Friday – September 6, 2019
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4: 5-6 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
The early followers of Jesus must have been an amazing group of people if today’s assigned reading (Colossians 4:2 – 17) is any indication. Most scholars think the letter to the followers in the small city of Colossae was written by Paul (though there is some disagreement on that) as early as only 20 years after Jesus’s execution. In that short amount of time those followers who knew Jesus first or second hand had established social networks and communities throughout much of the region.
Paul calls some of them “the old crowd who have stuck with me.” Paul knows them intimately. Names he has for them include “trusted minister,” “companion,” “one of you,” “dear brother,” “a big help,” “a trooper,” and “tireless.” I wish these descriptions could always be applied to me by those who know me best but I am afraid they can not.
And then there is Nympha, a woman of apparently independent means (no husband is mentioned) who was such an important strong leader that the church met in her house! How many of us open up our homes to the community?
They sound like an amazing group of people. A community that was formed not by social class, tribe, political affiliation, education, or even geography. They were bound together because of the change they experienced when they decided to adopt Jesus’s teachings. They were a community because the values of Jesus took root in their lives and transformed them.
We live in a deeply rooted culture that divides us by race and ethnicity, wealth, education, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and where we were born. Jesus broke through all those barriers. And his early followers struggled to break through them as well to form a new community. It wasn’t easy – remember that Peter had to receive an unmistakable vision telling him to take the message to everyone (Acts 10) – but they did it.
They started by building a strong, supportive, open community. Next time someone tries to drive a wedge between you and someone else, think about those early followers who achieved amazing things by working together and supporting each other.
God of my being. As a member of the community that includes all humanity, may I remember today, to be supportive, open, and loving to every community member.
Thursday – September 5, 2019
“Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities….and may the Lord do what seems good….” 2 Samuel 10:12
A Word of Hope
It must have been a dream come true for 13 year old Natalie Gilbert to be chosen to sing the National Anthem for game three of the 2003 playoffs between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers. She began poised and clear and strong, but then a fumble of words undid her. As panic coursed through her, she lifted the mic to her forehead, moved nervously, then lowered her head, as if trying to hide from the crowd. It was painful to watch. Suddenly Maurice “Mo” Cheeks, coach of the Trailblazers, walked his 6’1” frame across the floor to her side, encouraging her, singing with her (not always in tune), and directing with his hands, until she recovered beautifully and the entire stadium joined in song. One journalist wrote that Cheeks had been known for his game saving “assists,” but this was the most important of his career.
In follow up interviews, the coach said that at the time he didn’t consider himself as someone who would step into a situation like that. But seeing Natalie struggling, so helpless and embarrassed, he just couldn’t stand by and not render support.
Every day we have the opportunity to lend an “assist” –in our personal relationships, with strangers, at work or school, in ministries, on local and national issues. And even if we don’t see ourselves as someone who can step up as Cheeks did, more and more we need people who act with this kind of courage. Brenee Brown reminds us that all courageous acts require our vulnerability, and most of us are uncomfortable with that. But the two partner in acts of kindness and moral good.
In our own time, it is often the young who embody uncommon courage and conviction—young women like Greta Thunberg with her climate activism and the young people of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass in their advocacy for gun control. They stride across the floor of public passivity and political resistance and risk being misunderstood– and even threatened– to witness, to advocate, and to transform.
Risk-taking God, call us to stride across the floor and spur us to courage. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – September 4, 2019
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14.15-24
A Word Of Hope
I’m going to be honest here. I am not a fan of parables…none of them. I know that they are intended to teach us some moral truth. I’m good with the learning; it’s Jesus’ pedagogy that I don’t like. I despise role playing. I didn’t play dress-up as a child. l loathed mock teaching to my classmates when I was in school. And I always resist Jesus trying to pull me into his little “teachable moments” called parables…well, most of the time.
It was different when I read this parable this time. Without hesitation, I walked right onto the set, ready to explore which role I would play.
Let’s start with the host…He planned a feast for all of his like-minded friends. Since he had prepared the requisite amount of food for those that had responded positively to his RSVP, he knew who to expect. But, when he sent his servant out to tell these folks that the meal was ready to be served, they all suddenly had excuses as to why they couldn’t attend the banquet. What was the host feeling as he heard this news? Betrayal? Disappointment? Frustration? I have felt disappointed and betrayed at one time or another by someone that I called a friend, but at this point in my life, I have learned how to manage my feelings around such occurrences. I can accept that human beings are always going to have the capacity to disappoint. That’s the nature of the beast. I’ve learned a lot about being let down by others already. So, I didn’t feel myself in the role of the host.
Maybe I was to play one of the guests who chose not to show up, one who is the source of disappointment. This may be the part for which I am most qualified. I have a lot of experience disappointing others, but not because I don’t show up to the party; rather, because I do show up and do something gauche like use my dessert fork for my salad. I am loyal to a fault, so not showing up at the last minute would not even cross my mind. Whew! I guess I will not be starring as an ungracious guest!
That leaves as the only characters in the story those who are poor, crippled, blind, or lame. OK. But, I’m not feeling the lesson for me in this. Yes, I am poor and crippled and lame and blind in some real and some metaphorical ways, but I honestly don’t feel unwelcome or unworthy to sit at the table. As much as I had thought and prayed about what Jesus was trying to teach me with this parable, its purpose in this moment still eluded me. I revisited it several days in my prayer time trying to figure out what the intended takeaway was for me.
It finally hit me.
There was a character in the story that I overlooked.
I am to be the servant. I am the one who does what I am instructed to do by Jesus, to be the one who goes out among all the people, those invited and those not, and lets them know that a feast has been prepared for them. I am to make sure that they know that they are all welcome at the table. I am to be a servant of Christ. I am to be a disciple.
And I don’t like role-playing, so there is no room for pretending here!
Who are you in this parable today?
O great teacher, I give you thanks for your patience, for finding the way to teach me what I most need to learn in this moment. Remind me to never close my mind to your wisdom. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – September 3, 2019
cried out, “I am slipping!”
but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:18-19
A Word of Hope
“When Life Breaks”
I write this from a plane as I’m headed on vacation. I’m at 30,000 feet and the latch just broke on the overhead compartment. I’m the one who last opened the latch in order to get my laptop out so that I could write this article. The flight attendant is not happy.
Life happens. We are doing our thing and the unexpected occurs. Things break and it is merely annoying. Then there are times when even the minor irritations of life start to build up and we may reach a breaking point. Sometimes the brokenness seems more than we can bear. Life can overwhelm us.
Who knew that a broken lock on the front door of our home or a dead battery in the old car could be what triggers a crisis? Maybe it is a “budget shot—no extra money in the emergency fund—credit cards maxed-out” sort of crisis. When finances are involved we can forget that it could be worse. It could be our very life.
Perhaps it is an unexpected diagnosis. One minute we thought all was well and there was just an aggravating pain or lump or symptom, and the next minute our physician is making a referral to an oncologist or surgeon. Full stop. Life on hold. Add a new medical term to your vocabulary that ends in “oma” such as melanoma or carcinoma.
There are things in life that even duct tape (my universal fix-it tool) cannot repair. Wounded feelings, broken relationships or shattered hearts take both time and will in order to truly heal.
I am thankful that there are some constants that bring comfort and keep life together: unfailing Love, transcendent Hope, and unconditional Forgiveness. Such is the nature of the Divine whom Jesus revealed. We each have the capacity to live into such gifts and to become them.
Take a breath, ground yourself, and remember the Source of Life and Love itself.
As for the brokenness I just experienced? I asked the flight attendant if she had any duct tape.
Holy One, thank you for the simple gift of air that surrounds and sustains me. When my day becomes challenging, or even overwhelming, may I take a breath and be connected to the sacredness of the life you invite me to live into. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Gary G. Kindley
Monday – September 2, 2019
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
A Word of Hope
These are stressful times and many of us wait anxiously for little respites such as Labor Day Weekend. Some of us may be stuck in a challenging job, waiting for conditions to change for the better, or unemployed and waiting to hear back about that application. Others are waiting for a personal illness to heal or for order and civility to return to our nation’s highest leadership roles. There are always single persons waiting for just the right partner and others in relationships waiting for their partners to finally understand them.
But the Psalmist reminds us that none of these conditions defines the way we should wait for the Lord. Waiting is an act of worship in quiet meditation or prayer; a time when our troubled and anxious minds step back in exhaustion and allow our souls to focus on the promises of God. Waiting for God is silencing our minds’ sometimes desperate chatter and being attentive to receive divine comfort or instruction, hope that nourishes the soul. And we are reminded that the soul’s anticipation is never met with disappointment, just as those who keep the final watch just before dawn. A new day always comes.
Waiting for the Lord is a recurring theme in many of the Psalms, not in the sense of inaction, but always as a deliberate act of keeping awake, alert and patiently anticipating God’s leading, especially when life’s circumstances seem to be smothering us.
The Prophet Micah, who lived about 700 years before Christ, led a tumultuous life, full of political chaos and never ending wars. He had been eyewitness to the brutal Assyrian siege of Jerusalem and seen his beloved nation in ruin, yet he never lost sight of that eternal hope: “Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” (Micah 7.7)
We know you always hear us, God. Teach us to listen to you. May our impatience in waiting for external changes be exchanged for the internal peace we receive only from you Spirit.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)