“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 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

“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

“The Community that Mercy Makes”

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” —1 Peter 2:10

The First Letter of Peter was written to encourage Christians in Asia Minor who were being persecuted for their faith. Most of them were Gentile converts to Christianity, and Peter reminds them that their inclusion in the church and in the promises of God was by an act of divine mercy made real by the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Continue reading

“Searching for Holy Ground”

“Then God said to Moses, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” —Exodus 3:5

You can’t find holy ground with your GPS. You won’t even find it at famous holy places, though you might. Ordinary places become holy ground only because we meet God there. Continue reading

“A Continual Course Correction” A Devotion for Lent

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.02.37 PM“A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.” —Matthew 21:28,29

Repentance has long been an important theme for Lent, but many are put off by the idea since it seems to demand one big life-changing event. A friend of mine had a big poster on his wall that said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” In small print at the bottom it said, “If you have already repented, please disregard this notice.”

But I contend that we should never disregard that notice since repenting is something we must do again and again and again throughout our lives. Continue reading