that our worth as human beings is determined by our financial net worth. The Bible is clear that the love of money interferes with our relationship with God. This is why Timothy is reminded to teach Jesus’ disciples about contentment. Spend time this week thinking and praying about your relationship with money. How might you grow in contentment?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for the ways I let my love for money interfere with my relationship with you. Help me resist the temptation to want more and more.
Tuesday October 30 — Malachi 3:7-10
The Bible calls on God’s people to tithe, to give the first ten percent of what we have received back to God. Tithing reminds us that all we have ultimately comes from God. Tithing is an act of worship—a sign of our trust in God’s promises. According to Malachi, when we withhold our tithes, we are “robbing God.” But the truth is that when we withhold tithes and offerings, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to grow in discipleship through generosity. How do you feel about Malachi’s warning about “robbing God” and the invitation to put God “to the test”?
- Prayer: Generous God, I am thankful for all that I have, because I know that it ultimately comes from you. Give me the courage I need to trust your promises.
Wednesday October 31 — Luke 12:13-21
Jesus does not use the same language (about robbing God) that we find in Malachi 3, but his words are still hard-hitting. He warns us about “all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). Jesus doesn’t diminish the importance of money. He knows that it is very important. He says that our heart (and our head) goes wherever our money goes (see Matthew 6:21). He wants us to use our money in a way that strengthens our relationship with God. How does the way you use your money reflect your priorities? How does the way you use your money strengthen your relationship with God?
- Prayer: Eternal God, forgive me for the ways I am affected by “all kinds of greed.” Help me understand what you want me to do with all that you have given me.
Thursday November 1 — Luke 14:7-14
People who lived in the time of Jesus were no different that we are. Just like us, they paid attention to social status. They sought honor and recognition. Having wealth was a sign of status and worth. But Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head. He insisted that God’s Kingdom does not operate with the same values as human society. His words, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled” (Luke 14:11) would have been hard to hear. What do you think when you hear them?
- Prayer: Loving God, I confess that I am too often troubled by what Jesus says and does. I have much to learn to about being one of his disciples. Help me grow in my faith.
Friday November 2 — Matthew 20:20-28
At this point in the Gospel story, James and John (and their mother) did not fully comprehend the differences between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. The kingdoms of the world reward ambition, power, and wealth, but the Kingdom of God calls for sacrificial love and service, the kind modeled by Jesus on the cross. Jesus insists that true greatness is found in service to others. Using Jesus’ criteria, are you striving for greatness in your life?
- Prayer: God of Sacrificial Love, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his teaching and his example. Most of all, thank you for the gift of salvation he offers all of us.
Saturday November 3 — John 10:7-15
The many Gospel passages that call for sacrifice and service can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to put into practice. That’s why we need to remember that Jesus insists that he has come so that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The challenge for us is make certain that we use the same definition of abundance that Jesus uses. Given what you know about Jesus’ life and ministry, how do you think Jesus defines abundance? What helps you trust that God’s gift of abundant life really is the good life?
- Prayer: God of Life, forgive me for not fully trusting the promises Jesus makes about living “the good life.” Teach me to trust him. Give me the gift of his abundant life.
Series: The Good Life
Sermon: Re-Framing the Good Life
Scripture Readings: Ecclesiastes 2:1-10, Galatians 5:16-23
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)
Monday October 22 — John 12:20-26
The Bible is filled with passages that describe what constitutes “the good life.” What most of us discover, especially when we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching, is that God’s vision of “the good life” is very different than our own. Jesus’ words in John 12:25 sound very harsh to our ears. He challenges us to make a decision about what is most important. He challenges us to decide whether we trust that life with God is truly “the good life” that we seek. How do define “the good life”? What will help you trust and live into God’s vision for your life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of eternal life. Help me trust you enough to set down my vision of a good life and follow Jesus, wherever he leads me. Amen.
Tuesday October 23 — Matthew 5:3-12
The opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) are called The Beatitudes. In them Jesus describes the characteristics of people who are blessed by God and citizens of God’s Kingdom. It’s noteworthy that the people Jesus describes are not the people we would normally think of as “blessed.” In other words, living “the good life” (according to Jesus) is not about being wealthy or successful. It’s about receiving the gift of God’s blessing.
• Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage I need to listen to the voice of Jesus and trust fully and completely in his promises. Help me to receive your blessing. Amen.
Wednesday October 24 — Genesis 15:1, 5-6, 13-15
The story of Abraham is a story of living “the good life” as a nomadic life of going where one is sent by God. Read Genesis 12:1-4 for the beginning of the story. It’s the story of obedience. It’s the story of being blessed to be a blessing to the world. But it’s also a story of hardship and suffering. Living according to God’s will does not always go as we would hope or expect. Abraham’s example teaches us that the good life begins with believing and trusting God (Genesis 15:6). Where do you think God might be sending you today? Do you to trust God enough to go where he sends you?
• Prayer: Sending God, I know that following Jesus will take me to places and people that I would not go on my own. Forgive me for resisting. Help me trust you. Amen.
Thursday October 25 — Galatians 5:16-23
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. (Please note that flesh does not refer to the human body. For Paul it refers to our human desire to please ourselves and do whatever we wish.) Clearly Paul’s vision for “the good life” includes the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Which of the Spirit’s fruit are blooming in your life?
• Prayer: Gracious God, plant the seed of your Spirit in my life. Bring forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in me. Amen.
Friday October 26 — Acts 20:17-24
According to his speech to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul discovered “the good life” while serving the Lord. His life wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without trials and tribulations. He didn’t try to avoid hardships. In fact, it seems that he relished them as a sign of his faithfulness. He accepted his suffering not as a victim, but as a follower of Jesus. He told the Romans that “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance” (Romans 5:3-4). How might you learn to follow Paul’s example?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to be like Jesus, even if it means that I will also suffer with him and suffer because of him. I want my life to glorify you at all times. Amen.
Saturday October 27 — Philippians 4:4-9
Read today’s passage one more time. Imagine yourself as the writer but imagine yourself in a prison cell (see Philippians 1:12-14). Consider these words to be a prescription for “the good life”: rejoicing always; letting gentleness be known to all; not worrying about anything; taking everything to God in prayer; giving thanks; being surrounded by the peace of God; focusing on all that is good; and doing the things you’ve learned. How does this sound to you?
• Prayer: God of Peace, help me to trust you enough to live according to your prescription for the good life and not my own. Help me to live the life you want me to live. Amen.
Sermon: All God’s Kingdom
Scripture Reading: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16
Monday October 15 – Luke 11:11-13
Before you read the scripture, pause and consider the requests you daily make in prayer. Prayers for loved ones, or those sufferings, prayers for blessings or provisions. Now read the scripture and wonder about how God has answered or responded to these prayers. This scripture describes basic needs a child would request. What basic needs do you lift up to God? How can you ask God to provide for necessities in your life? Activity – Try a new form of prayer and draw your requests and petitions to God.
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came to teach us and to show us in action what God is like. Embed in my heart a picture of a God in whose caring presence I can have a childlike trust.
Tuesday October 16 – Psalm 78:4-7
We, as faithful Christians, have received God’s love and grace in our lives. Our response to that love and grace is to share it with others. Psalm 78 is an instructive song that chronicles God’s redeeming acts in Israel’s history. The best way to teach children how to love God and love their neighbors is to model love and forgiveness for them. Children are important in God’s kingdom. Who shared God’s love and grace with you as a child? Lift them up in prayer today. Activity – Today, look at the St. Matthew’s website. Look at the ministries we have for children and service opportunities. Consider where God may be calling you to care for children.
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have proved through the history of your people how great your love and patience are for your children. Move us to share your stories with the children around us. Bless your children, for they have inherited your promises. Amen.
Wednesday October 17 – Matthew 18:1-5
This scripture is very similar to the Mark 10 scripture. However in Matthew, Jesus calls the children to him (in Mark 10, the children are brought up to Jesus) to answer the disciples question “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It is easy to be caught up in our world that is obsessed with status. The disciples were worried about status, too. In Jesus’ world, children had no status. Who are the persons in our world we should notice who have no status? Activity – Today, notice the people around you. Pray for them, be open to caring for them. Lift them up to God. And consider, how this impacts your own status in our world.
- Prayer: Loving God, you valued children enough to tell your followers to be more like them. Guide me in growing a faith that is trustingly child-like. Amen.
Thursday October 18 – Isaiah 43:18-19
This passage from Isaiah reminds us that God is continually creating in our world. One way we see this concretely is through babies and children. The world we often feel accustomed to, offers new mysteries each day to children as they grow and develop. How can you choose to view the world in a new way today? What can you pray for to experience the world in a new way or see the world in a new way? Activity – Try something new today. Visit a new restaurant, listen to new music or podcast. Take a walk in a new park. Or just take a different route home from work. Where did you encounter God?
- Prayer: God, you are continually making things new. Help me to recognize you in the new and unexpected places. Amen.
Friday October 19 – Romans 12:2-5
Minds transformed? To be honest, it reads like a lot of work and effort. It would be easier to just go along in our world, without considering how God is continually working on us. This brief scripture from Romans 12 teaches us to continual discern; to continual seek God’s call and God’s will in our lives. In pursuing transformation from God, we can find what is good, acceptable and perfect in God. This is a difficult task, but, as Romans 12, continues, we are one body with many members. We don’t discern God’s will on our own but with our community. Activity – Today, talk to someone in the St. Matthew’s family. Ask about how they are discerning God’s will. Engage more deeply in our community of faith.
- Prayer: God, you call us to strive towards your good and perfect will. This is difficult on our own. Thank you for the community of St. Matthew’s. Guide us as we work together towards your will for our church.
Saturday October 20 – Joel 2:28, Acts 2:14-18
We often talk about God calling Abraham or Moses when they were elderly. But the prophet Joel, quoted by the apostle Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, made it clear that God called people of all ages to the work of God’s kingdom. These passages remind us that in all God’s kingdom there is no one too old or too young to participate in building God’s kingdom here on earth. Our scriptures remind us that God has a future planned for all God’s kingdom. Activity – As we look ahead to the transitions at St. Matthew’s where is your place in helping to build God’s kingdom? Consider your place and then, talk to someone from a different generation. How do they imagine their place at St. Matthew’s and in God’s kingdom?
- Prayer: Loving God, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inspire me to work to build your kingdom here on earth with all people. Amen.