“You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore,”

"You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore," ELW 817

The text for today's hymn cannot be published due to copyright limitations. We apologize for the inconvenience.

I love this hymn with its reminder of this week's story of Jesus calling the fishermen away from their nets to follow after him--so much so that shortly before I retired I received word through the congregational grape vine that there was someone who would run screaming from church if we ever sang it again.

But the words of this hymn seem so beautifully to echo this week's thoughts about trust: "you have come...only asking me to follow;" "you know what I have...my will for working;" "you need my hands, my exhaustion...a love that's willing to go on loving;" and finally, "Sweet Lord, you have looked into my eyes...now with you I will seek other seas." Perhaps like me you long for that kind of trust that would truly let me park the current boat in which I ride on the beach and follow without question. And yet, what does that trust look like, feel like, act like? It is not something we conjure up from within. It is not a lump of something we can implant. Usually it's something we grow into, feeling our way along day by day and trusting that Jesus is using us even as we live in the uncertainty of where he is calling us.

Jesus, open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds so we can know what you want of us. Amen.

Tim

Mark 1:14-20

Mark 1:14-20
Several years ago, at an Ignatian retreat, we were encouraged to use our imaginations to enter into the biblical narrative. The reading included the scene of Jesus walking along a road talking with his disciples and others. Soon my imagining seemed to take on a life of its own and I was literally following Jesus along a hot, dusty and crowded road in Galilee. Suddenly Jesus turned and looked back at me, beckoned me to come up and walk alongside him and at one point even put his arm around my shoulders.
 
But then unexpectedly he prodded me to walk in front of him and sort of pushed me out to walk ahead. The sense of the gesture was to say, "OK, now you go. I'll be right here, but you take the risk and responsibility for doing what needs to be done." I can still remember the uncertainty and exhilaration of moving into that new way of following. The "imagining" ended there, but left me with the awareness that following also includes being sent and encouraged to trust and risk that Jesus knows what he is doing by setting me free to lead.
 
Lord, I am amazed how much you trust us to be your followers and to use our creativity, energy, wisdom, knowledge and experience to be the ones to carry out your work of bringing the gospel that the Reign of God is at hand. Amen.
 
Tim
Mark 1:14-20 (NRSV)
 
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.
17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Mark 1:14-20

Mark 1:14-20
 
When I was a boy growing up a couple blocks away from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, I would drop everything else for the chance to go fishing, even when it meant sitting on a hard seat in our old green row boat. I suppose when fishing is one's livelihood--like for Simon, Andrew, James and John--it felt different. So when Jesus came along and said "follow me and I will make you become fishers of people" there was some appeal. Perhaps you too have wondered what went through their minds as they heard that invitation? Were they chomping at the bit and ready for a change? But the gospel writer isn't interested in their feelings, only that they responded immediately.
 
I've also wondered what it would take to get me to suddenly abandon my current life and follow someone on a new and unknown journey? I think I'd want a trial run, a probationary period during which both I and the one calling me could evaluate my suitability for the job. Even being retired with fewer responsibilities, what would it take to trust someone enough to follow? The question still haunts me at times and I wonder, what if...
 
Lord, keep us open to whatever new thing you might call us to do. Fill us with trust to follow wherever you lead. And to recognize your leading each day. Amen.
 
Tim
Mark 1:14-20 (NRSV)
 
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.
17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

I Corinthians 7:27-31

I Corinthians 7:27-31
 
One of the catch phrases in AA is "Fake it till you make it." I suppose that's one way of saying the "live as though" that Paul is talking about in I Corinthians. It takes a lot of trust to live "as though" God will forgive the old you and support you along the journey and enable you to create a new future. I suspect Paul was not inviting the Corinthians to irresponsibility or to ignore reality, but to make the things of God a focusing priority--to live "as though" we belong to God alone.
 
What if we started with just a few minutes a day living "as though" only the things of God mattered? What if we then increased that time each day and gradually carved out a longer and longer time lived "as though" we were alone with God, "as though" we grieved for nothing or rejoiced over nothing and "as though" we owned/possessed nothing and had no responsibilities to attend to---if we were for that time simply available to that God? To trust that in doing so God would make use of us in the way that best accomplished God's purposes. Do I trust God enough to "fake it till I make it" and grow into what Paul calls an "undivided devotion to the Lord?"
 
Lord Jesus, so fill us with trust in you that we can live "as though" the anxieties of life no longer consume us and we can live immersed in your presence--at least in this moment. Amen.
 
 
I Corinthians 7:27-31 (NRSV)
 
27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.
29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,
30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions,
31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Psalm 62:5-12

Psalm 62:5-12
 
I'm writing these devotions just a few weeks after the catastrophic fires in Sonoma and Napa counties in which our community of Petaluma was largely spared from the fire but now is surrounded by overwhelming devastation. Many around us have lost jobs, schools, homes, transportation and even lives. Now they're working through the labyrinth of loss, grief, despair, displacement, insurance, assistance, planning, permitting, rebuilding, etc. So there is tension in the reading of this psalm that holds out the unique and powerful trustworthiness of God. If God is to be trusted, why am I standing here in the midst of these ashes? "Why have you forsaken me?" seems to be an acceptable question.
 
And yet, even in this moment of devastation the psalmist speaks: "For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is FROM God...I shall not be shaken...Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." Where else to turn? Who else to trust? What other source of hope? What other strength? In spite of standing in the midst of the ashes, in spite of feeling forsaken, we pour out our hearts with all their pain and questions and doubts to a God who promises to hold us and restore us.
 
Thank you inscrutable God for letting us doubt and question and live in the tension of unfulfilled promises even as we reach out to lean on you and trust in the presence of your love and strength. Amen
 
Tim
Psalm 62:5-12 (NRSV)
 
5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Selah)
9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

Jonah 3:1-5,10

Jonah 3:1-5,10

As I write these devotions in early December, I am so aware that the world may look very different by the time you read them in mid-January. So it is all the more important to me that the general theme of trust runs through this week's readings.

We start with Jonah who exhibits a rather bizarre take on trust. Precisely because he trusts that God is gracious and forgiving, he resists God's instructions to go to the great enemy city of Nineveh to proclaim a call to repentance to a people who, in Jonah's mind, deserve no mercy. And sure enough, Nineveh repents and God forgives. This causes Jonah to despair because God was merciful in spite of Jonah's best efforts to avoid what he feared.

Can you think of anyone you hope God will never forgive? If you can't, I will gladly share my list with you. When we trust God to be just, merciful, forgiving and loving, we are compelled to repent of our own lack of those things and align our will and hope for our enemies and antagonists with God's. It is at the heart of our trust in a God, who is not like us, and thereby offers reason to hope for a future of healing and peace.

Forgiving, loving, merciful God, forgive us and transform us into forgiving, loving, merciful and trusting followers both for our own sake and for those we would have you judge and punish. Amen.

Jonah 3:1-5,10 (NRSV)

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying,
2 "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you."
3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth...
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

“Arise, Your Light has Come,”

"Arise, Your Light has Come," ELW 314

The text for today's hymn cannot be published due to copyright limitations. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Epiphany is a season of Aha's. It's a time to be surprised by the Invasion of God in our lives, to let God into our hearts and to let that God-light shine brightly through us. It's also a time, perhaps, to surprise and challenge ourselves to intentionally look for God in those "Aha" moments of our lives and to choose to respond. It was like that for Samuel, Philip and Nathanael; God showed up and called them into the light to participate in this Invasion of Holiness. God called them to bring light in the darkness and healing in the midst of brokenness. The title of the hymn, "Arise, Your Light has Come" reminds us that the time is now--time to acknowledge that the light has come; time to "show forth the glory of your God which shines on you today."

Our prayer through this week concludes:... You are the one who invades our hearts with holiness. Let us arise, for your Light has come. Amen.

“O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,”

"O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright," ELW 308

The text for today's hymn cannot be published due to copyright limitations. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Pastor Philipp Nicolai lived and pastored a congregation in Unna, Germany during the bubonic plague in the 1590's. As he stood at his office window one day, looking out on the mass graves that had been dug for the members of his congregation and community, Nicolai found himself overcome with grief. In response to the horrific number of deaths over several months (1300 total, 170 in one week!), he wrote this hymn. It was as if God had invaded his heart, reminding him of a God who brings the Morning Star out of the darkness.

Our prayer through the week continues:... For you are a God who breaks through the darkness and whose Morning Star shines fair and bright, ...

John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51
 
"I see you, beloved child of God; come and follow me." God sees us, and now, like Nathanael and Philip, we are called to see the world just as God sees us--to recognize the glory of God within ourselves. When we live into that identity, we will see others through the eyes of Jesus; we will see Christ in the world; we will see Christ in the other.
An Invasion of Holiness promises healing, reconciliation and justice for a broken world. We are a part of this invasion that reveals God's love for all the world. As we address the deep injustices of the world, our response is one of deep faith--that God is right there in the midst of it, calling us into the trenches to follow Christ, so that we might see greater things!
 
Our prayer through the week continues:... and may we answer the call to see the world through your eyes.
 
 
John 1:43-51 (NRSV)
 
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"
48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."
49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."
51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51
 
It is intriguing to imagine this story in the Gospel of John as the first evidence of a kind of divine, "Hide and Seek," or maybe even, "You're it!" First Jesus FINDS Philip and extends an invitation to follow Jesus. Then Philip runs to FIND Nathanael and then declares, "We have FOUND Jesus!" But clearly, Nathanael is not sure he wants to play, disputing Philip's eyewitness account and questioning if anything good can come from Nazareth. But then Jesus shows up again and says to Nathanael, "I see you!"
 
If it were only that simple--that believable. Sometimes, like Nathanael, it's hard for us to recognize the Invasion of Holiness. When we struggle in life and don't know which way to turn, we often find ourselves looking down, and wondering, "Where are you, Jesus?" We cry out, "Please show up!" Then, when we least expect it, God comes to us, invades us, promises life and says, "I see you, beloved child of God; come and follow me."
 
Our prayer through the week continues... Help us to recognize you as you break through our broken lives and invade our very fragile and unsuspecting hearts,...
 
John 1:43-51 (NRSV)
 
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"
48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."
49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."
51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."