Jun 042020

. . . he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them . . . (Matthew 14:14b)

These few words are the turning point in Matthew’s telling of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus had withdrawn to be alone for a while, the crowds followed him, and when “he saw the people “he had compassion for them” (v. 14b), after which he cured their sick and seemingly miraculously fed over five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.

It is tempting to focus our attention on the miracle of the matter, but maybe we might consider focusing our attention on the turning point of the story. Jesus saw the need of the people and he reacted with compassion. Maybe it’s time for us to open our eyes as well.  – rc

Jun 032020

. . . he used to eat with the Gentiles. (Galatians 2:12b)

Unfortunately, other-ism is alive and well in this country today and, in fact, it is the hypocrisy of Peter’s other-ist tendencies that Paul is confronting here in his letter to the Galatian community. Before the arrival of James and his fundamentalist faction (v. 12), Peter broke bread with Gentiles, extending to them the hand of friendship, but after James’ arrival, Peter (afraid of what people might think) withdrew, condemning the practice of eating with non-Jews. And Paul will have none of it. Paul knows of God’s love for all people and Paul calls us to break bread with the other . . . following the very model of Christ. Therefore, let us not have people say of us, “[they] used to eat with [others].” Instead, let us be people who simply eat with anyone and everyone because we are all welcome at the table.   – rc

Jun 022020

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. (Ecclesiastes 2:24a)

Qoheleth has tried everything to find meaning and purpose in this world, to find the good life for himself and his community, but he has failed time and time again. Everything that he grabs for is unsatisfying, unfulfilling, ephemeral – until now. In a world where people’s priorities are misplaced and every quest for something real comes up empty, Qoheleth figures out that true meaning and purpose is to be found in the simple pleasures of eating and drinking together; he discovers that the good life is to be found in enjoying our work with one another. Qoheleth directs us away from the life of vanity that will never satisfy (because it lacks depth and substance), toward the life of simplicity and togetherness. Eating together, drinking together, enjoying work together, living together – this is the good life; this is the real life – rc

Jun 012020

But again, this also was vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:1b)

I think Ecclesiastes is the single most important biblical text for our time. The book is largely about Qoheleth’s (the main character and presumed author) quest to find meaning and purpose in world, to find the good life for himself and his community. He tries pleasure; he tries wine; he tries establishing a kingdom; he tries amassing wealth; he tries building a reputation for himself – all to no avail. None of it works; all of these are vanity: fleeting, empty, absurd. They are like grasping at mist – this is the root meaning of the term we traditionally translate “vanity.” “Vanity of vanities,” says Qoheleth, “vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2; see also 12:8) – it’s how he begins his book; it’s how he ends his book; and for those of us living in a world in which we are trying to find meaning and purpose, where we are trying to find the good life for ourselves and our communities, Qoheleth’s view of the world may resonate with our own experience of the humdrum of everyday life, leaving us frustrated and confused . . .

. . . Which is where I leave us today. But the good news is that Qoheleth has an answer to the question; he understands where to find meaning and purpose; he knows where to find the good life. So tune in tomorrow to find out just where Qoheleth directs us . . . and until then, peace to you all in this mixed up world. – rc

May 292020

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)

The life of a Christ-follower is a life of selflessness, self-denial, self-giving; it is a life lived with others in mind. We are to be “imitators of God” (v. 1), living in love (v. 2) just as “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (v. 2). If you ask me, we could use a little more selflessness these days, a tad more self-denial, a bit more self-giving; we could use our own personal freedoms for the good of everyone. Just as Christ chose to give himself up as an offering to God, so to our offering to God is our life lived for the good of everyone. – rc

May 282020

The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” (Zechariah 4:1–2a)

Sometimes, we need to be awakened from the slumber of our everyday lives. Sometimes, we need to be roused from the numbing humdrum of ordinary time. Sometimes, we need someone to wake us up so that we might open our eyes and start seeing the world as God sees the world. “What do you see?” (v. 2a) the messenger asks Zechariah – it’s a question that God repeatedly asks a number of his prophets and it is an important question – for it is what Zechariah sees that guides his ministry. And for you and me, what do we see? In light of the recent (and senseless) deaths of two more black men (Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mn), I hope we would start seeing one another as human and living with one another as family. – rc

May 272020

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1–6)

We are meant to be one family; the “life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (v. 1) is a life of unity. This is, of course, easier said than done, especially in our increasingly polarized world. But if we listen to the summons of this letter, we are given the recipe for unity: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, maintaining unity in the bond of peace. If we exemplify these qualities, then we will reflect the unity of God’s self, because there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God . . . one. We can be one as God is one.                   – rc

May 262020

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who live in it.

Let the floods clap their hands;

let the hills sing together for joy

at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming

to judge the earth. (Psalm 98:7–9)

Today the psalmist calls the congregation of creation – anything and everything – to roar and clap and sing together for joy for God is coming to judge the earth (v. 9). According to the psalmist, judgment is a good thing; it is God’s judgment that establishes righteousness and equity and peace upon the earth. This is the true essence of God’s justice: that everything is set right. True justice is perfect harmony, perfect peace, perfect shalom for all of creation: the seas and all that fills them, the lands and all that creeps upon them, the skies and all that wings through them, and people – you and me and we. – rc

May 222020

“There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”  (1 Samuel 2:2)

These words fall from the mouth of Hannah, a woman who’s just given up her only son (Samuel) to serve God with the priests. At the time, the priest was incompetent, confusing Hannah’s fervent prayer for drunkenness (1 Sam. 1:12–16). At the time, the priest’s sons were “scoundrels” (1 Sam. 2:12ff). But at this time, Hannah offers her son to a strong and faithful God, trusting that God would use her son to fight for justice and equity in the world. God was the Rock for Hannah during her rocky time; God was the Rock for Samuel during his rocky time; and God is our Rock now, giving us strength and stability. – rc

Devotion for May 21, 2020

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May 212020

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Today, the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord, the day when Jesus was taken into the heavenly realm to take his rightful seat upon the throne. For the disciples, this was an intimidating day. They were given the call to go out into the world and make disciples and baptize and teach – all without Jesus physically present with them, seemingly left alone.

But ours is a call with a promise. “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20). “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20). “I am with you always” (v. 20). Even now, Christ is with us . . . always. – rc