“The Lord’s Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli

January 21, 2023

         I was shocked to learn that the musical version of the Lord’s Prayer sang in this clip by Andrea Bocelli, one of my favorite singers, was actually written in 1976 according to the Internet.  It was sung at my wedding in 1976!  Albert Hay Malotte set the prayer to music even though that had been done many times before.  His version is the one most of us identify today.  Mr. Malotte was born in Philadelphia in a musical family as his father was a choirmaster.  He loved the organ.  I was also surprised to learn that Mr. Malotte wrote the ballet music for Little Red Riding Hood which brought him to the attention of Walt Disney.  As a youth he was a prizefighter and boasted he had actually fought Jack Dempsey.  But music was his talent.  He wrote the music for “The Big Fisherman” and “Lady and the Tramp.”  Listening to Bocelli sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a treat.  Listen to the words.  What jumps out to you?  Meditate on it.  Blessings.

“The Lord’s Prayer”

January 20, 2023

Matthew 6: 9-15

‘Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,
        but rescue us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

         The Lord’s Prayer is one of those famous prayers that we are taught when we are young.  I started with my kids right after they had mastered “Now I lay me down to sleep.”  I would drop a word here and there and gradually drop phrases and pretty soon they too could say it with me.  Liturgical churches say it every Sunday.  It is no more special than our spontaneous prayers but it is the model Jesus gave us and sometimes when our souls are despair, those things that we learned that are deep in our soul, rise up to give words to feelings too complicated to express.

         Many find great comfort in being invited to address the God of the universe as Father.  Those with painful memories of their father may find it difficult and go to another word like Mother or Lord.  More important than the title is the invitation into an intimate relationship of family.  God’s kingdom is not like our world and we need to remind ourselves that we desire to live God’s way and not the world’s.  Daily bread pulls our hearts into the present and encourages us to shove those fears about tomorrow into God’s hands. 

         Forgiveness is a tricky one.  Jesus reiterates it at the end of the prayer.  Just saying, “I forgive you,” does not resolve deep pain and betrayal.  But then as we have seen, vengeance does not either.  Sometimes we need to put things that irritate us into God’s hands and do it many times.  Forgiveness is hard work.  But we do want God to forgive us.  So if there is some grudge or point of anger still brewing in your heart today, take it to the Lord.  He understands betrayal, fair weather friends, and hypocrisy.  One of the meanings of the incarnation of Jesus is that God understands those things that hurt us so much and he knows far better than we how to deal with it.  That give me comfort and I hope it helps you too.  Blessings as you work on forgiveness!


January 19, 2023

Yesterday we pondered our motivations for making donations.  We may donate to thrift shops to help the poor.  But missionaries have stories of receiving donations of used tea bags!  In Kenya we shopped at “the bend down market.”  Bags of used clothes that could not be sold in the USA were sent abroad and laid out along the road with flip-flops scavenged from the beach.  Sharing with the poor is not wrong but the motive behind sharing becomes the problem.  God knows our hearts and so doing deeds from selfish motives while impressing others, does not impress God.  God sees our hearts and secret motives and desires.

         Today Jesus continues in the same vain of speaking to the secrets of our hearts. He addresses prayer.

“5 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]

‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6: 5-8)”

Again Jesus confronts us with the motives of our hearts that only God can see.  Prayer is an outward symptom of an inner relationship.  Are we hypocrites?  Are our motives selfish because we want relief for ourselves for a given concern or do we genuinely care about the issue we are discussing with God.  Tomorrow we will look at what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Today let us ask God to help us be honest with ourselves and that he would reveal any hypocrisy in our hearts.  Lord, we want our prayers to be genuine and pleasing to you!  Blessings.


January 18, 2023

         This paragraph near the end of Jesus’ State of the Union address is a bit tricky.  Fund raising is a very real part of our culture.  Radio programs seem to have a week twice a year when they ask people to pledge and offer incentives and rewards.  The rich offer to match donations to a certain limit.  Mugs with logos might be given for gifts of a certain amount.  Likewise we have plagues on walls in hospitals and colleges acknowledging the big donors.  Politics offer tax breaks if we give money for campaigns or parties.  We want to be seen as kind and sharing of our wealth.  Helping those less fortunate than our self is a deep value for many.  So understanding the next section is challenging.

“6 ‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.(Matthew 6:1-4)”

         I would suggest that the problem is not the publicity of our gifts but the motives of our hearts.  If we give to get…praise, prizes, popularity or whatever then we are living in that “tit for tat” world Jesus has been talking about.  Giving money to get praise and love is the flip side of the coin of giving revenge to get even for wrongs suffered.  That coin is temporary satisfaction whether it is money or hate.  Good deeds done in secret are seen by God who sees our secrets.

         So perhaps we have secrets in our heart that we think no one sees.  Our public persona, our face the world sees, may be covering secret scars, secret desires, and secret generosity.  We may think no one notices us but God sees, the good and the ugly.  And God rewards.  That is a promise that is worth remembering as we enter 2023!  Blessings on your secret life!

“The Bad Guys”

January 17, 2023

During preChristmas evenings, I took a break from watching the love stories that seem so romantic during the season and happened upon three movies based on true-life stories.  Big name actors played key roles and I was fascinated.  The stories all came out of World War II.  A subtle theme was dealing with people thought to be spies because either they helped the Russians who were Allies at the time or helped to defeat the Germans who were the known enemy.  The movies challenged my definition of who the bad-guys were.  So often we define the enemy as that person who disagrees with us or who is on the opposite team than us.  I bet many of us can still chant our high school cheer from football games!

         Jesus challenges our concept that bad guys are to be defeated, beaten.  He calls on us to love our enemy, love those who persecute us.  Really????

“43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)”

         Jesus gives two reasons.  First God blesses the good and the bad.  The “laws” of nature and life do not just work for the Christians, the people who believe like us, the smart, the talented or the healthy.  Good people die young and nasty people may die old.  Disease attacks all of us.  Interest rates impact all of us.  Refugees come from all econommic classes and ethnicities.  Secondly, people of all religions and ethnicities are nice to people who are their friends.  The difference is when we are counter-cultural and when we return good for evil.  Jesus takes our emotional responses to others out of our own feelings and lhas us ook to God as our model.  I heard that explained this weekend as not mimicing Jesus.  Our goal is not be be copy-cats of Jesus but to allow his Spirit to work in us so that we become our best selves, the selves God created us to be, where his image shines in us.

         This year when we are challenged, may we stop and ponder how we can return good for evil.  May we not be so quick to label the other “the enemy.”  May we remember to stop and pray.  May we desire to be called “children of our heavenly Father.”  Blessings as you face this challenge.


January 16, 2023

         We are now in the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany means a new revelation or idea.  We might say, “The light dawns.”  When our first son put on a suit to take a young lady in a fancy dress to the Senior Banquet, we suddenly realized in a new way that he had grown up.  He went to boarding school in Africa and so we did not have the everyday experience of watching him grow.  When he put on a real suit and she in a fancy dress, we gasped.  Of course, we might look at Newton, discovering the law of gravity when the apple fell.  During the season of Epiphany we look at this babe of Christmas who grew up and was baptized by John the Baptist.  A voice from heaven said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”  What?  Son of God?  Something new has happened within Judaism.

         True, the Romans believed in gods that had children with humans but not Judaism.  During Epiphany our Sunday sermons will look at the Sermon on the Mount, that has been dubbed Jesus’ “State of the Union Address” where he lays out his beliefs about how life in “the kingdom of God” works.  The sermon texts will go from Matthew 4 to Matthew 6.  Our daily devotions will continue from where they leave off to check out this “new guy on the block.”  Is he God Incarnate?

“38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

 (Matthew 5:38-42)”

Our world works with an underlying “tit for tat” principle.  If I commit a crime, I can expect to be fined or jailed.  If I am caught cheating on an exam, I can expect to fail.  Was the “election stolen” is a new mantra right now.  We are struggling also because the mass shootings especially at schools, robbing us of the lives of others, has no punishment that can bring back life.  We struggle with appeasing our desire for revenge.

         We also say “quid pro quo” or “trade-off” and “you don’t get something for nothing.”  Jesus presents a revolutionary new worldview where there is no tit-for-tat, no revenge for wrongs, but where evil is met with good.  He seems to be saying that “love” is stronger than “hate.”  Good will conquer evil!  Generosity and putting the others needs before your own is the best way of life to make life work.  Truly? We ask.  Mostly we do not take these verses seriously but we do know that forgiveness may be the only way to end the hatred and revenge cycle. 

         Perhaps there is an old grievance you have been carrying around in your memory.  Forgiveness is hard.  Sometimes writing it down and then burning it helps.  Sometimes writing it down and putting it in a box for Jesus to take care of helps.  Other times we do what we know is right even when we don’t feel like it and discover we feel better despite our feelings. 

         Let’s not head into 2023 with old grievances that weigh us down and that cast shadows on the present.  May we be more generous and willing to share with those in need.  Lord, help us be kinder in 2023!

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 15, 2023

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7

1Listen to me, O coastlands,
  pay attention, you peoples from far away!
 The Lord called me before I was born,
  while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
2He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
  in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
 he made me a polished arrow,
  in his quiver he hid me away.
3And he said to me, “You are my servant,
  Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4But I said, “I have labored in vain,
  I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
 yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
  and my reward with my God.”

5And now the Lord says,
  who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
 to bring Jacob back to him,
  and that Israel might be gathered to him,
 for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
  and my God has become my strength—
       6he says,
 “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
  to raise up the tribes of Jacob
  and to restore the survivors of Israel;
 I will give you as a light to the nations,
  that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

7Thus says the Lord,
  the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
 to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
  the slave of rulers,
 “Kings shall see and stand up,
  princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
       because of the Lord, who is faithful,
  the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Psalm: Psalm 40:1-11

1I waited patiently upon the Lord,
  who stooped to me and | heard my cry.
2The Lord lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the miry clay,
  and set my feet upon a high cliff, making my footing sure.
3The Lord put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
  many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.
4Happy are they who trust in the Lord!
  They do not turn to enemies or to those who follow lies.
5Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God! In your plans   for us, none can be compared with you!  Oh, that I could make them   known and tell them! But they are more          than I can count.
6Sacrifice and offering you do not desire; you have opened my ears:    burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required.
7And so I said, “Here I am; I come.
  In the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8‘I love to do your will, O my God;
  your law is deep within me.’ ”
9I proclaimed righteousness in the great assembly;
  I have not restrained my lips, O Lord, you know.
10I have not hidden your righteousness in my heart; I have spoken       of your faithfulness and your deliverance;
  I have not concealed your steadfast love and truth from the great     assembly.
11You are the Lord; do not withhold your compassion from me;
  may your steadfast love and your truth continually keep me safe.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: John 1:29-42

29[John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Children’s Sermon:  In the childhood story of Little Red Riding Hood what causes her to question if it is really her grandmother in the bed? 

Do you have a question for this year as you look at the babe in the manger, the man baptized and declared the Son of God, something that raises questions about Jesus’ identity?

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.


         Little Red Riding Hood goes through the woods to Grandmother’s house to take her goodies because Grandma is sick.  Something is wrong when she gets there, though.  The “person” in bed is wearing her grandmother’s clothes but Red Riding Hood comments:  Grandmother your eyes are so big!  Grandmother your ears are so long!  Grandmother your teeth are so big!  It is not her Grandmother but the evil wolf wanting to eat Little Red Riding Hood.  Epiphany is a journey where we look at the babe of Christmas who just does not look like a savior as we think a savior should look and we ask questions about his identity.  Is Jesus really the Son of God as affirmed at his baptism?

           Last week we opened the seven weeks of Epiphany to be reminded again that our God incarnated. We watched him be baptized with other people. He identified with us but then a dove descended from heaven and a voice spoke.  Matthew reports God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  The Gospel text from John expands the report by sharing that John the Baptist heard a voice too, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  John the Baptist calls him, “Son of God.”  As we look around our world in chaos, we with many might ask if Jesus is a wolf disguising himself as Savior or is he who those witnesses old say he was?

         The text presents four titles for Jesus that clarify the identity of this person standing before us and two questions that drive even us today as we come to church.  Jesus asks, “Who are you seeking?”  The disciples of John the Baptist counter, “Where are you staying?” that is “Where can we find you?”  Like them we ask, who are we seeking today and where can we find him?

“Who are you seeking?” 

         As 2023 opens, let us ask ourselves whom we are seeking.  The call process certainly throws that question into our face and demands an answer.  We tell the call committee that we want a pastor – someone to shepherd us (for that is the definition of pastor), or perhaps a leader and administrator for the person will deal with the Day Care and the Garden and the Church, or then again we want someone who will be compassionate with our aging population and who can speak words of comfort into our deminishing strength.  When we come to church, maybe we are looking for an inspiring sermon that helps us get through the week. Not only the text but also the call process challenges us today to ponder these questions.  Beneath the surface of the questions is our thirst for God.  Let’s ponder what kind of God are we seeking.

         John the Baptist first gives Jesus the title, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  When we hear the title “lamb” we might first think of the Passover Lamb.  In Exodus 12:1-21 we read that the people of God had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  God sent Moses to deliver them.  10 plagues are visited on Egypt til Pharoah “lets God’s people go.”  The tenth plague is the threat that the Angel of Death is coming.  People are given instructions to prepare a lamb to be slaughtered and its blood was smeared over the door frame of the home.  Homes marked by the blood of the lamb were spared by the Angel of Death. They did  not perish. Those people made the journey to the Promised Land.  Many theologians see this as symbolic of the faith journey.

         Later, Abraham is told to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but the Lord provides a ram and rescues Isaac.  This took place on Mt. Moriah that later became known as Golgatha.  Jesus dies on Calvary, on Golgatha, as the Lamb of God.  His blood covers our lives and protects us from perishing and eternal death.  As Christians we believe our death is our release to enter the Promised Land or Eternity with God.  That is a statement of faith that the resurrection speaks to.  But let me not get ahead of myself.  John the Baptist first identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, the deliverer from death.

         Like Little Red Riding Hood, we don’t understand if we are facing a wolf or a friend as the promise and title are sitting on a man who seems to be human and in-fact is human.  Also, to seek a savior, we must admit we are sinners that need saving.  Accusations of being a sinner feels like a wolf seeking to devour us.  We don’t want to admit we need help.  So perhaps we must ask ourselves if as we are seeking in the call process a messenger who leads us to the Lamb of God and if we are seeking the Lamb of God today to deal with our short-comings, our sins.

         John the Baptist concludes his testimony, “He is the Son of God.”  Do you note that John does not identify Jesus as a messenger like an angel, not as a prophet like of old, not as a saint who lived a good life, and not a sage who is wise like Solomon.  He describes Jesus as God incarnate, not an agent of God but God himself.  We are still looking at a person who is obviously human but whom people are declaring is God.  Faith requires us to enter into a mystery that starts with acknowledging our need for a savior and embracing him as able to incarnate human.

         Who are we seeking this year?  Do we want someone who makes our lives easier and more comfortable or someone who leads us to a God who walks through death with us?  There is a difference between talking about Jesus and meeting with Jesus in church through the elements of worship, the music, the sacraments, the word, an fellowship.  My prayer for Bethany this year is that we meet the Lamb of God, the Son of God and not a cheap imitation.

“Where are you staying?”

         John the Baptist’s disciples hear John describe Jesus as the “Son of God” and see Jesus walk by.  It would seem they wanted to check Jesus out for themselves.  Hearing someone else’s testimony of faith, while inspiring, does not necessarily make you “own it” for yourself.  It may only make you impressed.  Jesus asks these men what they are looking for and they answer with a question, “Where are you staying?”  That can mean “Where can we find you?”  Like how Little Red Riding Hood realizes there is something wrong with this picture and asks questions to check out reality, the disciples want to go and check out Jesus.  Can a man be THE Son of God? They do not address him as Son of God but as “Rabbi,” teacher, someone appointed by the religious establishment.

         Many of us struggle too with trying to figure out how to find Jesus.  We are willing to admit he was a great teacher and master of the law, an amazing rabbi, but going deeper, past appearances requires accepting Jesus’ response, “Come and see.”  For some of us that may mean a “face to face” with Jesus through a vision or dream but for most of us faith means going deeper through prayer, through Scripture, through music, through Bible studies, in worship and through those hard life experiences when we realize God is with us.  For most the truth is that faith is a journey from believing Jesus is a great teacher like Confucius or Mohammed to understanding he is the “Son of God.”  That is the journey of Epiphany we are entering.  Jesus is more than a sacrifice for our sins like human sacrifices given to gods around the world.  Jesus is more than a great teacher like others in history.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He is God. 

         John’s disciples went and stayed with Jesus all day.  Faith is not just a mountain-top experience when the “light dawns” or when we have a personal encounter.  Faith is not an intellectual assent to a doctrine.  It is more than the experience of baptism or communion.  It is a journey in relationship.  It is a journey of going and seeing.  Like the ideal marriage, faith is a togetherness through the good days and the ugly days, through riches and poverty, plenty and war, through applaud and persecution.  We return to our first question, who and what are we seeking this year?

         One of the two disciples that followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon who becomes known as Cephas or Peter, the Rock.  Andrew returns and tells Simon, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).”  Andrew takes Simon to meet Jesus for himself.  Messiah means “anointed” and deliverer.  Many religions look for a Messiah, a savior, a deliverer from the hardships being experienced.  Many, I suspect, come to Jesus because they want deliverance by someone anointed, chosen by God, who can help them deal with the guilt, with the pain, with the disappointments of life and they want a special person to shepherd them through the sacred times of life like birth, confirmation, marriage, death, or baptism.  We want Jesus to be our lamb and sacrifice for all we’ve done wrong.  We want Jesus to be our teacher, our rabbi, because we know we don’t know it all.  We want Jesus to be our Messiah, our deliverer from the hard times in life to lead us to the happier-ever-after. 

         We are challenged by these four titles.   During Epiphany, like Little Red Riding Hood, we will look at the babe born in Bethlehem, baptized and identifying with us, and we will ask questions about his title, “Son of God.”  Who are we seeking today and where are we looking in 2023?  I pray we will grow in our faith that Jesus who was baptized is indeed the Son of God who delivers us from sin and evil and teaches and guides us as we grow deeper in faith.  Jesus invites each one of us to “Come and See!”

Let the people of God say, Open our eyes to see you, Lord, in 2023!

“Jesus Calls Us From the Tumult”

January 14, 2023

Cecil Frances Alexander, author of this hymn, was born in 1818 in Dublin, Ireland.  Even as a young child she wrote poetry and would hide it under the carpet for her father to find.  Rather than punishing her as the family expected, he bought her a beautiful box in which she collected her poems and then would read them to the family on Saturday evenings.  Her poetry can be found in “Once in Royal David’s City” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”  She married William Alexander, an Anglican priest, and would write hymns for the end of his sermons.  This hymn was written for Matthew 4 that we started looking at this week.

         Jesus was baptized and then led into the wilderness and tested.  Evil led him to doubt God’s word (“IF you are who they say you are…), God’s will (surely God does not want you to get hurt….) and God’s way (skip the cross and worship me.)  Jesus responds with Scripture.  So many things in life, “the tumult of life’s tempestuous seas”, rock our faith boat but Jesus calls to us even as he called Andrew and Peter to follow him a few verses later in Matthew 4.

         Let us spend a moment listening to Jesus right now calling us to follow him in the journey of our lives!

“The Shortcut”

January 13, 2023

Have you ever been tempted to take a short cut only to discover that the short cut was the long way around a problem?  One of the “typical” mistakes my husband and I have frequently made through the years is for me to do half the task while he does the other half and then we spend the time we saved trying to find each other in the store or hospital or where ever.  I learned to drive on the Los Angeles freeway.  I quickly learned that switching lanes back and forth because one lane looked faster than the other, invariably led to frustration and I seldom traveled faster.  Short cuts can be deceptive.  “Easy” is seldom easy.

         Jesus has been tempted by his “hungers.”  If only we could turn that which appears like a rock into bread, surely his hunger would be satisfied.  The satisfaction is temporary though and he reminded us that true satisfaction comes from God.  Next Jesus was tempted by his physical or emotional needs.  Surely if God loved him, then God would not allow Jesus to be hurt.  Growth involves learning from our mistakes and adventuring into new areas that must be mastered.  Lastly the Evil One tempts Jesus with taking the easy way, the short cut.  If Jesus would worship Satan then he would not have to go to the cross.

         We know this temptation.  The little voice makes us think if we fudge on our income tax return and get more money back, then we would have an easier life.  Ads make us think if we use their product then we will look younger.  But in fact, our back still hurts.  Then again we have just been plagued trying to find the right gift so the other will know how much we love.  Next year we will try again.

“8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

“Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.”’(Matthew 4: 8-10)”

         In this temptation we learn that the best way forward is to keep our priorities in order.  In the 60s there were books on “values clarification.”  I believe there is a saying, to thine own self be true and thou canst be false to none other.  It is only as we worship God and serve him that we find peace.  The short cut may look easier and faster but true joy comes when we live with integrity with our faith and our God.  As 2023 begins to unfold, it might be worth taking a few minutes to jot down five values that are important to you and stick the paper in your Bible so that during those dark days you can pull it out and remind yourself that worshipping God is the best way, not necessarily the easiest!  Blessings.


January 12, 2023

Have you ever doubted God’s love for you or your value to him?  “Fiddler on the Roof” has several delightful scenes where the father, Tevya engages God in conversation about how God cares for him, Tevya.  “If I Were a Rich Man” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBHZFYpQ6nc grabs something we understand in our hearts.  We don’t want everything, just a little of the good life.  Later Tevya invites God “while he is in the neighborhood” to care for his horse who is lame-again.  Delightful.  The Devil tempts Jesus to test God’s love “if he is the Son of God” by throwing himself from the Temple.

“5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you”,
    and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ (Matthew 4:5-9)

Our faith in God is tempted when we are driven by our hungers as we pondered yesterday but also when we are overwhelmed by our problems.  We can hear that little voice on our shoulder saying that the God of the universe who has cows on a thousand hills and all power could certainly…  The “if you loved me, you would…” line are words most of us recognize.  I heard it on dates.  I’ve heard it from my kids when they are upset with me.  I have even entertained doubts about God when I am caught in circumstances that I am defeated to resolve.

         Jesus responds to the Devil, “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ Again, I find comfort in James 1.

“12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.

2023 will include those moments when we are tempted to think God is testing us because he does not love us.  It is easys to think he is busy over in Ukraine or the Middle East and does not see that our horse is lame.  May we have the clarity and self honesty to realize that often those down days come from within us and our desires to be a “wealthy man.”  Blessings with your lame horse, again, today!