Fifth Sunday after Easter
A Song of Impact
SUNDAY, May 15
I remember the moment I heard the band Nirvana for the first time. When “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started playing, I felt like I had been introduced to a whole new universe. All I knew was that my life would never be the same. To this very day I can see how my life is different because of that moment. Can you think of a song of impact in your life?
The psalmist here makes an appeal to a wide-ranging segment of creation: Praise the Lord! Have you encountered this song that all of creation sings to God? A sunset. A grassy meadow. The intricacy of a flower. Clouds. Different seasons. Perhaps we can listen carefully for this song of impact today. Go for a walk in silence. Find a park or some pocket of creation and simply listen. Can you hear the song of praise? It may just change your life.
God, give me the ears to hear creation’s song of praise to you. May I join in song, forever changed by its witness. Amen.
Blueprint for Evangelism
MONDAY, May 16
Question #1: Are there people in your church who are challenging to love? Be honest. Question #2: Are you passionate about evangelism?
Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples. The God of the universe took on human form and embraced the role of a servant by cleaning the dirty feet of a motley crew of disciples. The disciples were made up of a wide range of people. This included at least one Zealot (Simon) and one tax collector (Matthew). If you think politics are divisive now, do some research on Zealots and tax collectors.
After a humble and profound expression of love, Jesus declares two things: 1) love one another as I have loved you, and 2) the way people will identify you as my disciples is how you love one another. In a time of global division, what an amazing opportunity for us to bear witness to the grace-filled love of Jesus!
May our grace-filled acts of love toward our fellow disciples, even the ones who are hard to love, bear witness to the truth we proclaim in Christ. Amen.
Bringing Seeds to Life
TUESDAY, May 17
In Luke 4:19 Jesus declares God has anointed him to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Referencing the Jubilee celebration of ancient Israel, Jesus makes a radical proclamation that along with his coming, the poor will receive good news, captives will be released, the blind will receive sight, and the oppressed will be set free. If Jesus’s proclamation in Luke 4 is a mustard seed of the kingdom, the portrait of the early church in today’s passage is a mature mustard plant with branches upon which the birds of the air may perch. This early community was shaped in a way that bore witness to God’s kingdom more than any other kingdom of the day. People from diverse backgrounds came together for fellowship, meal sharing, prayer, wonders and signs, abundant provision, and to learn about Christ.
What mustard seeds of the kingdom do you see growing into fullness? What seeds would you like to see growing in our world today?
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, grow the seeds of your kingdom by your grace as we prayerfully discern their presence and nurture their growth with our lives. Amen.
WEDNESDAY, May 18
The resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples several times. The accounts in Scripture reveal some continuity between the pre-resurrection Jesus and the post-resurrection Jesus. He is recognizable to his friends, and the scars from his death remain. But there are also characteristics that are different altogether post-resurrection. Jesus is not immediately recognizable. He appears and disappears in supernatural ways.
In today’s passage we see a kind of resurrection with the invocation to God to “stretch out your hand” (v. 30). Throughout the biblical narrative, to stretch out one’s hand often meant to bring powerful destruction or even death. Here, after suffering persecution, the early church prays that God would stretch out God’s hand to heal. What a powerful demonstration of a people so transformed by Christ’s resurrection that their prayers for divine intervention are no longer for vengeance but healing.
God, may our prayers reflect the heart of the early church that we may pray for the healing of our enemies. Amen.
Lines in the Sand
THURSDAY, May 19
Our six-year-old daughter was distraught because some girls at the park would not let her play with them. Finally, they let her play with them. Then a new girl arrived at the park. The girls, my daughter included, would not let the new girl play with them. I was heartbroken.
Our tendency to draw distinctions between “us” and “them” is everywhere. We see international, political, cultural, epistemological, generational, and religious divisions daily. We may be tempted to see all distinctions as God-ordained as we draw lines in the sand between us and them. Sometimes I wonder if God is a heartbroken Father watching his children exclude one another in the sandbox with our silly lines.
Peter is challenged by the Holy Spirit to abandon division and not to make a distinction between “them” and “us.” How might the Spirit challenge our lines in the sand today?
Holy Spirit, guide me to discern your movements to draw people toward you. May I partner with you in this work as Peter did. Amen.
Unexpected Transitions and Unexpected Fruit
FRIDAY, May 20
As a denomination, we affirm our conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This is no easy task. Jesus himself testifies to the mysterious nature of the Spirit in John 3. Beyond the obvious mystery in discerning the callings of the Spirit, embracing a faithful obedience to those callings requires courage. What do we do when God calls us toward an unexpected and undesired transition?
In today’s text, Paul encounters such a moment. In response to the movement of God’s kingdom through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Paul had transitioned from persecutor to proselyte to proclaimer. He dedicated his life to sharing the good news of Jesus with his fellow Jews, but many rejected his message. This passage (along with Acts 13:46) marks a shift in Paul’s approach to ministry. He painfully transitions his focus toward a new people. The fruit of this transition, of course, includes the Corinthian church itself. What kind of fruit can be born out of our willingness to undergo painful yet Spirit-led transitions?
Holy Spirit, help us to know what you are calling us to lay down in order to bear great and unexpected fruit. Amen.
Place and Purpose
SATURDAY, May 21
We started the week reflecting on how the psalmist charges all of the created world to “Praise the Lord!” Now it’s our turn. Similar to the creation narrative we find in Genesis 1, the psalmist is offering progressive charges that culminate with charges to those who bear the Divine image: humankind. Men and women, young and old, we are all reminded of our place. We are reminded of our purpose.
I need constant reminders of my place and my purpose. Sometimes I elevate myself or others to a place where only God should reside. Yet the psalmist reminds us that God’s “name alone is exalted” (v. 13). Other times I forget my purpose of praising the Lord with my life. I can so easily live out a song that praises me or other things instead of praising the Lord. Again, the psalmist reminds me of my purpose: “Praise the Lord!”
God, remind me of my place and my purpose today. I am your creation, bearing your image. May my life be a song of praise to you. Amen.