A Year of Getting to Know God through the Bible

A new series started Sunday, March 5, 2017, at our 5:30 PM service: A Year of Getting to Know God through the Bible. Over the course of the next year, we’ll base the music, readings, prayers, and message of our service on the story of the Bible and the God revealed there. This means that in thirty minutes a week you can get to know God and the Bible better. In the course of a year, you will come away with an understanding of who God is, what the Bible really says, and why the Bible is so important to us as a source for understanding who we are too.

King David, Ferguson Memorial Window (detail), First Presbyterian Church, Lockport NY, Tiffany Glass Co., ca. 1901.

Week Twenty-Two: The God Who Can Take It

This week’s Scripture reading: Psalm 24:3-5 

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place? 
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully. 
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.

 

For further reading:

Psalm 22, 5169, 139

Questions for Reflection:

Are there emotions you hold back from expressing to God? Look through the Psalms. What thoughts and feelings are you surprised to find there (if any)? Make a list of psalms that can help express your strongest feelings–joy, sorrow, shame, happiness, anger.  How might reading these psalms help you be more honest with God and trust that God can take hearing from you what you are really feeling?

This week’s prayer:

Grant to your servants, O God,
to be set on fire with your love,
to be strengthened by your power,
to be illuminated by your Spirit,
to be filled with your grace,
and to go forward by your help;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

(Gallican Sacramentary, in 2000 Years of Classic Christian Prayers, ed. Owen Collins, 110).

 

Worship Bulletin

Week Twenty-One: The God Who Dwells With Us

This week’s Scripture reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19 

It was told King David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet … They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

 

For further reading:

2 Samuel 6:1-11

Questions for Reflection

The Lord God of Israel is transcendent.  No images are to be made of God.  God’s name, Yahweh (I AM), defies being named.  Yet, the holy God of Israel dwells with God’s people.  The glory of the Lord accompanies God’s people.  The transcendent God is also near.  The ark of the covenant symbolizes God’s presence among God’s people.  David brings the ark into the city of Jerusalem as the sign of God’s in the holy city.  How can God be both utterly transcendent and near?  How can the Creator of heaven and earth dwell in the presence of frail and fallible people?  How is the sovereign Lord both beyond anything we can think or imagine and also closer to us than our own breath?

This week’s prayer:

Prayer: Come, my light, and illumine my darkness. Come, my Life, and revive me from death. Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds. Come Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins, kindling my heart with the flame of thy love. Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there. For thou alone art my King and my Lord. Amen. (St. Dimitrii of Rostov) BCP 236

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

Ghent Altarpiece (detail), by Jan van Eyck, early 15th c.

Week Twenty: The Sovereign God

This week’s Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 8:4-22 

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’  So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’

Israel’s Request for a King Granted

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to their voice and set a king over them.’ Samuel then said to the people of Israel, ‘Each of you return home.’

 

For further reading:

Isaiah 62:3; Matthew 27:27-31

Questions for Reflection

We can struggle to accept that we are subject to anyone or anything, but there is great value in identifying by what or whom our lives are governed.  Who or what governs you, your thoughts, your actions, and decisions?  Is there anything or anyone who needs to be unseated to make room for God?  Do you assent to God’s rule in only some areas of your life?  Is there a better metaphor for you than “king” that expresses the same idea?

This week’s prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer, 236)    

Worship Bulletin

 

Listen to spoken meditation:

The Basilica of St. Clement, Rome, 3rd c.

Week Nineteen: The God Who is the Source of Strength

This week’s Scripture reading: Judges 7:2-7

The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, “My own hand has delivered me.” Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, “Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.” ’ Thus Gideon sifted them out; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained.  Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops are still too many; take them down to the water and I will sift them out for you there. When I say, “This one shall go with you”, he shall go with you; and when I say, “This one shall not go with you”, he shall not go.’ So he brought the troops down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, ‘All those who lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps, you shall put to one side; all those who kneel down to drink, putting their hands to their mouths, you shall put to the other side.’ The number of those that lapped was three hundred; but all the rest of the troops knelt down to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes.’

 

For further reading:

Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Questions for Reflection

Have you ever had an experience that made you realize what you have, or the power you have to do something comes from God? Describe it. Why do you think it’s easy to forget that God is the source of strength? What would help you remember that we “can do all this through God who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13)

This week’s prayer:

Let me depend on God alone: who never changes, who knows what is best for me so much better than I; and gives in a thousand ways, at all times all that the perfect Parent can for the child’s good growth, things needful, things salutary, things wise, beneficent and happy.  (Adapted from Eric Milner-White, in The Oxford Book of Prayer, gen. ed. George Appleton, 55)

 

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

Spirit and Truth—Rahab Series, by Gwen Meharg
http://www.drawneartogod.com/ArtDetail.asp?ID=20040503#.WW5tBYjys2w

Week Eighteen: The God Who Helps Us In Spite of Ourselves

This week’s Scripture reading: Joshua 2 (excerpts)

Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. The king of Jericho was told, ‘Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.’ Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.’ But the woman took the two men and hid them. … She came up to them on the roof and said to the men: ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family.’…The men said to her, ‘Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the LORD gives us the land.’

For the full text, please click here.

For further reading:

Joshua 6:22-25; Matthew 1:1-6 (especially 5); Hebrews 11:17-39 (especially 31)

Questions for Reflection

Contrast Rahab’s focus and faith with the spies’ inability to do what they were sent to do.  What helps you keep your focus on God and God’s desires for you?  What gets you off track? What, for you is the significance of Rahab being named amongst the ancestors of Jesus?  Have you ever been helped by someone unexpected?  Have you ever been rescued by someone unexpected?

This week’s prayer:

O Lord God, who has called us Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden and through perils unknown: Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us. Amen.  Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 153.

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

angels-in-america.blogspot.com/2014/10/crossing-jordan.html

Week Seventeen: The God Who Fulfills Promises

This week’s Scripture reading: Joshua 3:14-17 NRSV

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water. The waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan. The waters flowing toward the Dead Sea were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over.

Questions for Reflection

What does the fulfillment of God’s promises look like to you? Descendants? Land? Freedom? In what ways are you are not free? Not whole?

This week’s prayer:

O merciful Father, you have taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of humankind. Look with pity upon the sorrows of those for whom we offer prayers. Remember us O Lord, in mercy, nourish our souls with patience, comfort us with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon us, and give us peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP p831

Worship Bulletin

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/sy6ssYaMh88/maxresdefault.jpg

Week Sixteen: The God Who Sets Limits

This week’s Scripture reading: Exodus 19:2-8 (abridged)

The Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, ‘Tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. How I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.’ So Moses summoned the elders of the people, and set before them the words the Lord commanded. The people answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’

Questions for Reflection

How do you understand obeying God’s voice? Keeping God’s covenant? In your life, is God’s law helpful?  Restrictive? A gift?

This week’s prayer:

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for your people. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP 817

 

Worship Bulletin

http://media.beliefnet.com/~/media/photos/faiths/galleries/

Week Fifteen: The God Who Seeks Faithful Relationship

This week’s Scripture reading: Exodus 32:9-14 NRSV (abridged)

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them. And of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to consume them’? Change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, how you swore to them by your own self? And the Lord changed his mind.

 

Questions for Reflection

How do you understand God’s wrath? God’s steadfast love? God’s suffering? God’s changeability?

 

This week’s prayer:

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you, and then use us, we pray, as you will. And always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. BCP p832

 

Worship Bulletin

www.dominie.com.au/products/GP-77172

Week Fourteen: The God Who Raises Up the Unlikely

This week’s Scripture reading: Exodus 1:2-10 (abridged)

The woman conceived and bore a son; and, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.  The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. She named him Moses.

Questions for Reflection

Looking back was there a time when you faced a seemingly hopeless crisis and suddenly something shifts or a stranger appears who provides much needed help?  How did that change your understanding of God’s presence in your life?

This week’s prayer:

God knows how we’re made, that we are but dust. A human life is like grass. It blooms like a wildflower; and then it’ gone. But the LORD’s faithful love is forever for those who honor him. God’s kingdom rules over all. All you heavenly forces, bless the LORD! All you who serve him and do his will, bless him! In all God’s kingdom, let my soul bless the LORD!        Ps 103 adapted

Worship Bulletin

Part of Joseph Cycle, Lincoln Cathedral Nave, South Aisle, Gordon Plumb photo

Week Thirteen: The God Who Brings Good out of Evil

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 50:15-21

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’ So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

For further reading:

Genesis 37, 39-50

Question for Reflection

Has there been a time in your life when God brought a blessing for you or someone else out of something bad or a bad situation?

This week’s prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 280)

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

Jacob’s Ladder  Via Latina Catacombs, Rome, Italy, 4th c.

Week Twelve: El Shaddai—the All-Sufficient God

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 35:9-15

God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he was called Israel. God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.’ Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him. Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink-offering on it, and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

For further reading:

Genesis 17:1-8

Genesis 32:22-32

Questions for Reflection

How do you think having a name for God can be important for your experience of God? Is there a particular name of God you are drawn to when you pray (Creator? Father?  Holy One? God of Love? Jesus? Spirit)?

This week’s prayer:

El Shaddai,  God of the mountains, the strong, noble, powerful one, whom Abraham and Sarah called by name in their prayer.  I call upon you, too, in my need, to empower me in my uncertainty, to embolden me in my fearfulness, to strengthen me in my weakness.  Amen.  (Excerpted from Fragments of Your Ancient Name, by Joyce Rupp).

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

The Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, 6th c.

Week Eleven: The God Who Keeps Promises

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 18:1-15.

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

For further reading:

Genesis 17:1-22

Questions for Reflection

Can you think of a time when God’s timing was better than your timing for something to take place in your life?  What happened?  Can you think of a time when you stayed faithful to someone’s promise, perhaps a promise of God, even when it took a long time to come to pass?  What sustained you?  What helps you or someone you know to trust in God while a situation is still evolving or you can’t yet see in what way your prayer will be answered?

This week’s prayer:

Holy and Eternal God, give us such trust in your sure purpose, that we measure our lives not be what we have done or failed to do, but by our faithfulness to you.  Amen.  (From A New Zealand Prayer Book).

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

Week Ten: The God Who Promises and Reassures Us

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 15 (abridged)

The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, I continue childless. He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur to give you this land.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a female goat, and a ram.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other. And when the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a terrifying darkness descended upon him.  When a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land.

For further reading:

Genesis 15 (full text)

To cut a contract: Jeremiah 34:18-20

Trust reckoned as righteousness: Galatians 3:6-7, Romans 4:13-5:2

Trust in God as a sure anchor: Hebrews 6:13-20

Questions for Reflection

What in this story is strange to you? What is reassuring? If covenant is a legal contract, what are Abraham’s legal obligations? If covenant is like a marriage between parties linked in mutual trust, then what would breaking that trust be like? In the story, who is the one at risk if that person violates the marriage? Does the promise of land and descendants mean that God’s covenant is only for Israel? Why are there so many covenants between  Abraham and God (Genesis 12,13,15,17)? Why are there so many covenants between God and the people of God (Noachic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, the New Covenant of Jesus)? Do you renew legal covenants? Do marriages need recommitment and reassurance? How many times have you said “I love you” or “I trust you” or “I hope we are together forever” to your spouse? To your children or parents?

This week’s prayer:

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Worship Bulletin

Week Nine: The Scandalously Particular Universal God

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-7

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

For more, read Galatians 3:7-9

So, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

Questions for reflection:

The God of Israel is the God who calls a particular people to embody God’s blessing for the whole world.  Why would God choose a particular people to be the means of blessing for all of humanity?  Can God’s promises be both particular and universal at the same time?  How is it that God’s promises for all of creation were made known in the particular person Jesus Christ?  How can one person be the embodiment of God’s blessing for the whole of creation?  What does the scandalous particularity of God tell us about how the Christian community ought to be in the world?

This week’s prayer:

God of our forbears, as your chosen servant Abraham was given faith to obey your call and go out into the unknown, so may your Church be granted such faith that we may follow you courageously now and forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen. (The New Zealand Prayer Book)

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

 The Tower of Babel. 12th-13th c. Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreal, Sicily, Italy
The Tower of Babel.  12th-13th c. Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreal, Sicily, Italy

Week Eight: The God Who Loves Diversity

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

For more, read Acts 2:1-39

Questions for reflection:

How does knowing that diversity among people was a divine gift and part of God’s intention for the world affect how we view people different from ourselves?  What does knowing that all people are made in the image of God mean about God?

This week’s prayer:

Oh God, you created all people in your image.  We thank you for the astonishing variety of races and cultures in this world.  Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of friendship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Lutheran Book of Worship).

Worship Bulletin

Listen to Spoken Meditation:

 From a Book of Hours, by William de Brailes, ca. 1230, in the Collezione Naya-Bohm, Venice, Italy
Mosiac in the Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace, Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

Week Seven: The Promising God

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

For more, read Isaiah 54:8-10

In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer. This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Questions for reflection:

Do you think God can change God’s mind?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  How do you understand the statement that “God’s heart was grieved” when God saw the wickedness of human beings?  Can human behavior affect God?  In our story, God makes a covenant with Noah and all of creation?  What does it tell us about God that God is willing to enter into a covenant with people?  With all of creation?  How do you understand the promises of God?

This week’s prayer:

Priest: I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
All: My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Priest: Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
All: I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take.
Priest: Our hope is in no other save in thee;
All: Our faith is built upon thy promise free;
Priest: O grant to us such stronger hope and sure
All: That we can boldly conquer and endure.
(from the hymn “I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art”)


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 From a Book of Hours, by William de Brailes, ca. 1230, in the Collezione Naya-Bohm, Venice, Italy
From a Book of Hours, by William de Brailes, ca. 1230, in the Collezione Naya-Bohm, Venice, Italy http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/brailes-william-de/godclothingadamandevefrom.html

Week Six: The Gracious God

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 3:1-24

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LordGod called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,  cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’  And to the man he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Questions for reflection:

Why do you think God calls out to the man and woman, “Where are you?” God loves us with a relentless love that pursues us no matter what.  Is there anything that keeps you from fully believing that?  Is there someone in your life who has helped you understand the extent of God’s love for you?  How did they do that?

This week’s prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, 41-42)

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Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed byDIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Lucas Cranach the Elder – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed byDIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

Week Five: The Creator (Part Two)

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 2:4b-25

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’   Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

For more, read Psalm 19, Psalm 136:1-9

Questions for reflection:

How is the picture of God in this creation story different from the one in Genesis 1?  How is it similar?  What is the relationship between God, humans, and the rest of creation like in this story?  Can that relationship be a model for us today?  Why or why not?

This week’s prayer:

For all things bright and beautiful, for all things dark and mysterious and lovely, for all things green and growing and strong, for all things weak and struggling to push life up through rocky earth, for all human faces, hearts, minds, and hands which surround us, and for all nonhuman minds and hearts, paws and claws, fins and wings, for this life and the life of this world, for all that you have laid before us, O God, we lay our thankful hearts before you.  In Christ’s name.  Amen.  Prayer by Gail A Riccuiti, in The Complete Book of Christian Prayer (Continuum, 2000), 30.

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Week Four: The Creator

This week’s Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-3a

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.

For more, read Genesis 1:3a-4

Questions for reflection:

How can we picture an act of creation?  Like a builder who constructs a house?  Like a flame radiates light?  Like an artist who creates something beautiful?  How do you picture the way God creates?

This week’s prayer:

O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)

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Week Three: The Redeemer Comes to Announce Good News for All

This week’s Scripture reading: Luke 4:14-20

At his baptism, God claims Jesus as son and agent. God anoints Jesus with the Spirit of God. In the power of the Spirit, Jesus returns to his hometown. He picks up the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, unrolls it and announces God’s mission. In Jesus, God will bring good news to the poor, free all who are in bondage to sin and death, return sight to all who are spiritually, physically, and morally blind, liberate all who are oppressed by the forces of darkness. God’s purpose in Jesus is to heal, save, and free—not just you and me, but all of us. Not just personal salvation but the redemption of all creation.

For more, read Colossians 1:11-20

Question for reflection:

How does the experience and hope of salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures come true in the person of Jesus? Do you understand that the word Jesus means “God saves?”

This week’s prayer:

Loving God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: accept our prayers. Grant the power of your grace, that the weak may be strengthened, sickness turned to health, the dying made whole, and sorrow turned into joy; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

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Week Two: The Redeemer is the Creator

This week’s Scripture reading: Psalm 77:14-20

You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

For more, read Exodus 15:1-21

Question for reflection:

How does the experience of salvation shape your understanding of God?  How does it change how you understand God the Creator?  How does knowing that God the Creator has acted for your salvation affect your faith and assurance?

This week’s prayer:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Week One: The Bible

This week’s Scripture reading: Romans 15:4-6

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For more, read 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Question for reflection:

Do you have a favorite Bible passage or words from the Bible that have special meaning to you? Ask someone you know if they have a favorite passage or story from the Bible and if they would share it with you.

This week’s prayer:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From the Book of Common Prayer, page 236

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