Thought for the Day: Well today is leap day or leap year day. It’s kind of a strange happening if you think about it. Every few years we need to make a correction since the actual time it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun is 365.242 days. As I sit here just a few days into Lent, I am taken by the fact that the Earth needs a correction. Actually, the Earth doesn’t need a correction, but the humans on the Earth require a correction in how we have chosen to observe time. What other things in my life need a correction? Day to day, even after a few years, I might not notice any problem to my alignment. But over longer periods of time, an unaligned life can become a bigger and bigger issue. If we didn’t make the calendar correction with a Leap Day, eventually summer would be come winter and winter would become summer, or to say it in a different way, we’d be totally out of whack. Allow for this Season of Lent to be for you a time of correction, a time to make necessary adjustments that will keep you from being totally out of whack.
Prayer: I don’t feel out of whack, but I might be. Guide me, correct me if so needed. O Holy One, as I plan my path I will pray that they align with the steps you would have me make. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: If you really think about it, Paul is absolutely correct. I’m surprised anyone joined the Christian movement as Paul preached from one town to another. The cross is a pathetic marketing tool, as it is foolishness not only to ‘those who are perishing’, but to anyone who takes time to contemplate its meaning. Paul was writing to a bickering church (nothing unusual for the Pauline communities), but it’s puzzling how the meaning of the cross has become one of the great battle grounds of disagreement throughout Christian history. People have been willing to murder others in the name of that symbol’s significance. I appreciate Richard Rohr’s thinking on this matter in his book, Falling Upward. In the 5th chapter he writes about those who have attempted to give order to the cross by explaining away the whole notion of suffering as some sort of well organized substitutionary plan. He goes on to say, “The cross solved our problem by first revealing our real problem – our universal pattern of scapegoating and sacrificing others. The cross exposes forever the ‘scene of our crime.’” The cross is exactly what God does not want for the world, and the resurrection is God’s declaration for us to stop it!
Prayer: God, I see nothing of you and everything of you on the cross. It is nonsensical and absurd, and I can only guess that it is your grace making a point with something so pointless. Amen.
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Merciful and Holy Guide,
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Thought for the Day: The 18th century French writer, Stendhal, penned these words,
The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep
In the well known 23rd Psalm, the shepherd moves the sheep to green pastures and still waters. This sounds very comforting, but trying to explain or convince the sheep how the long trip is necessary is always difficult. If the sheep see even a little patch of greenish/brownish grass and a small puddle of water, they’ll be content. I wonder how often in my own life I have ignored God’s nudging because I was okay with what was right in front of me? During this Lenten Season (beginning today with Ash Wednesday), our focus will be on Why? of Mark’s Gospel, and how the why begins the necessary work for us to become healthy and useful followers of Jesus.
Prayer: O God, may I not ignore your leading and nudging and calling because of a general sense of contentment with a mediocre spiritual life. Be persistent, as I grow to better understand your vision for my life in the ongoing work of Kingdom building. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: On Sunday, I talked about how “this following Jesus-thing” is hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when it is easy, might I say simple. But there are many other days when the challenge feels a bit beyond what we might think is doable. This lying lips reference in the Proverbs makes me wonder about the little white falsehoods. You know what I’m talking about – those comments that are offered to soften the pain, to make someone feel good or to distract from a more significant issue. Have you ever stretched the truth where it no longer looked like the truth, but you had an excellent reason… one that was not selfish. I don’t know exactly what to do with this. Oh sure, we can all agree on the blatant and manipulative fabrications that are intended to injure or deceive for personal gain. Are there some that are not damaging, even protective? Or are we justifying what we should not justify? These questions may not appear all that significant, but in a world where truth-telling is becoming old fashion and outright lying is ignored, where do we draw the line? I don’t have an answer here because I will probably, on occasion, tell a little white lie to save someone’s feelings. But does my rationalization become part of the problem?
Prayer: Keep me on the path of truth-telling, O Lord God. Allow for my words to speak to the things that please your heart – love, mercy, compassion and kindness. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: In my sermon this morning, I am making a reference to those moment when the Bible smacks you upside the head – you know, with a passage of scripture you’ve read dozens of times before. Suddenly, there is something new. Of course, the something new is probably a new openness within ourselves. This passage from James was a recent experience of that very thing. I know these words well as I love the Book of James, but in a recent reading it was as if someone had scribbled a few extra verses since my last reading. Actually, it probably arose from some honest confession in the last few weeks. For me, it is not discrimination in regard to clothing or bling, but other things that have been under my skin for a while now. In what ways might I have acted with some Passive-Aggression, a roll of my eyes or a patronizing word? All the time, I am unconsciously (I think) raising myself above the person. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like this happens? I’m asking for a friend.
Prayer: Let me see people as you see people, O Lord of Unconditional Love. Provide me an awareness of how my language can be dismissive and devaluing. Call me to the side of Jesus so that he can show me what I may not currently see. It is in his name that I pray. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Rabbi Bradley Artson, the Dean at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, wrote an online article entitled: The Bible is a Book of Inclusion and Love. He opens the article with these words:
The Bible starts with two profound stories: The first story we are given is of a God who cannot bear to be alone. A God who is driven by love to create a world of flowering and cascading diversity in which nothing is precisely like what came before it; in which each new creature is delightfully fresh and novel; in which God, thrilled by each new creation, says: This is good. And then God creates a creature with the capacity, also, to look at diversity, and to look at novelty, and to say: This is good! And we are told in this story that we are made in that God’s image.
I’ll confess that I got rather emotional in reading those words. There is amazing beauty found in the Book of Genesis, including what I describe as the Creation Poem. But the way Bradley Artson redirected my thinking on those words was a true awakening, an awakening into joy. As I write these words, I have opened my office blinds just to look outside. The diversity of plants (and weeds) outside my window is just a hint of what is so often overlooked in life. The Poet of Genesis 1 has the reader spinning around so as to take in the rapid explosion of new beauty that is unlike the beauty of the previous verse. With every moment of dumbfounded wonderment it is as if God is saying, “But I can top that!”
Prayer: For the beauty of the earth, O Creative Spirit, my heart is full. Don’t allow me to become complacent and miss the never before seen new that is standing before me. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: This was some pretty radical stuff. Imagine that you are relatively new to this “People” thing. You are out of Egypt, but still trying to determine what non-enslaved means corporately, while also trying to listen for the voice of God. This Blessed Nation (those in Covenant with God) are incredibly vulnerable, ripe for ruin if the community does not pay attention. At the same time, there is a very clear ethic put forth about an openness to the immigrant/foreigner. Shouldn’t the community be protecting itself from outside influences? I read this as an amazing declaration that the Community’s Values and Purpose are even more important than its existence. That is so counter intuitive… some might say outright crazy! Yet how many communities or organizations have jeopardized everything they understood as essential only to maintain their own existence? What is existence without one’s values and purpose?
Prayer: Provide me a reminder of your values, Creator of All, starting with the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Allow for these expressions of your will to take root within me and within the church. And may I never risk at handful of the fruit simply to save myself or an institution. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Could Paul pack any more information into a handful of sentences? I doubt it! I’d invite you to do what I have done — read the above scripture silently, then read it out loud, and then focus on one or two specific statements that challenge you. Personally, I have been reading over and over again the words, “Bless people who harass you — bless and don’t curse them.” The word Bless in the original Greek is: Eulogeo. It is where we get our English word, Eulogy – to say a good word. Maybe it is an invitation for me to search for something good about the person who is harassing me, for though folks might be negative or mean, I imagine God can still find a nugget of goodness within them. And if God can, maybe I should try.
Prayer: You want us to be more like Jesus, Merciful God, and if I am to be more like Jesus, then I must not mimic the way of those who seek to cause me pain. Allow your Spirit to raise me up, and in doing so, increase my capacity to see something good even when it is a challenge. Amen.
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Rev. Bruce Frogge