Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)

Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)

The neighbors ask in verse 66, "What then shall this child become?" In his birth narrative, God has clearly set John apart. Zechariah's prophecy sets the stage for John's ministry. A Savior is coming in fulfillment of God's promises and John will prepare the way. He will make known God's salvation through the forgiveness of sins. John is the herald of God's mercy and grace.

We, like John, have also been set apart. Through baptism, God claims us as his own, naming and declaring us as God's children. We become members of the body of Christ and recipients of God's salvation and forgiveness as heralded through John. So also the community asks of us, "What then shall this child become?"

Just as God called John, so God also calls us to be instruments of God's salvation. Thanks be to God that God works great things even through our broken lives!

God of new beginnings, you set us apart for yourself. Grant us the courage to follow your call. Amen.

Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)

Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)

In our passage for today, God is breaking with tradition and doing something new. John's birth breaks all of the rules. Not only is he born of an aged, barren woman, but also his name comes from outside his family. Elizabeth and Zechariah name the baby John, meaning "God is gracious." God has claimed John as the messenger of God's grace. God breaks with the traditional system in order to show grace. Yet, God's habit of breaking tradition is not just limited to John. Rather it is a theme that runs throughout the Bible and continues even today. Just when we think that we have it all figured out, God comes in, messes up our system and does something new. While this experience can be unsettling, it is a reminder of God's grace. A reminder that God's love is bigger than any system that we might conceive.

Gracious God, thank you for continually making all things new. Let us not make idols out of tradition. Open our eyes so that we may see your grace shining through as you break with and restore our traditional systems. Amen.

Acts 13:13-26

Acts 13:13-26

Paul begins his exhortation in Antioch with a story, proclaiming the history of the Israelite community from Abraham to John. While this story certainly has meaning to those in the Israelite community, what meaning does it have for the "others who fear God" in his audience?

In verse 26, Paul proclaims, "My brothers, you descendants of Abraham's family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent." No matter your ancestry, this is now your story. This is your salvation. God has been faithful to Israel, but God is not finished yet. Through Christ, we become members of God's family and characters in God's story. We become woven into the tapestry of God's work in the world that extends from Israel out to the whole world.

God of Israel, thank you for sending the message of salvation to us. Teach us how to be good stewards of your story. Amen.

Be Not Afraid John Michael Talbot, go to U Tube

Be Not Afraid John Michael Talbot

Psalm 107: "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven."

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? And why does this Jesus, who can command the wind and the waves and order the chaos, wind up being crucified along with the powerless and oppressed?

Be Not Afraid John Michael Talbot

Psalm 107: "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven."

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? And why does this Jesus, who can command the wind and the waves and order the chaos, wind up being crucified along with the powerless and oppressed?

Psalm 107: "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven."

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? And why does this Jesus, who can command the wind and the waves and order the chaos, wind up being crucified along with the powerless and oppressed?

Psalm 141

Psalm 141

The words of Psalm 141 remind me of the service of Holden Evening Prayer. There is something unbelievably moving about a community coming together to pray. I first participated in Holden Evening Prayer during college. I clearly remember the dark, candle-lit chapel, the incense and the beautiful singing. The darkness of night called attention to our loneliness and brokenness. The burning candlelight reminded us, ever so gently, of Christ's presence in our midst.

Together in words, song and silence, our prayers rise up like incense as we offer our hearts, minds and our very selves to God. Together as a community, we acknowledge God as our rock, refuge and strength in the face of our fear, failures and burdens. Together we find hope, in the stillness of the silence, the glow of candlelight, the embrace of a friend and the promise of God's coming.

O God, our refuge, we cry out to you. Bring light to our darkness. Shelter us from our enemies. Guard our hearts. We trust in you alone. Amen.
Grace Dudd

Psalm 141 (NRSV)

1 I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you.

2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.

3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi 3:1-4

Sometimes, it is all too easy for us to cry out for God's coming. We yearn for God to come in power to save us from our fears, obstacles and enemies. We desire our own deliverance, and maybe even the judgment of others. Yet, as the scripture passage for today says, "who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?"

This passage speaks of God's coming as a time of purification and refinement. While this portrayal certainly brings fear, it might also bring awe. Like a refiner of gold and silver, God sees us not only for what we are, but also for what we can and will be. God sees the sin, injustice and death that separate us from God and seeks to restore us to the fullness of life. We will be made whole again through God's grace and God's judgment.

O Refiner, make of us, your children, a pleasing offering that is acceptable to the Lord. Amen.

?Eternal Father, Strong to Save,?

?Eternal Father, Strong to Save,?
In "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," Whiting and Dykes musically convey this week's Scripture texts about frightening, tempestuous, chaotic seas and God's comforting presence, power and protection. Commonly known as the "Navy Hymn," countless musical groups will likely perform it during upcoming U.S. Independence Day concerts. This hymn fittingly implores God to protect sailors. It also can help us reflect on life's seas that we each sail.

As you read these verses, consider God's awesome creation and the protective limits God placed on nature. Think about what "perils," "wild confusion," and "tempests" you face in your life. Read the final phrase in verses 1-3 as, "oh, hear us when we cry to thee for our own peril on life's sea." Does such a reading give you a new perspective on this familiar hymn and your own need for God's protection? Do you gladly offer praise evermore for God's steadfast love?

Eternal God, we thank and praise you for your strength to save us. As life's perils buffet us, remind us to cry to you and trust in your steadfast love. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Mary Simonson Clark

?Eternal Father, Strong to Save,?
1 Eternal Father, strong to save
whose arm has bound the restless wave,
who bade the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
oh, hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

2 O Savior, whose almighty word
the winds and waves submissive heard,
who walked upon the foaming deep,
and calm amid the storm didst sleep:
oh, hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

3 O Holy Spirit, who didst brood
upon the chaos dark and rude,
and bid its angry tumult cease,
and give, for wild confusion, peace:
oh, hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

4 O Trinity of love and pow'r,
all trav'lers guard in danger's hour
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them whereso e'er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

“Jesus Calls Us, O’er the Tumult,”

"Jesus Calls Us, O'er the Tumult,"
Remembering Jesus' promise of God's steadfast love and presence throughout my life's turmoil gives me great comfort. However, I must also remember that Jesus calls me to love God steadfastly in return. Life's tumult of cares often so completely distract me that I do not hear God calling, "love me more." My distracting activities—such as home, work and family—seem right, good and essential. Nevertheless, they cannot replace a loving relationship with God.

If I become so distracted by these daily activities that I lose my relationship with God, how will God's steadfast love comfort me? Even so, I cannot remain idly comfortable in my loving two-way relationship with God alone. When Jesus calls us to "follow me," he calls us into dynamic, three-way relationships. Jesus calls us into gracious reconciliation to God and with our neighbors. Jesus calls us into loving service of God and with our neighbors.

Loving God, thank you for calling and calling and calling me again and again over life's many distractions. Help me give top priority to loving and following you most of all. Stir my heart to obedient service of you and with my neighbors. Amen.
Mary Simonson Clark

"Jesus Calls Us, O'er the Tumult,"

1 Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult
Of our life's wild, restless sea,
Day by day his clear voice sounding,
Saying, "Christian, follow me."

Mark 4:35-41

It is easy for us to dwell on our individual relationship with Christ. It is also common for us to focus exclusively on Christ's presence in our "boat," whether that is our congregation, culture or country. However, our boat is not the only vessel on life's seas.

Verse 36 notes, "Other boats were with him." When the windstorm arose and the Sea of Galilee became turbulent, the waves surely beat into all the boats. Certainly, the disciples were not the only voyagers fearful of perishing. Just as certainly, when Christ rebuked the wind and told the sea, "Peace! Be still!," the other boats also benefited from the ensuing calm. Christ's words of peace are not for us alone or for our "boat" exclusively. They are words of steadfast love and grace for all people. As we sail life's seas, God calls us to rebuke injustice's chaos and share God's peace.

God who even the wind and sea obey, please be with all of us as we sail life's often-stormy seas. Keep us mindful that every boat benefits from your calm waters. Help us share words of comfort and peace with all our neighboring voyagers. Amen.

“All Things Bright and Beautiful”

"All Things Bright and Beautiful”

For many of us, daily devotion time includes a short reading such as this and a rushed prayer, and then we jump to the next thing on our list. But not today.

God has spoken to us all week about the splendor of God's creation that surrounds us—cedar trees on the mountain tops, seeds planted in the earth, bushes strong enough to shelter the birds. God has spoken to us!

Today, we speak to God—but not in the normal way—not in our quick prayer before heading off. Today, we speak to God in color, singing this hymn that praises the creation with which God has gifted us. Find a piano and plunk out the hymn—pick a note out of the air and just start singing!

Little flowers and singing birds, purple-headed mountains, sunsets and sunrises... God speaks to us in all of creation. Today, let God speak to creation through us. Offer this hymn of praise out loud to your God who made all things wise and wonderful out of great love for you!

Creator God, speak through us your words of love for your creation. Amen.

"All Things Bright and Beautiful”
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

1 Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, God made their tiny wings.

2 The purple headed mountains, the river running by, the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky.

3 The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun, the ripe fruits in the garden, God made them ev'ry one.

4 God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.