All

Romans 3:21-26 (NRSV)
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.


Politicians and social media participants happily point out which group is at fault in these divided times.  No matter where we are on the political spectrum, we can blame the other side for the wrongs done in our society. In doing so, we might even feel as if our very existence has been justified.

When our local church reopened for in-person worship recently, we tried something different for the pews.  We decided to use ribbon to mark off which pews we can use.  The ladies who tied the bows for the ribbons did a marvelous job, but after thanking them for their work, I noticed something peculiar.

Earlier, when I had shown them what I envisioned, I had used a roll of blue ribbon to demonstrate.  They had other colors available, too: pastel green, pastel pink, and red.  When they were finished, we ended up with blue ribbons on the left side and red ribbons on the right. It was not a preplanned political statement; it just happened that way.

I mentioned this when we were back in our first in-person worship service.  I lightheartedly said that the Democrats did not have to sit on the left, nor did the Republicans have to sit on the right.  I finished my remarks by saying, “All sinners are welcome here.”

The only way we can be justified is by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of us, no matter the political persuasion, can receive redemption that comes through him.  Being lumped together by faith in Jesus Christ surely gives us a different perspective on life, even our political life.

Lord God, you want all to believe in Jesus Christ so all may be in your kingdom.  Our arbitrary divisions of political class do not change the fact that all of us are sinners.  Use the righteousness that you have given us through faith in Christ to heal the relationships in our local church, our community, and our nation.  For we realize we can only be found in your kingdom by being in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Not Much Has Changed

Daniel 9:1-14

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,

“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

“All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers, by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity. So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.”


It was a different time and a different nation.  Yet, the prayer that Daniel prayed is one that can be prayed by each generation and each nation. 

Daniel’s prayer is called a prayer of confession.  We can have shame upon our nation for we have sinned against God.  From our rulers to even the ones reading this devotion, we all have sinned.  Paul will even remind us in Romans that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

As Methodist Christians, we realize the importance of repentance.  For when we repent, we are responding to God’s prevenient grace. 

Our confession of our sins, iniquities, and wickedness allows God to give us new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is hard to realize that we have brought calamity upon ourselves.  Yet, thankfully, turning to God in faith we find the forgiveness that he has already prepared for us.

God, we are sinners here in America.  We have not listened to you.  Now, we are listening to you.  We admit we have done wrong by you and our neighbors.  Let us know your forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Do We Stink?

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (NRSV)

When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.


Knowing Christ permeates every aspect our lives.  This fragrance of knowing Christ in us comes through knowing Jesus.  We know Jesus through devotions like this one.  We experience Jesus by worshiping with other Christians.  We know Jesus in all aspects of our lives.  The Spirit of God uses these means to attract non-believers to Jesus by the fragrance we put off.

We can ask ourselves, “Do we stink?”  When we taste and see that the Lord is good, our aroma will be sweet.  However, we Christians do stink to high heaven at times!  We know of times that our fragrance has been putrid as we have not lived like ones knowing Christ Jesus. Yet, in Christ our fragrance is attractive.  That is the key for us.  

Christ, you take us from death to death and from life to life.  It is when we are found in you that we live.  You have done what is necessary for us to have salvation.  We want to be found as persons of sincerity, as being in you.  We have not been fragrant with the fragrance that comes from knowing you.  We have stunk.  We turn to you so we can know you.  We turn to you so we may be found to be standing in your presence and the presence of God.  Lead us in triumphal procession all the way into the kingdom of God.  Amen.

Faith Made Effective

Galatians 5:2-6 (NRSV)

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.


What is my claim in Christ Jesus?  It is not my vocation as an elder in the United Methodist Church that counts for anything.

What is my claim in Christ Jesus?  It is not that I grew up in the United Methodist Church, baptized as an infant; confirmed in middle school; and a member of the global United Methodist Church that counts for anything.

What is my claim in Christ Jesus?  The only claim I have in Christ Jesus is himself.  It is the hope of righteousness that is in Christ that counts for everything.  The importance of Christ in my life is to be found in faith.  Both the faith that God gives through Christ and the faith that I have toward Christ counts for anything and everything.  By faith Jesus is known in my life as I love as Christ first and continually loves me.

For what Jesus did for me by taking away my sins and giving me the Holy Spirit, I am able to have faith being made effective through love.  Yes, a translation of “working through love” is being “made effective through love.”  This faith in Jesus is what counts for everything.  For by faith in Jesus, I can be a Christian, even a United Methodist.  For by faith in Jesus, I can be an elder in the United Methodist Church.  It is through these expressions of faith that faith made effective through love is lived.

What about you, what counts for anything in your life?  May we be found to have righteous lives, marked by faith that is made effective through love.

Almighty God, thank you for Jesus.  By his work on the cross, we can live.   It is faith in Jesus, enabled by the Spirit, that prepares us for all righteousness in this world and the world to come.  During our days on this world, our faith in Christ Jesus accounts for everything.  Thank you for preparing good works to do that show our faith is working through love.  All praise and glory are given to you, the Righteous One who makes us righteous.  Amen.

Faith in Jesus

Romans 9:6-18 (NRSV)

It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.

For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” As it is written,


“I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.”


What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,


“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”


So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.


God has mercy. God has compassion.

God has called all of us to himself. That is mercy.

Some of us have believed the Lord. We live in the promises that God has for those who have faith. We live like Abraham, and like Rebecca. This life of having faith is how we receive God’s compassion.

When we refuse the mercy of God, then we do not receive his compassion. We harden our hearts when we refuse God’s mercy. It behooves us to believe in Jesus Christ so we can not only know mercy, but so we may know and receive compassion from God.


Lord, sometimes we hear people say that you are mean. Yet, because we believe in Jesus, we know that you have mercy and compassion for us. May our lives be filled with your compassion as our faith in Jesus grows deeper and stronger. We lift people to you who have refused your mercy. Use our lives to show your mercy to this world. May our friends and family accept your promises in Jesus Christ. It is in the name of Jesus that we pray, amen.

Silence

Psalm 62:5-12  (NRSV)
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah
Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

Silence.  

It is possible to have silence during worship.  After hearing the joys and concerns of the congregation, I like to begin the pastoral prayer with silence.  There is something about a congregation quieting themselves before God.  When our week has been hectic and uncertain, waiting together to hear from the Lord is beneficial.

No matter whether we are of low or high estate, it is helpful to be silent before God.  To know the power and steadfast love that belongs to God, is for us to know that God is our rock and salvation.  We take a “Selah,” an interlude.  Humbling ourselves, examining our lives, or taking a moment to pause, are what can happen in the silence we have before the God.  Maybe in the silence, we can hear God, again.

God, we know you as our refuge.  The psalmist knew setting aside time in silence was good.  We are learning to be in silence.  As we turn to you, may we once again hear you speak to us.  Thank you for being our rock and salvation.  It is in the name of Jesus that we hope to be found when you repay all of us according to our work.  Amen.

Instruct the Children

Methodist Life welcomes the Rev. John Grimm as a regular contributor to the LifeTalk blog.

Joshua 2:6-10 (NRSV)
When Joshua dismissed the people, the Israelites all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land. The people worshiped the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of one hundred ten years. So they buried him within the bounds of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.


John Wesley instructed the preachers to spend time with the children. The preachers were to instruct the children about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As I have learned in church, many hands make light work of instructing the children on how to follow Jesus.

For me, it was my mom who gave me much of my instruction about faith in Jesus Christ. My siblings also were instructed by our mom in these matters. This passage caught my eye because just like Joshua, my mom and her generation of her birth family are gathered to their ancestors.

Now, I get to make sure the next generation knows the work of the Lord. As you and I together serve God, we get to instruct the children so that more children follow Jesus.

God, in these days of my generation, I get to teach the children about you and your work. May my generation be inspired to make sure the children know our faith in Jesus. Use my generation to make yourself and your works known to younger generations. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that I pray. Amen.