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Quiet Time in Quarantine
Friday April 3, 2020
Good morning church, I pray you are well this last Friday before Palm Sunday. It is called Palm Sunday because it is the day of the week when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, in seeming triumph, and to the cheering crowds who would crown him king. But he was not the king they were hoping for. Instead, by week's end (next week, Good Friday) he is crowned with thorns. Pray this morning's devotional is one where we are able to gain greater glimpses into His grace towards us, & His worth, as the one who lived, died, and lives for us still, until He comes.
Devotional: The Psalm is the same one from the day before; it is one Jesus quotes from the Cross--as we were saying, the Psalms are about Jesus; every bit of the Scriptures of what we call the Old Testament, are in some way, shape, or form about Jesus. (cf. Lk. 24 and the Walk to Emmaus). At the same time, the Psalms are Israel's prayer-songbook as well as our own. They become a prayer-pattern for us, to rehearse each morning, ideally, that, thereby, patterns our whole day; until days become weeks, and weeks, months, and months years, and years a lifetime, so that in the end our whole lives will have been patterned and shaped by them.
And in short, the simple pattern of that life is one that recognizes that we are like morning dew on the grass that is quickly fading, gone by lunchtime; failing bodies, in the curse of the Fall. But not hopeless. No, as St. Paul reminds us, 'we do not mourn as those who are without hope', but as those with hope, hope born by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. (1 Thes. 4:13ff) The Psalmist's hope is in 'the steadfast love of the Lord', that He will deliver him from his enemies; the chief & last enemy being death itself. (1 Cor. 15:26).
The reading from Job requires just a little context to be properly understood. Throughout Job's ordeal and suffering, his friends and family prove worthless in their counsel (and his wife's a peach on top of it; one might remember her choice counsel to her husband, that he should, 'curse God and die'! 2:9) Here in our reading, it's Job's turn to speak. He calls his counselors 'whitewash liars'; their 'maxims are proverbs of ashes' (v.12, just before our reading which begins at v. 13). Here's how ESV then reads at v. 15 (and here's our connection to the beautiful song penned by Shane & Shane featured this morning), 'Though He slay me, yet I will praise/hope in Him.' His hope is in the Lord; the counsel of his friends is nonsense; he will hold fast his hope in the Living God, even though this God may grind him into the dust. For where else is there but Him to turn for life; for as we preached last week even, 'He is the bread of Life' itself.
This is what Paul is saying in the last reading; that for him 'to live is Christ, to die is gain.' Paul is able to see that Christ is his very life; and that when he departs this world and this life--which none of is long for--then he will depart and be with Christ Jesus, unmitigated, uninterrupted. & What a gain that will be, over anything this life had to offer. When Paul prays that we would 'only live our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel', this is what he means; that we should live with this sort of knowledge and confidence; that having Him is having all; and that everything else really is perishing, & those who stand on it destined for destruction with it. 'Though the earth below give way, we, with our eyes, would see the Lord'; that's how Shane & Shane put it. Indeed that we would. Amen
Palm Sunday because palm waving was the way to welcome in a king; they would line the roads for miles, waving palms branches, to welcome a royal dignitary to town, or a king-elect on his way to being crowned.
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Thursday April 2, 2020
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Wednesday April 1, 2020
Good morning church, it's grey/gray once again :) I think it's the only 2-day stretch thus far this winter, by count at least, where it has been so. Or maybe it only feels like it. Either way, it's probably how a good deal of us are feeling, hoping to rise to sun and to good news, only to not. God's word has something timely to say I think this morning, to speak into our time of trouble.
Devotion: The Psalm is the same from yesterday, but the reading from Jeremiah and Matthew are both new. Jeremiah was the prophet in Israel at the time of Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar's siege on Jerusalem. The king in Israel at the time didn't care much for the prophetically-bad-news Jeremiah had been relaying; so he locked him up. i.e., things don't look so good; not on any front; Jeremiah's in jail, his country is about to be besieged and laid to waste. He essentially has no future.
And yet, despite the fact that things look bleak, God tells him to get in on a real estate deal that's just come available. Who saw that coming, right?! Why is God talking real estate opportunities in the midst of impending judgment, and whilst the prospective buyer is in prison!? Not to mention that this prospective buyer will never see his country, let alone the new land he's purchasing, again.
Why? Because God is a God of the future, who is sewing and investing and banking on His plans. Though Israel is on its way out of the land, there will be a day when they come back. God brings us down in order to lift us back up--he brings us low in order to exalt us, as Jesus reminds (Matt. 23:12). And so He does the same today; he is the God who has plans for us and for His kingdom, and He wants us to continue to live in light of the hope of them; to bank on a good future in Him. We have to remember that though the nite may be filled with weeping, joy comes in the morning of the new day (Ps.30:5). And we have seen the new day dawn in Jesus already; the sun has come up. One day it will shine in full, when He returns, and transforms all creation, all 'land' (that btw is what the Promised Land of Israel always pointed to; not just a narrow stretch of land along the Mediterranean Sea, but a stake in the ground, a planted flag of God, which announced that 'the earth and all things in it belong to our Lord, and He is coming for it.' Ps. 24:1).
So, C'town CRC, even though it looks inconceivable that there should be a bright tomorrow, in Christ we know there will be, because He is good, and because someone even in this time of death and disease, He is bringing us and the whole world low, not to ultimately keep us there, but that the whole world would one day be lifted up in Christ Jesus. We of all people know the only enduring hope there is, the living hope of the resurrection. 1 Pet. 1:3. Let us live in it! Let us sow, and buy, and invest, plant seeds, do all the stuff that God has given life to consist in, and especially to sew the seeds of His kingdom, sharing the good news of the Gospel, even in the midst of what seems like hopelessness.
Blessings on you day, each and all of you. Pray for your brothers/sisters in Christ, pray for your neighbor, pray for the nations and their leaders. Who knows what our Lord is up to? We can only bet, knowing Him, that He is up to great things.
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Tuesday March 31, 2020
Good morning church, looks like a bit of a gray/grey day (depending on which side of the pond you learned your English). Our spirits will no doubt need what God has for us in His word today; difficult, sobering realities, but also hopeful in the Gospel sense. As we settle more and more into this routine for the time being, the light at the end of the tunnel can seem to be far off. In Jesus' words, let's let the day's own trouble be enough for the day; and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. He will supply; He is faithful. Part of the way He supplies and is faithful btw, is through the body He has incorporated us into: His Church. Please continue to reach out to each other virtually, visit where you can (maintaining safe social distancing, etc.) and continue to encourage one another while the day is still called day. (Heb. 3:13). And anyone needing immediate help, or just someone to talk to, please do take advantage of calling me, the elders, or the deacons, who are always ready (and now have even more time on their hands with which) to do so. All God's blessings on you today, the peace of Christ be with you, Pastor Josh Readings: https://www.dailylectio.net/2020-04-01/reflecting-on-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent Song: 'Jesus I My Cross Have Taken', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhIo2o3WLnA Devotion: The readings these past 2 days are full of people dying and being raised from the dead, or near death. This is certainly the gist of the Psalmist this morning, whose having something of an epiphany, realizing that apart from God--His presence, His faithfulness, HIs righteousness--that he is nothing, that he has no life in him whatsoever. It's a brilliant and wonderful moment when you actually come to the point, ore get to revisit that moment whereupon this hit you; that you the Spirit enabled you to see just what the Psalmist sees, and caused you to cry out for God in Jesus, that you might be saved. Once you begin to saturate yourself on a daily basis in Israel's prayer book (that's what the Psalms are) you start to realize that a pattern emerges throughout many of them. The overarching them of the entire collection is our need for God, and the God who supplies through His Suffering Servant, who of course is Jesus. But within the overwhelming majority of the Psalms themselves, you see that same pattern emerge; often the Psalmists begins crying out or even complaining about God, and then in the midst of that complaining begins down the road of rehearsing the deeds of God, and His characteristics, His promises, and His goodness. Before long, almost before the end of each and every Psalm, the Psalmist ends up concluding by singing and declaring the praises of God, and a life devoted to Him, and no longer the worthless things of this world in life, which--as we are reminded again today--is short and fleeting. I listened to a podcast yesterday from a few of my favorite Christian thinkers and one of them said this in regards to the current COVID situation; 'for the first time in most of our lives we're living as if death was a reality.' So poignant; indeed we are. For the Western world we have lived in a luxury, to such degrees that death was largely absent from us, just not a part of our everyday experience; we had come to believe--or at least lived like we believed--that we were invincible. Death is sobering, but the sobering is good for our souls; it helps them fix themselves to what is true & eternal rather than ephemeral and passing. The Lection didn't give us an epistle reading this morning; so I'm supplying one myself, or a few. I generated it on a word search in Peter's letters for the word 'sober'. I'll leave you with it 1 Peter 1:13 Called to Be Holy 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:7 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 5:8 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 1:13–5:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. Prayer: http://commonprayer.net
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Monday March 30, 2020
Good morning Charlottetown CRC, I hope this finds you well after a restful Sunday of worship and time with family and perhaps even some friends. It was certainly a beautiful day yesterday, which I and the family got to soak in by walking the north shore bit in the afternoon. What a gorgeous island, so many opportunities to praise God for His aesthetic wisdom.
We're into the 6th week of Lent; heading towards Sunday, what is known as Palm Sunday; the day of Jesus' 'triumphal' entry into Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover (as was the custom), only to 5 days later be hung on a cross.
Devotion: What a rich and wonderful psalm; it reminds me a good deal of the 71st Psalm from which Heather read yesterday in worship, in that it sings of the Lord's righteousness, asking God to deliver him in His righteousness, and here calling on God to answer him out of His righteousness. It is always out of His righteousness that our rescue and redemption come; never our own, for truly there is nothing there to be answered for.
The story of Elijah in the next reading puts on display the power of God's righteousness, foreshadowing the climactic power of God, that His righteousness has power (but not just power; compassion also) to raise even the dead. In a barren time such as Israel was experiencing this would become a sign of promise; that would happen for the widow's son would also one day happen for all the people; only of course it would be a better and fuller resurrection; first in the Son of God, then one day for us; first raised up by faith to walk in newness of life; later to be raised up bodily in a New Creation.
The last passage puts on display how that happens--through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And this part we might miss at first reading, but really needs mentioning. 'On the first day of the week', Luke writes. That means Sunday, the new Sabbath, 'when we met to break bread.' And here's the part I want to focus on. 'When we met to break bread' is what linguists call a 'metonymy.' A metonym is a word or phrase that comes to stand for a whole idea in and of itself. For Paul, 'when we met to break bread' means, 'worship'. On the Sabbath the church came together, each week; and the centerpiece, the purpose for which they gathered was to participate in Holy Communion. So central was this to worship that Luke didn't even call it 'worship', he called it 'breaking bread'. Obviously there was a lot of preaching (Paul nearly killed a guy with his preaching! Please, withhold the jokes all of you reading this are currently tempted to send me via email about my own; I'll appreciate them in theory :) ) But the center, driving force in gathering at all was Communion, or what some traditions call the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. i.e. if Communion didn't happen, worship didn't happen!
This came home to me quite a few years ago now, when Jo was real little; and we were visiting a church while on vacation, and the church service ended without having done communion. To Jo, having been raised on weekly communion from birth, it was inconceivable that this could be so. The pastor sent us out, the people in our pew started to get up, and Jo stood up and said, 'wait, wait, it's not time to go yet; we haven't had communion.' So strong was the association between worship and communion, that it was impossible to her conceive of one without the other. That's the idea actually of metonym.
God invites us to feast on His word in worship, quite literally. That's the invitation on our own communion table, 'Do this in Remembrance of Me.'
Next week we're going to do a virtual communion together; we'll send out details as to day and time and procedure. But just a heads up as you shop, or if you need assistance, or need to put in an order for delivery; we'll be asking families to have a supply of some sort of bread or cracker, and wine or grape juice on hand, so that we can all participate together next week during a livestream telecast.
Praying for you all. Continue to hope in Jesus, and continue in sharing that hope, with your neighbors and with each other in these strangest of times.
Blessings & thanks, Pastor Josh
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Friday March 27, 2020
Good morning Charlottetown CRC. Waking to a beautiful snowfall ought to be a beautiful setting for some morning devotion. I pray that you're all doing well and relishing the time God has given to us with family and friends, and His church. Welcome home to many of you; glad to have you back on island from away. Hope that your trip back has been a good one. We are glad for your return and look forward to hugs and greetings once the occasion permits. In the meantime, we fellowship in the Spirit. Blessings on your day Charlottetown CRC.
Devotion: Together they make for an especially beautiful illustration of the Gospel. The Psalm is the same as yesterday, and so we should be a bit familiar with the theme of forgiveness already emerging in the there. It's more than just forgiveness for things done wrong; it's that even in the things done right we fall short. That whether in our 'righteousness and iniquity' or unrighteousness and wickedness', regardless we are doomed. "Repentance" isn't about deciding to do good; it's about coming to the realization that you can't do any good, or at least that your 'good, isn't good enough'; that the problem isn't about being better, the problem is one of newness; that in the Fall we are dead. Yes we still retain the image of God and can do 'good things', but that is hardly the point. The fact is we are dead and we need to live, and God freely offers it, has seen to life in His Son, who will take the place at the top of the human family tree; become the new Adam & renew the whole human family.
The Rev. reading gets at the heart of what sin has done; it has caused a rift not just in the world, but between heaven & earth. In the heavenly/spiritual perspective, Adam is the king who led a great rebellion against God. Whether or not he 'meant to' hardly matters; the consequences of sin are their being driven out of the Garden and immediate presence of God, East of Eden. The whole human epoch from thereon is one of making it so that God might come near and dwell with us in that same way as in the beginning once more. The Gospel results in a complete reuniting, a new wedding, of Heaven & Earth; an event that all Creation will attend & sing of in its own newness. What John of Patmos is announcing and depicting for us, is that that reign has already begin in Jesus. The king is on his throne; or as C.S.L. made it famous to say, 'Aslan is on the move!' He is already making all things new; we are awaiting the consummation.
Let that be or hope today, that is not about how good we are, but the fact that we are new in Christ, and that one day the renewal will be complete, and the whole world along with us. Amen
Quiet Times in Quarantine
Thursday March 26, 2020
Quiet Time in Quarantine
Wednesday March 25, 2020
Good morning C-town CRC!
How we doing this day in quarantine and isolation? I think on the whole our island is doing a great job, and our own church the same. I hear, and have been on the receiving end myself, of lots of virtual communication going on throughout our congregation. I for one am much appreciative of it; keep it coming! The spirit of the church is good and is really effective in maintaining the fellowship and the communion of the saints. I think God is doing good things in our midst, even though the times are a bit trying. But isn't that often how our God seems to work? that in the midst of hard things He leads us into real &l lasting joy, so that even the things temporal are rich as we learn to appreciate the eternal things through them?
Today is what's known in the church calendar as the Annunciation of the Lord. It's a very old tradition, and frankly would likely escape our notice if we weren't reading from the Common Lectionary Calendar of Readings right now; the calendar reads, 'Annunciation of the Lord!' so that folks like me can't miss it :) It seems like a Christmas sort of thing, as the reading is from Luke 1. But notice, today is the 25th of March. So, if you do the math the selection of Mar. 25 becomes fairly obvious, as one realizes it's precisely 9 months prior to Dec. 25 :) (Never mind the fact that Dec. 25 isn't actually Jesus' birthday, but we'll cover that come Advent late this year.) Anyway, that's how the day started back in the early Church to be known as Annunciation of the Lord, the announcement to Mary of the coming birth of her son, who would be The Son of the One and Only God. And it's fitting for Lent because as much of early Christian art was good to remind us, Jesus was born to die (cf. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/walkinganancientpath/2018/12/07/pondering-the-nativity-through-iconography/)
I pray a good morning of devotion for you CCRC, that God reminds you of the joy of the Gospel, and that we might live in it, and encourage each other all the more.
Devotion: You'll notice a theme running through today's readings; they focus all on the announcement of the Messiah, the one true Servant of the Lord. Isaiah begins with an announcement to King Ahaz of 'a child who will be born as a sign'; it's the precursor to Gabriel's announcement to Mary (there's a huge story to Isa. 7, which we'll cover come Christmas/Advent); the birth of her son is Isa. 7's fulfillment; the true Immanuel, God with us.
The 45th Psalm sings and colors in quite romantic fashion of the kingly and husbandly nature of the Servant of God. He is mighty and heroic. He wins the bride (his Church) to himself; rescues her, and hosts an elaborate wedding celebration, complete with consummation. I'll spare you the details, but the the Psalm is a foreshadowing of Rev. 19, and 'the wedding supper of the Lamb'. The 40th Psalm is a song from the Servant's side, the heavenly groom, who is eager and ready to do from the heart all that God desires in reclaiming us; he is ready to make known the good news of the Gospel and accomplish it. He is the only one of whom it could be said that, 'he truly delights to do His will,' and that the 'law is truly within his heart.'
This is what the writer to the Hebrew church is explaining; that the Psalmists' words were spoken of Jesus, and they have been spoken by him, lived out by him.
And how fitting that they are echoed by Mary herself, the mother of our Lord. We rarely think of the gift that God gave Jesus in faithful parents. In both Joseph and Mary we get positive examples of faithfulness. The apple, as it turned out, doesn't drop far from the tree. We're good to remember that Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature" Lk. 2:52; that he was a real live boy who grew into a man. That his divinity was not confused with his humanity. That he really was the 2nd and better Adam/man, and was so on our behalf, to live out a life that did not fall short of glorifying God in any way (cf. Rom. 3:23).
Let us give thanks this morning to God, who has seen to all things in giving us Jesus, even to the point of giving him godly parents whose delight it was to be servants of God the Father. And let us give thanks this morning to Jesus, the True & Better Servant of the Lord, whose desire to do the will of God was truly the heart & desire of his whole being, and whose desire was for us, his Bride, the Church, who he redeems and dresses in white (Rev. 19:8).
Quiet Times in Quarantine
Tuesday March 24, 2020
Good morning Charlottetowntown CRC!
Quiet Time is Quarantine
Monday March 23, 2020
Good morning Charlottetown CRC, I hope that you all enjoyed a restful Sunday and that you were able to worship our God & King together in some fashion.
I've tried to provide here some resources for the week in hopes of keeping us connected to God and His word, and with one another. I hope to make this a daily offering.
Readings from the Lectionary (annual church calendar of scheduled daily readings): https://www.dailylectio.net/2020-03-23/reflecting-on-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent
Song of worship: Not in Me (thru YouTube, so you'll have to hit 'skip ads' after the guitar lesson ad they likely give you :) )
Devotional word: The Psalmist and Isaiah have so accurately described what we see put on display in Saul; that we are blind, foolish, walking after we-know-not-what in our fallenness; that we are prisoners to sin. And as prisoners, me imprison the world around us that unrighteous and injustice flow. "Justice", Isaiah confesses and observes, s"is far from us." But we are not without help. The Psalmists sees that God Himself will set the prisoners free, free from blindness and both the death that they are and the death they cause; "happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob!" Saul, after persecuting the early Church and Jesus, finds just these very things happen to him, blinded and "sat-still that he may know God" and His mercy in Jesus, befriended by Ananias, he is freed from his blindness, set free to declare the Good News throughout the then-known world, planting churches throughout the Roman Empire. Pray the Lord God do the same in us, in whatever empires we live, great and small; that He'd remove our blindness, show us His beauty, and walk instead in His forgiving justice & mercy.
Prayer: I find the Book of Common Prayer the best historical prayer prompt tool. Do what you like, but if you're looking for prayers scheduled to guide you in prayer throughout the year, you can't go wrong with the BoCP
Hope these prove helpful to you and your family today.
Love in Christ,