Monday, February 29, 2016

Daily Readings for February 29, 2016

Genesis 44:18-34
Then Judah stepped up to him and said, "O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord's ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' And we said to my lord, 'We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.' Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.' We said to my lord, 'The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.' Then you said to your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.' When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, 'Go again, buy us a little food,' we said, 'We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.' Then your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.' Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy's life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.' Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father."


1 Corinthians 7:25-31
Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.


Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


Psalm 80 Qui regis Israel (Shepherd of Israel)
1   Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2   In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up your strength and come to help us.
3   Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
4   O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?
5   You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6   You have made us the derision of our neighbors, and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
7   Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
8   You have brought a vine out of Egypt; you cast out the nations and planted it.
9   You prepared the ground for it; it took root and filled the land.
10   The mountains were covered by its shadow and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.
11   You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea and its branches to the River.
12   Why have you broken down its wall, so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?
13   The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.
14   Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven; behold and tend this vine; preserve what your right hand has planted.
15   They burn it with fire like rubbish; at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.
16   Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, and son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
17   And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
18   Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.


Psalm 77 Voce mea ad Dominum (I cried to the Lord)
1   I will cry aloud to God; I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.
2   In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire; I refused to be comforted.
3   I think of God, I am restless, I ponder, and my spirit faints.
4   You will not let my eyelids close; I am troubled and I cannot speak.
5   I consider the days of old; I remember the years long past;
6   I commune with my heart in the night; I ponder and search my mind.
7   Will the Lord cast me off for ever? will he no more show his favor?
8   Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever? has his promise failed for evermore?
9   Has God forgotten to be gracious? has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion?
10   And I said, "My grief is this: the right hand of the Most High has lost its power."
11   I will remember the works of the LORD, and call to mind your wonders of old time.
12   I will meditate on all your acts and ponder your mighty deeds.
13   Your way, O God, is holy; who is so great a god as our God?
14   You are the God who works wonders and have declared your power among the peoples.
15   By your strength you have redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16   The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and trembled; the very depths were shaken.
17   The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed to and fro;
18   The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19   Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, yet your footsteps were not seen.
20   You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.


Psalm 79 Deus, venerunt (God, the)
1   O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance; they have profaned your holy temple; they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.
2   They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air, and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.
3   They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.
4   We have become a reproach to our neighbors, an object of scorn and derision to those around us.
5   How long will you be angry, O LORD? will your fury blaze like fire for ever?
6   Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.
7   For they have devoured Jacob and made his dwelling a ruin.
8   Remember not our past sins; let your compassion be swift to meet us; for we have been brought very low.
9   Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name; deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name's sake.
10   Why should the heathen say, "Where is their God?" Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight that you avenge the shedding of your servants' blood.
11   Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you, and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.
12   May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord, return seven-fold into their bosoms.
13   For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture; we will give you thanks for ever and show forth your praise from age to age.

Daily Meditation for February 29, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Psalm 79:8 Remember not our past sins; let your compassion be swift to meet us; for we have been brought very low.

The idea of people being punished for sins committed by others is hard for us to grasp these days, but it appears often in scripture. Various writers refer to themselves as liable for the sins of their ancestors, or they depict God destroying whole families in revenge for the sins of individual members. While I reject the idea that people suffer because God is punishing them for anybody’s sins, I think it’s important to recognize that the sin is not only about an individual distancing him or herself from God. Sin is also a group activity.

Fortunately, so is goodness. By God’s grace, we have some power in this situation—the choice to infuse our common experience with the same old evil or with new life. May God use us as conduits for grace, and may our choices work together in the name of Christ to help rid humanity of its ancient burden of sin.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Daily Readings for February 28, 2016 - Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 3:1-15
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain." But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.


Psalm 63:1-8
1   O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
2   Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.
3   For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; my lips shall give you praise.
4   So will I bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your Name.
5   My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6   When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the night watches.
7   For you have been my helper, and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8   My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.


1 Corinthians 10:1-13
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play." We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.


Luke 13:1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-- do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

Daily Meditation for February 28, 2016 - Third Sunday of Lent

From Forward Day by Day

Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

In the old Steve Martin movie The Man With Two Brains, a widowed doctor falls for one of his patients. Looking at the portrait of his dead wife, the man says, “If there’s anything wrong with my feelings for Delores, just give me a sign.” The painting whirls around, a wind blows wildly through the house, and a disembodied voice cries, “NOOOO!” The man pauses and then responds, “Just any sign at all…I’ll be on the lookout for it.” Then he puts the painting in the closet.

When God calls Moses to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, God speaks from a burning bush that the flames do not consume. Moses comes up with numerous logical reasons that God should really call someone else, but in the end, he complies with God’s choice. For all his reluctance, Moses never denies that the burning bush is a sign and that the voice is God’s.

I wonder how often we have dismissed burning bushes as ordinary brush fires. Our doing so might explain any number of missed opportunities. May we all recognize God’s voice when God speaks to us. May we listen to it willingly, even if we don’t like what God has to say.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

George Herbert, Priest

Today the church remembers George Herbert, Priest, 1633.

George Herbert was brilliant, wealthy, well-born, handsome, and a favorite of the king and court. To the astonishment of a generation of prominent Englishmen, he abandoned a promising career in public life, took holy orders, and accepted a call to the humble parishes of Fugglestone and Bemerton. As he put it, "Methought I heard one calling, "Child.' And I replied, "My Lord.' "

In his short life (George Herbert was only forty when he died), he made a lasting contribution to the church's life. He wrote A Priest to the Temple; or the Country Parson. He wrote many excellent poems and hymns. Most important of all, he left us a beautiful example of a small town pastor. It was in tiny Bemerton, and not at the mighty Court of St. James, that George Herbert found depth and meaning in life. At Bemerton he was able to witness for his Master in unselfish service to others. He had learned an age-old lesson. "Nothing," he wrote, "is little in God's service."

O eternal Lord God, who holds all souls in life: We humbly ask you to shed forth upon your whole Church in paradise and on earth the bright beams of your light and thy peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of your servant George Herbert, and of all those who loved and served you here, may at the last enter with them into your unending joy. Amen.

Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Herbert

Daily Readings for February 27, 2016

Genesis 43:16-34
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, "Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon." The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph's house. Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph's house, and they said, "It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys." So they went up to the steward of Joseph's house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house. They said, "Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food; and when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each one's money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. Moreover we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks." He replied, "Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money." Then he brought Simeon out to them. When the steward had brought the men into Joseph's house, and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they made the present ready for Joseph's coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there. When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. He inquired about their welfare, and said, "Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?" They said, "Your servant our father is well; he is still alive." And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, "Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!" With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said, "Serve the meal." They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph's table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

 
1 Corinthians 7:10-24
To the married I give this command-- not I but the Lord-- that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say-- I and not the Lord-- that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.


Mark 5:1-20
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." For he had said to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many." He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, "Send us into the swine; let us enter them." So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.


Psalm 75 Confitebimur tibi (thanks to you)
1   We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds.
2   I will appoint a time, says God; I will judge with equity.
3   Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast.
4   I will say to the boasters, 'Boast no more, ' and to the wicked, 'Do not toss your horns;
5   Do not toss your horns so high, nor speak with a proud neck.'"
6   For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west, nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.
7   It is God who judges; he puts down one and lifts up another.
8   For in the LORD'S hand there is a cup, full of spiced and foaming wine, which he pours out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and drain the dregs.
9   But I will rejoice for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10   He shall break off all the horns of the wicked; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.


Psalm 76 Notus in Jud├Ža (In Judea)
1   In Judah is God known; his Name is great in Israel.
2   At Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling is in Zion.
3   There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of battle.
4   How glorious you are! more splendid than the everlasting mountains!
5   The strong of heart have been despoiled; they sink into sleep; none of the warriors can lift a hand.
6   At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and rider lie stunned.
7   What terror you inspire! who can stand before you when you are angry?
8   From heaven you pronounced judgment; the earth was afraid and was still;
9   When God rose up to judgment and to save all the oppressed of the earth.
10   Truly, wrathful Edom will give you thanks, and the remnant of Hamath will keep your feasts.
11   Make a vow to the LORD your God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared.
12   He breaks the spirit of princes, and strikes terror in the kings of the earth.


Psalm 23 Dominus regit me (The Lord is my shepherd)
1   The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
2   He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.
3   He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4   Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5   You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6   Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Psalm 27 Dominus illuminatio (Lord is my light)
1   The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
2   When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh, it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.
3   Though an army should encamp against me, yet my heart shall not be afraid;
4   And though war should rise up against me, yet will I put my trust in him.
5   One thing have I asked of the LORD; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;
6   To behold the fair beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
7   For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling and set me high upon a rock.
8   Even now he lifts up my head above my enemies round about me.
9   Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with sounds of great gladness; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
10   Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me.
11   You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face." Your face, LORD, will I seek.
12   Hide not your face from me, nor turn away your servant in displeasure.
13   You have been my helper; cast me not away; do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.
14   Though my father and my mother forsake me, the LORD will sustain me.
15   Show me your way, O LORD; lead me on a level path, because of my enemies.
16   Deliver me not into the hand of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, and also those who speak malice.
17   What if I had not believed that I should see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
18   O tarry and await the LORD'S pleasure; be strong, and he shall comfort your heart; wait patiently for the LORD.

Daily Meditation for February 27, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Mark 5:8-9 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

For us, demon possession is generally considered the stuff of supernatural thrillers and horror films. Many people don’t believe in demons, and even those who believe don’t encounter demons in the regular course of day-to-day life. Why, then, are the many exorcisms portrayed in the gospels relevant to us today?

They matter because even if we don’t believe in demons, we know evils that take over people and drive them to destruction—evils that seem impossible to eradicate. Evils such as substance abuse, war, racism, greed, and the persecution of the weak take over both individuals and entire cultures, and we are not enough to fight them alone.

Whatever we may believe about demons, the gospels’ exorcism stories offer contemporary Christians the greatest possible comfort: though evil sometimes feels impossible to eradicate, Christ still has the power to overcome it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Daily Readings for February 26, 2016

Genesis 43:1-15
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, "Go again, buy us a little more food." But Judah said to him, "The man solemnly warned us, saying, 'You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.' If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, 'You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.'" Israel said, "Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?" They replied, "The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?' What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, 'Bring your brother down'?" Then Judah said to his father Israel, "Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die-- you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice." Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man-- a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman." But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Psalm 69 Salvum me fac (Save me)
1   Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.
2   I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet.
3   I have come into deep waters, and the torrent washes over me.
4   I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; my eyes have failed from looking for my God.
5   Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty. Must I then give back what I never stole?
6   O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you.
7   Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel.
8   Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, and shame has covered my face.
9   I have become a stranger to my own kindred, an alien to my mother's children.
10   Zeal for your house has eaten me up; the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
11   I humbled myself with fasting, but that was turned to my reproach.
12   I put on sack-cloth also, and became a byword among them.
13   Those who sit at the gate murmur against me, and the drunkards make songs about me.
14   But as for me, this is my prayer to you, at the time you have set, O LORD:
15   In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help.
16   Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; let me be rescued from those who hate me and out of the deep waters.
17   Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.
18   Answer me, O LORD, for your love is kind; in your great compassion, turn to me."
19   Hide not your face from your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.
20   Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me.
21   You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in your sight."
22   Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I could find no one.
23   They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.
24   Let the table before them be a trap and their sacred feasts a snare.
25   Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and give them continual trembling in their loins.
26   Pour out your indignation upon them, and let the fierceness of your anger overtake them.
27   Let their camp be desolate, and let there be none to dwell in their tents.
28   For they persecute him whom you have stricken and add to the pain of those whom you have pierced.
29   Lay to their charge guilt upon guilt, and let them not receive your vindication.
30   Let them be wiped out of the book of the living and not be written among the righteous.
31   As for me, I am afflicted and in pain; your help, O God, will lift me up on high.
32   I will praise the Name of God in song; I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.
33   This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen, more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.
34   The afflicted shall see and be glad; you who seek God, your heart shall live.
35   For the LORD listens to the needy, and his prisoners he does not despise.
36   Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and all that moves in them;
37   For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; they shall live there and have it in possession.
38   The children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his Name will dwell therein.

Psalm 73 Quam bonus Israel! (How good of Israel!)
1   Truly, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2   But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen;
3   Because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked:
4   For they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound;
5   In the misfortunes of others they have no share; they are not afflicted as others are;
6   Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak.
7   Their iniquity comes from gross minds, and their hearts overflow with wicked thoughts.
8   They scoff and speak maliciously; out of their haughtiness they plan oppression.
9   They set their mouths against the heavens, and their evil speech runs through the world.
10   And so the people turn to them and find in them no fault.
11   They say, "How should God know? is there knowledge in the Most High?"
12   So then, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase their wealth.
13   In vain have I kept my heart clean, and washed my hands in innocence.
14   I have been afflicted all day long, and punished every morning.
15   Had I gone on speaking this way, I should have betrayed the generation of your children.
16   When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me;
17   Until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked.
18   Surely, you set them in slippery places; you cast them down in ruin.
19   Oh, how suddenly do they come to destruction, come to an end, and perish from terror!
20   Like a dream when one awakens, O Lord, when you arise you will make their image vanish.
21   When my mind became embittered, I was sorely wounded in my heart.
22   I was stupid and had no understanding; I was like a brute beast in your presence.
23   Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24   You will guide me by your counsel, and afterwards receive me with glory.
25   Whom have I in heaven but you? and having you I desire nothing upon earth.
26   Though my flesh and my heart should waste away, God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
27   Truly, those who forsake you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful.
28   But it is good for me to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge.
29   I will speak of all your works in the gates of the city of Zion.

Daily Meditation for February 26, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Genesis 43:9 If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.

Jacob repeatedly indicates to his older children the vast extent to which he prefers their younger brothers, the children of Rachel. He allows Simeon to languish in prison rather than even consider allowing Benjamin to accompany his brothers to Egypt. Only the prospect of the family’s imminent starvation moves Jacob to change his mind.

When Judah takes responsibility for Benjamin’s safety, his words and tone indicate his acceptance of a situation that he can’t change. The urgency with which the brothers later petition for the life of Benjamin on behalf of their father indicate their continued love and compassion for Jacob. Accepting Jacob’s parental foibles as they had not done before, they forgive him and protect Benjamin for him, a pivotal decision that changes everything.
 
With a few variations, this story of favoritism and family drama could be told today. The pain and reward of loving family, and the difficulty of forgiving wrongs done over the years, remain as relevant now, thousands of years later, as when the story was first told.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Daily Readings for February 25, 2016

Genesis 42:29-38
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, "The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land. But we said to him, 'We are honest men, we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.' Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, 'By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.'" As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one's sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. And their father Jacob said to them, "I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!" Then Reuben said to his father, "You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you." But he said, "My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol."


1 Corinthians 6:12-20
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food," and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, "The two shall be one flesh." But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.


Mark 4:21-34
He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.


Psalm 70 Deus, in adjutorium (God help)
1   Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me.
2   Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced.
3   Let those who say to me "Aha!" and gloat over me turn back, because they are ashamed.
4   Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, "Great is the LORD!"
5   But as for me, I am poor and needy; come to me speedily, O God.
6   You are my helper and my deliverer; O LORD, do not tarry.


Psalm 71 In te, Domine, speravi (I put my trust in You, Lord)
1   In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed.
2   In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; incline your ear to me and save me.
3   Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold.
4   Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.
5   For you are my hope, O LORD God, my confidence since I was young.
6   I have been sustained by you ever since I was born; from my mother's womb you have been my strength; my praise shall be always of you.
7   I have become a portent to many; but you are my refuge and my strength.
8   Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long.
9   Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails.
10   For my enemies are talking against me, and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.
11   They say, "God has forsaken him; go after him and seize him; because there is none who will save."
12   O God, be not far from me; come quickly to help me, O my God.
13   Let those who set themselves against me be put to shame and be disgraced; let those who seek to do me evil be covered with scorn and reproach.
14   But I shall always wait in patience, and shall praise you more and more.
15   My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; though I cannot know the number of them.
16   I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD; I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.
17   O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.
18   And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come.
19   Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; you have done great things; who is like you, O God?
20   You have showed me great troubles and adversities, but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth.
21   You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me,
22   Therefore I will praise you upon the lyre for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel.
23   My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.
24   My tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, for they are ashamed and disgraced who sought to do me harm.


Psalm 74 Ut quid, Deus? (Why, God?)
1   O God, why have you utterly cast us off? why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture?
2   Remember your congregation that you purchased long ago, the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance, and Mount Zion where you dwell.
3   Turn your steps toward the endless ruins; the enemy has laid waste everything in your sanctuary.
4   Your adversaries roared in your holy place; they set up their banners as tokens of victory.
5   They were like men coming up with axes to a grove of trees; they broke down all your carved work with hatchets and hammers.
6   They set fire to your holy place; they defiled the dwelling-place of your Name and razed it to the ground.
7   They said to themselves, "Let us destroy them altogether." They burned down all the meeting-places of God in the land.
8   There are no signs for us to see; there is no prophet left; there is not one among us who knows how long.
9   How long, O God, will the adversary scoff? will the enemy blaspheme your Name for ever?
10   Why do you draw back your hand? why is your right hand hidden in your bosom?
11   Yet God is my King from ancient times, victorious in the midst of the earth.
12   You divided the sea by your might and shattered the heads of the dragons upon the waters;

13   You crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him to the people of the desert for food.
14   You split open spring and torrent; you dried up ever-flowing rivers.
15   Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun.
16   You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.
17   Remember, O LORD, how the enemy scoffed, how a foolish people despised your Name.
18   Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; never forget the lives of your poor.
19   Look upon your covenant; the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence.
20   Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed; let the poor and needy praise your Name.
21   Arise, O God, maintain your cause; remember how fools revile you all day long.
22   Forget not the clamor of your adversaries, the unending tumult of those who rise up against you.

Daily Meditation for February 25, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

1 Corinthians 6:20 Therefore glorify God in your body.

When my father died, the priest who presided at his memorial service reminded me that Christians believe in the resurrection of the body and that God exists outside of time. God could take my father’s body from any time—not the source of endless pain and frustration for him it was at the end of his life, but the one he used to bicycle and run and climb trees when he was younger—and bring it somewhere where it could exist perfectly, as it was meant to be.

I like to think about my dad, young and happy, risen in the body in some alternate space and time. And I like to think about another me out there too, strong and free, experiencing eating as a healthy, uncomplicated celebration, dancing and running and singing to the Lord. The image gives me something to live up to here on earth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Saint Matthias the Apostle

Today the church remembers Saint Matthias the Apostle.

Judas' betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent suicide left a vacancy in the fellowship of the apostles. The remaining eleven apostles resolved to fill that vacancy and in so doing set an important precedent for the church. The first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that two men were nominated, Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. The apostles prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then cast lots to see which of the two should be chosen. The lot fell to Matthias, who was then enrolled with the apostles.


The apostles were, therefore, deemed fit, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to select and appoint new apostles as some died or fell away. It was partly on this precedent that the Apostolic Succession was based. It is interesting to note that even today in America a bishop's election must be with the consent of the House of Bishops, along with lay people and clergy, and is not considered proper until the new bishop is ordained by several bishops.

We know nothing of Matthias' life following the events described in Acts. Tradition holds that he was an exemplary bishop, and on his feast day we pray that the church might always be "ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors."

Almighty God, who chose your faithful servant Matthias to be counted among the twelve: Grant that your church may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors. Amen.

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Matthias

Daily Readings for February 24, 2016

Acts 1:15-26
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, "Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus-- for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry." (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) "For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it' and 'Let another take his position of overseer.' So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us-- one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection." So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.


Psalm 15 Domine, quis habitabit? (Lord, who may dwell?)
1   LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? who may abide upon your holy hill?
2   Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.
3   There is no guile upon his tongue; he does no evil to his friend; he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4   In his sight the wicked is rejected, but he honors those who fear the LORD.
5   He has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word.
6   He does not give his money in hope of gain, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7   Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown.


Philippians 3:13-21
Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.


John 15:1, 6-16
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

Daily Meditation for February 24, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Acts 1:26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

After Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the apostles decided to find someone to replace him. Two candidates were found sufficiently devout, and by the luck of the draw, Matthias became Judas’ replacement.

Being the replacement apostle sounds like a tough role. The other eleven apostles had shared experiences with Jesus; they had an established internal power structure that Matthias had to learn; and they had the legitimacy of having been selected by Jesus personally to serve as apostles. Jesus had looked at every one of them and issued a call.

Matthias had been baptized by John and had followed Jesus from the beginning, but he had done so without that kind of personal call. Selected by lots, Matthias must have felt like an outsider, on the tail end of the events on which all their lives centered. Or maybe he was more like Ringo Starr from the Beatles, who was the band’s replacement drummer as their fame suddenly skyrocketed. Maybe Matthias just looked around in awe that he had been given the blessing of participation in this extraordinary event and hoped there hadn’t been some mistake.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Today the church remembers Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna, 156.

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in what is now called Turkey, did not seek martyrdom and did not encourage others to do so. When persecution broke out, Polycarp made every honorable effort to protect his flock and himself. He even hid in the country but, eventually, the authorities found him.


Since Christians worshiped Jesus Christ, an "unauthorized god," and since they refused to worship the Roman gods or the "Divine Caesar," they were considered atheists and subversives. At a great public festival in the arena in Smyrna, Polycarp was presented to the governor amid cries of "Kill the atheist!" from the excited and unruly mob. The governor admonished Polycarp to swear by Caesar and to revile Christ and thereby save himself. The old bishop's famous reply was, "For eighty-six years I have been his servant and he has done me no wrong; how can I blaspheme my King who has saved me? . . . You pretend not to know who I am; let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian. If you want to learn the doctrine of Christianity, set a day and hear me." Polycarp was publicly burned to death.

The Christians in Smyrna who escaped death in this wave of persecution wrote a letter describing the execution of their great bishop and sent it to other churches. We still have this famous letter, "The Martyrdom of Polycarp."

May we always share the tidings of the King who has saved us. Amen.

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and to rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarp

Daily Readings for February 23, 2016

Genesis 42:1-17
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard," he said, "that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die." So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan. Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from?" he said. They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food." Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, "You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!" They said to him, "No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies." But he said to them, "No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!" They said, "We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more." But Joseph said to them, "It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies." And he put them all together in prison for three days.


1 Corinthians 5:1-8
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


Mark 3:16-35
So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."


Psalm 61 Exaudi, Deus (Hear, O)
1   Hear my cry, O God, and listen to my prayer.
2   I call upon you from the ends of the earth with heaviness in my heart; set me upon the rock that is higher than I.
3   For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
4   I will dwell in your house for ever; I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.
5   For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have granted me the heritage of those who fear your Name.
6   Add length of days to the king's life; let his years extend over many generations.
7   Let him sit enthroned before God for ever; bid love and faithfulness watch over him.
8   So will I always sing the praise of your Name, and day by day I will fulfill my vows.


Psalm 62 Nonne Deo? (Did God?)
1   For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.
2   He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
3   How long will you assail me to crush me, all of you together, as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?
4   They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor; lies are their chief delight.
5   They bless with their lips, but in their hearts they curse.
6   For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him.
7   He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
8   In God is my safety and my honor; God is my strong rock and my refuge.
9   Put your trust in him always, O people, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
10   Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
11   On the scales they are lighter than a breath, all of them together.
12   Put no trust in extortion; in robbery take no empty pride; though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
13   God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, that power belongs to God.
14   Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, for you repay everyone according to his deeds.


Psalm 68 Exsurgat Deus (Let God)
1   Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him.
2   Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away; as the wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3   But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them also be merry and joyful.
4   Sing to God, sing praises to his Name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; YAHWEH is his Name, rejoice before him!
5   Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation!
6   God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom; but the rebels shall live in dry places.
7   O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness,
8   The earth shook, and the skies poured down rain, at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9   You sent a gracious rain, O God, upon your inheritance; you refreshed the land when it was weary.
10   Your people found their home in it; in your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the poor.
11   The Lord gave the word; great was the company of women who bore the tidings:
12   Kings with their armies are fleeing away; the women at home are dividing the spoils.
13   Though you lingered among the sheepfolds, you shall be like a dove whose wings are covered with silver, whose feathers are like green gold.
14   When the Almighty scattered kings, it was like snow falling in Zalmon.
15   O mighty mountain, O hill of Bashan! O rugged mountain, O hill of Bashan!
16   Why do you look with envy, O rugged mountain, at the hill which God chose for his resting place? truly, the LORD will dwell there for ever.
17   The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; the Lord comes in holiness from Sinai.
18   You have gone up on high and led captivity captive; you have received gifts even from your enemies, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
19   Blessed be the Lord day by day, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens.
20   He is our God, the God of our salvation; God is the LORD, by whom we escape death.
21   God shall crush the heads of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of those who go on still in their wickedness.
22   The Lord has said, "I will bring them back from Bashan; I will bring them back from the depths of the sea;
23   That your foot may be dipped in blood, the tongues of your dogs in the blood of your enemies."
24   They see your procession, O God, your procession into the sanctuary, my God and my King.
25   The singers go before, musicians follow after, in the midst of maidens playing upon the hand-drums.
26   Bless God in the congregation; bless the LORD, you that are of the fountain of Israel.
27   There is Benjamin, least of the tribes, at the head; the princes of Judah in a company; and the princes of Zebulon and Naphtali.
28   Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us.
29   Kings shall bring gifts to you, for your temple's sake at Jerusalem.
30   Rebuke the wild beast of the reeds, and the peoples, a herd of wild bulls with its calves.
31   Trample down those who lust after silver; scatter the peoples that delight in war.
32   Let tribute be brought out of Egypt; let Ethiopia stretch out her hands to God.
33   Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord.
34   He rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice.
35   Ascribe power to God; his majesty is over Israel; his strength is in the skies.
36   How wonderful is God in his holy places! the God of Israel giving strength and power to his people! Blessed be God!

Daily Meditation for February 23, 2016

 From Forward Day by Day

1 Corinthians 5:3-4 I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.

A couple fell in love over a scolding. They were attending an event with a foolish and irritating person. The woman started subtly mocking the annoying person. The man looked the woman in the eye and said, “You are better than this.” She felt that she had met her match in that moment: the man saw her potential and demanded she live up to it.

Paul encourages Christians to judge one another and even to drive some unrepentant sinners out of the church. While I disagree wholeheartedly with the approach of kicking people out of church, I can see a place for a community of Christians compassionately supporting one another in making ethical decisions. The idea of living in such a community sounds useful, if the motivation were loving and the advice were given humbly and kindly. We must take care though to always resist the temptation to indulge in self-righteousness and pronounce judgment.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Daily Readings for February 22, 2016

Genesis 41:46-57
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities; he stored up in every city the food from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance-- like the sand of the sea-- that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure. Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, "For," he said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house." The second he named Ephraim, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes." The seven years of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end; and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do." And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world.

1 Corinthians 4:8-21
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day. I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Mark 3:7-19
Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But he sternly ordered them not to make him known. He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home;

Psalm 56 Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy upon me, O God)
1   Have mercy on me, O God, for my enemies are hounding me; all day long they assault and oppress me.
2   They hound me all the day long; truly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
3   Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
4   In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, for what can flesh do to me?
5   All day long they damage my cause; their only thought is to do me evil.
6   They band together; they lie in wait; they spy upon my footsteps; because they seek my life.
7   Shall they escape despite their wickedness? O God, in your anger, cast down the peoples.
8   You have noted my lamentation; put my tears into your bottle; are they not recorded in your book?
9   Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight; this I know, for God is on my side.
10   In God the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, for what can mortals do to me?
11   I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God; I will present to you thank-offerings;
12   For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Psalm 57 Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy upon me, O God)
1   Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, for I have taken refuge in you; in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until this time of trouble has gone by.
2   I will call upon the Most High God, the God who maintains my cause.
3   He will send from heaven and save me; he will confound those who trample upon me; God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.
4   I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongue a sharp sword.
5   They have laid a net for my feet, and I am bowed low; they have dug a pit before me, but have fallen into it themselves.
6   Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, and your glory over all the earth.
7   My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody.
8   Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn.
9   I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD; I will sing praise to you among the nations.
10   For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
11   Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, and your glory over all the earth.

Psalm 58 Si vere utique (If indeed)
1   Do you indeed decree righteousness, you rulers? do you judge the peoples with equity?
2   No; you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.
3   The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth.
4   They are as venomous as a serpent, they are like the deaf adder which stops its ears,
5   Which does not heed the voice of the charmer, no matter how skillful his charming.
6   O God, break their teeth in their mouths; pull the fangs of the young lions, O LORD.
7   Let them vanish like water that runs off; let them wither like trodden grass.
8   Let them be like the snail that melts away, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
9   Before they bear fruit, let them be cut down like a brier; like thorns and thistles let them be swept away.
10   The righteous will be glad when they see the vengeance; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11   And they will say, "Surely, there is a reward for the righteous; surely, there is a God who rules in the earth."

Psalm 64 Exaudi, Deus (Hear, O)
1   Hear my voice, O God, when I complain; protect my life from fear of the enemy.
2   Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the mob of evildoers.
3   They sharpen their tongue like a sword, and aim their bitter words like arrows,
4   That they may shoot down the blameless from ambush; they shoot without warning and are not afraid.
5   They hold fast to their evil course; they plan how they may hide their snares.
6   They say, "Who will see us? who will find out our crimes? we have thought out a perfect plot."
7   The human mind and heart are a mystery; but God will loose an arrow at them, and suddenly they will be wounded.
8   He will make them trip over their tongues, and all who see them will shake their heads.
9   Everyone will stand in awe and declare God's deeds; they will recognize his works.
10   The righteous will rejoice in the LORD and put their trust in him, and all who are true of heart will glory.

Psalm 65 Te decet hymnus (You are praised)
1   You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.
2   To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, because of their transgressions.
3   Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out.
4   Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple.
5   Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away.
6   You make fast the mountains by your power; they are girded about with might.
7   You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples.
8   Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
9   You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; the river of God is full of water.
10   You prepare the grain, for so you provide for the earth.
11   You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
12   You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty.
13   May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, and the hills be clothed with joy.
14   May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; let them shout for joy and sing.