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Our Lord is so good, He grants us many blessings. We can see Him in the daily course of events, in our homes, our jobs, our lives. I pray that these words help you to grow in your faith and recognize His hand in even the most mundane circumstances.

The picture to the right is of a Celtic Chapel located in Cornwall England. This building is approximately 1700 years old, and contains a holy well known for its healing powers.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, May 29, 2024

Lectionary Scriptures for June 2, 2024, Second Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 3:8-15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

“For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15, WEB

This Sunday we enter into the longest season of the Church year. The paraments will be green for the next few months as we consider the life God has called us to live in this world. The first half of the church year focuses on the story of God. We hear what God has done for us. We hear about Jesus, His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. We hear about the history of His relationship with His people. We hear about why we need Jesus. Beginning with this Sunday, the focus turns to us. Now that we know what God has done, we consider what we will do in response. Pentecost is about growing in our faith and action. It is about listening to God’s call and going forth in faith. It is good and right to study the story of God, but it is meaningless if we aren’t changed. It is worthless if we do not respond to God’s grace. Part of learning how to be a disciple is learning to listen to God’s will rather than the requests of the world and our own selfish, self-centered perspective.

We will be reminded throughout Pentecost that though we are saved by God’s grace, we are still sinners in need of our Savior. Many of the stories throughout the Pentecost season focus on the great work we can and will do for God. We will be reminded that we have been called to a holy priesthood, as witnesses to His grace. Unfortunately, we can and do fall prey to the idea that we are something special, that only our gifts and abilities will accomplish the world. We must always remember that there is a part of us that is less than God created to be.

Martin Luther said, “Sin boldly.” He did not mean that we should purposefully sin against God and each other. He meant that we live in a fallen and broken world, so there will be opportunities when we will sin because we have to choose the better of two evils. When we have to decide to do something that is less than good, we are to do so with the knowledge that forgiveness is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We think in dualistic terms. There is good and there is evil and neither the twain shall meet, right? The reality is that it is difficult to separate good and evil. In some places, theft is considered evil, but sometimes theft serves a virtuous purpose. Is it possible for us to do only good things? Even though we try to do only good, all too often the things we do turn out to be less than good. If it is less than good, is it still good or is it evil? Where do we draw the line? Sadly, there are times when we have to choose the best of two evils. Which is better, to shoot a dying horse or allow him to suffer as he dies naturally? Both options are less than good, perhaps even evil, but a choice has to be made. It is the consequence of living in a fallen world.

Pentecost is a time when we learn to live in this world and as God’s church surrounded by both the faithful and the unfaithful. We learn how to be witnesses. We learn how to be servants. We learn how to follow as Christ’s disciples in a world where Satan still roams.

How did we get to the place that the world is a fallen and broken place? It all began in the Garden of Eden. God created Adam and Eve called them “good.” God loved them. He walked with them, and He talked with them. As one of my favorite hymns (“In the Garden”) says, He told them that they were His own. One day, however, a fallen angel in the form of a serpent caused Eve and Adam to doubt the Word of God. “Did God really say...?” the serpent asked.

Adam and Eve rejected God in the garden because they believed the word of the serpent. Human beings have done the same ever since. We want what we want, even if what we want is not what is best for us. We can go our own way, make our own choices. Unfortunately, our way is rarely the best way, and we often have to suffer the consequences of our choices, even those choices that are beyond our control. However, the humble God that allowed us to go our own way is nearby and ready to help us through those consequences. As we study the lectionary over the next few months, we’ll look at our own lives of faith. We think about what God is calling us to do. We will think about our gifts and the opportunities that God is providing for us to share His kingdom with others. For today, however, let us consider first the Lord God Almighty and our place in His kingdom. Are you fulfilling the purpose for which you were created? Are you glorifying God with your life? Everything else will fall into place perfectly and completely when you realize that it is in humbleness and submission to the humble God who created the universe that you will truly fulfill the purpose for which you were designed and ordained in this world. Praise God and you’ll clearly see the direction He is leading you to go.

I worked with a teacher in High School; he was our class sponsor. He was a special education teacher that taught reading recovery and helped provide tutoring. He helped troubled students; he helped those who needed extra help. He had student helpers like me who went into his room during our breaks and lunch to act as tutors. We helped him help others. I did that work because of this teacher, and that experience played a role in my decision to pursue a degree in education in college.

This teacher was a joy to be around. He was considerate, compassionate, and kind. He made everyone feel important and worthy. He was a man of authority, but he never made anyone feel powerless. He gave tutors and tutees the space to make decisions. He rejoiced with every success and had a way of encouraging us all through our times of trouble. He was easy to talk to, had good advice, and never acted superior. He allowed us to make bad decisions, and then helped us through the consequences. He was a humble man, a man who was courteously respectful of all the students.

Humble people are often misunderstood to be weak. This teacher sometimes looked weak to some of the people around my school. He didn’t always succeed. Some students still dropped out, even after he tried to make their life better with his undemanding style. The critics thought that if he were more demanding, he would have had better success. We see in the world, however, that some people just didn’t want to be helped. There were also some students that were too troubled for a program in a regular school. Some students were beyond his help, so he failed with them, but he succeeded with so many more.

The best authority figures are those who are unassuming. They are not arrogant. They understand the need for making those whom they lead to feel like they have some power and control. A good leader is one who gives those they lead freedom to do what they do well, to make choices, to take control of their own work and life. This only works when there is good guidance so that those under their leadership will make the right choices. My teacher left us alone to do what we could do, but he did provide a foundation on which we could base our choices. He was always willing to do what needed to be done, but he gave us the room to do what we could. We all benefited from his humble attitude; we shared in his joy and his successes.

Those of us who loved this teacher could not understand those who did not. We could see all the good he was doing, the lives that were being changed. They rejected him because he did not give them what they wanted. Many of the students wanted the easy way out. Sometimes they didn’t even know what they wanted.

Do you see some parallels between my teacher and our God? You can’t be more powerful than the Creator God Almighty who makes the earth go round. You can’t be more authoritative than the God who rules over kings. You can’t be more majestic than the God who dwells above the heavens. Yet, that very same God is humble. He gives us the freedom to be who we are; He lets us make choices and live as we want to live. He provides guidance, laws, encouragement, and hopes that we will live as we are called to live, but He allows us to go our own way. He humbly accepts our rejection and waits patiently for our cry for help. Then He helps us through the consequences of our poor decisions.

He didn’t have to put the tree of knowledge in the midst of the Garden of Eden, but it was there to give Adam and Eve a choice. They rejected God’s Word by believing the serpent who made sin look good. The fruit looked good; how could it be bad? He convinced them to believe his word above God’s by giving them the final reason to eat they would become like God. The serpent suggested that they would not die if they ate the fruit. He was right, in a sense. Adam and Eve did not immediately die physically when they ate the fruit. But it was only a half truth.

Their choice did lead to death. They were sent outside the Garden, into the dangerous world where they would no longer live under the protection of God or in His fellowship. God knew they could no longer dwell in His presence, that He had to send them away from the tree of life. If they continued to eat that fruit, they would spend their lives in fear of their Father and Creator. They were sent outside the Garden, into the dangerous world where they would no longer live under the protection of God or in His fellowship.

This may have seemed cruel; how could a loving God do such a thing to those He created? The reason is that the knowledge of good and evil made them afraid. They feared God, experienced shame, and hid from Him. They could not live forever in fear of their Father and Creator, so they were sent into the world of death.

I saw an interview with several women who were cruel, and perhaps even abusive, mothers. They were not necessarily violent, but they yelled constantly, saying things that no mother should ever say to their babies such as “I hate you,” or “I wish you had never been born.” One mother threatened to drop her daughter off with the homeless men on the street corner. These women’s children looked at their mothers with fear. A child should never be afraid of a parent. Parents need to provide discipline, but there is a line that should never be crossed. Sadly, too many children deal with abuse; the abuse can be verbal, physical, or sexual. All abuse, whether word or deed is emotionally trying. It changes a child. It makes a child fear; fear leads to rebellion and hatred. Children who are abused are more likely to abuse others. Children who are abused have a greater risk to end up in gangs or in prison. Children who are abused do not find healthy relationships. Our children are gifts from God and we have a responsibility to be like Him, offering a place where they feel safe, secure and loved.

Many abused children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. The system is less than perfect, and sadly sometimes the children experience further issues, but they can’t continue in a home where they are afraid of those whom they must trust. The same was true of Adam and Eve. God did not kick them out of the Garden of Eden as a punishment for disobedience. He sent them away so that they would not continue to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life and live forever in the presence of a Father they feared. The world outside the garden was harsh. They worked hard, they knew pain, they died. Yet even while God’s people had to struggle outside paradise, God had a plan.

God said to the serpent, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” This is the first promise of the Gospel. The offspring that ends the reign of the serpent will be Jesus Christ. Death that entered the world when Adam and Eve trusted the twisted word will be defeated. What the first Adam did, Jesus the New Adam will undo and God’s people will be restored to a right relationship with Him. We will no longer have to fear walking in paradise with our Father.

We aren’t there yet. Though Jesus defeated death, the world in which we live is still fallen. We don’t treat our neighbors with love and respect. We get angry with our children and our spouses, gossip about others, take things that are not ours. We fall to the temptations of this world. We are greedy, lustful, abusive, self-centered. We want it all and we want it now. We look for help in all the wrong places. Sadly, we often do not even realize our sin. We recognize the biggies, especially in the lives of others, but when it comes to our own failure, we are blind. We think we are good enough. We think we are better than our neighbors, so we go on our way without repenting. This way of life takes us on a path that will lead to more sin.

I once heard a story about a man who was paroled from prison, but quickly returned to his old ways. He broke into a house to rob the owners of its contents. As he searched the home for valuables, he found a bottle of Crown Royal and decided to take a few sips. The owners came home later and the man passed out drunk on a chair. He was arrested and returned to prison.

It is for us to slip into more and more sin. Many of those who are in prison began their criminal careers when they were young. They used illegal means to support habits like drugs or alcohol, they stole to fund their addictions. The lesser sins often turn into violent behavior so that they can get what they want. The paroled man was probably just looking for enough cash to buy a case of beer or a bottle of cheap booze to feed his addictions. When he found the Crown Royal, he no longer needed any cash.

The man on parole was looking for a solution to his troubles in all the wrong places. First, he thought stealing would help him get a new start on life. Then he thought drinking would help him. He was released on parole with the expectation that he would stop leading a life of crime and given a new chance on life. When he failed, his past failures were recalled, and he was punished more severely for his crime. Instead of a new, better life, he was caught doing wrong and sent back to prison to suffer even greater consequences.

Even one wrong thought, word, or deed against God or man is a sin and we are all guilty of something. None of us could stand before the holiness of God. But God is gracious and merciful. He forgives our iniquity. He not only grants forgiveness, but He also forgets our sin. Washed by the blood of Christ, we are cleansed and made new and right before Him. As we live in this hope, we find ourselves walking in the light of Christ, covered by the unfailing love of God and reconciled to Him. When we wait for the Lord and watch for Him, we are less likely to fall into the temptations of this world. Though we may still fail in our daily walk of faith, He is near with His forgiveness for those who will see.

I was one of those people who never said “No.” I took on every opportunity to serve at church, constantly available at my kids’ schools, active in military related organizations. I used to keep calendars with records from the year, and they were overflowing with stuff. At one point it became overwhelming: I was committed to too many projects, which led to a bit of a breakdown. I was able to make the schedule work, but I was constantly busy.

One day I could not take it anymore and I just started crying. It was at that point I realized I could not do it all. I learned that sometimes we have to say “No” because God does not send us so much work that we can’t give it our best. See, that was my problem. I thought every time someone acknowledged a gift in my life that I needed to say yes to their request. I was selfish and self-centered enough to think that I was the only one who could do those jobs. I considered every request for help as a calling from God. I have since learned to pray and ask for His help as I discern His will in my life.

Have you ever known anyone who is so busy that they do not even have time to eat a meal or smell the roses? Do you ever want to just kidnap them for an hour or two, take them for a quiet lunch or a walk in the park? I wish someone had done that for me when I was overdoing it. It might have helped me to slow down and realize I was doing too much. Fortunately I did not get sick and I learned to seek God’s will. We probably recognize these symptoms in someone we know and love.

It was getting that way for Jesus. Once the stories of miracles began to spread, the people sought Him out, desiring a touch of His hand and a word of hope. They crowded around Jesus and the disciples, followed Him on His travels. They never let Him alone. Mark tells us that His family and friends thought He’d gone insane, and they wanted to take Him away. They weren’t rejecting Jesus but were worried about Him because He was not even taking the time to rest or find nourishment. And He was dragging the disciples with Him. They were concerned and wanted only to take Him away for an hour so that He could find renewal and refreshment.

Jesus’ family may have been concerned about His well-being, but the scribes saw a whole different problem. They thought Jesus was possessed by the devil. Jesus asked the teachers whether a kingdom divided against itself can stand. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Then He said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” bringing the question closer to home and more personal. I have always struggled with this part of the story because we don’t understand why Mary would be so against Jesus’ ministry. After all, she knew from the beginning that He was born for a purpose. She pondered in her heart and she encouraged His ministry. She was a mother, and we all know how mothers can be. Paul reminds us “For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.”

Jesus’ family and the scribes wanted Jesus to stop doing what He was called to do, though for very different reasons. Jesus answered the accusations of the scribes by telling them not to give credit to Satan for the work that He is doing by the power of the Holy Spirit. And though His answer to His mother and brothers might seem harsh, we are reminded that Jesus wants us to trust in Him. He knows what He is doing, just as God knew in the beginning what Adam and Eve needed. Jesus knew that for the Church to remain strong, it could not be divided. He did not reject His mother and brothers; He loved His mother to the very end, and His brothers went on to help establish the Church after Jesus ascended into heaven.

A house divided will fall, but Jesus reminds us throughout the scriptures that He is the foundation. He is the cornerstone. He is what holds us all together. When we trust in Him, we will stand firm. We still have to work hard. We still know pain. We still die. We still sin. Yet, in Christ we have eternal life. We are in a period of now but not yet. We are still sinners even while we are already saints. We will sin, but we must make the choice of the lesser of two evils, we can do so boldly with the knowledge that forgiveness is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. We deserve greater consequences for our own sin, but God is different than the penal system. We are covered by the unfailing love of God and reconciled to Him by the blood of Jesus. Though we still fail daily, we put our hope in the Lord and rest in His forgiveness. He never fails.

We join Adam and Eve in the reality of our failure and continue to be tempted by the same things that have plagued human life since the beginning: sins that focus on our bodies, hearts, and egos. Jesus faced those same temptations, but He did not fall because saw through the lie. He did not seek to attain more, and He stayed the course which God had given for Him. He walked to the cross because it was what God intended for Him to do. He didn’t reach beyond what He had because He knew He had everything. His obedience has secured the gift of life for all who believe. We have been healed by Jesus and washed clean so that we can dwell once more in the Garden and in the fellowship of our Father and Creator.

When God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden to live away from the Tree that would provide them with everlasting life, He told them that the ground would be cursed and that it would yield thorns and thistles. In the end, when Jesus was crucified, thorns were used to adorn His head as a crown. Even as we live in this fallen and broken world with so much sin, we also have the Gospel which saves us. The story of God that we learn during the first half of the Church year leads us to knowledge of His promise through Jesus Christ our Lord. His life, death and resurrection won for us forgiveness of sin, the restoration of our relationship with God and eternal life in His Kingdom. We become His brothers and sisters, following Him in obedience to the Word of God, glorifying Him in thankfulness for His love and grace.

If you would like to contact me, please use the following address, replacing the bracketed words with the symbol. Thank you for your continued interest, prayers and messages of encouragement.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, May 28, 2024

“In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’ Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the middle of them and said, ‘Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.’” Matthew 18:1-4, WEB

One of my favorite children’s books is called “The Hungry Thing” and was written by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler. The pictures were created by Richard Martin. I first purchased the book through Scholastic Books when I was in Elementary School, probably first grade. I still have that copy, which is torn and brittle but in amazing shape for a well-used paperback book over fifty years old. I purchased a new copy several years ago so I could use it when I taught preschool or volunteered to read to children. I have since found a number of used copies which I have given to some of my favorite children.

The book is about an adorable looking dinosaur monster who arrives in a village with a sign “Feed Me” on a chain around his head. The townspeople ask it what it wants to eat. The Hungry Thing answers, “Shmancakes.” This confuses the townspeople. “Shmancakes? How do you eat them? What can they be?” Then several of the adult townspeople give their ridiculous theories about the food with great confidence that they know what they are saying.

Then a little boy steps up and says, “I think you’re all very silly. shmancakes... sound like fancakes... sound like... pancakes to me.” So, the townspeople gave the Hungry Thing some and the Hungry Thing ate them all up. He wasn’t quite satisfied so pointed once again to his sign. This went on for some time with the Hungry Thing asking for tickles, feetloaf, hookies and gollipops. Each time the townspeople made ridiculous claims about the food, but the little boy knew better.

You can probably figure out for yourself what the Hungry Thing wanted to eat. The children always do when I read it to a group of little ones. They join in the fun of figuring out the rhyme and scream out the answer at just the right moment in the story. “Sounds like pickles to me!” And they laugh.

The townspeople fed the monster, but it took too long. He didn’t want the bread, tea or rice they offered him. The boy realizes that they have to offer the food as a rhyming word, so they give him foodles, smello, thread and a fanana. Finally, he asks for boop with a smacker and even though they spent the day playing the game with the Hungry Thing, they still did not understand. The boy whispered in the cook’s ear “Soup with a cracker,” and they gave him some. The Hungry Thing wiped his mouth and turned his sign around. The back of the sign said, “Thank You!”

I love to study the scriptures, to delve deeply into the historic and spiritual aspects, to understand the meanings of words and the possible interpretations of a text. I like to read the thoughts of learned theologians or listen to their sermons and lectures even though sometimes it makes my head hurt. If I were one of those adult townspeople, I would probably rush to the Internet to find a recipe for shmancakes. However, this story reminds us that sometimes it is best to find the simplest answers, like those of a child. Children do not think so highly of themselves or their ideas; they simply believe and trust. While theological study is good, Jesus wants us to always remember to think like a child, for it is that kind of faith that leads us to the answers we seek.

The following links provide some specially chosen scripture that tell the stories of the Birth and Passion of our Lord as Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as a fictional perspective of the Crucifixion. Spend time in God's Word, read about His life and learn of the wonderful gifts He has for you. Know Jesus Christ and honour Him today. Thanks be to God.

The Birth of our Saviour

The Story of our Saviour's Passion

The Crucifixion, a fictional perspective

When researching, I use several versions of the bible, including the New International Version and English Standard Version. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures on some of the archives, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, it is usually the American Standard Version or World English Bible which belong to the public domain. Any other versions used in quotes are identified.

The devotion posted on Wednesday is based on the Lectionary texts used by millions of Christians each Sunday. The Lectionary consists of four texts: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a passage from one of the Epistles and a Gospel text and follows the church calendar. Archives for these writings are found at Midweek Oasis.

You are welcome to use these words to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you these gifts, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring them to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom you've shared it. Peggy Hoppes