Thursday, August 25

Words of Praise
Rise energy –
Strength sustained,
Thursday’s work
For fingers trained.

Toil of our hands,
Work of our mind,
God’s great grace
Is intertwined.

Bless the work.
Bless the day.
Come to aid us.
Angels stay!

Ephesians 5:1-6 

Notes
1. This passage includes the only appearance of the phrase “be imitators of God” in the New Testament. In addition we are urged to “live in love.” How to attempt such a challenge? We can only look to the Gospels and take the teachings and actions of Jesus as our guide.Feed the imagination with powerful stories of the transforming effects of forgiveness and love. Remember that kindness is never a mistake. Self-giving love is never an accident.

2. The list of vices in vv.3-5 are arranged in groups of three.
5:3 includes sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. Perhaps in this case greed is to be understood as unrestrained sexual greed. Christians are to separate themselves from those behaviors.

5:4 refers to indecency, foolish talk and vulgar talk. The author is calling for disciplined speech with the offensive language replaced by thanksgiving.

5:5 encompasses “every evil, impure, or greedy person.”

3. One author responded to these admonitions by saying, “This didn’t mean that I had to be perfect or a Goody Two-shoes, or a Holy Roller, thank God. I could be my own real self. In fact God wanted me to be my own real self. All I needed was to keep in mind that we all make mistakes, and that forgiveness is the key.”

This Week’s Prayer

Wednesday, August 24

 Words of Praise
When we work to surrender our own desires, world view, self-image, and all that goes to make up the false self, we are truly participating in Christ’s emptying of himself.
Thomas Keating

Matthew 26:6-13

Notes
1. The Location – The home of Simon the Leper. (The location is different in other  gospels.)  As a leper, Simon was “ritually unclean,” as were those who came into contact with him. There is no indication that Simon had been cured by Jesus.

2. The Actor – In Matthew the woman remains totally anonymous. She is not identified as host, guest, bystander, or intruder. She is the only one to perceive that the one hailed by others as Lord  is the one to be crucified.

3. The Action – She pours very expensive perfume over the head of Jesus. Other gospels have the woman washing Jesus’ feet. Hers is an extravagant act of devotion, done in preparation for Jesus’ burial.

4. The Reaction – The disciples become angry, calling her deed a waste, and pointing out that the sale of the perfume would bring in money to help the poor. It seems to be a legitimate observation, in keeping with Jesus’ emphasis on caring for the poor.

5. Jesus’ Reply – Jesus is not opposed to generosity which aids the most vulnerable. He does contrast extravagant attempts to help the poor with this extravagant devotion to the one to be crucified. Her deed is a model of extravagant love and insight while others have been unseeing.

Prayer of the Week

Monday, August 22

A Word of Praise
There is a peace that comes when lowering clouds burst and
the whole landscape is drenched in rain,
refreshing and cool.
There is the peace that comes when hours of sleeplessness
are finally swallowed up in sleep
deep relaxing and calm.
The Peace of God, which passes all understanding,
shall guard my heart and my thoughts.

O Peace of God, settle over me and within me
so that I cannot tell mine from thine
and thine from mine.
                                         Howard Thurman

Romans 2:1-11

Notes
1. These words are set in the context of the Final Judgment. Until that point God holds back from summary judgment to give people ample opportunity to repent. However, the postponement will yield even more wrath on the hard-hearted who do not repent.

2. The judgment will be impartial and universal. Every nation and race will be included and each will be judged alike. “There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (vs, 9-10)

3. God will judge the people of the world according to their works. “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds.” (v.6) For the Jews, mere possession of the Torah is not a talisman to avoid judgment. What counts is doing Torah. Among the Gentiles are people who do what Torah requires even though they are not Jews.

4. The Final Judgment remains good news for millions, but we cannot downgrade that good news to a vague hope for a better life hereafter. When the clarity of the Christian view of future judgment is lost, so too are any moral imperative and the true hope of the oppressed.

This Week’s Prayer

Wednesday, August 17

A picture of a stained glass window, titled “Day 3,” in The Mission: A Seventh Day Adventist Church in Great Britain.

Words of Praise
Creation sings! And we are in the music,
the movement of God’s energy and art,
a liturgy that links our life to angels,
a litany that rises from the heart.
Creation Sings words by Shirley Erana Murray,
Worship and Song, 3018

Genesis 1:9-13

Notes
On the third day the earth itself begins participating in the creative process. Plants and trees have the capacity to reproduce themselves. The realm of the divine and the realm of the created are overlapping spheres, sharing power, roles, and responsibilities.

Consider the miracle of a seed. When the earth receives it, roots go down for nourishment in the darkness, and the stalk pushes up in the light. Multiply that by all the grain fields and orchards of the world and imagine the total harvest.

Economic stability and social health depend upon the blessings of the land. Where the soil is impoverished the whole level of life is as well. To sin against the land is to sin against the good life which God has put within our reach.

A final thought – God created not only trees, grass, and food crops for practical necessities. God created the flower too, primarily for the sake of beauty. Industry and commerce can too easily destroy the beauty on which our souls should feed.

This Week’s Prayer

Tuesday, August 16

 Words of Praise
I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me
From snares of devils, From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear, Alone and in multitude.
Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Genesis 1:6-8

Notes
The writer had no concept of infinite space and thought that the sky was something solid. This “dome” provided living space between the waters above and the waters on or below the earth. Snow and rain fell through windows in the dome above. The seas were formed by water flowing through channels below.

This Week’s Prayer

Monday, August 15

Words of Praise
The heavens express your fire
The night sky is the work of your hands
Day after day is your spoken language
Night after night your perfect knowing
There is no speech, there are no words
Their voice falls silent
Yet the music plays everywhere
To the end of the earth its clear notes float out.
                                       Psalm 19

Genesis 1:1-5

Notes
1. Notice that the Bible begins with the creation account rather than the birth of Israel. It begins with a testimony to the universal activity of God. In other words, God was involved in the lives of people long before Israel existed.

2. The universe was not created ex nihilo – from nothing. God worked with things which were already there: a formless void, the deep, the waters. There was chaos, and already the Spirit of God was moving.

3. Creation happened through the power of God’s word. God speaks and something happens: “Let there be light; and there was light.” Creation was not an accident, but a deliberate act of the divine will.

4. This story reflects the Hebrew sense of time: evening, then morning. We should learn this important lesson – The day begins as we are going to sleep, unable to contribute anything. During the night, life goes on, develops and grows. The night is full of activity to which we are oblivious. Upon awakening, we foolish suppose that our job is to make things happen. The more appropriate attitude is to ask what God is already doing and where we best fit in.

Prayer of the Week 

Thursday, August 11

Word of Praise
You are my child.
You are written in the palm of my hand.
You are hidden in the shadow of my hand.
I have molded you in the secret of the earth.
I have knitted you together in your mother’s womb.
You belong to me.
I am yours. You are mine.
Henri Nouwen

Genesis 41:14-36

Notes
1. Once again, Joseph is summoned to interpret a dream – that of Pharaoh. However, Joseph insists,”It is not I; God will give Pharoah a favorable answer” — and this before Joseph has even heard the dream! The comment does highlight the main lesson of this passage: The full future which a dream opens depends upon our involvement as well as God’s. We cannot rightly interpret a vision apart from God’s illumination, and often God cannot fully implement the vision without our collaboration.

2. The lesson is illustrated by Joseph’s suggestion that, in light of Pharaoh’s dream, he should set aside a reserve of grain during the years of abundant harvest to feed the people during the years of famine. Pharaoh should not resign himself and his nation to their fate, but begin now to plan and make wise decisions. By following that advice, Pharaoh not only provided for his people, but also for Joseph’s. The story shows how God can use wise leaders outside the community of faith to help in shaping the future which God desires.

This Week’s Prayer