Accounting 101


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Leviticus 23:23-44, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18, Matthew 7:13-21

Near the end of his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul addressed the complaint that some believers were not doing their fair share, but were idle busybodies: “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” He reminded the church of his earlier lesson: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Remember that the early church lived in close community, pooling their resources and distributing them according to need. Any resources that went to support the idle among them could not be put to better use by helping the poor.

When we commit ourselves to Christ, we can’t just say we believe the right things and think our responsibility ends there. Continue reading

Logs and Specks


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Leviticus 23:1-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Matthew 7:1-12

[H]ow can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

Hypocrisy is one of Jesus’s biggest targets. When he criticizes the hypocrisy of religious leaders, we cheer him on. However, his admonitions are not limited to authority figures: they apply to us also. When he spoke of logs and specks, it was to his followers in general. Continue reading

Don’t Worry, Be Lily

tiger lilies

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Leviticus 19:26-37, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Matthew 6:25-34

The United States is a nation of worriers. The stock market can fluctuate wildly based on minuscule setbacks. Advertisers prey on our insecurities about health, appearance and status. Our twenty-four hour news cycle brings the most lurid concerns of the entire world directly into our homes. The difficult thing about worry is that it’s always got one toe in reality. Maybe our jobs really are in danger. Maybe the fruit we eat does contain unsafe pesticides. Maybe we did leave the curling iron plugged in. Continue reading

Gleaning Compassion



Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Leviticus 19:1-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, Matthew 6:19-24

Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament. Even if we consider Christ’s sacrifice a watershed event, the moment when we were freed from the law and its harsh demands, God who wiped out entire nations to make room for the Israelites seems very far from the God of Christ who wants us to love our enemies. But even in the hundreds of laws laid out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy we see glimpses of Christ’s teachings. Continue reading

Balancing Act


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Leviticus 16:20-34, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 6:7-15

Paul told the Thessalonians the Day of the Lord would arrive like a thief in the night or the pains of labor. Those living in darkness – that is, without the light of Christ – would be caught unawares in a false sense of security and suffer the consequences. Those living in the light would be prepared and rejoice. But how exactly is one to prepare? First century Christians expected Jesus to return any moment, and abandoned many earthly pursuits. As a couple thousand years passed, it became more apparent Christ’s return would be less … immediate. Continue reading

Keep it in the Closet


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 145, Leviticus 16:1-19, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Other than during a tornado watch, when is the last time any of us prayed in a closet? Most of us would probably answer: “Never.” Yet that is exactly what Christ advised his disciples to do: “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Most translations use the word “room” but the Greek is closer to “inner room” – or closet. Of course Christ’s point was not the architecture, but the privacy. Even in Christ’s time, public prayer was often more a bid for the admiration of people, rather than communion with God. Continue reading

Carpenter’s Son

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36, Hebrews 12:1-14, Luke 4:16-30

How do you feel about high school reunions? Your answer probably depends on how much you enjoyed your high school experience. The older we get the less we are like our high school selves, but stepping into those locker-lined hallways and through those gymnasium doors shifts a part of our brain back into those teenage dynamics. Some part of us expects people to be like they were then, and they expect the same of us. When we know someone as a youth, we can have trouble seeing how they are different as adults. All of us are both victims and perpetrators of this phenomenon. Continue reading

Invitation: I Can See Clearly Now


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my eyes. Design-wise they aren’t so great. I am very near-sighted. I’m fortunate that my vision is easily corrected with glasses or contacts, but without corrective lenses my adult vision has landed somewhere between 20/220 and 20/240. Legal blindness is 20/200 in the better eye. I can’t read normal print more than about 6 inches from my face, and headlines are a strain at arm’s length. Since eyeglasses weren’t invented until the latter half of the 13th century, I am grateful to have been born afterward. In the 12th century, despite a pretty capable brain, my options would have been quite limited by my visual impairment. My potential – maybe my understanding of the world – would probably never have exceeded the length of my arm. Ironically, my inability to see would have rendered others unable to see me for who I truly was. Continue reading

Sunshine and Rain

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Exodus 40:18-38, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Matthew 5:38-48

Turn the other cheek. When sued for your cloak, offer your coat too. If forced to go one mile, go a second one. Give to everyone who begs from you. Loan to anyone who asks. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. In these teachings, Jesus is telling his followers, I know you know the minimum legal requirements, and that’s fine, but actually loving involves so much more

Who actually does these things – all of them – all the time? Continue reading

There is No Eye in Team Jesus

1461355487367[1]Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Exodus 34:18-35, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13, Matthew 5:27-37

One of the challenges of being an original disciple of Christ might have been figuring out when he wanted to be taken literally, and when he was exaggerating to make a point. The book of Acts and the letters of Paul don’t tell any stories of one-handed, one-eyed evangelists, so they seem to have assumed the latter when he said: “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” and “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.”

Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation. Continue reading