“Silence is Golden!” A Devotion on Job 42:3

“I have spoken what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” —Job 42:3

I was taught never to say, “Shut up!” It was considered rude. So I still don’t.

But I am tempted from time to time. I have an allergy to certain pious phrases that I know are meant to give comfort but do not, at least to me.

The first of these is: “It was God’s will!” I am a big believer in the will of God, and have often found meaning in some very difficult, even tragic, experiences, usually in hindsight. But this particular axiom should be used sparingly, if at all.

God doesn’t go around giving children cancer or throwing people off of bicycles! What kind of God would this be?

Another saying I have to grit my teeth over is the one about God opening and closing doors. Sometimes it’s “God never closes a door without opening another door” or “God never closes a door without opening a window!”

Again I know this is meant to be comforting, and perhaps means nothing more than when you lose an opportunity, there will be another ahead. I’m good with that. But why bring God into it? It’s not Biblical, and it’s not even true. Sometimes all the doors are closed. Sometimes they are slammed! Sometimes they hit you in the face.

So let us take a page out of Job’s book and not say things about God that we don’t understand. It’s OK not to understand the ways of God. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes we just need to not speak, because a modest silence is often the proper response to the mystery of God.

Prayer: Let all mortal flesh keep silence, Holy One, before your mystery and majesty.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for September 4, 2017. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2016)

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“Staying on the Trail”

“My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”—Psalm 17: 5

I have belonged to a hiking group for nearly 20 years. We pad around the Berkshire Hills year round, wearing cleats on our boots or snowshoes during the long icy winter. Many of the various trails are well marked, but sometimes one of us will go astray and have to blow a whistle to be searched for and found by the group. Continue reading

“The Great Laboratory of Love” A Devotion on Ephesians 4:1-3

“I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” —Ephesians 4:1-3

A pastor friend of mine is known to have told his congregation, “If there isn’t somebody here who rubs you the wrong way you need to come around more often.” Continue reading

“Winners or Losers? Reflections on Vocation” A Sermon on Genesis 32:22-31

What are we to make of this strange story in which Jacob wrestles all night and gets a new name? I think it tells us something important about who our God is and about the identity of God’s people. And I want to reflect on what this story tells us about our own identity and vocation as Christians.

The first thing to notice is that whenever somebody in the Bible is given a new name it is best to pay attention. A new name signifies a turn, a change, a new chapter in the person’s life, and a new calling. A new name means a New Being.

So, for example, Abram becomes Abraham as God calls him to keep the covenant of promise. Saul becomes Paul on the road to Damascus and is changed from being a zealous persecutor of the church into the Apostle to the Gentiles. Fisherman Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus will build his church. Continue reading

“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. Continue reading

“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