“Out of Bounds” A Devotion on Numbers 11:29

But Moses said to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” —Numbers 11:29

The people of God have always wrestled with the question of where God’s Spirit is at work. In Numbers 11 we hear a strange story that raises this very question.

Moses had gathered seventy of the elders around the tent of meeting. God took some of the spirit from Moses, and put it on these seventy and they prophesied. But there were two men, Eldad and Medad, who missed the memo and remained in the camp. Still, the spirit came upon them and they prophesied in the camp.

But a young man ran to tattle on them, and Joshua, who was Moses’s assistant, told Moses to stop them. This is when Moses rebuked Joshua.

There is a similar story in the Gospels, when the disciples complained to Jesus that some strangers were casting out demons in his name, and he should stop them. Jesus, like Moses, said to let them be.

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and proud to be one. Still, the “Reverend” before my name doesn’t mean that I am wiser or more spiritual than anybody else. In fact, one of the things I had to learn in my ministry was that sometimes when I was at a meeting stuck for the right word or idea, if I just shut up, there was someone at the table at that moment wiser than I.

In this season of Pentecost we do well to recall that God’s Spirit is not our instrument, and the Spirit’s gifts are not under the control of the church. The Spirit of God operates out of God’s own radical freedom. When we are truly wise we keep an eye out for it!

Prayer: Draw us in the Spirit’s tether, O God, so that we may be responding to what you are doing in our midst.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for June 19, 2017. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

Awesome God: A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29

When I read today’s lessons, I am struck by the mystery, grandeur and majesty of the Biblical conception of God. In these lessons God is the One who is due reverence and worship by virtue of God’s very being and nature. Our God is an awesome God. Continue reading

“The Ministry of Not Giving Up”

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6: 9

My mother-in-law is 86. Every day she engages in some form of political protest, such as contacting her representatives by phone or writing them a letter. This is part of her personal faith discipline. Continue reading

“The Giver of Life” A Devotion for Pentecost

“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”— Acts 2:17

The church marks the Day of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. Some congregations mark the day with a birthday cake, something the children take to readily.

Still, if the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost marks the beginning of the church, the Spirit’s work was not finished on that day, since it is the Spirit who creates the church in every new generation. Continue reading

Paul on the Relationship of Christians to the Civil Authorities in Romans 13:1-7

Chapter 13.1-7 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans has been highly controversial and is a good subject for a lively conversation on just how Christians should view the government. The Christians that Paul is writing to lived in Rome, the capitol of the world’s biggest empire. Christians claimed that “Jesus is Lord,” the title that the Roman emperor, seen as a divinity, required. Could one say both “Caesar is Lord” and “Jesus is Lord?” Paul would say no, “there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” So was simply being a Christian an act of sedition against the state?

If this new transformed community said that Jesus, rather than Caesar, is the true Lord how shall they live in the heart of the empire? This is what Paul was addressing in Chapter 13.1-7. Continue reading

A Hidden Gem in the Berkshire Music Scene: Berkshire Lyric

The Berkshires are widely acknowledged as a mecca of culture, especially for great music. We all know about Tanglewood and South Mountain Concerts. We read about them in The New York Times and The New Yorker.

These venues, and several others, feature some of the world’s best professional talent, and we are grateful for it. But what often flies under the media radar here is a number of homegrown, grass-roots community organizations that produce some first-rate music. Continue reading

“Tried and Found Wanting”

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.”—Psalm 66:10

I’ve noticed that many of the people I follow on Twitter describe themselves as “Jesus Follower.” I’m guessing they think this is more personal and less institutional than just labeling themselves “Christian.” Some of them seem aware of the bold audacity of their claim, and modify “Jesus Follower” with something self-deprecating such as “I’m not very good at it.”

I have tried to be a Jesus follower most of my life, so my profile could well be “trying to be a Jesus follower.” I’m not very good at it! G. K. Chesterton famously observed, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Continue reading