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Posts from the ‘Lenten Prayer Journey’ Category

15
Apr

Prayer Journey Week 6 – The Lost Rich Man – Luke 16:19-31

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We’ve been found. Now what? This seems to be the logical progression of these “lost and found” parables. The Good Shepherd goes and looks for that one sheep “until he finds it.” The woman turns the house upside down until she finds the lost coin. The father goes running out to the younger son, and then leaves the party to invite the older son to join them. The lost manager connects with fellow lost debtors, and by doing so, reconnects them to the rich man. God searches for us when we are lost by whatever means, even by way of a cross. Once we are found, then what?

That question is implicit in the Lost Sons parable. Jesus is silent about what the younger son does after the party, but we know what we would do. We know how we would act. We would live a life that expresses gratitude to the father in every and any way possible. “What do you want me to do today, Dad?” Jesus’ silence pushes us to own that conviction for ourselves.

The question “Now what?” seems to be explicit in this week’s parable. Will we be convinced if someone rises from the dead? Convinced of what? Will we be convinced that God takes the plight of the vulnerable and poor very seriously? Once we’ve been found by the one who rises from the dead, will we act like the Rich Man, ignoring the needy who are at our gates, perpetuating our lostness, or will we act like people who have been found, and express the joy of being found by caring for the needy?

The riches that we receive by way of the one who rises from the dead are way, way, way beyond the monetary, physical assets of the richest of the rich. Eternal life permanently connected to the love of the Creator – a life that begins right now in this life – is a wealth that make everything else pale in comparison. How much richer do we really need to be? Is it possible to be any richer?

Now, was the Rich Man selfish with Lazarus because he was afraid he’d lose something by giving Lazarus what was needed? Probably. Didn’t he know that his giving would bear more blessings in his life than what he gave up? At least we know this truth, don’t we? We know that we don’t need to be fearful in our giving because we cannot out-give God. And, what a wonderful way it is to express the joy of being found, by trying to out-give God. Sharing the riches always multiplies the riches in God’s economy. How sad it is for those who are too fearful to experience the joy that comes with this sharing; the joy that comes with being found by the one who rises from the dead.

What do you think?

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9
Apr

Prayer Journey Week 5 – The Lost Manager – Luke 16:1-8

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This is a tough parable to wrap our heads around, and yet, it may be the most profound of the “Lost and Found” parables, if not all the parables. With the first three parables, Jesus is trying to explain to the scribes and Pharisees why he hangs around with the lost, the “sinners” and tax collectors. Now he shifts his direction, explaining to his disciples why he hangs around with the lost.

So, who are the lost in this parable? They are the ones who owe debts to the rich man. Their indebtedness keeps them at a distance from the rich man who could legally destroy them if their debts were not paid. There is no love between the rich man and the debtors, and as such, there is a good possibility that the rich man will not receive any payment from these lost ones who owe the debt. (We can be that way, can’t we? Too often it’s all or nothing.)

The debtors, however, are not the only lost ones in this parable. The manager is lost too. The nameless tattle-tale caused the rich man to act justly and he destroyed the manager by taking his job away from him. Who was going to hire a manager who had been fired for “squandering?” He was as good as dead. According the Father at the end of the Lost Sons Parable, there is no difference between being lost and dead.

This is a parable about lost finding lost; about a “dead” man connecting with the dead. Obviously it is very different than the first three parables where the one doing the finding never becomes lost like the one who was lost. The shepherd did not become a lost sheep. The woman did not become a lost coin. The father did not become lost like his sons. But in this parable, the one who does the finding is just as lost, (if not more lost!), as the ones he finds. In fact, it is his lostness that gives him entry into the lives of the lost! It is his weak and desperate state that enables the lost debtors to open the doors to this guy. They would run away from the rich man, because he had the law on his side, and the law kills. The manager brought grace, and with it developed relationships with these debtors so that they would willingly pay what they could. “Grace will lead them home.”

This is why the rich man commends the unjust manager. By using his death, the manager connected with the debtors, not only blessing them, but also blessing the rich man. The manager made it more likely that the rich man was going to get paid. Grace is like that.

In 2Corinthians 5:21, the Apostle Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I believe that is what’s happening in this parable. Jesus is telling his disciples why he is not trying to be all respectable like the scribes and Pharisees, but is becoming one with the “sinners” by being with them and eating with them. (They were probably still trying to figure out why they had a tax collector within their group.) Jesus is telling them, and us, that by becoming one with us in our lostness, and sin, and death, Jesus raises us up and gives us new life. Thanks be to God.

What do you think?

Click on the title of this posting in order to share your thoughts at the bottom of that new window. We will keep this conversation thread open all week and beyond, so please come back to view how the conversation is going.

1
Apr

Prayer Journey Week 4 – The Lost Older Son – Luke 15:25-31

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Which of the sons do we feel more connected to: The younger son who wished his father dead, and ran off with the inheritance, or the older son who stayed, but thought of himself as nothing more than a slave to the father? The answer, of course, depends on when we are being asked. There are days when I take my gifts and try to run away from God as quickly as possible. There are other days when I’m still “home” doing the Lord’s work, but it feels more like slavery than the blessing of being a part of the family business. The point is that both sons are lost. One was lost at home. The other was lost in a distant land.

My heart breaks for this father. What has he done that neither of his children want to embrace the gift of being a son of his? The evidence we are given is that this father is nothing but ridiculously generous to both sons. He loves them thoroughly and absolutely. He wants them to be blessed, but neither of them want to enjoy the graciousness of his love. Both of them seem to prefer lostness to the joy of relationship.

Or do they? Lostness hurts. We see this with the younger son who “came to himself” in the pig pen. It hurt to be so hungry that the pigs’ food was desirable. The older son was living a miserable life as a slave when he had no reason to do so. Both of them suffered in their lostness.

The pain the sons experienced is also experienced by the father. That’s what happens with love. Love fuels compassion so that we feel some of the pain that loved ones are going through. Certainly that’s how it was for the father in this parable, and certainly that’s how it is with God as well. In the cross, we see God dying the death that our lostness brings about. God knows the pain that comes with our lostness. And, as we see in these parables, God is not satisfied to leave us in our lostness, but strives to bring us to new life. With God, being lost is not the end of the story. Thanks be to God.

What do you think?

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25
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 3 – The Lost Younger Son – Luke 15:11-24

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Parable number one: One one-hundredth of a flock of sheep. Parable number two: One tenth of a collection of silver coins. Parable number three: One of two sons. The value of what is lost is certainly increasing with the unfolding of these parables. One out of one hundred sheep? I could see losing that. One out of ten silver coins? No, I’d be lighting the lamp and looking carefully/diligently for that coin until I was satisfied that I had looked absolutely everywhere. A child? The horror of such a loss is beyond what I even want to imagine.

Is there a progression (or regression, actually) with the searching in these three parables? With the lost sheep, the parable states that the shepherd looks in the wilderness until he finds it. Who knows how long that might take? With the lost coin, the parable states that she looks carefully, but her search is contained within a specific space – her house. With the lost son, we do not see the father out searching for the son. The value is the highest, but the searching is the least. I’m not sure why that might be, or if there is any significance to it at all.

If you are like me, as you listen to the parable, you are dumbfounded by this father who willingly divides the estate/inheritance before he has died, and gives the money to this younger son. He isn’t encouraging the son to be lost, but he certainly isn’t preventing it either! We keep our children from playing in the streets, because we don’t want them injured or killed. Biblically, lostness was the same as dying. The father is giving his son the freedom to be lost; the freedom to die. Really?!? How can he do that? I certainly couldn’t do that.

But, isn’t this the freedom God gives to all of us in love? God gives the freedom necessary for us to love God in return. However, with that freedom comes the option to run away toward lostness and death.

Here’s what gives me hope, and helps me see how profound this parable is: The father comes to the son when the son is most dead; when the son is ready to not be a son any more; when the son is as lost as lost can be. The father runs out and meets the son at that moment and brings him new life. This is EXACTLY what God does for us through Christ. He joins us when we are most lost and most dead and brings us to new life.

What do you think?

Pastor Keith

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17
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 2 – The Lost Coin – Luke 15:8-10

The Lost CoinLast week it was one one-hundredth of the flock, ( or one dollar out of one hundred.) This week it is a tenth of her money – a tithe. The value of what has been lost has increased significantly, but the passion of the one who is looking is still the same. The seeker is doing whatever it takes to find what has been lost.

What is it like in your household when something gets lost? It depends upon the value, doesn’t it? If the program from last week’s play is lost, it’s frustrating, but not that big of a deal. If a puzzle piece gets lost, (one out of a thousand), it’s a pretty big deal because the puzzle is incomplete without it. If the keys get lost, it’s a very big deal. Getting them replaced can be a huge hassle and sometimes costs a lot of money.

What systems do you employ when something goes missing? Is it a deep reflection upon when you last had it, combined with scenarios of what might have occurred after that moment? Or, is it a methodical search of each room of the house, top to bottom? Or, do you “leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tales behind them?”

Right now something somewhat important in my life is missing. I have a back up, so it is more of a frustration than an emergency. Presently I’m employing the third system, trusting that it will show up sometime in that really dumb place where I put it.

This parable is a picture of the kingdom of God. As a picture, it is only a rough representation of the kingdom of God. Thus, it needs to be said that God never loses anything or anyone. If it were so, then we would have power over God. We know, however, the truth of this parable. Too often we can feel lost. Too often we can get distracted by who-knows-what and suddenly we find ourselves in places where we really don’t want to be. Again, the reality is that God never disconnects God’s self from us, (read Romans 8:31-39), but we can feel disconnected. The awareness of being disconnected is a sign that God hasn’t disconnected God’s self from us; that God’s Holy Spirit is still actively dwelling within us.

It is important to be reminded again and again just how precious we are to God; more precious than a lost sheep; more precious than a lost coin. We are so precious that God sacrifices God’s only begotten Son to die for us, and, like the shepherd in last week’s parable and the woman in this week’s parable, throws a party to celebrate the homecoming, no matter how many times that homecoming takes place. Our worship opportunities are signs of those homecoming parties. There are many others as well.

What do you think?

Pastor Keith

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10
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 1 – The Good Shepherd – Luke 15:3-7

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For a few years, I’ve thought about the lost sheep in this way: What if this lost sheep had been a “problem” sheep? What if this wasn’t the first time that this sheep was lost? What if it was the twentieth time or the thirtieth time that it became lost? And, what if this sheep, when it wasn’t straying away, was difficult to have around; not letting the other sheep have the choice food; butting others out of the way when they got near the water; biting the shepherd from time to time; refusing to come when called? What if this sheep was nothing but pain to have the in flock? What if that were the case?

We all know the answer, right? This shepherd would leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness one more time, and would go looking for this sheep. And, upon finding this sheep, would, once again, hold a party celebrating the fact that this lost sheep was found. We know this because this is what our Lord does for us again, and again, and again. Whether we “deserve” it or not, (and it is usually not), Christ, the Good Shepherd, goes looking for us, always willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to find us. Always. We know that there is no line we can cross where our Good Shepherd will finally raise his hands, shake his head and say, “That’s it. I’m done. No more looking for this sheep. I’ve had it. This one can just stay lost!” Our shepherd will never say that of us or of anyone. The cross declares this to the world. I take comfort in that. What about you?

Click on the title of this posting in order to share your thoughts at the bottom of that new window. We will keep this conversation thread open all week and beyond, so please come back to view how the conversation is going.

10
Mar

Lenten Prayer Journey for 2014 – “Lost and Found: The Parables of Luke 15 and 16.”

Lent is a good time for a prayer journey. It is six weeks out of the year where we discipline ourselves to grow spiritually in some way. It is a succinct time to follow our heart which beckons us to deepen our relationship with God in some way. Engaging in deeper, more significant prayer is a great way to make that happen. That’s what this prayer journey is all about. It is an opportunity to listen in prayer; to listen to the voice of God speaking to us through the Scriptures.

On this Prayer Journey, you will be guided to deepen your prayer life in two ways. Lectio Divina, an ancient form of listening in prayer to the Scriptures will be used in both ways. During the week you will be encouraged to sit alone with a Bible passage, day after day, pondering how God might be speaking to you through it. The same passage will be used throughout the week. In the attached booklet, questions are offered as a help to listen deeper into the passage. A few extra Bible passages that are related to the main text are offered as well, if needed. Listening alone will be one of the ways we will use to deepen our prayer life together.

The other way we will do this is to gather in a group during the week and to pray into the passage together, listening for God’s voice outside of us. We will offer three opportunities for this during Lent: On Sunday mornings, following worship; On Thursday evenings following worship at Northland Village; On Wednesday mornings as a part of our midweek Lenten worship. This time of meditation and sharing has been a powerful experience for many, and we pray that it might be that for you as well.

During the week, as a way of connecting to others, we will also offer an on-line discussion opportunity throughout the week. Stop by this main page here to be a part of the conversation. There will be a new posting each Monday. Click on the title of the posting in order see what others have posted or to share your thoughts. We will keep the conversation thread open all week and beyond.

LOST AND FOUND
The first Sunday of Lent always sets the tone for Lent. We hear of Jesus entering into the wilderness for 40 days, and how he was tempted by Satan while he was there. It is easy to get lost in a wilderness. Some of the more famous parables of Jesus focus on being lost and being found. Chapters 15 and 16 of Luke’s Gospel contain the bulk of them. These parables will for the basis of our prayer this year in our Lenten Prayer Journey.

For a copy of the booklet, click on the title below.
2014 Prayer Journey Booklet

25
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 7: Serve – John 13:1-15

Recently I have thought that when we baptize, it would be better if we poured water over the feet rather than the head. Now, who am I to buck 2,000 years of church history, but I think we loose something with this preference for the head rather than the feet. My thoughts about this are based entirely on upon this action of Jesus in our text for this week. For Jesus, the love of God is all about service towards others, and Jesus demonstrated that love by washing the feet of his disciples. Then he said, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” A few moments later he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

One of the things that I like about the thought of washing the feet in baptism is that it embraces this mandate from Jesus, that we are love as he loved us. It sets the tone right at the very beginning that when we get connected to our Lord through baptism, it is FOR something; it is FOR service; it is FOR being the love of God in the world each and every day. Baptism is more than just a nice ceremony for remembering the love of God. We take on a lifetime career through Baptism, and I think washing the feet makes clear exactly what that lifetime career is: We are to wash one another’s feet.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Click on the title of this posting in order to share your thoughts at the bottom of that new window. We will keep this conversation thread open all week and beyond, so please come back to view how the conversation is going.

18
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 6: Give – Luke 10:29-37

Before I begin, please note that there is a typo in your devotion booklet. The first Supporting Text, is not from 1st Corinthians. It is from 2nd Corinthians. The chapter and verses are still the same. (Thank you Pete.)

Our text for this week is so rich. There is so much going on. Certainly it is one of the best known of Jesus’ parables, and for good reason. It gets at the heart of what God has called and equipped us to do. We are to be God’s love in the world, and that love looks an awful lot like the care offered by the Good Samaritan.

One of the important details of this story that can easily get lost because of the many years between Jesus telling it and our reading it, is that Jews and Samaritans hated each other. For Jews, there was no such thing as a “good” Samaritan. They were all bad. And Samaritans thought the same of Jews. So imagine the reaction of Jesus’ original Jewish audience when “hero” of the story is a Samaritan.

The Samaritan gives of himself in so many ways. First he takes a risk by going to help this man who had been beaten by robbers. It could have been a trap, putting him at risk of being robbed and beaten himself. Next, he helps the man who is bleeding, putting himself at risk of being contaminated by the blood. Surely this was the main reason that the Levite and the Priest walked by on the other side of the road. Religious law prevented them from coming in contact with the blood of others. After that, the Samaritan gives of his time. Binding up the man’s wounds and taking him to an inn took precious time away from whatever he had been engaged in prior to this encounter. Then, he gives two full day’s wages to the inn keeper. For the median family in Marinette, that earns $45,000 a year, that means he left $346. And then he promised more if it was needed and he promised that he would come back that way to check on things. So he committed more time and more money if needed.

Is there more giving happening in this text?

And what about that Good Samaritan? How do we know that he was happy about giving so much of himself to this stranger who fell among robbers?

I look forward to your comments.

Click on the title of this posting in order to share your thoughts at the bottom of that new window. We will keep this conversation thread open all week and beyond, so please come back to view how the conversation is going.

11
Mar

Prayer Journey Week 5: Encourage – Acts 2:41-47

Is it possible to overemphasize the power of breaking bread together? I don’t think so. Throughout the centuries, eating together has been a central feature of fellowship. The memories and the traditions we have that include eating together are surely the most numerous of all.

In this passage it is not clear as to whether they were celebrating Holy Communion or simply enjoying meals together. Surely it was both. And what an image that is for us; to think of our meals together with the same reverence we give to Holy Communion; to look for the presence of Christ within our times together with the same anticipation that we have with Holy Communion; to embrace the fact that our time together with others is just as holy as our time together in worship. Food, given by the hand of God, plays a central role in both.

Click on the title of this posting in order to share your thoughts at the bottom of that new window. We will keep this conversation thread open all week and beyond, so please come back to view how the conversation is going.