The Gift of the Sabbath

Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Collect as much of it as each of you can eat, one omer per person. You may collect for the number of people in your household.’”

Exodus 16:15-16

Maybe you’ve heard the expression: “Don’t just stand there, do something!” Now let’s take a look at this saying in reverse: “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Do you get what this means? When it comes to living out God’s ways, lots of activity alone is not enough. We need to stand (or sit or knell) and wait for God’s Word to become personal to us.

Jewish people keep the Sabbath as the day to stop working and simply receive all that God has done and what God is doing. Today’s episode in the desert about how the people received food and drink, reminds us how water and food come from God alone–they are not really the result of our work!

So swing back to this story over 3000 years ago and live it on this Saturday in a way that links you with our ancestors and with Jewish people today all around the globe. Remember that on Saturdays we are reading the same part of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), as are read in every synagogue on the earth! Doesn’t that give you a feeling of oneness and connection with these wonderful people?

Exodus 16:11—17:7

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Just enough bread for the day 16:18
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

Saturdays are dedicated to the Sabbath Torah portions
read in synagogues throughout the world.
This plan follows those traditions that take a third of the portion
over a three year cycle, this year, the second part.
For more about the Torah portions and thoughtful commentaries, visit
The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

The Very Best in You

“The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn.
But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”

Luke 3:17

There’s a weed that might be growing on your lawn in the springtime called “milkweed.” Its stiff stem has a little globe on top that looks like white feathers. If you pick up the week and blow on it, the tiny particles float away in the air.

This is something like the grain and the chaff of which John the Baptist speaks in this passage. A winnowing fork was used to lift up the wheat—the light husk-like matter called chaff, just blowing away in the breeze, leaving the whole grain.

Do you want to be someone that God can use for God’s purposes? Then let what is happening to you, either good or bad, be what God is using as a “winnowing fork” to loosen in you what needs to go, leaving behind what needs to stay. By keeping your eyes on what God is doing rather than what others are doing or what appears to be only “happening” to you, you will be reminded that God is in charge of your life and longs to bring out the very best in you. Will you let God do that!

Luke 3:15-18

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
Sifting my wheat from the husks  v. 17
For more information about
this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
On Fridays we read the Gospel of Luke

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

God’s Plan for You

Whoever speaks should do so as those who speak God’s word. Whoever serves should do so from the strength that God furnishes. Do this so that in everything God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him be honor and power forever and always. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11

Sometimes you will notice special connections from one day’s reading into the next. Today’s reading, for example, is along the same lines as Psalm 101 of yesterday. It is as though God wants us to keep on the path of the holy desires of yesterday.

Verse 10 talks about “spiritual gifts.” As you read the small list of them, what kinds of gifts come to your mind that you have been given by God? God has a special plan for you and has given you gifts and talents that you are called to develop as the years go on, so that when you arrive at your adult life, you’ll be ready for the special tasks that God has planned for you. Can you picture what these might be? Let your imagination be as free as when you just run across an open field. What does God’s Spirit want to tell you?

1 Peter 4:1-11

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
May my words be as Your words v. 11
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Thursdays in this season are dedicated to the the letters of Peter

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

New Year’s Resolutions

I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
    to you, O Lord, I will sing.

Psalm 101:1

Count how many time the word “I will” or “I will not” begins sentences in this psalm. There are very many! The sacred writer of this prayer is so filled with a desire to be faithful to God that he makes a long lists of “does” and “don’t” for himself.

It’s still early in the New Year, so we can still make “New Year’s Resolutions.” As you read the verses of this psalm, what kinds of things in your own life come to your mind that you can make better? When you feel these desires for goodness, this is the Holy Spirit nudging you to find the peace that comes when we do what God wants.

Psalm 101

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Studying the blameless way v. 2
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Wednesdays are dedicated to the Psalms

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

Hunger for God

In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Esther 4:3

 

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Remember King Herod? He was the one that was so jealous of Jesus being born because he was going to be king and replace Herod. Well, Haman in this story had evil plans like Herod. Herod wanted to kill all the children two years old and younger; Haman wanted to have all the Jews killed.

The story of what would be done about this begins to be told as Esther and Mordecai make plans. But the first thing they do is not sit down and figure it all out. Instead, they want all the Jews not to eat for three days and three nights as a way of preparing for the strategy of what they would do with God’s help.

Denying oneself food or drink for a time is called fasting. It might seem hard to do—certainly three days and nights is a long time without food. But you can skip a meal sometime with the thought of wanting the experience of hunger for food be a hunger for God and for what God wants. Fasting is very spiritual. It lets us know that we depend upon God for our life, for God has given us the very food we eat. When we fast, we are reminded of a spiritual hunger that we need to feel for God, with the faith to know that God is going to respond to us by communicating what God wants us to do in all the situations in our lives.

Esther 3—4

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Fasting and cleansing the heart 4:3
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Tuesdays are dedicated in this season to the Book of Esther

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

 

Words of Comfort and Hope

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

Isaiah 61:1-2

Jesus used this passage from Isaiah as part of his very first sermon he preached in his home town of Nazareth. What a moment it must have been for Jesus which you can read about in Luke 4, from verse 14!

God had given Jesus the mission to be the one that would bring these words of promise into something really happening in Jesus. When you and I live with the power of God’s love in Jesus that God wants to share with us, then the promises of today’s reading will happen for you and me. No one is left out from having the Spirit of God being poured out upon him or her. All that matters is to do what Mary, the mother of Jesus did in her acceptance of being Jesus’ mother: just say Yes!

Isaiah 61

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
O’er me, the mantle of praise v. 3
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Monday are dedicated in this season to the prophet Isaiah

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

The Baptism of Jesus

John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke 3:17

My Dad didn’t go swimming very often. When he did, he swam very stiffly—wishing he were out of the water as quick as possible. Why? He told me that one time when he was a boy he was saved by his older brother from nearly drowning.

Baptism has something of that same idea of death about it. By going down into the water, we express a dying; by coming out of the water we rise to new life. It’s a powerful symbol of death and resurrection. It all begins with John the Baptist and especially with Jesus.

Except for the story of the loss and finding of Jesus in the Temple when he was twelve, we don’t have much written history about Jesus as a boy or a young man. He was quietly growing in Nazareth. He had friends in his neighborhood and a regular family life. All of this quiet privacy would come to an end with Jesus being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan. Picture the event in your imagination…Jesus in a crowd, waiting his turn for baptism. Jesus makes himself like everybody else.

Place yourself there and be baptized. Notice the feelings of death and being born again after death that this sacrament expresses. You needn’t be afraid of what might come against you in scary things, as my Dad was frightened by the water. Trust that God is right how raising you to new life.

Luke 3:15-17; 21-22

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Clearing the floor of my life v. 17
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Sundays are dedicated to the Gospels from
The Revised Common Lectionary

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.