Weekly Word Blog - Bill's comments on the coming weekend's scriptures posted each Tuesday

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice

Rejoicing in Difficulty

This Christmas learn to rejoice, not because things are going well, but because Jesus is near. He promises to be near as we face difficulty. He is also near in terms of his coming kingdom. 

Advent 3
Remember those in Prison
Joyful words written from Jail
Philippians 4:4-7
Isaiah 9:2
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

Guess Which Jesus is Coming

How is Jesus like a refiner's fire or the fuller's wash-tub? In my own life Jesus appears as the refiner's fire when my problems and misdeeds have become too great for me to ignore. It is like what they say at AA, "I've come to believe that it will take a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity." That's when Malachi's Jesus becomes good news.

Advent 2
Will we see the Refiner's fire this Advent?
Malachi 3:1-4

Watching for Jesus

Instead of being afraid by what we see happening in this world, we are supposed to be watchful. We are supposed to be ready. When we act like Jesus would act, we don't have time to be afraid.

Advent 1
World fell apart in 70 AD, temple destroyed... Jesus seen in his people, though
Luke 21:25-36
Jesus says about his kingdom, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Who wears the crown?

Jesus' Kingdom of God is real. 1) God has chosen a process that involves our participation. For now, we have to choose Jesus to be the king of our lives. Where Jesus is loved, he is king. 2) Transparency and truthfulness are core values in the Christian gospel. 3) The justice of God's kingdom involves embracing even those who believe differently, are of a different ethnicity or national origin, or choose their life-partners differently than we do.

Christ the King
Pentecost 29
Pilate is skeptical and pragmatic, so are our neighbors
John 18:33-37
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (Psalm 16:1)

A Psalm for Piles of Leaves

Each change of the seasons brings tasks that can ground our humility. We root ourselves in simple thankfulness. It wearisome to rake and rake, and to hear the wind wail at night, knowing it is replenishing the yard with leaves from the neighbor's trees. But, my soul is grateful to be living in this time and place. I say to the creator God, who designed my neighbor's maple trees to be so prodigious, "you are my God." 

Pentecost 26
Are we thankful for the boundary limit to our property, responsibilities, and lifespan?
Psalm 16
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

To Do Lists

We all think it is important to do important things. Most of us can remember some big thing in our lives that took all of our attention and made us anxious for night after night. I have the first half of Psalm 127 memorized (Unless the Lord builds the house...). It dogs me in those periods of my life when I have such great plans that I bulldozer things to the edge of hubris.  

Pentecost 25
We can push through, or rest for the winter
Psalm 127
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

In Mr Roger's Neighborhood

Pentecost 24
All Saints Sunday
Mr Rogers always spoke for acceptance of diversity
Mark 12:28-34
Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside

Why Bartimaeus Matters

Important people often suffer from a disease. The important ends that they are engaged in, steals the meaningfulness of the moments along the way. They write a check to a charity. They don't stop to meet the people they are helping.

Pentecost 23
What if our thought creates our world?
Mark 10:46-52
[James and John] said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

When Ambition becomes Sinful

We expect Jesus’ business to be organized the same as our businesses here on earth. Our organizations are structured to be pyramids, you have one person at the top (call them king, or president, or Jesus), then you have the two below them (call them princes, Ivanka and Jared, or James and John). The pyramid then spreads out and so how high an ambitious person goes depends upon how willing they are to shove the rest of us down a few levels. So, when the other disciples complain about James and John, we know just how they feel.

Pentecost 22
What causes a person to follow Jesus, may change & mature later
Mark 10:43-44
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

A Psalm for the Fall

Psalm 90 is both good and bad news. The good news is that God is in this human redemption business for the long haul. All of human existence is but a moment to him. Like Martin Luther King, God knows where the arc of moral history is going. It is not a long arc to him. God knows that it bends toward justice. But it will take forever in human terms. And yes, the bad news is that God knows that your life, and mine, on this planet will be over in a blink. We won't live to see what we hope for become a reality.

Pentecost 21
Fall Season
Change your perspective
Psalm 90
[People asked Jesus] "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

What makes a marriage?

Many people are troubled by the passage where Jesus speaks about marriage and divorce. It is important to note, however that Jesus’s words are directly followed by verses that demonstrate Jesus’s concern for the needs of children. I would argue that Jesus is not laying down a law prohibiting divorce, but rather expressing, as he does in all of his teachings, the demands that living a compassionate life places on each of us. As we go through life, we form relationships that involve promises. In marriage, we promise mutual aide, "in sickness and in health."

Pentecost 20
if its not about sex, why do some people limit marriage to mixed gender?
Mark 10:2-16
the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple

Bending Toward Justice

The only way that the law of the LORD can be perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple, is if that law is dynamic and constantly developing. There is a heresy afoot in the church today that closes the door on God’s ongoing revelation, that is, denies that God is speaking through modern figures such as Martin Luther King, while dismissing the moaning of the God’s creation as it speaks about climate change. Some of the these heretics have diminished the diversity of God’s word down to some dusty fundamentals and a few ancient rules.

Pentecost 19
There is optimism in everything King said, because he believed in the moral arc bending to Justice
Psalm 19
Matthew 5:17-48
“A capable wife, who can find?”

Me Too and Proverbs 31

The thing I find most difficult about Proverbs 31:10-31 is its emphasis upon what the woman in question does. We are not human doings. We are human beings. It’s not our accomplishments that need praised, it’s our growth as compassionate people. The whole of Proverbs, as well as, much of the Bible’s wisdom literature, makes this point clear. How do we come to fear the Lord? We each permit ourselves to go on a spiritual quest for wisdom.

Pentecost 18
Relationships matter
Proverbs 31:10-32
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

God Speaks in Triplicate

Back in the old days of typewriters and carbon paper, the most dreaded words heard by secretaries was, “I want that in triplicate.” Whatever the form or memo, it had to be important if it needed three copies. The process involved carefully aligning three sheets of 24 lb bond paper and two finicky carbon backed tissue in your Remington and striking each letter as hard as you could and spelling the every word perfectly, because corrections were impossible. Psalm 19 says that the creator God, speaks to us in triplicate.

Pentecost 17
The order of God is written into every silken orb
Psalm 19
Romans 10:16-20
Do you believe that the poor actually have been chosen by God to be rich in faith?

A Long Ways from Jesus

When I read James, I find myself reconsidering the radical statement that some Liberation Theologians make, that being poor is a prerequisite for understanding Jesus. Throughout the Bible we hear an oft repeated warning, friendship with wealth never ends well. Those who have been born with it, need to flee into the wilderness — do a Saint Francis of Assisi style run — to be purged of its effect. Those who have earned it, must cauterize all thoughts that they are somehow better people because they played life’s game to achieve this sordid end.

Pentecost 18
Just as Jesus cared for the poor of his day, we must care today
James 2:1-5
 1 Timothy 6:6-10
[Real religion is] to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep neself from being polluted by the world.”

Chasing Unicorns on Labor Day

There was a time, I’m old enough to remember, when religious people had 84 reasons to believe the world was going to end in 1984. Then there was a time, not long after that, when many churches, my own included, stockpiled batteries, bottled water, and baby diapers, because they were convinced that Y2K would make such things valuable. There was a time when almost every Christian woman I knew, wore a little angel on their shoulder (for protection or advice, I never found out).

Pentecost 15
The moral minority
James 1:16-27
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere

Temple? Not my temple!

I have a problem with Psalm 84. It’s one of those poems that doesn’t make sense once you tear it apart. “My temple is a place where even a swallow finds a place to nest,” makes as much sense as, “My love is like a red, red, rose.” Howling, just feet away from the altar in Solomon’s temple, were lines of sacrificial sheep and boxes of doves, ready to be slaughtered. Temple sacrifice, up until 70 AD, was madness, bleating sheep, and nasty priests. Blood flowed on the rock where Abraham once bond Isaac. Did I mention that child abuse is one of the problems that the church is still dealing with?

Pentecost 21
Architecture does not equal religion
Psalm 84
[God answered Solomon's prayer saying] I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart

Not Being Smart

God must not like our prayers because he keeps giving us the opposite of what we ask for. We ask for patience and we receive more frustrations. We ask for peace in our household and we receive more conflict. We ask for enough wealth to be secure and we find ourselves jobless and dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I get the feeling that God’s intention is to throw us fully into life, like a baby being thrown into the deep end of the pool. We pray, “Lord give us a firm foundation of truth,” by which we mean that He should make us smart enough to always be right. God responds, “Hey it’s time for your swimming lesson. Keep your head up and remember to breathe.”

Pentecost 15
I'd rather be uncertain & afloat than grounded & no longer afloat
1 Kings 3:5-14
My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.

Prayer before Dawn

I have a love-hate relationship with mornings. As a self-employed author, I have great flexibility regarding when and where I work. But the Holy Spirit and my own creative whit have their own plans. I have discovered that early morning hours are golden. But rarer than diamonds are the times when the cat, dog, or my bladder wakes me while it is still night, and instead of cursing these intrusions, I grab coffee and write like one possessed. In Psalm 130 we read, “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.” Something has awoken the psalmist to an hour when all he or she can do is pray.

Pentecost 12
Many people find early morning the best time for regular devotions
Psalm 130
Matthew 16:26
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness...

Unity, All the way to Jail

It’s helpful to imagine Paul in a prison cell as he writes the book of Ephesians, particularly chapter 4. To be imprisoned is to be divided off from humanity. So, Paul speaks about unity and provides a vision of what brings us together. He says that God considers us all to be one and that when we accept the Christian faith we all have the same baptism, even though some are sprinkled as infants and others dunked under the cold, muddy, waters of the Penobscot River. We are one, in spite of whatever wind of doctrine fills our sails. We are one, no matter what work fills our days, or what economic fortunes have befallen us.

Pentecost 13
Monarchs are called to migrate great distances over high walls
Ephesians 4:1-16

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