8th Sunday after Pentecost: “Unfair!”

July 31, 2022

First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
  vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

2:18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

Psalm: Psalm 49:1-12

1Hear this, | all you peoples;
  give ear, all you who dwell in the world,
2you of high degree and low,
  rich and poor together.
3My mouth shall speak of wisdom,
  and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
4I will incline my ear to a proverb
  and set forth my riddle upon the harp. 
5Why should I be afraid in evil days,
  when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
6the wickedness of those who put their trust in their own prowess,
  and boast of their great riches?
7One can never redeem another,
  or give to God the ransom for another’s life;
8for the ransom of a life is so great
  that there would never be enough to pay it,
9in order to live forever and ever
  and never see the grave.
10For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they   perish and leave their wealth to those who come after them.
11Their graves shall be their homes forever, their dwelling places from    generation to generation,
  though they had named lands after themselves.
12Even though honored, they cannot live forever;
  they are like the beasts that perish. 

Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  The Fox and the Grapes

A Fox one day spied a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a vine trained along the branches of a tree. The grapes seemed ready to burst with juice, and the Fox’s mouth watered as he gazed longingly at them.  The Fox had to jump for them.

The first time he jumped he missed it by a long way. So he walked off a short distance and took a running leap at it, only to fall short once more. Again and again he tried, but in vain.  He sat down and looked at the grapes in disgust.

“What a fool I am,” he said. “Here I am wearing myself out to get a bunch of sour grapes that are not worth gaping for.”  And off he walked very, very scornfully.

Let us pray:  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Today’s text raises another question for Jesus.  It is the cry for justice.  Make my brother share the inheritance! People are coming with their problems and with their questions to Jesus.  Three men wanted to be disciples for our text a couple weeks ago.  They wanted to follow “but…” Jesus told them to focus on the voice of God, not the other distractions that kept them from obeying.  We then looked at Mary and Martha who actually welcomed Jesus.  Martha wants Jesus to make Mary help her but Mary had chosen that which could not be taken from her, sitting at Jesus’ feet. Luke so far has shared encounters with Jesus as people asked questions and Jesus answered the seekers, gave a parable and then the principle.

  • What must I do to inherit eternal life?  Jesus told of The Good Samaritan. Go and do likewise.
  • Teach us to pray!  Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer.  Ask, search and knock.

Today’s person seeks for justice – make my brother share the inheritance with me.  Make life fair and just.  Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who plans to build larger stores for his anticipated blessings.  Death knocks on his door.  Again we are encouraged to focus on relationship with God.

         Let’s dig in to this week’s text.  Perhaps it is a bit poetic that the Old Testament reading starts our thinking today in Ecclesiastes as Solomon, the wisest man, laments, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!”


We know this cry.  Life is not fair and we want justice.  Ukrainians are victims of war.  They cry on our news broadcasts every night, “Help!”  We seem unable to stop the march of war.  The January 6 reports have been going on for weeks, trying to make a case for injustice and the survey results seem to show little change in our opinion.  We suspect another strain of Coved must be around the corner and are warned to vaccinate because innocent people will die.  We can go on and on.  “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  Our man, like the fox, sees a bunch of juicy grapes but they are just out of his reach.

      Our text opens as the person approaches Jesus as “teacher.”  Jesus responds, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”  I have always pondered Jesus’ response.  He seems to be dismissing the seeker. Let’s think about it for a moment as I think Jesus’ response is significant. 

         First, this person addresses Jesus as authority, teacher, and Jesus responds as “friend”.  Could it be that the incarnation, God taking on flesh in Jesus, is not about judgment and is not about bringing justice to our life now.  Life is unfair.  Believing in Jesus is not about our faith bringing health, wealth, and prosperity for us in this earthly life.  Faith may not be about getting that bunch of grapes.  The fox’s wants do not create reality.  That does not mean Jesus is not God but Jesus’ is focused on the bigger picture, bringing salvation, eternal justice for all creation. 

         Are your feelings a bit hurt?  Mine are a little.  I want God to be there for me to make my life right and make my life make sense.  I am not voting for martyrdom or a painful death or rebellious children.  It makes me think of our family rule that you had to be able to see over the steering wheel of the car before we would allow them to drive on the dirt roads or in the game parks of Kenya.  We knew they were not ready for that responsibility but that did not stop the kids from begging.  They wanted the grapes.  The man wants his fair share and Jesus does not arbitrate but gives a parable.

         Secondly, I ponder if justice is something that can be taught and brought about by law.  Would the man have been truly satisfied if the courts had given him money?  I heard on a pod caste this morning, “Law reveals, it does not resolve.”  Paul wails in Corinthians, “The good I want to do, I don’t.”  And so it is not me but sin that is working in my flesh!  The injustice, the unfairness of the situation, is revealed as our man looks at his brother’s richness and perceives his own poverty but the problem is not the law but the sin, the greed in his heart.  Sin cannot be resolved by new laws that tilt the scales of justice more in my favor.  Sin can only be dealt with on the cross.

         Perhaps we need to think about those injustices that the Evil One loves to whisper about in our ears.  The whisper always draws us into comparison and somehow the “other” always seems to have been dealt the better hand of cards.  The grapes always look juicy.  The other’s ethnicity has it easier.  Their finances must be in better shape than mine. Dare we think their spouse is better than mine?  All these temptations swirl in our minds from time to time and we start singing the “woe is me” song.  Please do not forget that Jesus addresses this man as “friend.”  Last week we were encouraged to approach God as “Our Father.” And yet again we hear Jesus addressing our concerns as “friend.”  Again I hear the message that we are in this together.  God is not the fixer and we the recipient as his serfs.  We are his children and partners.  Some days it feels like a dubious honor and may feel unjust but let’s read on.

         As our friend, Jesus affirms that life is indeed unfair but that is not the fault of the law that sets the rules but that law reveals the greed of our hearts.  Real justice is not about our things but our hearts.


Jesus tells a parable to make his point clear.  A rich farmer is greatly blessed so decides to build bigger barns for storage.  God calls him a fool and says death will visit that night and then what is the value of the blessing?

         Danger, danger.  Did I see you point to the person in the other pew as the “rich farmer”?  We dare not dismiss this story as applying to the “other guy.”  Jesus is speaking to the offended person in front of him.  I would maintain that man is that rich farmer and does not even realize it as he begs for more that he is not yet ready to care for.  If he got that inheritance, he would have to build new barns!  I do not want us to slip pass this.  As a congregation share for one minute some of the blessings God has showered on Bethany and on your life. Turn to your neighbor and say, “I have been blessed with …..”

         The cry of injustice focuses on the other person and forgets our own blessings and the forgiveness for the times we have failed.  I want to make very clear that as we look at this, we also live in the news reports of the deaths of innocent people in mass shootings.  Please do not think that this text today justifies violence, murder and abuse.  Life is unfair and sometimes the pain of it feels like more than we can bare.  The pain of the death of a child for whatever reason, the random violence of war, or the family chaos in refugee situations or disease and accidents, all are not the will of God.  Sin is horrible and must be dealt with.  Better laws does not get to the root of injustice, it only reveals its ugliness.  The life we do not have always looks like a juicy bunch of grapes just outside our reach.

         Danger, danger again.  The farmer is a fool also because he takes credits for the blessings of the harvest.  The word “mine” seems to be written across this parable.  The farmer does not consider sharing his wealth with a tithe, with his family or with the poor.  The saying, “We are blessed to be a blessing,” seems appropriate here.  God blessed that farmer and God blesses us.  The sun rises on us all.  The problem is not the wealth but our ability to acknowledge its source and its purpose.  

         The enemy is not the wealth but the greed that eats at our hearts.   You’ve heard the story of a wealthy man asked how much more money he would need to be satisfied, “Just one more dollar.”  Financial greed is perhaps easy to focus on because it is easy to sing sour grapes like the fox when we do not achieve the wealth we thought of as youth.  My kids thought they would be millionaires by age 25…well 30… just joking!  Greed can drive us to go from lover to lover, from addiction to addiction. The question is, “When is enough, enough?”  That is a different question than the realization of who gives the wealth and the question of how to use it.  The fool does not realize that life is not measured by possessions or popularity or passions.  Wealth is measured by our relationship to God and that is available to all.


Life is unfair.  The unfairness reveals the conditions of our heart.  Life is a gift to be used to bless others.  Life on earth is temporary.  God is watching.  We are not unseen.  He is involved in our lives all the time and he observed the man in the parable as that man pats himself on his own back about his wealth and planned expansion.  God steps in. “But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? ”  Unlike the fox who turns his back on the juicy grapes and calls them sour and not worth having, the rich man dreams of new barns because he is confident the grapes are going to be his.  He learns the hard way that he cannot control his life. 

         Life is unfair.  Bad things happen to good people who have worked hard and planned carefully.  Stock markets crash, accidents happen, wars break out and none of these curves in life are the fault of the people who get caught in them.  The fox jumped and jumped but could not get those grapes.  Perhaps it was not his fault!  There is no indication in our parable that God is punishing the man for his mistaken ideas. Jesus is making the point yet again that we need to focus on that of eternal value, our relationship with God, and realize that the temporal things of life pass away.

         Ultimately justice is not achieved by law but by the cross.  None of us deserve the blessings nor the problems in our lives.  Life is a gift.  Death is the equalizer in the parable.  Without his possessions, the man is forced to face his dependence on God.  We have several stories like this in the Bible.  Job without his wealth, family and health, laments with his friends.  His good deeds have not guaranteed the life he wanted.  Paul on the road to Damascus, so zealous for God’s reputation is suddenly struck blind and confronted with a living Jesus.  Paul was going down the wrong road of life.         Jesus concludes this encounter, 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  Life is unfair.  Justice cannot be achieved through arbitration or judgments of the law.  Life is not about our possessions but about our relationships.  Those grapes are not sour but juicy and worth jumping for but ultimately God gives us the strength and the perseverance. 

         Paul reminds us in Colossians, our New Testament reading, “2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. . 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” 

         We conclude with the question, “Where are your treasures laid up this morning?”  We have come full circle.  Life is unfair.  We can plan and plot but often life takes a twist.  We are not in control of our lives, God is.  God is going to bring justice for all, not the law.  May we store up treasures in heaven and be rich in our relationship with God.

The people of God said, “Amen!”

“Turn, Turn, Turn”

July 30, 2022

Our Old Testament reading for Sunday comes from the book of Ecclesiastes where Solomon laments, “The words of the Teacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.  Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,[b]
 vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”  We went through a variety of readings this week with quite different flavors.  Peter is rescued from jail by an angel and the guards who guarded him were held responsible and executed.  Rhoda, the maid, hears Peter at the door pounding but in her excitement forgets to let him in and ends up defending herself to the prayers who don’t believe.  Herod who gives a speech with the voice of a god, accepts the praise and God shows him who is God as Herod then dies.  Some days life seems so unfair and counter intuitive.  It made me think of the song, “Turn, turn, turn” by the Byrds that comes from chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes.  There is a time, a day, for everything under the sun – a time for suffering like Peter, a time for silly mistakes like Rhoda, and a time for major mistakes like Herod.  Enjoy this “blast from the past” and the season or time you are in in your life now!! May we all recognize God’s hand in our lives!   Blessings!

“Spreading the Word”

July 29, 2022

Acts 12:25 – 13:3

We are half way through the book of Acts, pondering how those early believers became the giants of faith and started a movement that changed the world.  The author Luke shifts his focus from individual encounters with the Holy to what has become known as “Paul’s Missionary Journeys.”  Paul takes three trips across Turkey and Greece and back again plus finally to Rome.  He goes with different partners but on these journeys he plants churches that will be seen in the Epistles that carry their name.

     I first note he was not a lone ranger.  He went with Barnabas, the encourager, and John Mark, his young disciple.  Faith is teamwork and multigenerational.  Also I note that while he was with his support group the Holy Spirit led the group to anoint them for the journey.  In other words, the body of believers affirmed God’s leading.  They were surrounded with prayer, teamwork, and God’s anointing. All are important elements to spiritual growth.

         So who is your prayer partner that listens, prays and gives you honest feedback?  Someone who speaks the truth in love is valuable.  Confirmation from others that you are hearing God correctly is important.  Spend time this morning thanking God for those who journey with you.  Perhaps you need to reflect on whether you are a good, honest and dependable person to travel with!  Blessings on your journey with the Lord.

“Herod’s Demise”

July 28, 2022

Acts 12: 20-24

Luke has been giving story after story about happenings in the early church that seem so unscientific.  Philip meets an Ethiopian returning to his queen and the future of Ethiopia is touched by God’s story.  Saul, a devoted enemy of the early believers is struck blind by a bright light and speaks with Jesus as he, Saul, travels to Damascus to persecute people spreading disinformation about Jesus.  God steps in and Saul believes.  History is impacted.  Then Cornelius, a Roman soldier, has a vision as Peter has a vision in a different city and Gentiles hear God’s story of love for all people.  History is impacted.  Peter is delivered from prison by God’s intervention in history.  Luke sees God’s hand directing the flow of history.  How do we see it? 

      Today’s reading goes back to Herod.  Other sources have King Herod Agrippa I dying in 44 AD.  Herod ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.  Two major cities are fighting with him but send a delegation to plead for peace.  Herod, dressed in royal robes grants an audience and gives a royal speech.  People hail the speech as coming from the voice of a god.  Herod accepts the praise and God acts.  According to Luke, Herod falls down and is eaten by worms.  Yuck.  So ends the first half of Acts.

         It seems that Luke is making a case for God’s direct involvement in the events of history and in individual lives.   Spiritual growth is recognizing those moments, grasping their importance, and living in integrity with the revelation.  Ananias had to choose whether he would go and speak to Saul who had come to jail him.  So counter intuitive.  Peter had to decide if he was going to step into a Gentile home.  So counter intuitive.  Herod had to choose whether he was going to claim to have the voice of a God or humble himself.  He missed his chance.  We can say, yes but that was back then.  Daily we make choices of who we are going to give credit to.  Daily we have experiences.   Daily we are confronted with the truth of these stories that God sees and God is active in our world today, in my world today.

     Few of us are people of importance like Herod, leaders of churches like Peter, and probably more like the maid Rhoda but we all play a part in God’s story.  May we pray that we will recognize God’s hand in our lives from the sunrise, through the events of the day, until we rest in the evening.    May we recognize and give credit to the God who holds our lives in the palm of his hands!


July 27, 2022

Acts 12:11-19

Luke introduces a moment of comic relief in his narrative.  In the midst of persecution, leaders being killed, believers fleeing under pressure, Luke adds this little story.  He tells of Peter being jailed to please the masses and under the guard of 16 soldiers.  Peter is double chained.  Things look grim.  But an angel comes, hits Peter to wake him.  The chains fall off and he walks to safety.  Suddenly Peter realizes it is not a dream but he is free.  He goes to the home of John Mark where people are gathered to pray for him.  Peter pounds on the door and the maid, Rhoda, comes to the door. Upon hearing Peter’s voice, she is so excited she runs to the prayers to announce that Peter is free but leaves Peter pounding on the door!  Peter stands at the door pounding as Rhoda tries to convince the followers that Peter is at the door.  What a silly story to include in the Bible!

         Have you ever been so surprised that God actually answered your prayers that you end up trying to convince others?  Perhaps we pray so much about an issue, convinced that God could resolve it in a certain way, that when God answers our prayer, outside the box, we are incredulous.  Perhaps the believers expected the trial would prove Peter innocent.  Peters they expected all the witnesses to disagree.  Perhaps they expected the trial to be delayed.  They had gathered and were deep in prayer.  They obviously did not expect Peter to turn up at the kitchen door.  God answers our prayers that we may not even be aware of!

         I love the song, “Open our eyes, Lord, Want to See Jesus”

Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him
And say that we love Him
Open our ears Lord
And Help us to listen
Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus

Let us spend some time today smiling when we see God acting in ways that just surprise us.  Perhaps we need to pray, “Rhoda, open the door and let the miracle in!”  Enjoy the music!

“Sleep Walking?”

July 26, 2022

Acts 12:1-21

Back in Jerusalem, the believers are facing trials.  Herod is executing leaders.  Peter is thrown into prison with 16 guards.  In the middle of the night Peter seems to have a vision.  I have had dreams so real I have thrown myself out of bed into the wall avoiding the danger I saw approaching.  My sister claims my brother would sleep walk and get a midnight snack.  Peter is double chained between two of the guards when an angel hits him to wake him.  His chains fall off and he is told to get up, get dressed and get going.  The jail door opens and Peter really wakes up a block away realizing that his dream was real and he was out of jail.  He drew the “get out of jail free” card.  Not all early Christians were so lucky.  Many died a martyr’s death in the areana or as living torches.

         The issue, I think, is not to question the scientific truth of each detail in Peter’s story but to realize that God can, should he choose, rescue us in ways we would never have anticipated.  God can work outside the boxes we put him in.  Faith may not be that we know the answer to the problem we are facing and praying it into reality but rather knowing the God who holds our lives in his hands and finding peace in him.  Despair may be seeing the edges of our problems as cement walls and hope may be realizing that these edges are permeable.  God can walk through doors we think are closed. 

         Perhaps you are facing a dilemma that seems impossible.  Rather than pray about a solution that you think would work, spend a minute today to ask God to open your heart to see him working in new and mysterious ways for his glory.  If all seems on track, spend time praying about the problems facing our country now, congressional divide, war in Ukraine, economy, and deep anger that erupts hurting others.  Many of these seems as hopeless as Peter imprisoned with 16 guards but our text assures us that no problem is too big for God.  Praise his name.


July 25, 2022

Acts 11:19-30

We are observing the growth of young faith system as persecution seems to be driving believers north along the Mediterranean Coast – Jerusalem to Caesarea to Cyprus and back to the Syrian Antioch not so far from Tarsus where Saul is.  Jewish followers are sharing with other Jews but in Antioch someone starts sharing with the Greeks and there is a new wave of believers.  “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

         Christian is a common label today but back then “Christ” was the Greek word for “Messiah,” God’s anointed king.  The Greeks did not know all the spiritual implications for Jews and the title stuck.  The leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, the encourager, to check this all out and Barnabas brought Saul back from Tarsus, up the coast, and they taught believers for a year.  Remember, there were no written Scriptures, no podcasts, no ipads and no radio.  Spiritual growth was one person reaching out to another, sharing, and modeling and encouraging.  Saul who was trained had the intellectual background to encourage and Barnabas had the heart.

         Verse 23 shares, “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them to stay true to the Lord with all their hearts.”   I think this is our nugget for today.  It is so easy to look out and see all the problems confronting our world today.  We turn on the news and can be depressed before lunch!  Barnabas looked out with eyes that saw grace operating in his world, no economics, no politics, not disease and corruption.  He saw grace.  Pick a time period, say a year or ten, and see if you can identify God’s hand of grace working in your life.  Try to list three highlights from that time period and then thank God for his blessing.  This need not be miracles.  My husband turned 76 and we asked him to name six blessings.  A man dealing with Parkinson’s named health as his first blessing.  Each day it is a major task to get from point A to point B but he does and he appreciates each day he is not in a wheelchair!  I was touched.  What might you name as a blessing today?

         Secondly Barnabas had the humility to call for Saul to come and help him disciple the believers.  Perhaps thank God for those who are teaching you and challenging you to grow in your faith.  An attitude of gratitude and the humility to learn are both good ways to approach today.  Blessings as you face your challenges!

7th Sunday in Pentecost

July 24, 2022

First Reading: Genesis 18:20-32

20Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”
22So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 27Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

Psalm: Psalm 138

1I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with | my whole heart;
  before the gods I will sing your praise.
2I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name,   because of your steadfast love and faithfulness;
  for you have glorified your name and your word above all things. 
3When I called, you answered me;
  you increased my strength within me.
4All the rulers of the earth will praise you, O Lord,
  when they have heard the words of your mouth.
5They will sing of the ways of the Lord,
  that great is the glory of the Lord.
6The Lord is high, yet cares for the lowly,
  perceiving the haughty from afar. 
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;
  you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your         right hand shall save me.
8You will make good your purpose for me;
  O Lord, your steadfast love endures forever; do not abandon the      works of your hands. 

Second Reading: Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]

6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
16Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.]

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13


1[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
 Father, hallowed be your name.
  Your kingdom come.
  3Give us each day our daily bread.
  4And forgive us our sins,
   for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
  And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Share with your neighbor.  If you could learn anything new at this point in your life, what would you want to be taught?

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Teach us to pray!

We ended last week’s sermon with Jesus’ affirmation of Mary’s choice to sit at his feet.  41 “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  What had Mary chosen?  Did she chose a lecture or a relationship?

         The disciples listened as Jesus affirmed Mary.  Luke then goes directly to another scenario that is our text today.  The disciples now observe Jesus praying and it seems they have also observed the disciples of John the Baptist.  I wonder what they observed that led to the thirst to be taught to pray.

“Lord, teach us to pray”   

Being a teacher myself, I find this a catching introduction to the text.  Teaching for me means not just lecturing like a professor or listening like Mary.  I can come to church every Sunday and I can walk away exactly as I entered, perhaps intellectually challenged and entertained but untouched in my soul.  I hear but it doesn’t change my life.  Sundays may not impact our lives because faith at its core is relational, not instructional. The disciples must have seen something happening in John’s disciples and in Mary and in Jesus himself.  Could it be that the disciples saw people being transformed through prayer?

         Perhaps our first challenge is to ask ourselves when we last wanted to really be taught, really be transformed?  Our culture has become so performance and entertainment focused that for many learning and teaching is thought of as an academic skill acquired at a school from someone who knows more than us.  My adult ESL students needed English to cope with life in the USA and to get citizenship.  They wanted to be taught so they could function and be successful.  I might take a cooking class to improve my entertaining skills.  I want to be taught so I can impress others. Then there are the paint classes where I can go and sip a glass of wine while learning how to reproduce a picture.  I want to learn and I feel better about myself.  These are examples of fun learning experiences but not the teaching that I suspect is being talked about in our passage.

Prayer as relationship

         Jesus answers the disciples request by presenting a pattern for prayer.  Jesus does not open a devotional book to read or a favorite prayer book.  He does not go to Scripture.  He says to pray like this, “Our Father.”  You have probably heard it said how revolutionary this opening is.  We approach the God of the universe on the basis of communal relationship, not authority.  I suspect we often think of God as having all power and so our request is a small task for him to grant…if he wishes.  Prayer subtly shifts to a power paradigm.  Likewise we read that if we have enough faith, then we have the power to move a mountain, heal a sick friend, do the miracles that Jesus did.  If the request is not granted then we feel rejected and a failure.  Prayers can be an intercession and request for God to use his power to end the war in Ukraine, to heal my friend with cancer, or to bring relief for those suffering in the heat in Europe.  These are legitimate prayers of intercession but I would like us today to look at the relational aspect of the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Luke.

         We approach God as family (I would add – with all the respect due our elders) requesting his kingdom to come.  We want to be in his kingdom, a citizen, not a foreigner or refugee.  We want “daily” bread, not a monthly paycheck but a daily check in.  We want forgiveness that is two-way, that re-establishes relationship and two-way communication.  And he closes with a request for no trials, no misunderstanding and strained relationships. The Lord’s Prayer is very interactional and intimate.

         Some of us have had abusive fathers or absent fathers and so approaching God as “Father” is not a very cozy idea because of our experiences.  I hear ways to get around this emotional block by addressing God as Mother or as Eternal One or Jehovah Jirah/Provider but all these variations are the cry of our heart for relationship with the One we cannot see but know is real and whom we believe cares.  Prayer is not approaching the Congress of heaven and asking for a new amendment to the constitution to protect the rights we feel are endangered by life.  Prayer is communicating with a being who cares, who relates to us individually and as a group for the good of all concerned.  It is not saying “I want” but opening a discussion with a being we want to be in relationship with.

         This week I asked my friend whom I knew came from a very abusive childhood how she navigated the Lord’s Prayer.  She replied that at first she had understood Jesus’ death as taking care of her sins, her debts, kind of like a tax write-off.  So for many years she felt God saw her as a tax write-off until she had one of those impacting dreams where she was handed a check, “Paid in full.”  Suddenly she realized she was not a write-off still on the records but a child embraced and loved.  Prayer is personal and relational, foundational to the functioning of our lives.

Prayer as Persistent Relationship

Jesus gave us a pattern in the Lord’s Prayer that followers of Jesus have prayed through the ages.  It is probably one of the first prayers we learned and in times of crisis it often comes to our hearts and lips giving words to our struggle. Jesus goes on, though, to give us not only a pattern but also a parable to flesh out the meaning of prayer.  Jesus presents two men.  One is content, in bed with his children.  The other has met with an unexpected event, a late night guest, and he is unprepared to “welcome” the guest properly.  Note we are now tied back to Martha working so hard to welcome Jesus as Mary sits devotedly at his feet.  The needy man goes to his contented neighbor, not as peasant to king but as friend to friend.  Jesus again frames prayer in the context of friendship, relationship.

         God has no need to get out of bed and help the needy person.  Prayer again is reiterated not as a power relationship but a friendship.  So what does persistence on the part of the needy friend tell us today?  I would suggest that persistence means there is no fear in the relationship.  The needy friend is not afraid of offending the contented friend by persisting in his request.  The request is open to discussion.  I think of Abraham bargaining with God in our Old Testament reading over the fate of Gomorrah.  I think of Moses responding to the burning bush about his own perceived imperfections for the task God is asking of him.  I think of the woman with the daughter with the evil spirit who was unwilling to accept a “no” from Jesus.  I think of the woman at the well.  There is a long line of Biblical heroes who were “persistent” with God and who stood on relationship, not authority.

         I suspect we think of persistence as pestering but Jesus seems to be seeing prayer as conversational.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us into relationship about the future – God’s kingdom, about our needs – daily bread, about our pains – forgiveness, and about our fears – trials.  We are invited to stay in relationship and conversation with God about the concerns of our hearts for he is our “Abba.”

Prayer as Quest

The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern for prayerful relationship.  The story is a parable about persistent prayerful relationship.  The third part of the text today presents prayer as a quest for relationship that allows us to ask, to seek, and to knock.

         When we have a need where do we turn? Who can we ask for help? 

  • Prayer is asking, turning to the God of the universe who is our father, our friend, and who is in relationship with us.  It is not standing in line to fill out a form.  It is not a legal relationship, getting good advice on how to do life right.  Prayer is conversation about anything and everything that is on our mind.  God is not tricky, giving us a snake instead of a fish.  He does not play games with us.  God invites us to ask.
  • Prayer is seeking, continuing conversation in a relationship that grows and evolves.  God is not an answering machine.  Searching requires persistence like the woman with the lost coin or the shepherd with the lost sheep.  Jesus says if we search, we will find.  I suspect we may not find the answer we are looking for but we will find peace knowing that God is working on the situation we are concerned about.  His goal is not a scorpion but an egg, the birth of something that will be worth the search.
  • Prayer is knocking on a door that appears shut.  We are free to take our doubts, our fears, and our concerns – all those things that block our relationships with God and with others – to God.  When we knock on those doors that seem to divide us from the other side, Jesus says the door will open.

So let us go back to our original question.  If we could learn anything today from God, what would we like to learn?  Learning factors me into the equation of life’s problems.  I am not asking God to solve my problem for me but asking how I can enter into a persistent, meaningful, transforming relationship with him as I face my everyday challenges.  God is longing to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us navigate life.  I don’t know about you, but I need that help.

And the people of God said, “Amen!”

“God Will Make a Way”

July 23, 2022

Good morning.  I think I chose this song recently but am going to choose it again.  It is new to me.  “God will make a way, when there seems to be no way.”  Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is seeking God but is considered an outsider by the Jews he is in charge of.  There is no social venue for him to even hear about their faith, personally.  But this week we looked how God stepped in and made a way, speaking to Cornelius in a vision and to Peter in a vision.  God brings them together miraculously and the course of Christianity is changed and broadened as the early believers are challenged to understand what God is so obviously doing.

     Last night my husband. who is struggling with Parkinson’s Disease and can barely walk, and I were invited to dinner by an old friend we had not seen for years who was in our area.  It was my husband’s birthday and we were invited to a place I have longingly driven by but never gone to eat.  In fact the place was hidden by trees so I did not know what to anticipate.  It ended up being a long downhill boardwalk to a scenic  patio on a beach but for a person who struggles to walk at all and uses a walker, it was a nightmare.  Of course it started to rain, lightning and thunder and we had to immediately climb back up the hill to a safer venue.  The cook and manager stayed with us, pushing as we held up let and got my husband through the rain to a safe place.  It was terribly embarrassing but it was also deeply touching at how people helped and were God’s hands to make a way because on our own, we could not have done it. Thank you Lord for people who help.

         Blessings as you face your challenges today and look for how God is helping!

God will make a way,  Where there seems to be no way.  He works in ways we cannot see.  He will make a way for me.

He will be my guide,  Hold me closely to His side.  With love and strength for each new day,  He will make a way, He will make a way


Oh, God will make a way.  Where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see.  He will make a way for me.  He will be my guide.  Hold me closely to His side.  With love and strength for each new day.  He will make a way, He will make a way

By a roadway in the wilderness, He’ll lead me  (Rivers in the desert).  Rivers in the desert will I see.  Heaven and earth will fade but His Word will still remain
And He will do something new today


Who might be here tonight.  You may think God has forgotten you.  About your situation, but He hasn’t.  The Bible says that we are inscribe in the palm of His hand
And Heaven and earth may pass away. But His word will remain forever
And He can do exceedingly, abundantly.  Above all that we could ever ask or think tonight (amen).  Amen, let’s sing it.


God will make a way!

“Cross examined”

July 22, 2022

Acts 11:1-18

Peter has broken with tradition and with accepted Jewish expectations, if not rules, for meeting with Gentiles.  He has not only gone into the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, but he has also eaten with the group gathered, fellowshipped with them, AND baptized them.  He then is questioned by a subgroup among the early believers that strongly believed new believers must become Jews to join their group.  This protocol was not followed.  Peter is called to explain.

           We cannot throw stones here for Christians subdivide according to beliefs about end times – pre-trib, post-trib, millennial.  We divide according to how we understand baptism or communion and sacraments.  It feels like being called to the principal’s office when we have to explain our actions. The discussion that is unfolding will deeply mark the trajectory of the growth of Christianity.  But we are looking at how Peter responded to conflict?

         As we ponder spiritual growth, it might be useful to reflect on how Peter dealt with conflict. We find an interesting response.  It seems that Peter rather than argue and defend, shared his story about how the events unfolded and how it seems that God led.  He started at Joppa and shared about his vision and hearing God’s voice.  He points out that he was not alone but in a group who also experienced the event.  He identifies the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Gentile in the meeting.  His explanation does not sound defensive.  The confronters are satisfied.  The issue will go to the Jerusalem leadership.  Labeling, name-calling and blood shed were not elements as we see in our arguments going on in society today.

         So how do you handle conflict?  One of the litmus tests that might come  up in marriage counseling is to talk about having a real argument with the other and how it was resolved.  I remember being advised to never say, “You’re just like….” But to try to give “I feel” statements that do not sound accusatory and own your own perspective.  Peter stuck to the facts and traced God’s perceived action that led him.  It is definitely good advice to not only “count to 10” but also to review a situation identifying God’s leading and possibly others who can verify our understanding.  Slowing down and praying is always wise.  Stepping into new areas of applying our faith can be confusing to others so let us be patient with them as we explain.  God does lead us into new challenges that cause us to grow spiritually and understand Him better.