“Lots of follows but few friends” A Daily Devotion

Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends . . .”—John 15:15

The affection and intimacy Jesus had for his disciples offers a model of friendship that is in contrast to much of what passes for friendship in our time.

While our communications technology has opened up endless possibilities to connect it remains to be seen if this connectedness fosters authentic friendship.

I must confess that I am a regular user of social media, but I remain of two minds about its value. On the one hand I have reunited with several old friends from my youth on Facebook. And I have made some real friendships through on-line conversations. I have a valued friend in Australia whom I stay in-touch with on-line, even though we have spent less than two weeks together in “real life.”

On the other hand I fear that sites like Facebook offer the illusion of friendship without the substance. I have several hundred “friends” on Facebook, but how many are really friends?

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist, set forth a hypothesis that the cognitive limit to the number of people one can comfortably maintain a stable relationship with, because of the size of the human brain, was around 150. Dunbar described it as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

So we all have many more acquaintances than actual friends. “Friends” may like your pictures of puppies and sunsets on Facebook, but real friends turn up for you at the emergency room, and embrace you weeping at the side of a grave. It’s fun to have “friends,” but it is essential to have friends.

Prayer: Grant us, O God, a gift for making and keeping friends, as Jesus did.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for July 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.)

“Living in the Meantime” A Devotion on Hope and Perseverance

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” —Romans 12:12

It is a challenging time we live in. And so, once again, as is my custom, I turn to Scripture for some perspective. And because I recently co-authored a study of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, that is where I will now look for insight. Continue reading

“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. Continue reading

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