Our scripture this morning is Luke 4:14-19.
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus returns to Nazareth soon after beginning His public ministry. Going back home can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be difficult when people still remember you as you were, not as you are now. Jesus experiences both sides of this when He reads in the synagogue at Nazareth.
He recites a passage from the prophet Isaiah that pertains to Him directly. It speaks of Him being sent to bless and save us, to set us free from sin’s oppression. In the next section of this passage He tells them “this scripture has been fulfilled today in your hearing” (Luke 4:20).
While Jesus had been well received initially, this statement causes people to wonder “is this really the boy we knew?” Some will come to believe, others will be part of the mob who cry “crucify Him!” It is up to each of us to choose which group to follow.
Loving Lord, sometimes living our faith can be difficult, but Jesus taught and showed us the path would be hard. Strengthen us in adversity and may we share the truth of Christ with the world. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Romans 8:31-39.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul writes of the certainty of God’s love for us. The simple statement “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31) eloquently expresses His eternal and unchanging love for all of His children. In God we have all we could ever need.
Paul wants us to understand that God’s love is not something we can earn through any effort of our own, nor is it able to be broken by anything people do to us. His love for us is a gift, always available for us to accept. This is his point, that it is up to us to say “yes Lord” and receive the blessing of a relationship with Him.
There is a long list of earthly things that have no effect on God’s love for us. The sad truth is the only thing that can separate us from God’s love is us! God is always ready to wrap us in His loving arms and renew the connection we have been promised since the beginning.
Gracious God, we are humbled that You are willing to welcome us back, no matter what our circumstances. Renew a right Spirit in us and send us to share Your love everywhere. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Romans 8:9-14.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
Paul teaches that if Christ is in us, we have the Spirit to overcome sin (v.10). He explains that we are God’s children because we follow the guidance of His Spirit. Our own human desires can lead us to disobedience, but the Spirit of the Lord will protect us when we choose Him.
This is the most important point – that we choose Him. God waits to welcome us with open arms, but we must go to Him on our own. We are given free will to decide for ourselves. God will never force us to worship Him, it is always up to us.
The necessary gifts to live according to His law are within us, waiting for us to accept and use them as God intended. Jesus came to show us that a life in obedience to God was the only way to salvation. Each of us has the opportunity and the ability to be part of His eternal plan.
Gracious God, we are humbled and grateful for the blessings You send. Help us to grow in faith and share Your love with our brothers and sisters everywhere. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Psalms 19:7-11.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
This psalm passage teaches us about the guidance God gives us. It is much different than the often harsh edicts of man, instead it is sent in love that we might live for Him. God wants us to be connected to Him and each other, sharing the joy of creation together.
The psalmist tells us that following the law of the Lord brings gladness simply because it is the way we are made. God intended us to have certain responsibilities, to Him and to our brothers and sisters, and fulfilling these makes us happy. Obedience is not intended as a burden but a blessing!
Think about the things we are called to do and rather than an obligation, see them as a welcome duty. God has work for each of us and gives the gifts needed to accomplish each task. We are part of His plan for eternity, called by name in His service.
Wise and wonderful God, we are humbled to be included in all You are doing. Strengthen us to be Your people, equipped and sent to all the world. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Romans 12:9-21.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul gives us much to think about in this passage. While he speaks of many different behaviors, all are demonstrations of God’s love for us. We are expected to share His love with the world in the same way, without judging or justifying.
The end of this lesson tells us to love even our enemies and to treat them in the same way as our friends. This is not easy to hear and harder to live out. We have the ultimate example of this in Jesus asking God to forgive those who were about to execute Him.
Christ came to bring God’s forgiveness to everyone, regardless of their situation. At some point we have all fallen, needing forgiveness and a renewed connection with Him. Accept the love that makes this possible and the call to share it with everyone.
Gracious God, we are humbled that You reach out to us in our failings with the promise of forgiveness and salvation. May we carry this blessing to all the world in Your name. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Psalms 145:1-7.
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
In this psalm we hear the glory of God proclaimed repeatedly in different ways. We are called to offer Him our thanks and praise continually. That may seem difficult to do in our hectic, distracted world.
While the world at the time of this psalm might seem simpler to us, I’m sure there were things in their lives that were as challenging as those we face today. God was waiting for them just as He does for us now, wanting to be part of our lives in everything we do. His love never leaves us, and we are blessed by his continuous presence.
Taking time to be aware that He is with us is essential and will bless our daily living. Making God part of all we do strengthens our connection with Him and with each other. May we echo the psalm “Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever!”
Gracious God, we are humbled that You want to be with us and bless us always. May we be Your people in all we say and do. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is John 2:1-12.
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
This story tells of the first sign Jesus performed, but there are some interesting things to note in addition to the miracle of water becoming wine. Jesus never did these things to make Himself look good or to gain anyone’s favor – even His mother. His miracles were done in accordance with God’s plan and through His grace.
Mary knows that Jesus is special, and in this passage she seems to ask Him to intervene when the wine runs out. Notice that she doesn’t suggest anything specific but Jesus knows what she wants. He responds a little cryptically, saying “my hour has not yet come” (v. 4).
Mary understands and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them, indicating her trust in Him and respect for His divine responsibility. I imagine Jesus prayed before responding, as He had not performed any miracles before, and all of His actions were approved by the Father. While this scripture tells us of His first miracle, it also helps us understand Mary’s relationship with Him and their connection with God.
Loving Lord, we see Jesus as our savior and model for our lives. May we be obedient as He was and go to do Your will in our world. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is 1 Corinthians 12:1-6.
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Paul explains to the Corinthians how God works in and through us using the spiritual gifts He gives. Each of us is blessed with an ability that the Lord uses to reach out to others. We need to understand our gifts and how we all work together to accomplish God’s purpose for us.
We are told that there are different gifts in each of us and we are called to different kinds of service. You may see this in your church and community, that people have a “knack” for various tasks. I can speak in front of a crowd, sing and help interpret scripture, but with hand or power tools I’m a failure – not my gift. Thankfully there are others who do have the gift of construction and repair and through everyone’s gifts the work is accomplished.
God needs nothing from us, but He chooses to enable us and include us in the work He has planned. Are we aware of our gifts? Are we using them to the fullest? Ask and listen, God will show you the task He has set for you.
Loving Lord, we are grateful for all Your gifts to us. Help us to use them wisely for the good of all Your children. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Jeremiah 7:1-7.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.”
The prophet Jeremiah had the dubious task of bringing a warning to the people of Israel. God sent them a strong message: “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place”, a big hint that they were not living as God intended. Moses had told them to watch out that they did not forget God when they came to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:11).
We are prone to a similar situation, becoming so absorbed in what we do every day that we forget God’s gifts and His place in our lives. Everything we do is only possible because God has blessed us and wants to be connected with us. We can’t hope to accomplish anything without Him.
We need to be intentional about time with God and listening for His guidance. When we are open to the inspiration He sends, we can be the disciples of today, ready to go into the world to share His love. Using our blessings well, for the good of His children and to His glory, is the best way to be His people.
Gracious God, we are humbled that You choose us to be in relationship with You. Make us strong in faith that we may carry the Good News everywhere. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Luke 11:14-20.
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
People often opposed Jesus by claiming His miracles were accomplished through the power of Satan. Jesus responded logically, making them think about the situation instead of just reacting. His lesson to them applies to us today as well.
How often do we see or hear something and respond emotionally, without examining the situation? While our emotions are a gift from God, He also gave us brains capable of understanding and applying the evidence involved to make decisions. Our faith combines both of these blessings, helping us to believe with heart and mind.
We must think and feel in order to believe fully. God doesn’t want robotic followers, pre-programmed for obedience. He could have created us that way if that was His choice. Instead, He gave us the means to choose for ourselves, wanting us to choose Him as our God and Father.
Loving Lord, we are grateful for the gifts of thinking and feeling. Bless us to use all You have given us for the good of Your children and to Your glory. Amen.