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Awaiting a Banquet


SUNDAY, August 28
Isaiah 25:6-9

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear” (v. 6, NRSV).

Earlier this year our family hosted a dinner party. It was the first we had hosted in a little over two years. The dining room in our home was filled with warmth, laughter, and good food. A guest commented, “The evening felt like something out of the Bible.” Perhaps it felt a bit like the feast mentioned here in Isaiah. 

This passage contains another image, however: death covering the world. We understand this sobering vision these days as well. Yet the entirety of Isaiah’s prophecy contains grace: God Almighty will remove this shroud of death, wipe away our tears, and prepare before us that meal of abundance with all our sisters and brothers around the world. That will be quite the dinner party!

God of grace, come quickly that you may wipe every tear from our eyes and seat us at your abundant table. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CELEBRATE GOD’S GIFTS

 

God Is the One Who Saves


MONDAY, August 29
Psalm 33:12-22

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (v. 22, NRSV).

The folk story tells of an emperor who agrees to purchase a new set of clothes woven by a pair of crooks. The clothes are made, so the crooks tell him, of material invisible to fools. In actuality there is no material at all. Not wanting to appear to be fools, everyone pretends to see the new clothes—until a child blurts out the truth: there are no clothes.

Our psalm reveals a similar deception. The kings and warriors place their hope in their horses and armies, but their hope is placed in worthless things. We place our hopes in things just as misguided: our own talents, finances, and educational achievements. Just like the emperor’s clothes, they will turn out to be nothing at all. 

Instead, the psalmist implores us to place our hope and trust in God Almighty, the Lord of heaven and earth. He sees us clearly and will never let us fall.

God of steadfast love, help us to place our firm hope and confidence in you. Amen.

 

 

Abundant Promises


TUESDAY, August 30
Genesis 15:1-6

My office door opens to a painted mural in the church entryway. The centerpiece of the mural is Abram sitting on a mountainside at night looking upward and pondering the stars in the sky. As I work throughout my week, my gaze often goes out my door and up to poor old Abram, still looking at the stars, wondering whether he could believe this abundant promise from the Lord. Like Abram, we are the inheritors of the Lord’s abundant promises. Despite this, I often find myself wondering whether I can believe. 

There is another figure in that mural outside my office, this one unpainted. It is the Lord Almighty who came to Abram to tell him, “Do not be afraid.” As I consider the impossible before me, I can be encouraged by the Lord whose abundant promises “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20, NRSV).

God of the universe, give us the courage to trust your abundant promises to us. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: WORLDWIDE ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER

 

 

Stepping Out in Faith


WEDNESDAY, August 31
Hebrews 11:1-7

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (vv. 1-3, NRSV).

Many years ago during a trip to Toronto, Canada, I took time to go to the top of the CN Tower. Soaring over the downtown skyline, the tower contains the tallest observation deck in North America. A portion of the deck’s floor was surprising to me. It was made not of steel or other metal, but glass. Signs and diagrams assured us that the glass floor was actually stronger than the other floor surrounding it, but how things looked and how I perceived them were much different.

As I joined the others in slowly walking across that glass floor and looking down the many stories to the matchbox-looking cars and ant-like people walking below, I learned something about faith. Faith (or trust) can be difficult, particularly when you take it out of your head and put it into action.

God of faith, may we be assured of your care for us as we follow you. Amen.

 

Longing for a Better Country


THURSDAY, September 1
Hebrews 11:8-16

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them” (v. 16, NRSV).

Each week, a historian on a popular TV show explores the family stories of various celebrities. One by one they hear the tales of the struggle, courage, and success of their ancestors. Each one, it seems, is encouraged by the journey of their foremothers and fathers to go from a difficult past in their homeland into a new and hopeful reality in the United States. Near the end of the episode, the show’s host often asks, “What do you think your ancestors would think about you today?” 

This passage reminds us of our spiritual family who similarly struggled and overcame in their journey to their true homeland. We can be tempted to focus only on our immediate future, instead of desiring and striving toward that “better country” God is preparing for us.

God of our fathers and mothers, may we be people of courage and struggle, pushing toward that better land you are preparing. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: COMMUNITIES IN TURMOIL

 

Consider the Birds


FRIDAY, September 2
Luke 12:22-31

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear….Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (vv. 22-24). 

My daughter’s teacher gave her class an assignment: go into your yard and look for three different species of birds. Over the week that followed, we looked, recorded our findings, and turned them in. We didn’t stop there, however. We purchased bird books and downloaded apps and kept track of our findings over the course of the entire year. Our final count: 49 species. It took me a few months to realize that we were following a biblical command! “Consider the birds,” Jesus tells us. Such a practice can teach us about God’s care for creation and for each of us. 

That same summer contained a good amount of worry as the virus spread. “Don’t keep worrying,” Jesus tells us. As we watched for those birds, I imagined God Almighty watching over us and whispering, “Do not worry. As I care for these birds, I’m caring for you.”

God of creation, help us to seek the kingdom, knowing you will care for us. Amen.

 

Always Be Prepared


SATURDAY, September 3
Luke 12:32-40

The Boy Scout motto is succinct: Be prepared. Scouts can boil down their essential hope for the program to these two simple words, despite hundreds of merit badges and countless activities.

They are words that could be written about the Christian life based on our passage today. We often think about Christian faith describing items like spiritual development or enthusiastic worship, but we rarely consider that faith involves readiness. Jesus here tells the story: The Son of man is coming at an unknown hour. We must be prepared. 

The further explanation of the scout motto talks about what it means to be prepared: We know the right thing to do and we are able to do it. This could be said of the posture of the Christian life: we know what Christ is asking us to do, and we prepare ourselves to do it.

God Almighty, prepare us for your coming, that we may be ready to receive you in faith. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: GOOD SCHOOLS FOR ALL COMMUNITIES

About the Author

  • Ryan Chambers Johnson

    I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, where I attended First Covenant Church. I met my lovely wife, Devyn, when we were both students at North Park Seminary. We have served in ministry together for most of our careers, including 10 years of co-pastoring in the suburbs of Washington DC (Springfield, Virginia). Last year we moved in the middle of winter and a pandemic to a church south of Boston. We are now co-pastors of Covenant Congregational Church in North Easton, Massachusetts. I enjoy being outdoors and active with my two daughters, aged five and nine. I also enjoy chocolate, reading, hiking, and music, particularly listening to it live. I also have a long-term goal of visiting every major league baseball ballpark (current count: 21).

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