Monday – August 2, 2021
2 Samuel 12.1-3
Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children.
A Word of Hope
Have you ever watched any of the old Frank Capra movies? You probably have, even though you may not have been aware that Frank Capra directed them. The most recognizable title to everyone would likely be It’s a Wonderful Life, which has aired annually a few million times during the Christmas season. Some of his other films, such as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and meet John Doe all are variations on the same theme: The pure-of-heart Common Man vs the heartless Greedy Rich Establishment. The Common man always wins, of course. The movie’s endings were so predictable that reviewers for years have referred to them as Capra-Corn.
The plotlines were not unique to Capra, however, when we consider the ancient and biblical sources of so many of them. When we read the opening line of the above 2 Samuel narrative and come across the phrase, “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor….”, there is not a question in our minds as to who good guy and who the bad guy are going to be. The story is told by Nathan the Prophet to King David. The rich man who has everything steals the only treasured possession of the poor man who otherwise has nothing. King David is righteously outraged by the underhanded deed to the point of wanting to see the rich pay back the poor man fourfold or even be put to death; perhaps the same kneejerk reaction we might have when the unredeemable Mr. Potter steals benevolent George Bailey’s Wonderful Life out from under him.
Then Nathan’s story develops an unexpected plot twist as he tells King David, “You are that rich man,” referring to David’s betrayal of his loyal servant, Uriah, in arranging for Uriah’s death so that David could steal the man’s wife, Bathsheba, as his own. The Prophet then bravely outlines the details and degree of the King’s transgression, certainly at the risk of his own life in the court of an all-powerful monarch. David, however, takes the surprise ending in stride and becomes profoundly repentant, declaring “I have sinned before the Lord” throwing the Capra-corn ending out the window. David knows who he is and admits it.
David’s reaction to the story challenges us to examine our own lives. It’s easy to identify with James Stewart’s generous and compassionate George Bailey, because we are the good guys, but how many of us can admit to having some of the same desires as Lionel Barrymore’s sinister Mr. Potter? Real life is not a Frank Capra movie. Could it be that there is a little bit of both in each of us?
Understanding God, guide us on the path toward honest self-appraisal. May we learn to know ourselves as you have always known us. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – July 30, 2021
1 Corinthians 11:27-34 New International Version
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
So then, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions.
A Word of Hope
The early church had to learn a lot about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In his letter to one of these early churches, the church at Corinth, made up of mostly converts to Christianity, Paul finds himself having to help them understand how to live out a life of service, equality, and justice.
As we see from the reading today, the people of Corinth were a mixed demographic, socially and economically, and Paul challenges those who have to consider those who have not. He reminds them that the meal of remembrance, instituted by Jesus, is one that is to be shared together. It is a meal of liberation, not privilege and it is a meal that calls us to both remember Jesus and to become like Jesus.
This theme is central to those who call themselves “Followers of Jesus”. We are to become like Jesus. We are to emulate his life, his teachings, his values, his “way”. We must care for the poor, the refugee, the hungry, the homeless, – indeed we are called to care “for the very least of these”, as Jesus would put it.
It was important to Paul that the gathering for the Lord’s Supper was done in a way that modeled this for the community, in a hope that it would begin to change people’s hearts and minds and became a way of life, permeating other aspects of their daily experience.
These lessons are important for us all, and when we come to the table, just as we are, it is a reminder to both remember Jesus and to make Jesus real in all that we do, and say, and act. It is both an individual and communal act of grace offered, received, and given away. Perhaps it even calls us to our better self.
Faith in Jesus is a “leveling” one – that regardless of age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, regardless of economic status or role that we have found in our world, in the world of Jesus, we are all one and equal.
Today is International Day of Friendship. As we go about our day may we remember our friendship with Jesus and translate that into an opportunity to be in friendship with others.
God, may we receive the gift of your love and by doing so, may we be free to share it with those we encounter this day, and in the days to come. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Thomas
Thursday – July 29, 2021
“If you look at the world, you’ll become distressed.”
-Corrie Ten Boom
A Word of Hope
Many of my reflective readings for prayer times are derived from quotations of the Christian writer, Corrie Ten Boom. She grew up in her father’s Amsterdam watch shop/home. During Nazi control of the city, her family provided shelter and care for many Jewish families until her family was betrayed and sent to a concentration camp. She was able to survive (her family died), and in adult life she became a Christian author and world-wide lecturer. Her quotes will always be with us.
“If you look at the world, you’ll become distressed.” This has never been more true than in our current time when 24/7 news and opinion comes raining down on us via television and social media. Will this downpour never slow to a trickle? “If you look within yourself to solve problems, you’ll become depressed.”
What can one person, like me, do in order to set things right? You can do your small part, but the whole of the problem is so great. How do you start? It’s depressing that all you can do is only a tiny, and maybe inconsequential, effort to correct things. Consider Corrie Ten Boom’s conclusion in this reading: “If you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
In the midst of this dust storm of conflict, don’t seek to find the world’s answer to the mess; rather, seek Christ’s desire for living your life within the confusion. Jesus understands better your potential and will guide and empower you to live a lifestyle which is beneficial to others. And you’ll realize that your contribution to the peaceful solution will be exactly right; whether it be small or great. These lines are Corrie Ten Boom’s complete thought on this meditation: “If you look at the world, you’ll become distressed. If you look within yourself to solve the problems, you’ll become depressed. If you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
My Lord Jesus, as I walk through this day’s multiplicity of activities and distractions, focus my heart to be ever present to you; for the one thing in which my heart can rest is you. Soften my heart and open my eyes to behold your loving presence all around me today. Strengthen my resolve to do your will so that the world may rejoice and give praise to you. Amen.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Wednesday – July 28, 2021
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Words of Hope
I have heard this story interpreted many ways. Some believe it was a supernatural miracle where fish and loaves magically appeared. Others believe that as the meager supplies were passed around, people added provisions that they had brought and shared with each other. Either way the importance of this story to me is this simple statement; no one should go hungry.
In a country like ours with such astounding wealth, it is an absolute sin that anyone should go hungry, regardless of their situation. We can afford to build terrifying weapons of unimaginable power, yet every night thousands of people go to bed hungry and will most likely face food insecurity for most of their lives.
This story reminds me that it does not have to be that way, and I am not just talking about feeding people through our benevolence programs at the church. I am talking about us as a society reexamining our priorities and following Jesus example. He doesn’t do a “means test” to see who deserves to be fed, he just feeds them. Pretty simple stuff.
If we stop trying to rely on miracles to solve our problems, we might just find the miracle is within us to do the work Jesus calls us to do. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Visit the captives. Love one another.
May we find the miracle within ourselves to solve our societies problems and may we ask God for the strength to do that work. Amen
Tuesday – July 27, 2021
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
A Word of Hope
Hammers and Nails
Most people know what a hammer is. When we see a hammer, we do not feel threatened because we know its purpose. It is a tool that is usually used to drive a nail into a surface or to dislodge different nails. We use hammers to improve our lives by building fantastic structures like houses, trains, and boats. As long as the hammer is used for its purpose it is a blessing. In the wrong hands, however, the hammer can be used as a weapon. It will destroy when it was meant to build. The potential for good and evil exists for everything, but there is nothing that this potential applies to more than the mind.
Consider, the Bible. It has sold more books than any other book every year longer than I have been alive. I consider it to be one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind. The Bible has taught countless people how to live good lives, to be wise, and to know the secret thoughts of God. For centuries, the Bible has been our link to God.
At the same time, the Bible has been used by dark minds to justify slavery, genocide, and even greater acts of evil. Like the hammer, the Bible has a purpose. In the wrong hands, however, it can destroy when it was meant to build.
Today, there are countless arguments over what the Bible really teaches. Some people teach that text is more important than context while for others it is the opposite. For centuries, the Bible has not changed. However, humanity goes through a great change every decade. Our minds change, our perspectives change, and our ways of life change.
A child who hears a certain story will not have the same understanding upon hearing that story as an adult. The story does not change, but the person does. How much more the living descendants of the ones who were alive when the Bible was written?
More importantly, why are we nailing each other to the cross for not agreeing with our own understanding about words written thousands of years ago? Jesus was nailed to the cross for daring to disagree and we all believe that it was an evil act. Let’s not condemn those who disagree with us, lest by the merits of our understanding we crucify Christ a second time.
Merciful and loving God,
We desperately want to be right, but sometimes being right becomes more important than being loving to one another. We treat the Bible like a hammer and people like nails. If we could stop arguing for just a minute, then we would see that the division we have today is nowhere close to what the Bible really teaches. Jesus gave His life for those who disagreed with Him, but we use the Bible, the very thing meant to build us up, to justify destroying those who do not agree with us. Lord, forgive us and have mercy, for we do not know what we are doing. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
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