Radical Hospitality: Grace

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
    on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Jonah 3:4-10

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8 Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Radical Hospitality: Inclusion

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

Acts 8:26-40

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Radical Hospitality: Invitation

Psalm 65:6b-14 (from The Psalter)

You inspire awe, God our savior, hope of distant lands and waters.

Clothed in power, you steady the mountains; you still the roaring seas, restless waves, raging nations. People everywhere stand amazed at what you do, east and west shout for joy.

You tend and water the land. How wonderful the harvest! You fill your springs, ready the seeds, prepare the grain. 

You soak the furrows and level the ridges. With softening rain you bless the land with growth.

You crown the year with riches. All you touch comes alive: untilled lands yield crops, hills are dressed in joy, flocks clothe the pastures, valleys wrap themselves in grain. 

They all shout for joy and break into song.

Mark 6:30-44

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.


Radical Hospitality: Covenant

It was a snow day for us...we worshipped, but we were out of our regular routine, so we didn't get a sermon recorded. I have attached it in print form. Prayers for spring and sunshine abound in this cold part of PA!

Psalm 89:1-14

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
    with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
    your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to my servant David:
4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever,
    and build your throne for all generations.’”Selah

5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
    your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
7 a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
    great and awesome above all that are around him?
8 O Lord God of hosts,
    who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
    Your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
    when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
    you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
    the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.
12 The north and the south—you created them;
    Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13 You have a mighty arm;
    strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
    steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Genesis 9:8-11

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Radical Hospitality: Covenant

On Wednesday, a 19 year old killed 17 people at a school in  Florida. He was adopted. Both parents now dead; his mother in November from complications of the flu.

A family whose son knew Cruz took him in after his mother died.  "They cared about this kid. They took him into the home," their attorney said, "but, as the mother told me, if they had any inkling ... that this kid was capable of something like this, they never would've brought him into their home."  

Makes sense. 

But fortunately or unfortunately, it is Lent…a season of contemplation and self-examination. And God, in God’s wisdom, offers a text today that reveals who God is and asks us to take a good look at who we are. 

Sigh here, because what makes sense now may not make sense when God gets through with us.

In Genesis, we see God look at the overwhelming wickedness of the people God has created and basically say, “If I had known the people I created were capable of something like this, I would have thought twice. I’m going to send a flood to cleanse the earth but save Noah and his family. They are the only righteous folks to be found.”

And, the story says, God did just that. And when all was said and done, God put God’s bow in the sky and promised that never again would a flood destroy all creatures on the earth. And this promise would depend on God, never on what humanity would or wouldn’t do…

That was a good thing. If you haven’t read the next part of Noah’s story after they are off the ark, you might give that a Lenten read. Right living didn’t last long with Noah and his family. 

We might imagine a television interview with God after Noah sinned in the biggest way. It could have gone, “If I’d had any inkling that Noah and his family were capable of something like this, I wouldn’t have made that covenant.”

But the covenant, the promise, was made. And God keeps God’s promises. Remember Bill Cosby’s famous parenting quip?…”I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” In making this covenant, God chooses to self-limit—gives up some of God’s freedom to say, “I brought you into this world, 

I will never take you out…regardless.”

One commentary put it this way, “The self-limitation and investment [in all creation] introduces a new and distinct facet into the character of God as portrayed in scripture.” 

A definition of radical hospitality.

God isn’t just nice to us, providing us a beautiful creation in which to live, putting chocolates on our pillow at night, inviting us to sit back and put our feet up and relax. God has a different vision for us, then and now—a vision of growth and healing and wholeness. 

To accomplish this kind of relationship, God changes. God limits God’s freedom and invests in humanity. And that investment is even more remarkable because God knows exactly what humans are capable of doing and being.

On this first Sunday of Lent, with yet another mass shooting

in our heads and hearts, is God asking if we are willing to self-limit, to give up some of our freedom and invest in the brokenness of the world. 

Every one of us in this room has 19 year old children. A few of us have 19 year old biological children. We made a promise to these children, most of whom were infants when they were baptized. Parents promised and we promised…it was the same type of one sided covenant. 

Even those children not baptized until they were confirmed, received our promise—not as dependable as God’s covenant, but our best. We limited our own freedom and invested in those kids...             until...

You fill in the blank…God is asking where the line is when we stop giving up our freedom or our preferences and say in words or actions, “Well, if they are capable of this….”

Having a number of connections in churches, here are some real lines people have drawn…

  • Why should we be concerned about those kids when they don’t show up anymore?
  • That girl was arrested for attempted murder. She doesn’t belong in youth group.
  • They shouldn’t ever come back to the retreat after sneaking out of the house at midnight to meet boys.
  • Stay away from him. He’s using drugs.
  • She just causes trouble arguing that Buddhism is better than Christianity. Isn’t that heresy?
  • They want to sing that music?!

Every one of those a time that a church said in so many words, “Well, if they are capable of this…”

After the flood, God seems to look at humanity and ask how do I nurture them, help them grow, move them toward the people they were created to be. 

God’s answer is the radical hospitality of covenant—

We seem to always be looking to see what people are capable of before we limit our own freedom and invest in relationship with them. Then, it seems, we can always find a reason to not invest. Either our freedom is to precious to give up, or the person is not valuable enough to invest in. 

God self-limits and invests first…and always. 

We are invited to do the same.

A elementary classroom teacher who believes that violence begins with disconnection, resolved to make a difference after the Columbine shooting. Every Friday afternoon she asks her students to write down names of four children with whom they would like to sit the following week and identify the good citizen of the week.

But her question is not about seating or awards; it’s about patterns. Who is not getting requested? Who can’t think of anyone to request? Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated for class awards? Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

She looks for lonely children, children struggling to connect, children falling through the cracks of the class’s social life, …children whose gifts are going unnoticed. 

Do you know how much a teacher just wants to go home on a Friday afternoon?

That’s the radical hospitality of covenant.

In 2012, calls came into the police department of a Danish town from parents who were frantic because sons and daughters had disappeared. After investigating, the police learned these young, Muslim kids had gone to Syria, answering a call put out by ISIS to help build a new Islamic state. 

The rest of Europe and the US had come down hard on people who made this choice. If they came back, they were designated enemies of the state, jailed, or ostracized as traitors. The Danes made a different choice.They made it clear to Danish citizens who had traveled to Syria that they were welcome to come home, and that when they did, they would receive help with going back to school, finding an apartment, meeting with a psychiatrist or a mentor, whatever they needed to fully integrate back into society.

It was an approach so unexpected, the shock opened angry minds. People expecting to be treated harshly were so surprised they became open to thinking they were wrong to see their own society as the enemy. 

The radical hospitality of covenant.

God’s radical covenant hospitality…it’s nice to know God has limited God’s freedom by removing the smite button and investing in humankind for the health and wholeness of all creation.

It’s world changing when God’s people answer the call to do the same. 

Ask Nicholas Cruz if it would have made a difference.


Be Changed

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Be Humble

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c 


Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
    for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
    prepares rain for the earth,
    makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
    and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;[a]
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Be Brave

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of honor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
    he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the heritage of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever.

Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Be Called

Psalm 62:5-8


For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.

Mark 1:14-20

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Be Included

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendor.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
    and strips the forest bare;
    and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Be Aware

Matthew 2:1-12

(Note: We had a bit of a glitch at the beginning of recording, so the words you will miss are "By now, most of you know about the radical nature of the nativity..." Nothing major...but you are not crazy...well, maybe you are, but the words aren't there to hear!)

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Ephesians 3:1-12 (The Message)

1-3 This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you’re familiar with the part I was given in God’s plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.

4-6 As you read over what I have written to you, you’ll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God’s Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

7-8 This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

8-10 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!

Yes and No!

Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,[a]
    we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we rejoiced.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
    reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves.

Luke 1:46b-55 (The Magnificat)

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


Isaiah 40:1-5

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus Wins

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he that made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Ephesians 1:15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason  I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Exodus 2:1-10

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Galatians 3:26-29

...for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.


God is Enough

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;...

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

O give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Practicing the Paradox

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he that made us, and we are his;[a]
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.  You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lordyour God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.”  When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.


After God Passes By...

Psalm 96:1-9

O sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
    tremble before him, all the earth.

Deuteronomy 26:12-23 (from The Message)

Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”

God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”

God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”

Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”

God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.”

God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”

"Don't Talk to Us"

Psalm 19:7-14

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.
But who can detect their errors?
    Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
    do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lordwill not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

E Pluribus Unum

Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lordsaid to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Philippians 2:1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The Gift, the Gratitude

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Romans 5:1-5 (from The Message)

5 1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version) 

2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”[a] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.