“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

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

“Holy Weeping” A Devotion for Lent

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”—Romans 12:15

One of the stranger symptoms resulting from the traumatic brain injury I got 17 years ago is my tendency to cry at odd times, such as while watching sappy jewelry commercials on TV or foolish pet videos on Facebook. 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

“Helping those who have no helper”

helper“For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.”
—Psalm 72: 12

Psalm 72 begins “Give the king your justice, O God.” It implies that justice is a God-given matter, and though in our time we have no king, the seeking of justice remains one of the marks of authentic government. Continue reading

“Thanksgiving” A Daily Devotional

turkey“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”—Psalm 136:1

Our family gathers around the Thanksgiving table every year. The venue changes, but now the menu does not. Once I cooked a wild turkey our sexton had hunted. Another year I abandoned my bread stuffing for a chipotle corn bread recipe I saw in a foodie magazine. These innovations were met with the kind of murmuring that a pastor hears when she changes the words of the Doxology, and for much the same reason. Continue reading