Monday, June 26, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 26, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 21 verses 29 through 36:

29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly,35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

The kingdom of God cannot be hastened, rushed, or pulled into our presence. It has come and is always coming, but it's arrival is always like a thief in the night. We do not know when it will all happen in our lives; so the most we can do is be ready and be present in the moment we are in. 

Jesus said the leaves of the fig tree tell us summer is upon us. It's arrival is a surprise. "I can't believe it's already summer again," we say.

The kingdom of God is like that, Jesus says. Without the shooting of a starter pistol or the ringing of a bell, here it is out of nowhere. A small child asks us, "Where is God?"  A young person asks where we think his dad is now. An old woman in a nursing home asks us to help comb her hair.

There it is, upon us, without any warning.  And when we see these things we know that the kingdom of God is near.  Here and now. Today.  A total surprise. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 23, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Acts chapter 2 verse 42:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

What was true in the beginning to make church work is still true today. It's not gimmickry or false promises about prosperity or some universal formula for doing church that is being peddled at the next big conference. 

It's simple.  It's basic. It's fundamental. It's a small group of people doing life together in such a compelling way that they end up attracting others to come and take part also. 

The group is authentic, its self-sacrificing, and its faithful.  And, it's dedicated to those same shared practices that the early church started with: to study, to shared time and mutual belonging, to eating and drinking and genuinely being in one another's presence, and to praying for and over one another and one another's families. 

This community isn't perfect or ideal; I know.  My former pastor and good friend Charlie Johnson used to say, "This ain't heaven; it's church."  And as Bonhoeffer said, those who idealize the church will end up destroying it. 

It's not heaven. But it is that place and that people that God has chosen to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. It's church. And it needs you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 22, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 21 verses 1 through 4:

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

If you pastor for long enough you know the widow. You see her Sunday by Sunday. You get a glimpse of her checks coming in faithfully week by week, month by month, and year by year. The amount of any one check is not impressive; but the amount year by year is. And so is the steadfastness.  It's her consistency that stuns and honors and humbles.

Because I am her pastor I know what the widow gives up and does without. She still drives the same old car. She still lives in the same old house. She does not take lavish vacations. She lives meagerly; she walks humbly.  She is a model faithfulness. 

The widow will never have a building named after her. She will never be honored with an endowment in her name. She gave all her money to the church and because it's church we didn't trumpet it. We weren't willing to let the left hand know what the right hand was doing.

But there is one who does know. He knows.  He sees. And one day, maybe not too far away, she'll receive her reward. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 21, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 82 verses 6 and 7:

6 Now I say to you, 'You are gods, 
and all of you children of the Most High;

7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, 
and fall like any prince.

Now here is a proper perspective on what it means to be human. 

We are made in the image of God, God-breathed, and God-blessed and so like God that we might be said to be gods.

And yet, we are also dust and to dust we shall return. We are mortals. We fall and get up. We fall again and can't help ourselves. We are not God. I am not God.  I know I am not God. 

Somewhere along the spiritual (human) journey, it is important to come to terms with who we are, to see ourselves as gods and also not God.  For the Scylla and Charybdis which can destroy any human soul is to think either too highly or too lowly of oneself. 

We are gods; but we are not God. Getting that in proper perspective will save us from hubris and also from timidity.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 20, 2017

 Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 78 verses 15 and 16:

15 He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; 16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.

 Hidden beneath the surface of the heart, deep within the human soul, is a reservoir which some call Resilience and some Survivor and others simply call Strength. 

This is deep water which, unfortunately, can only be discovered by the way of the wilderness. Success cannot find this water. Prosperity and affluence and ease of life will never drink from it. These will never discover it. They will never thirst enough to find it out.  This water can only be found in the stone. And the stone is hard -- hard like Flint, like the Wailing Wall, or like the Rock of Ages. 

Only struggle and pain and the harshness of the journey are strong enough to break the Rock.  But strike the Rock and God's living water streams out. The River of Life streams out. The Glad River streams out. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 19, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from 1 Samuel chapter 1 verse 20:

"In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’"

and Acts chapter 1 verses 6 and 7:

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

The Bible speaks about two different conceptions of time.  One is Chronos, or chronological time. This is predictable time, time measured by clock and calendar. This time as winter, spring, summer, and fall.  This is time we can count on and by.

The other time the Bible speaks of is Kairos, sometimes translated as "in the fullness of time" or "in due season".  This is unpredictable time. This is unknown time. This is the time when a rose blossoms or a baby is conceived. This is God's time -- time hidden in the mystery of God. 

There are times we can count on. It's mid-June and so the days are growing long -- count on it. But then there are also times we can't predict, times which are hidden in mystery, times we cannot hasten or hurry, times which belong only to the LORD.  For these times we can only wait.

Wait. And hope . . .

Friday, June 16, 2017

Daily Lesson for June 16, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 19 verse 41a:

"As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it."

Maybe you know the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept."  That is found in the book of John chapter 11 verse 35 and the occasion was the death of Jesus' friend Lazarus. 

But today's Lesson is a lesser know occasion of Jesus weeping. It is the time Jesus wept over not only his closest friend, but over the whole city.  Before he wept over the city, however, he first saw the city.

Do you see the city that is around you?  Do you know it's streets, it's schools, it's "lonely islands of poverty" in the midst of its "ocean of material prosperity"?  Do you know where the men stand as they wait in line to see if they'll be hired for today?  Do you know where he will stand in line again this evening for a free, hot meal served along with things just as necessary to life as bread -- a warm smile and a gentle hug?  Do you know the bar where the insurance agent will go yet again tonight to try to drown another kind of poverty -- the poverty of spirit? Do you see and know it enough to weep over it?

Jesus saw the city. He did not close his eyes but opened them. He gazed upon the city. He beheld it in all its strength and sorrow. And because he did, Jesus wept.