Thursday, December 14, 2017

Daily Lesson for December 14, 2017

Today’s Daily Lesson comes from Revelation chapter 2 verse 17:

17Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.

One of my now-gone mentors in the pastorate had a funeral sermon tradition of giving a new name to each departed person he buried. This was his way of telling of the significance of the departed’s life to him, to the family, and to this world. 

In the age that is to come we shall be given a new name. We shall be given a white stone with a new name. No one else knows the name or its meaning save the one who receives it and the one who gives it — out Lord. The name will be just between us, our significance to him, a name that conveys the meaning of the story we shared together. 

Here’s a few names that might be given:




Hopeful One

Tender One

Faithful Servant



Mighty Warrior






Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Daily Lesson for December 13, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 38 verses 1 through 10:

  O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2  For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3  There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4  For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5  My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6  I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7  For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8  I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9  O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10  My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

I have a friend who not long ago celebrated 40 years of sobriety. Sometime back, he spoke to a group of us about alcoholism and recovery and he told us that when he first got sober and returned from a long-term treatment facility his mother came to see him and said, "Your eyes are looking out again."

The road of recovery is the journey towards looking out again. It is the journey from isolation to community, shame to redemption, and sickness to health.  It is the journey from darkness back into light.

The psalmist in today's lesson is living in the darkness isolation.  By my count he uses the words "I", "me" or "my" twenty-six times in only 10 verses.  His eyes are all inward. Or, as he puts it, the light from his eyes is gone from him.

It seems hopeless. Yet, ironically, it is the hopeful moment. Suddenly he sees!  He who has no light can nonetheless see that he has no light.  All therefore is not lost because he still can see with the light of the memory of light.  He is seeing himself now with the flickering, yet doggedly defiant light we call hope.

The writer of Psalm 38 is living in darkness.  He is sick and not well. He is alone and not in community. He is thinking only of himself and not others.

But don't give up on him, because he is still talking to God, still remembering God, still remembering the Very Light of Very Light . . .

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily Lesson for December 12, 2017

Today’s Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 28 verse 10:

“The Lord is the strength of his people, 
a safe refuge for his anointed.”

We cannot do this on our own.

The mountains we have to climb are too tall and our own abilities too weak to make it through without real, supernatural strength. 

This is the first, bedrock principle laid down as a part of any legitimate spiritual endeavor, whether personal or communal. The spirit of God must be the animating force. The sabbath of God must be the place of the soul’s deep rest. And the strength of God must be what is relied upon to knock down the gates of hell.

The LORD is with us. The LORD is working in and will work through us. The LORD has called us to this place at this time — for this time. 

Trust the LORD. 

“Trust the LORD and lean not on your own understanding.”

Why do I have to keep learning this Lesson?

Maybe because it’s THE LESSON. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily Lesson for December 9, 2017

Today’s Daily Office comes from Revelation chapter 1 verses 4 and 5:
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Have you watched It’s A Wonderful Life yet this Christmas?  Do you remember George Bailey’s haphazard angel Clarence, who still doesn’t have his wings?  If I’m ever in the kind of trouble George was in I hope God sends an angel who has already earned his wings!

There is an old Jewish tradition found in the book of 1 Enoch which tells us seven angels who watch over creation. Their names are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sarakiel, Gabriel, and Ramiel.  Likewise in today’s Lesson, the book of Revelation tells of the seven spirits who stand before the throne of God, ready to be sent into the world when given the word. The point is that the angelic beings and all of the powers of heaven are on our side, eager to come to our aid. 

God will not leave us to fight our battles alone. God sends angels, winged or not, to come to our side and help, to bring us messages of hope and assurance, to encourage and empower us to keep on keeping on, to tip the balance of spiritual warfare.

There’s more to this war and this world than what we can physically see. Revelation pulls back the curtain that we might spiritually see and believe. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Daily Lesson for December 8, 2017

Today’s Daily Lesson is the Parable of the Wedding Feast from Matthew 22:
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.4Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”14For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Now here is a difficult story. It is one about sin and judgment and exile. When it rolls around in the Liturgical Calendar we conclude its public reading with these words: “This is the Gospel of grace.”  It could well be phrased as a question, “This is the Gospel of grace?”

It is. 

It is the white hot, searing truth of judgment and penalty that drives us to God’s grace. 

The grace is not cheap. It is costly.  It demands repentance. It demands change of heart and change of mind. It demands life change.

The man without the wedding robe was unwilling to change. He was unwilling to think or act differently. He was stuck in his ways. He still carried the same old prejudices inside hisself. He thought he could still behave with impunity and without consequence. He thought he could show up and act like boar at a wedding he either didn’t approve of or respect. He was wrong.

For these mistakes in judgment he now found himself in the outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth —and also opportunity to think about a real change.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 6, 2017

Today’s Daily Lesson comes from 2 Peter chapter 3 verses 8 through 10:

8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

And Matthew chapter 21 verses 28 through 32:

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

It’s not too late for change.

A day of revelation is coming, of which what we are witnessing now in the public domain is just a precursor. We have different words for this day. Some call it the the Day of the LORD, some call it the Day of Judgment, some the Day of Reckoning, some the day we hit bottom. In any case, it’s coming. 

Now then is the time for humility. Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time for a change of attitude and life. Now is the time to confess sin, fall upon the mercy of God, get up a new man or a new woman. 

God wills that none should perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). The door of repentance remains open. It’s still ajar. It hasn’t closed. God just keeps it open. And so it’s still even now not too late to be repent, be saved from myself, and start being a much better me. 

Daily Lesson for December 7, 2017

Today’s Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 18 verses 8 through 15:

7 The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

There is now a great shaking of the foundations.

Congressmen stepping down, entertainment stars fired in disgrace, the integrity of governmental agencies being called into question.

It is indeed a fearful time. But we are not to be dismayed.

The LORD is purifying our nation and testing our integrity. A great purging is taking place, a mighty cleansing. The foundations of our society, our values as a people, and our national constitution are all being put on trial. It is an act of God. 

Things may get worse before they get better. There may be more uncertainty and foreboding. There may even be greater crisis. It’s hard to know what God is doing in the darkness. 

But we are to hold fast.  We are to keep trusting that the foundations of our democracy are true and noble and will stand the test.

I have been thinking of what Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said after the police shootings in Dallas last summer. We are a people of “Faith, Hope, and Love” —having faith in the integrity of our institutions, hoping that we can endure all things, and choosing to love our neighbors and also even our enemies. 

Those are strong and steadying words for unsettling times.