Hate has become quite the overused word. We tend to talk about things we hate when we really mean we dislike something. However, there are times when we let hate into our hearts and it sits there and festers inside of us. When we allow hate to take over, we allow darkness to enter into us. It clouds our judgment, makes us more negative; it adds a bitterness to our lives. However, God offers us another direction. God tells us we can overcome hate and replace it with forgiveness and acceptance. God gives us a chance to bring the light back into our hearts, no matter how much we try to hold onto the hate. Let us pray:
Loving and ever-living God: In your love and in your will, let me be a beacon for your love to everyone in my world. In your love and in your will, help me be the person in my world who stops hatred one person at a time. Keep me ever mindful of the connection all people have with each other so I may also see how important it is for me to love others. Remind me I do not have to have great power in the world to stop hatred. Remind me I do not have to be a person of great influence to stop the hatred that so easily infects the heart, mind, and soul of so many. Remind me I need no earthly wealth to stop hatred. Remind me I need no earthly army to ward off those who have hate in their hearts. Help me to show others they are wanted and needed. Help me to show others they are important to me and to the world. Help me to show others how much I appreciate them. Help me to never ignore people. All these things I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Let us pray . . .
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Almighty God: Bless the public servants in the government of the United States, that they may do their work in a spirit of wisdom, charity, and justice. Help them use their authority to serve faithfully and to promote our common life. Bless us, the citizens of this country that we, in times of conflict, engage one another without hatred or bitterness, that we listen for your voice amid competing claims, and that we work together with mutual forbearance and respect and civility. Bless us, the voters in upcoming elections. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, give us the wisdom to make the right choices for the benefit of our communities, and inspire us to serve all our neighbors. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be at peace among ourselves, and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Gracious God: Where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Let us pray: God of Goodness, you know that the violence in our community is out of control. It is taking our helpless and innocent ones, it is taking our children. And we confess that, beyond the violence in our streets, there is violence in our own hearts. We contribute to a culture of violence whenever we give in to hatred, fear, indifference, and our own self-satisfaction.
It seems that we are growing numb to the suffering, the loss, and the indignity done to our sisters and brothers and to our Earth. But in our hearts, and in the heart of the community, help us to value life and beauty over instant satisfaction, and to value sharing over greed. Empower us to acknowledge and affirm our children, our spouses, our neighbors, and seek respectful solutions to our conflicts. Create through us a world where it will be easier to be good.
Your Spirit, given to us, is not timid. Therefore, each of us can do something, person by person, family by family, community by community, to realize that we are one—one body, one people, and one earth. By your design, we thrive or we perish together.
Holy One, give us the grace of hope. Give us the dedication to goodness and truth as we seek to restore our community to wholeness and life. Enable us in this way, to take back our city and our country from the violence and crippling fear we find in our midst.
Trusting that your desire for us is peace, not disaster, we pray this in your name. Amen.
produces eternal life in us - will be our judge. Do you believe that God's word has power to set you free from sin and ignorance and to transform your life in his way of holiness? "Lord Jesus, in your word I find life, truth, and freedom. May I never doubt your word nor forget your commandments. Increase my love for your truth that I may embrace it fully and live according to it."
Thursday, May 16 – John 13:16-20
How do you treat those who cause you grief or harm, especially those who are close to you in some way? In his last supper discourse, Jesus addressed the issue of fidelity and disloyalty in relationships. Jesus knew beforehand that one of his own disciples would betray him. Such knowledge could have easily led Jesus to distance himself from such a person and to protect himself from harm's way. Instead, Jesus expresses his love, affection, and loyalty to those who were his own, even to the one he knew would "stab him in the back" when he got the opportunity. Jesus used a quotation from Psalm 4:9 which describes an act of treachery by one's closest friend. In the culture of Jesus' day, to eat bread with someone was a gesture of friendship and trust. Jesus extends such friendship to Judas right at the moment when Judas is conspiring to betray his master. The expression lift his heel against me reinforces the brute nature of this act of violent rejection. Love and loyalty that endure to the end: Jesus loved his disciples to the end and proved his faithfulness to them even to death on the cross. Through his death and resurrection Jesus opened a new way of relationship and friendship with God. Jesus tells his disciples that if they accept him they also accept the Father who sent him. This principle extends to all who belong to Christ and who speak in his name. To accept the Lord's messenger is to accept Jesus himself. The great honor and the great responsibility a Christian has is to stand in the world for Jesus Christ. As his disciples and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are called to speak for him and to act on his behalf. Are you ready to stand for Jesus at the cross of humiliation, rejection, opposition, and suffering? "Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you, that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus our Lord." (Prayer of Saint Augustine)
Friday, May 17 – John 14:1-6
Do you allow any troubles to rob you of God's peace? As much as we try to avoid it, we all inevitably encounter trouble and difficulties. Jesus knew his disciples would have to face trials and persecution after he left them to return to his Father in heaven. Adversity can make us lose hope and become discouraged, or it can press us closer to God and to his promises for us. "It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:8). A place for you in my Father's house: Just as God, who appeared as a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night, went ahead of Moses and the Israelites to lead them safely through the wilderness to the promised land, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going ahead through his ascension into heaven to prepare a place for them in his Father's house - a place of lasting peace, friendship, and happiness with God. God's house is never closed nor over-crowded - there is plenty of room for everyone who believes in God and in his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest fear in this present life - whether it be the separation and loss of a loved one or the threat to one's own life - is put to rest by Jesus' promise that we will live forever with him and the eternal Father. There we will be joined with a great company of saints and angels who will be our friends forever as well. Do you know the way to the Father's house in heaven? Jesus expected his disciples to know where his life was headed - to dwell in everlasting glory with his Father in heaven. And he expected that his disciples would recognize that this was their ultimate destination as well. Thomas, who was both a doubter and a realist, spoke for all the disciples when he said, "we neither know where you are going nor how we shall get there on our own?" Thomas was a very practical "down to earth" kind of person who wanted to see the map and landmarks showing the exact path that would lead the way to the desired haven. Jesus assured Thomas that he would not only give him everything he needed to complete the journey, he would be Thomas' personal guide as well.
Traveling alone in unfamiliar or uncharted places can be unnerving and bewildering without a companion or guide. And some places are impossible to pass through without the right person who knows the way and who can guarantee a safe passage. The Lord Jesus promised his followers that he would be their personal guide and friend who would lead them to the source of lasting peace, enduring friendship, and abundant life. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: The disciples were surprised that Jesus was going to his Father's house and would return to take them with him. And they were even more surprised when Jesus said he expected them to know the way to the Father's house. Jesus' answer to their question, "show us the way", was both a reminder that his disciples should trust their Master and Teacher to show them the way, and a challenge for them to recognize that Jesus had intimate knowledge of God and where God came from. Jesus made a statement that invoked the very name which God had revealed to Moses, "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14), and he made three claims which only God could make. He stated unequivocally to his disciples: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Jesus proclaims: I am the Way (John 14:6). He alone knows the way to the Father because he has been with the Father from the beginning - before time and creation ever existed. The Lord Jesus gives us more than a road map and guide book. He personally is the way to the Father's kingdom, and we cannot miss it if we follow him. He accompanies us on our daily journey and watches over us as the good shepherd who leads and sustains us each and every step of the way. Are you in step with the Lord and do you trust in his guiding hand for your life? Jesus proclaims that he is the Truth (John 14:6). Many can say, "I have taught you the truth." Only Jesus can say, I am the Truth. He possesses in himself the fullness of truth. Jesus claims to be one with the Father and to speak the truth which proceeds from the Father. Jesus promised his disciples that if they continued in his word, they would learn the truth and the truth would set them free" (John 8:31). The truth which Jesus proclaims has power to set us free from ignorance, deception, and sin. The words which Jesus speaks are true because there is no lie or falsehood in him. Moral truth requires more than mere words or ideas because the person who speaks them must be true - true in thought, speech, deed, example, and action. Jesus embodies the truth in his person. Jesus proclaims that he is the Life (John 14:6). He not only shows us the path of life (Psalm 16:11); he gives the kind of life which only God can give - abundant life that lasts forever. Is there any trouble, fear, or distraction that keeps you from the perfect peace and joy of a life surrendered to Jesus Christ? "Lord Jesus, you fill us with the joy of your saving presence and you give us the hope of everlasting life with the Father in Heaven. Show me the Father that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth."
Saturday, May 18 – John 14:7-14
What's the greatest thing we can aim for in this life? - Is it not to know God personally as your Father and Redeemer? What is the best thing we can possess in this life, bringing more joy, contentment, life and happiness, than anything else? - Is it not true knowledge and understanding of who God is and what kind of relationship he wants to have with you? Scripture tells us the greatest thing we can know and possess is true knowledge of God: Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me" (Jeremiah 9:23-24). We can know God the Father personally and be united with him: One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally. The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the personal knowledge of God as our Father. Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our heavenly Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God - a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the Cross. Jesus is the revelation of God - a God who loves us unconditionally, unselfishly and perfectly - without neglecting or forgetting us even for a brief moment. If we put our trust in Jesus and believe in him, Jesus promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in his name. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray with confidence, Our Father who art in heaven ... give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:9,11; Luke 11:2-3). Do you pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his personal love and care for you? "Lord Jesus, you fill us with the joy of your saving presence and you give us the hope of everlasting life with God our Father in Heaven. Show me the Father that I may know and glorify him always."
Friday, April 19 – John 13:36-38
In reflecting on our Christian journey, is it possible to ask whether or not our zeal has created a falsehood that to the eyes of the uninformed and unsaved could easily be interpreted as hypocritical? Is it possible that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are out of sync and not in proper alignment? As with the Pharisees, whom Jesus chided with the words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34 et al.), can it be that we suffer from a spiritual form of heart arrhythmia? The words of a famous hymn state, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” With fervor and excitement we sing these words without knowing to what extent our faith will be tested.
In John 13:37, Peter unknowingly tells Jesus a modest falsehood, “a fib,” because his heart is suffering from a form of spiritual “AFib” (atrial fibrillation), which happens when the heart is in an unhealthy rhythm. A spiritually unhealthy rhythm of the heart can lead to spoken intentions that are shallow and short on follow-through. Peter was affected by this condition and Jesus diagnosed it. Peter’s heart was moving too quickly and was therefore out of step. While Peter, in his zeal and affection, wasn’t aware that his faith had not yet been tested and his heart was still unhealthy, Jesus knew what was coming. He warned Peter that his heart would undergo a shock when he’d soon deny the Lord three times.
So also we, in our haste to want to say and do the right things in the company of others, may find ourselves out of step because our fleshly desires put our hearts out of rhythm
Saturday, April 20 – Romans 8:1-11
Temptation easily lures us into setting our minds on “things of the flesh,” things that are worldly, the baser things in life that cause us to act according to our sinful nature. And creatures of a sinful nature, even living under the Law, cannot be reconciled to a right relationship with God.
But thanks be to God that, out of love, God made a way for reconciliation – a way to establish an intimate relationship between God and humanity through Jesus Christ, the divine and sinless Son of God, who defeated sin and death and who invites us to share in new life with him. Not through our works but through our faith in Christ Jesus and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom we invite to live in our hearts, we become transformed through the grace – the ill-deserved favor – of God. And so we are placed on the road of living a resurrected life with Christ.
In Christ there is no condemnation because there God has restored us to the right relationship we cannot achieve on our own. There the demands of God’s holy nature are achieved on our behalf through the gracious gift God has already given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior. To God be all the glory!
Saturday, April 13 – Psalm 149
The poems in the Psalter reflect the gamut of human emotions in their expressions of crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy, lamenting pain and our own sinfulness, praising God’s majestic nature and all his creation, and much more. Psalm 149, the compendium’s penultimate song, invites us to praise the Lord in a “new song.” Verse 3 tells us to “praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre” – in other words, to praise God with our whole body. Thus Psalm 149 acknowledges our humanity.
For many of us, Lent is a time when we think of our bodies often – particularly if we are practicing daily fasting from food. At such times, we become more aware of our body’s limits and needs. Being human is part of how God created us. God made us in his image, yet human, and he declared us good. How often do we exist disconnected from and disappointed with our bodies? Someone once said, “We don’t just have bodies, we are bodies.” The body is the primary and only vessel in which to live one’s life. We are not “brains-on-a-stick.” Could acknowledging our finite and limited existence be the point at which we find true freedom to “sing a new song” – sing it in just the same way the psalmist charges us to praise and thus please the Lord?
Bonus: Sunday, April 14 – Psalm 42
As we walk through this season of Lent we are reminded of our need for God. In our penitence we are reminded not only of God’s faithfulness but also of our dependence on God. Yet sometimes we feel alone – sometimes as we face our struggles God seems absent. They ask, “Where is your God?” We cry out in despair from yearning to feel the presence of the Lord again, from knowing our need for our rock. We ask ourselves, “Where is my God?” In our longing, we know God is constant. In our anguish, we know the day will come when we will again rejoice in the Lord. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Our souls are longing for healing, peace, and comfort from the Lord – our rock in our distress. Because we know, in truth, that a time is coming when we will again praise the Lord, we can have hope in God even in the midst of our despair.
Lord, you are our rock. You are our foundation in times of darkness, and we know we can trust in you. Yet sometimes we cannot feel your presence. Give us strength to praise you and hope in you when we do not have the strength on our own. Meet us in our despair, gracious God, and hear us when we cry out. You are the one our souls long for. We praise and pray to you now in your holy name. Amen.
Saturday, April 6 - Jeremiah 23:9-15
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer – a time when we turn our eyes inward to look honestly at our lives and our walks with the savior we call Lord. Interestingly, the Lenten journey, our faith journey, starts with the birth of Christ into this world and the birth of Christ within us – and the inalterable joy and excitement we feel when we first believe in a God who would join us in this place. Just as when we first accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the celebration of Christmas is often a time of gaiety and celebration, a time when people are encouraged to give presents, write cards, and smile at strangers. For a brief period it appears to be a time of good will and peace among all human beings. Once a year, for a fleeting, shining moment, the world becomes a closer expression of the harmonic life God envisions for us all.
But soon – too soon – the loving inclusion fades. The unity between the diverse and varied expressions of humankind grows faint and all but disappears, like the fire and excitement a new believer feels tends to bank and dim with the passing of years. For often, before we realize it, we find ourselves in the January of our faith journey with our ego, pride, and selfishness back in place and firmly in control. God watches as many of us who call ourselves Christian, lose our sense of who and whose we are as we place politics over faith, group identity over oneness in the Body of Christ.
God’s word tells us that everyone who calls on the Holy Name of Jesus is a member of the priesthood of all believers. Jeremiah warns us to take care that our lives, our actions, our words, and our hearts should reflect our God and the way of love and light. For how we Christians live our lives when the newness of Christ’s birth within us fades will be seen and noted – not just by people we are called to serve and care for, but by our Holy Lord as well. And Jesus warns us that we will, indeed, reap what we sow.
Dear Lord, please forgive me when I forget that you are God and the owner of my heart, the caregiver of my life and the teacher of my soul. I confess that the world is convincing in its teaching that the acquisition of material things can bring happiness and that being right and being in power are more important than following you. Forgive me when I choose to judge others because of their politics, their education, the color of their skin, or the amount of money in their pockets. The love of power, fame, and material wealth can twist my Christian intentions from selflessness to selfishness, from welcoming to wall-building, and from caring to critical. I repent from my lack of faithfulness and ask that you light the way of love for me to follow, so that I might be guided by the truth and the life found within the way of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Saturday, March 16 – John 4:1-26
In the Coptic Orthodox tradition, St. Bishoy (320-417) had two encounters with the living Christ. Once, when on a pilgrimage, Bishoy discovered an old man lying on the side of the road. He picked up and carried the old man, but his load began to lighten. Eventually Bishoy realized that he was carrying the Lord. Jesus disappeared after promising to keep Bishoy’s body from decaying. (It is still entombed today.) Later, as Bishoy washed the feet of visitors, he was amazed when he realized he was washing the scarred feet of Jesus.
Copts today still recognize Bishoy as a pure and holy Saint. The desert that surrounds St. Bishoy’s monastery, in northern Egypt, is bone dry, but life still exists there. And now, as you read John 4, you can well imagine Jesus and Bishoy having some great conversations in the desert. Hospitality and love for neighbor extend fully when we find ourselves in inhospitable places.
To the woman at Samaria, Jesus gave a gift that goes beyond a simple drink of water in the desert. He gave her the assurance of life now and hereafter. As we venture through our own journeys in the often inhospitable world, let us exercise the ability and opportunities we are given to share with others this loving, living water of Jesus Christ.
Bonus – Psalm 42
Anyone who has spent time in the desert learns, very quickly, how precious water is to every living thing. Without water one’s mouth dries up, one’s skin withers, one’s internal organs begin to shut down. Without water one’s physical body fades away and dies. So it is with our spirit’s need for God. Without our Lord, our lives are naught but a restless yearning, a thirst that is never abated. But when we discover Jesus our souls drink deeply, and we are refreshed and renewed in the life-giving water offered to us by our loving Creator, the Source of All Being. The Psalmist understands this truth and begins his song by declaring his great need for the Holy Other. But just as our faith can wax and wane through the joys and tribulations of this life’s journey, so, too, is the Psalmist’s faith challenged. He feels anxiety and depression come upon him, and he wonders why. Why has he forgotten how much the Lord has done for him? Why do we?
By the end of the Psalm, the writer has remembered that only the Lord can keep us sane and safe in this world. Only God can quench every thirst and fulfill every need. By God’s grace we also will recall to our minds and our hearts this astounding truth as we experience the ups and downs of our own journeys. This day, thirstily partake of the peace, the joy, and the love given to you by our great God. Meditate on the unending blessings given to you by the Lover of your soul. Remember, drink deeply, and be renewed!
Friday, February 8 – Acts 3:17-26
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico 
All of the four gospels recount miracles. In John, these are given a more focused significance; John calls seven of the miracles “signs.” That is, they are miracles performed specifically to demonstrate that Jesus spoke with the authority of God, by showing that he wielded the supernatural power of God. Miracles had special significance to the first group of converts, who were Jews in Jerusalem, and as Jews, were accustomed to prophets showing their divine credentials by working miracles. The prophecy of Moses which is referenced in today’s Scripture is the first prophecy of Christ’s coming and one of the most strongly worded. In Deuteronomy 18:15-22, appearing right in the middle of the mass of laws given by Moses, is a law concerning the Messiah. Moses states that this law has been given to him by God. Moses predicts the coming of a great prophet, who will be Jewish. God commands the Hebrews to follow the prophet, because he will speak the word of God. But if he does not speak the word of God, he shall die. But how, one might wonder, could a confused Jew tell whether the prophet is true – speaks the word of God – or is false and speaking the words of other gods, or his own words? The answer is that, when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The Messiah (as this great prophet comes to be called) will make accurate predictions. Thus, one significance of Jesus’ signs is that they relate back to Moses’ prophecy.
Jesus did not perform miracles simply to wow the crowds; he was not a magician putting on a show. Most of his miracles were performed before Jews, many or most of who would have known their Moses like a preacher knows his Bible. More so, in fact, because the words of Moses were the law by which they were expected to lead their daily lives. When Jesus spoke, he put his listeners in a bind. Much of what he said seemed different from the Jewish Bible, and much of it was directly contradictory to the teachings of the Jewish religious leaders. This confounded the listeners; if Jesus was speaking the word of God, they should listen and follow, but if not, they should ignore him and possibly put him to death. So Jesus’ miracles, especially those miracles called signs by John, had special significance. When Jesus said something, it came true. Even more remarkably, when Jesus said something physically impossible, it came true. Because of this, the Jews were able to believe and follow him, for even Moses, the giver of God’s law, had told them Christ would come and they must follow him.
Saturday, February 9 – Romans 12:15
Keeping Our Spirits Up
People who have their minds set on a great goal can undergo extraordinary hardships, for long periods, to reach it. A person who wants to become a surgeon, for example, might spend eight years of constant work, living on bare essentials, just to get through school; and then another six or eight years of training, living with minimum comforts and often heavily in debt, before becoming certified. In fact, this kind of life is the rule for great achievers in life; many of the world’s billionaires grew up in poverty. To live with God is the greatest achievement any of us can conceive. Who would not rather have eternal life than a medical degree or a billion dollars? And many have given everything to reach this, the greatest goal imaginable. Francis of Assisi and countless others gave away fortunes and lived lives of intentional deprivation, just because such things were so paltry compared to the victory they hoped to achieve. Innumerable others have suffered scorn, prison, beatings, or death.
Most of us are not called upon to sacrifice so much. Christ tells us that his burden is light. Really, life as a Christian is sometimes not a “burden” at all. The joy we feel, the friends we meet, and the good choices we make, often allow us a better life on earth; and the burdens of the wicked can be heavy indeed. Today, Paul gives us the formula to lighten our load. First, he tells us, remember to let the joy of the Holy Spirit out of your mental cage. Remind yourself of your goal, for it will sustain you. Second, let God ease the pains we all feel in life. Patience is the state of mind of a person who knows that something good is on the way. Great things can come to those who wait. Everyone suffers. The agony of losing beloved family members, the pain of illness (especially with age), the desperate anxiety of money problems: life is full of pain. The pain is real; but the better we remember the virtue of patience, and the greater our hope and joy, the easier it becomes to bear the painful times.
And, finally, pray. Our minds cannot hold but a few thoughts at a time. When we think about the tasks of this world, we cannot hold God fully in our minds. We cannot possibly remember the lessons we have learned, while we are watching television or thinking about our troubles. Prayer is the time when we can empty our minds of the world, and remember hope and patience. We can remember how great is our goal and this will give us comfort and joy.