Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel 37:1-14
 
Love That Gets Our Attention
Today we hear from Ezekiel, telling us of God grabbing his attention and thereby, changing him. Throughout the Bible, God transformed people through angels, dreams and/or visions. These came for various reasons--to warn, to protect, to guide or to reveal God's will. Sometimes the coming was to give assurance that God's presence was with them. For example: God came to Mary frightened at the empty tomb and to Daniel in the lion's den. God came long ago and still comes in these various ways. If alert, we'll see him in this way too.
 
Israel had lost their land and been taken away, devastated and exiled in a foreign land when God spoke to Ezekiel. In a dream he saw a pile of dry bones--as hopeless as Israel! And then a miracle happened. Before the eyes of his dream, he witnessed the bones stand, come together with muscle and flesh being shaped into people alive and walking. New life was happening. Ezekiel was now able to know and believe that God was at work bringing new life to his people. This believing led him confidently into God's new purpose and mission-- and Israel into their becoming, once again, a united people in their very own land.
 
Loving God, come to me now in my greatest fear and alert me to my new life and mission. Amen.
 
 
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)
 
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
3 He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord God, you know."
4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord."
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.'
12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord."

“Peace, Perfect Peace,”

"Peace, Perfect Peace," Jr. Trinity Hymnal, 702
 
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
 
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
 
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found.
 
Peace, perfect peace, 'mid suffering's sharpest throes?
The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.
 
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus' keeping we are safe, and they.
 
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
 
Peace, perfect peace, death shad'wing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its pow'rs.
 
It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus calls us to Heav'n's perfect peace.
 
Peace, perfect peace. Don't we all yearn for that? All the while believing it is impossible when we look around our world and our daily lives. But our yearning too quickly leaves out what God has done and what God can do. Jesus suffered and died so we might be saved. Ascension Day has come and gone. His work is over. This hymn reminds us of the worth of his gift. How can we have peace in this dark world of sin? Of course! "The blood of Jesus whispers peace within." Many of us women are sad this Mother's Day as we watch families taking Mom out to celebrate while we sit alone. But grown children are often living far away and are busy with their own families. So where do we find peace today with our loved ones far away? "In Jesus' keeping we are safe, and they." Or perhaps pain and rejection is the message for you today. Hang in there with Jesus, who knows our hearts, sustains us, loves us without fail and waits to enfold us all in "Heav'n's perfect peace."
 
Lord, thank you for giving me hope when my life becomes difficult, peace when I see only darkness and joy when I fully comprehend that you are truly all I need. Amen.
 
Kristin

“O Christ, Our Hope,”

"O Christ, Our Hope," ELW 604
 
O Christ, our hope, our hearts' desire,
creation's mighty Lord,
redeemer of the fallen world,
by holy love outpoured,
by holy love outpoured:
 
How vast your mercy to accept
the burden of our sin,
and bow your head in cruel death
to make us clean within,
to make us clean within.
 
But now the bonds of death are burst,
the ransom has been paid;
you reign above at God's right hand,
in robes of light arrayed,
in robes of light arrayed.
 
Oh, let your mighty love prevail
to purge us of our pride,
that we may stand before your throne
by mercy purified,
by mercy purified.
 
All praise to you, ascended Lord;
all glory ever be
to Father, Son, and Spirit blest
through all eternity,
through all eternity!
 
Exclamation point! We celebrated the birth of Jesus, suffered with him in his hour of trial, and rose from the dead with him on Easter Sunday. But with his ascension, marked this past week at the end of the forty days of Easter, we are no longer next to him. We can only stand in awe with his disciples as he truly defeats death to join his Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Yet he never abandoned his disciples, promising them an advocate and comforter to come. We are heirs to the same promise and wait with eager longing for the blessing of that Spirit. Thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, thanks be to God, who came to this earth, thanks be to God, the Spirit eternal; thanks be to God forever.
 
Lord, there aren't words enough to praise you for your wondrous love. I love you back in the ways that I can, longing to please you. Help me reflect that love toward all your beloved children, so your glory may be known to everyone I meet. Amen.
 

John 17:6-19

John 17:6-19
 
My small condo reeked with the unseen evil one's presence. Danger seemed to linger in the wings. I prayed almost continuously. I read the Occasional Services blessings for every living area. I filled the bathtub to my chin with hot water to fight the debilitating cold. I called my pastor. I took communion. Finally, I gathered the fourteen crosses I owned and distributed them around the condo. The figurative stench remained. I sought strength not to give in to a demand for my life as the days crawled by. Now in today's reading, for the first time we learn that Jesus was actively protecting his disciples from the evil one. What did he do? How did he do it? I believe that the power over the devil that Jesus died for is my inheritance, my power now. I learned the hard way that I should rather have taken control with these words, "Go away; I belong to Jesus." "No! I am God's child, baptized in Jesus' name," and the evil one, overpowered by Jesus during those three days, must now also scuttle away, no longer able to tolerate the name of Jesus.
 
Lord, thank you for asking your father to continue to protect me. He sent the Holy Spirit in your place to be with the disciples and now with me, to guide and protect me as I try to confound evil tempting me away from you. Help me listen wisely and act accordingly. Amen.
 
Kristin
John 17:6-19 (NRSV)
 
6 "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

This Is Why He Came

This Is Why He Came
by Joni
"Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!' Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else -- to the nearby villages -- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.'" Mark 1:36-38
Why were Simon and his companions so anxious to find Jesus? Because everyone was asking for Him. The day before in Capernaum Jesus had healed all the sick and the demon possessed. Word had spread through the night and the next morning everyone was searching for the Great Physician. Only after searching high and low did Simon find Jesus away from the crowds, almost hiding and praying alone.
Back in Capernaum, sick people and their families were frantic for His healing touch. But Jesus left them to go on. It's not that He didn't care about the cancer-ridden and arthritic (those who came too late for healing the night before). It's just that their illnesses weren't his focus -- the gospel was. Jesus' miracles were merely a backdrop to His urgent message. He said so himself: "This is why I have come... so I can preach." And He preached it time and again: Sin will kill you, hell is real, God is merciful, His kingdom will change you, I am your passport. Whenever people missed this point -- whenever the immediate benefit of His miracles distracted them from eternal things -- the Savior backed away. (Estes)
What are you seeking from God? The healing of a hurt? The meeting of a need? These things are good, but don't miss Jesus' deeper message. The core of His plan is to rescue you from sin. Our pain, poverty, or broken hearts are not His ultimate focus. God cares most, not about making us comfortable, but about teaching us to hate our sins, to grow up spiritually, and love Him.
I desire healing on the inside of my heart today. Lord, help me not to be so absorbed with outside things. Touch my soul, Great Physician.
 
Blessings,

1 John 5:9-13

1 John 5:9-13
The Clinical Pastoral Education chaplain at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon had asked us how we planned to go about our hospital visits. Basically, we didn't have a clue, but dove in expressing possible goals. Richard, wanting to impress our supervisor, had decided how he was going to use his time efficiently. The program was six weeks. So, 30 days times six hours a day would total 180 hours, giving him 10,800 minutes to use. Allowing for travel time in the building and 10 minutes for each visit, he declared he would call on 1,000 patients. We were impressed, and were eager to hear what our supervisor would comment. He stopped us all in our tracks when he suggested, "If you're working out your salvation maybe 1,000 isn't enough." What joy for us that scripture makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith, that, "you who believe may know that you have eternal life."
 
Lord, how grateful I am for the incredible gift of salvation. I believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and that he died on the cross so that I may have life with Jesus eternally. My joy now in that promise must be very little compared to the reality waiting for me! Amen.
 
Kristin
1 John 5:9-13 (NRSV)
 
9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.
10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.
11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Psalm 1

Psalm 1
 
Something was wrong with my body. I began to panic when the uneasy symptoms kept me in bed and refused to release their grip. Unable to pinpoint what was wrong, I called a friend instead of an ambulance. As soon as she arrived, she took one look at me, grasped my hand and pinched the skin on the back. I was dehydrated, she said, and brought water to me. Her clue was that the pinched skin remained sticking up. I had access to a surplus of water, streams from faucets, but I hadn't recognized my need. Now I wonder if there is a sign to warn the righteous when they have moved away from God's nourishing streams of water? How do we notice our leaves beginning to wither? When do we realize we are following the advice of the wicked or are stepping onto the paths of sinners?
 
Lord, forgive my ignoring your abundant streams of water that nourish my soul. Draw me in daily to meditate on your word so I may walk with the righteous. Grant that I never need a pinch test to measure my delight in you. Amen.
 
Kristin
Psalm 1 (NRSV)
 
1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
 
I needed relief from a difficult day in that new land of Eastern Montana. The sky was just beginning to show a bit of color as sunset painted the underside of clouds. I hurried to my car to make it to the brow of a nearby hill overlooking the plains before the display ended. I needn't have worried; the colors went on and on as if God knew my need. Pink and magenta took over, the range of oranges, increasingly more golden as the sun dipped. A symphony orchestra was playing out in bright hues in this big sky country. God, a boon companion who knew the fullness of my heart, understood my troubles of the day without my saying a word. I could not hide the pain and anger, making God's searching me out--fully accepting me and loving me with a boundless love--even more incredible.
 
Dear Lord, wherever I am, I am never alone! What an incredible blessing. Thank you for your vigilant knowing of my heart, always being present with me and guiding me. Amen.
John
 
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 (NRSV)
 
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,
16 "Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus--
17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry..."
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection."
23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
24 Then they prayed and said, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen
25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."
26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

“Jesus Love Me,”

"Jesus Love Me," ELW 595
 
Jesus loves me! this I know,
for the Bible tells me so;
little ones to him belong,
they are weak, but he is strong.
 
Refrain
Yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so.
 
Jesus loves me! he who died
heaven's gates to open wide;
he will wash away my sin,
let his little child come in. Refrain
 
Jesus loves me! he will stay
close beside me all the way;
when at last I come to die,
he will take me home on high. Refrain
 
Such a simple song. Written by Anna Warner in 1860 and set to music by William Bradbury, who added the chorus, in 1862, it encapsulates the "good news" in words even a child can grasp. Yet, even though it's considered a children's song, adults will joyfully sing along given the chance. As often as we sing or say that Jesus loves us, though, do we really know it? I believe the words, but the knowing--really? Too often I feel like I should deserve it first by my good works, even though I know better. Maybe that's why this song is such a hit. The words bring assurance through repetition and reference to biblical authority. The rhyme and tune drive it into our subconscious. We need all the help we can get!
 
Yes, you really do love me, Jesus. Help me to know your love and show your love to others. Amen.
 

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,”

"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," ELW 631

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav'n, to earth come down!
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter ev'ry trembling heart.

Breathe, oh, breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev'ry troubled breast;
let us all in thee inherit;
let us find thy promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty, to deliver;
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav'n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!

This beloved hymn by Charles Wesley was first published in 1747 and is still found today in hymnals of many denominations. It's a heart-cry for the pure and unbounded love of Christ to enter and abide in our trembling, troubled hearts and, therein, to free us and transform us. "Take away my love of sinning," we sing. Make me serve and praise you always. Finish me. Restore me. The words pull us heavenward toward a vision of ultimate, total restoration, "lost in wonder, love and praise."

Holy Lord, my heart does tremble and my breast is troubled with the realization that I so often choose my will over yours. And yet you abide in me. Make me more and more your own, until I see you face to face. Amen.