Guided

Luke 2:25-35 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

Serving God is unique.  We will not know exactly what we are to do in every situation.  We will not know how long we will have to wait to see what God has promised.  We only know that we are serving God.  When we arrive where God wants us to be for someone else, we will know it.

As a member of the clergy, I have noticed this truth.  There have been countless times that I have contacted a disciple and that disciple says to me: “How did you know I needed…?”  Whether it has been a prayer, my presence, or even a phone call, God has allowed me to be part of an unknown that blessed others.

Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel.  We do not know how long he waited.  We only know that he would see what God promised him before he died.  Then, Simeon praised God.  His words amazed Joseph and Mary.

The truth is that the consolation of Israel is for the glory of Israel and a light of revelation to the Gentiles.  We may not ever be in the situation Simeon was.  However, being there with a prayer, our presence or even a phone call for another person can be exactly how God wants us to serve Him.

Jesus, thank you for being all that you are.  As we serve you and the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we see what you promise us.  Give us the words as we pray for other people.  Give us the wherewithal to be present when someone needs us.  Give us the timing that allows us to dial a number for us to speak what you desire for us to speak.  Amen.

Check Your Oil

By Chuck Griffin

There are many ways to classify people who call themselves Christian. Looking at Jesus’ Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids, “foolish” and “wise” seem like two possible categories.

You may remember the story, found in Matthew 25:1-13. Ten virgins await the arrival of the bridegroom. It is their job to escort him to the wedding banquet, dancing and lighting the way with their lamps.

Five are wise, bringing plenty of oil for their lamps. Five are foolish, bringing none at all. When the bridegroom finally arrives, the five fools try to bum a little oil off their wise companions, only to be rebuffed. The wise girls, clearly excellent mathematicians, have calculated that if they share the oil, no one will have enough to provide light all the way to the banquet hall.

By the time the fools get back from the oil merchant, the wedding party is inside, the doors are locked, and the bridegroom denies even knowing them. The fools have missed the party entirely.

Jesus told this parable in a particular context. It and the surrounding parables are designed to describe life in the time between Christ’s ascension into heaven and his return. In other words, the lesson focuses on the lives we lead today as we await the final arrival of the bridegroom, Jesus.

You may have noticed that I began by classifying people who call themselves Christian, rather than classifying people in general. The parable has nothing to do with non-believers; the virgins in this story know who the bridegroom is. They know that he is coming and desperately want to be with him. Some just do a better job than others of living like true followers.

We as Christians should hear this parable as a call to action. Check the oil level—Do we have enough oil?

Of course, in interpreting the parable, this is the point where many Christians become confused. What, exactly, does the oil represent? How do we get it and keep it in store so that we’re ready?

Acts of Christian discipleship give us access to this oil, which can be understood as God’s ever-flowing grace. We worship; we study God’s word; we take communion; we fellowship in loving accountability with one another; we care for those around us on the margins of society. In these moments, we are refreshed, ready to serve as vessels of grace and prepared for Christ’s return.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once spoke of what he called “almost Christians,” the people who sit in church and hear Christ proclaimed week to week, but who never engage with God or a world so desperately needing to know the love of Christ.

These almost Christians claim to believe that Christ is remaking all things and will return to rule over all in love. But they then just sit there, empty. Theirs is a foolish strategy.

How sad, to know the bridegroom but miss the party.

Dear Lord, meet us as a people continually seeking your loving grace, to our benefit and the benefit of those around us. Keep us close to you until the day of your return. Amen.

Before the Fire

Exodus 24:15-18 (NRSV)

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.


I’ve read this passage several times before, but I was struck by a new impression while reading it again. Moses, who was often impatient elsewhere, showed remarkable patience as he sat waiting on God.

Six days Moses waited before God, who appeared to the people at the foot of the mountain like glowing fire in a cloud. What was it like for Moses to stand at the edge of the visible presence of God for six days?

Did he dare sit down? Was sleep at all possible? Was he so entranced that all he could do is stare, waiting, unaware of time’s passage?

We have no answers to those questions, of course. I suspect Moses’ experience was similar to what we will experience when we first stand before the fully visible God. I’m reminded of the MercyMe song, “I Can Only Imagine.

I look forward to knowing. In the meantime, we practice patience in this life, seeking divine glory and waiting on God’s holy word, which will come in God’s time to those who wait faithfully.

Lord, call to us—if we are spiritually slumbering, startle us! Amen.

The Lord Is Waiting

Isaiah 30:15-18  (NRSV)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”—
    therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”—
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

To whom do we go for advice? From whom do we gain insight for how to live in this sin-sick world? From whom do we learn how to get through the trouble of our lives?

The rebellious children of Israel sought out Egypt during Isaiah’s life. To counter the approaching trouble from the Babylonians, Israel wanted the strength of Egypt’s horses and armies. These rebellious children did not wait for the Lord. These rebellious children sent donkey- and camel-loads of wealth to Egypt to buy security. It did not work, for Jerusalem and Judah fell in 586 B.C.

How do we answer these questions? Are we spending our wealth to purchase security that we will find only when wait upon the Lord? We might be left as the flagstaff on a hill when troubles pursue us. We will be left as a signal on a hill. Unless we wait on the Lord.

God is ready to be gracious to us. God has wisdom for us. God has insight for us to live while in this sin-sick world. God has mercy so we can get through the troubles of our lives. God will bring justice to us if we wait for him.

God, you are the one for whom we can wait. Charging ahead with our own counsel will give us trouble. It is by your mercy that we live. The only means we have of seeking your grace and justice is to wait for you. We are calming ourselves so that we may know the blessings you have in store for us. Only by trusting in you through Jesus Christ will we receive the blessings you have for us. Thank you for Jesus and the justice you have for us. 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.