“A Horizon of Hope” A Devotion on Jeremiah 32: 14-15

“Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” – Jeremiah 32:14-15 (NRSV)

It was the early 1970s when I first studied Jeremiah. It was the time of Watergate, Vietnam, and the Cold War. We were discouraged about the state of our nation and the world. Jeremiah prophesied during one of Israel’s worst times: the armies of Babylon had surrounded Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was under house arrest because his words had been too painful for King Zedekiah of Judah to hear.

There was not much room for hope. In the midst of all this trouble Jeremiah received a word from God to buy a field and to put the deeds in a jar to be kept safe for a long time. Someday, God promised, “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

It was Bill Holladay, my Old Testament professor, who first brought this text to my attention. He took Jeremiah to heart and bought himself land in Vermont as an act of hope.

We survived Watergate. The Vietnam War came to an end. The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. Of course, we have new worries. Global warming is an unprecedented threat to our world. There are still nuclear weapons. Gun violence threatens the lives of our children. Hatred and bigotry are on the rise.

But Jeremiah’s symbolic act of purchasing land at the very worst moment is a reminder to take a long view of history and to live our lives within a horizon of hope.

Prayer
God of time and eternity, help us to live, not by our worse fears, but by our best hopes, and by your enduring promise and steadfast love.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for September 29, 2019. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: “Lake Powell Sunset” by R.L. Floyd, 2019.)

“Living the Risen Life” A Devotion on Colossians 3: 1

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. – Colossians 3:1 (NRSV)

On Easter Day we all sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” as we joyfully celebrated the astonishing claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Resurrection is not a once-a-year happy moment, but a living reality in the lives of Christians. I am always deeply moved at baptisms by the church’s bold assertion that “we die with Christ in a death like his, and are raised to life with him to live a new kind of life.”

“A new kind of life” sounds pretty good to me since the old kind of life I have lived often has left a lot to be desired. Those “new kind of life” promises—resurrection promises—remind me that Christ keeps working in me and through me and with me. And not just me as a lone individual, but me as a member of his church, his body, his fellowship.

When Christians say, “if Jesus were alive today…” I know that they merely mean “if Jesus was still walking around and talking as he once did in ancient Galilee.” But the truth of his risen and continuing life with us is even more astonishing than his earthly life.

The risen life means that in life, in death, and in life beyond death, we are not alone. In life, in death, and in life beyond death, Jesus is with us. Because Jesus is alive today!

Prayer

Living Christ, may we grow more and more each day into the risen life we share with you

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for July 29, 2019. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

“You Can’t Take It with You!” A Sermon on Luke 12:13-21

Prosperity is good, right? But it comes with challenges to both nations and individuals. American society is admired throughout the world as industrious and productive.  Americans work many more hours than most others in the industrial world and they take fewer vacations. Continue reading

“Ask, Search, Knock” A Sermon on Luke 11:1-13

One of his disciples said to Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” It is a simple request. Perhaps you are perfectly comfortable praying, but many church people are not. As the Presbyterian theologian Robert McAfee Brown wrote: “Prayer for many is like a foreign land. When we go there, we go as tourists. Like most tourists, we feel uncomfortable and out of place. Like most tourists, we therefore move on before too long and go somewhere else.”

The premise of this sermon is that we could all benefit from thinking about what prayer is and how to go about it, that we may stop feeling like tourists in a foreign land and more like pilgrims in the house of prayer. Continue reading

“Distracted by Many Things” A Sermon on Luke 10:38-42

I have heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who do not. I, myself, am of the latter opinion, because no simple binary model can contain the diversity of the multitudes of humanity. Still, Mary and Martha represent two ideal types of individuals. Continue reading

“Who is my Neighbor?” A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 7: 7-17

Luke 10:25-37

Once a lawyer approached Jesus to test him. I’ve had some experience with this as my son is a lawyer. You all know my daughter, Rebecca (the pastor here). Her older brother, Andrew, is a lawyer. In fact, he’s a prosecutor. Continue reading

“Joy Comes with the Morning” A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 30

Isaiah 66:10-14

I’m glad today we have the brass quintet with us this morning because my sermon is about joy and rejoicing, and what better expresses that than the sound of brass instruments, which is why we often have them at Easter, at weddings and other celebrations..

There’s a lot of rejoicing in the Bible: the Israelites rejoiced when they brought in the sheaves; there is rejoicing in heaven over the one lost sinner. There are Paul’s admonitions to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” Continue reading