About johnhughmiddleton

I am a United Methodist pastor with a variety of interests. Most recently I have been exploring the role of art in Christian spirituality. Evidently a growing number of folks share that interest because the literature is extensive. I have prayed one form or another of the Liturgy of the Hours for several years. The RCL Daily Lectionary is a valuable asset, especially to those laity and clergy who are accustomed to using the three year Sunday lectionary.

Tuesday, November 29

Words of Praise
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Micah 4:6-13
In contrast to God’s call for the destruction of weapons and the end of war, these verses in the same chapter depict a god of militarism and vengeance. Earlier, love and good feeling toward all people abounded. Here Micah reaches a climax of hate and vindictiveness against other nations, calling for their annihilation.

God had acted for their good during the bitterness of the Exile, rescuing his people from the hand of their enemies. (v.10) However, in the first century after their return from Babylon, the Jews in Jerusalem struggled for existence. The neighboring nations were determined there would be no substantial Jewish settlement there.

Israel’s enemies were unaware of one factor: God was going to have something to say about the outcome of this matter. “They do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan.” (v.10) The Gentile nations would be beaten in pieces and their wealth would be devoted “to the Lord of the whole earth.”

God can use human intentions, whether for good or evil, to accomplish what God wills. God takes our human desires, out of good motives or bad, and works toward goals of justice, peace, and mercy. Human sin makes God’s task more difficult, but God’s intention is always toward the good.

This Week’s Prayer


Monday, November 28

Words of Praise
We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.  Anton Chekov

Micah 4:1-5
Micah envisions a time when Jerusalem and the God of Israel are put at the center of life.  All nations will turn toward Jerusalem and submit to the authority of the Hebrew God. When they are able to do this, then weapons will no longer be necessary and there will no longer be wars.

Interestingly,the book of Isaiah contains the same vision, and virtually the same words, as Micah uses here. For me the question of which prophet borrowed from the other is less important than the fact that they shared a hope for a future without war.

Micah and Isaiah wrote in the 8th century BCE. There have been thousands of wars, large and small, since that time, resulting in untold millions of deaths.

Their vision is an ideal that we may long for, but which seems impossible to achieve. In a world of many cultures and religions, it is a far-off vision that all will submit to the same God, or live in peace under any circumstances. Even Christians cannot agree on what God expects from us.

One “enemy” or threat is replaced by another. The impulse to fight is close to the surface. It is difficult to imagine the elimination of all weapons and all wars. The question, “If we give up our weapons, how can we defend ourselves?” is not going away.

And yet this prophecy remains a vision to be cherished and pursued. It represents the way life should be. Whether it can ever happen in this world, it stands as God’s goal for the future, which might, we hope with the prophets, influence our lives and actions in the present.

This Week’s Prayer

Monday, October 3

Words of Praise
In the silence before time began,
in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning
is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation.
at the birth of every creature,
at the center of each moment
is your splendor.
Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter, p. 38

Deuteronomy 5:1-21

1. The Ten Commandments are understood as a form of a “higher law” that stands behind and above all human systems of law. They do not, however, elaborate new areas of life that need to be regulated. These subjects have formed the basis of numerous statements of religious law. As part of Torah, the Commandments are a document of Israel’s faith. Yet they have been understood within both Judaism and Christianity as an essentially universal ethical document.

2. The ten provisions combine one’s duties to God (verses 6-15) and one’s duties to fellow human beings (verses 16-21).

3. Despite much speculation, it is of no great significance that eight of the ten are set out as prohibitions.

4. The Commandments are distinguished as direct speech of God. They are not simply the speech of Moses. In almost all other cases, it is the prophets who utter such directives, but only “in the name of the Lord.” In the Commandments we hear the voice of God.

This Week’s Prayer 

Monday, September 26

A Word of Praise
Praise to you Divine Presence.
You laid the foundations of the earth
when the morning stars sang together.
You called forth the first fireball thirteen billion years ago.
May the flame of prayer kindle in each corner of my home
that this place might be sacred for encountering you.

Exodus 18:1-12  

1. The names of Moses’ two sons mean ‘Alien’ and ‘Help.’ The community of Israel and the community of the Church are, by definition, ‘alien’ to every culture, living only by the ‘help’ of God. The community of faith is not “at home” in any cultural context, any more than Moses was at home in Egypt. On the other hand, ‘help’ reminds us that the community of faith is not self-sufficient (needing no help from God) nor abandoned (with no source of assistance in time of need.)

2. Moses give the most basic testimony of faith to Jethro: “God delivered”  and “God led.” These phrases are the expression of a faith that is public, concrete, and political.

3. Jethro is the model for the way in which biblical faith is heard and embraced.. The core activity  of the early church in Acts is telling and hearing.- thus the primary form of evangelism.

This Week’s Prayer

Monday, September 19

A Word of Praise
Most of us have a heavy burden of emotional junk accumulated from early childhood. The body serves as the storehouse for this undigested emotional material. The Spirit initiates the process of healing by evacuating the junk. This takes place as a result of the deep rest of mind and body in contemplative prayer.
Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p. 110

Romans 16:1-16

This section of Romans contains more personal greetings than the rest of Paul’s letters put together. A few things to notice – –
1. Phoebe is identified as “a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae.” It is unusual to find a reference to a church official this early in Paul’s correspondence. In fact, there are no other allusions to a deaconess in the New Testament. In Philippians 1, Paul speaks of “bishops and deacons,” and one may conclude that, where there are deacons, the possibility of deaconesses cannot be ruled out.

2. Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were among Paul’s closest friends. In I Corinthians 16:19 the couple seems to be located in Ephesus. In Acts:18, Paul finds them in Corinth and stays with them there. Now they are reported in Rome.

3. Nothing whatever is known from any other source about the other twenty individuals and two families mentioned in these verses. Only one of the names is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Rufus is found in Mark 15:21 where Simon of Cyrene is named as the father of Alexander and Rufus.

4. Three other of Paul’s letters mention the “holy kiss” of verse 16. (! Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Corinthians 16:20, and 2 Corinthians 13:12.) It is also found in 1 Peter 5:14. We know from other sources that the holy kiss was a regular part of the Roman liturgy around AD 150. This gesture of reconciliation is preserved today in the Passing of the Peace.

This Week’s Prayer

September 12

A Word of Praise
Blessed are those who walk not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit with those who scoff;
but delight in your law, O God,
pondering it day and night.

Hebrews 11:23-29                                                

1. Exodus recounts the story of Moses’ and the Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom. It provides the narrative line and historical details of the journey in the form of a gripping drama.

Hebrews recasts the narrative as a faith story. Each verse in this section begins:”By faith.” Moses makes each decision and takes each step by faith in God. His life begins in a boat of reeds floating in the river, rescued from death by the faith of his parents. In Hebrews 11, he crosses the Red Sea as if on dry land, trusting God’s promise to make a way.

2.An important part of the story is Moses’ refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and his identification with his own people. By faith he turned his back on the palace life and its “temporary pleasures of sin” and join his own oppressed people.

3. Taken together, the two stories sketch an outline of faith. Faith is not simply belief that there is a god, but trust that God is involved in our lives. Faith is also hope, looking beyond the immediate to God’s future. Faith is tenacious and enduring, accepting promises deferred in the conviction that death does not annul God’s promises to us. Faith is courageous, acting in the face of royal edicts and fury. Faith may be subjective, but it is not totally subjective. It is the substance, the essence, of the very things hoped for.

This Week’s Prayer

Monday, August 29

The map shows the seven churches of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3

Words of Praise
All creatures that have breath and motion,
That throng the earth, the sea, the sky,
Come, share with me my heart’s devotion,
Help me to sing God’s praises high!
My utmost powers can never quite
Declare the wonders of God’s might!

Revelation 3:1-6

1. The city of Sardis had a great interest in the imperial cult, stimulated by the generosity of Emperor Tiberius in rebuilding the city following an earthquake in AD 17.

2. The church had “a name of being alive, but was dead.” The nature of the church’s shortcomings is not clearly stated. The problem may have been that of the seed described in Matthew 13 – It fell on rocky ground and sprang up well enough, but wilted in the sun’s heat because the roots were shallow. There was a grave difference between the appearance of the church’s life and the reality of the situation.

3. However, there were “still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” As often happens, a faithful remnant remained. These few are dressed in “white garments, heavenly and immortal bodies,” which are among the rewards given to martyrs in Revelation.

4. The Spirit encourages the church to “wake up and strengthen what remains.” It is helpful advice to any congregation – Do not become inattentive and indifferent. Go back to the basics. Build on who you are, on the strengths that you still have, relying on the most faithful leaders among you..

Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

This Week’s Prayer