Archive for Kingdom

Summer Worship Series

What is the Kingdom of Heaven? What is it like? How can we describe it? Jesus used parables to invite people into an experience of the Kingdom of Heaven. But he also showed people what the Kingdom of Heaven is like with everything he did. Beginning July 3 and running through August we will be exploring Matthew’s vision of the Kingdom of Heaven revealed in the person of Jesus.

July 3 & 6 The Kingdom of God Revealed
A person of faith believes that there is more to this world than meets the eye. Jesus reveals the “hidden” kingdom of God and invites us to participate in that kingdom today and forever.

July 10 & 13 The Spreading Word
In this familiar parable of the sower, the seed goes all over the place, on good soil and bad. The focus is on the grace and reckless generosity of the One who pours out the word of the kingdom on all people. It’s not about us and what kind of soil we are; it’s about God, who sent us Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

July 17 & 20 The Weedy, Wheat-filled Kingdom
Jesus describes a kingdom where the master has a different attitude towards the presence of weeds than his workers. What does it take for us to think more like the master and less like the workers who want everything perfect right now?

Sunday, July 24 – Guest Speaker: Joy Waughtal
Joy is returning from a year of volunteer mission work in South Africa as part of the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program of the ELCA. Come and hear Joy speak about her experiences at both the 8:15 and 10:15 worship services as well as a special family education forum at 9:15

July 31 & August 3 You Feed Them
Jesus called his disciples to feed the multitude. Though they may have doubted their ability, when they did what he commanded they discovered the power that Jesus had given them. We too are called and empowered for ministry. Ours is not to doubt but to do.

Daily Walk Nov 1-7

Monday, November 1, 2010: A New Thing
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19; Matthew 9:17
God is doing something new. What is it? Will we know it when we see it? This new thing is some sort of massive miracle that will transform all life. This new thing, however, is not just freedom from exile. The new thing is a cosmic transformation so big that the entire world will take notice. This new thing moves beyond our old rigid dogmas and into a new world of possibilities. There’s a warning in Matthew 9 about how transformative this new thing is going to be. The old religious containers won’t be able to hold this “new wine.” The wineskins will break. Is God doing something new in your life? Do you think you’d be able to see it if it were true? Ask God to show you one “new thing” that God is doing in you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010: Entrenched?
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19 again; Matthew 23:13-15
Jesus often railed against religious entrenchment. In the Matthew reading, he takes on the scribes and Pharisees for their misplaced piety. The prophet Isaiah says a similar thing to his audience. The people have become so entrenched in their faith tradition that they don’t believe they have anything more to learn about what is possible with God and God’s activity in the world. Faith becomes static, dogmatic, and unable to imagine that God could do anything new. This is a faith that is seized up, catatonic, totally compromised by the current culture. Are there parts of your life that are religiously entrenched? Where are you seized up or catatonic? Ask God to break you free from those places where your life is compromised.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010: Exile?
Daily reading: Isaiah 43:15-19 again; 1 Peter 2:11-12
Isaiah uses imagery of the Israelites fleeing from Egypt and the army of Egyptians overwhelmed in the Red Sea to speak to people exiled in Babylon. Prophets often used historical images to remind people of God’s faithfulness while calling them to return to faith. Israel’s faith is deeply rooted in the far-reaching past acts of God. But in this text, the prophetic formula changes. The prophet first reminds the people of God’s power and God’s favor. But then he challenges them to step into a future where God will do a new thing. God is powerful and has done great things, but turn your face into a new future. 1 Peter reminds us that there are exiles today, as well; people of faith dispersed throughout the world. Are you exiled from your real home? Have circumstances led you to believe that God cannot possibly do a new thing in your life? Ask God to remind you of what God has done in your past, and give you a new hope for the future.

Thursday, November 4, 2010: Enough?
Daily reading: Romans 3:19-28; Psalm 1:1-2
This section of Romans is part of Paul’s final argument about judgment. Paul concludes that the entire world is guilty before God. The law gives us knowledge of sin, but no amount of dutiful law-following will save us from it. So while the law is useful, and a gift to the Jews (and the whole world), it cannot free us from the power of sin. Paul defines sin as more than individual transgressions against God; it’s deeply connected to the human condition. The question changes from “Have we done enough?” (a question that has no answer), to “Do I have faith, and do I believe?” This argument from Paul to the Romans (which began in Galatians) is so new and radical that we are still wrestling with it today. It’s one thing to delight in God’s law and quite another to believe that you can somehow do enough to fulfill the law. Do you have faith? Do you believe? Ask God for the gift of faith, and then trust God to provide it.

Friday, November 5, 2010: Religiosity?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39; Jeremiah 31:33
One of the biggest arguments Jesus has with the Pharisees is that they are so consumed with their own piety and religiosity that they have forgotten the moral demands of that very religion. It is clear to the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist that the Jesus movement is not religious enough, so Jesus, the leader, is questioned. Jesus responds by refusing to debate the merits of their practices. He shows no interest in arguing the finer points and details of religious life, something the Pharisees love to do. God’s law is written on our hearts, yet we simply cannot behave according to the law. Is that how we end up with religiosity? Is there a part of you that’s simply putting up with religiosity? Ask God to take away anything that’s getting in the way of you become a new creation.

Saturday, November 6, 2010: Renewal?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39 again; Isaiah 35:3-7
Jesus says that the coming Kingdom of God should be celebrated. This renewal is new: reaching out across boundaries, living into the Kingdom in the present. Jesus’ second point, made more dramatic through the parables of the cloth and the wineskins, is that this new thing that Jesus is doing cannot and will not fit into any previous religious paradigm. It is so new that it is actually dangerous to the Pharisees. Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of God is near is incompatible with the existing religious systems, and, in many ways, it’s also incompatible with many Christian systems today. The Isaiah text describes this renewal in physical ways, with new strength and recovery from weariness. Where do you need renewal today? Ask God to make it possible for you to run and not be weary.

Sunday, November 7, 2010: Open?
Daily reading: Luke 5:33-39 again; Isaiah 65:17-18
There are times when our own imagination about God’s ability to do new things succumbs to a static religious dogma. What new thing is God calling us to be about? What religious systems have we created that Jesus would declare too unstable for his new wine? Can God do something new within us? How can we remain open to the movement of God and still be faithful? Many people hear the word “open” and they immediately assume that the word of God is being compromised. Is God’s future open or determined? In Isaiah, we sense the prophet’s excitement about the new thing that God will do. Where in your life has static religious dogma taken hold? Ask God to make you open to what God is able to do through you.

Daily Walk Oct 25-31

Monday, October 25, 2010: God in a Box
Daily reading: Joel 2:28-29; Ephesians 1:16-22
In the new documentary, God in a Box, filmmakers embark on a cross-country journey. At interesting locations, they invite people to step into a large box to describe what God means to them and draw their visual interpretations of God. Scholars analyze their comments, and interesting observations emerge. The text from Joel talks about new dreams and visions. The Ephesians text uses human language to describe what seems to be beyond description. Chances are, our image of God is limited, contained, small, and unimaginative. How is your image of God in a box? Ask God to expand and explode your image of God’s power and authority.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Judgment and Grace
Daily reading: Joel 2:1-9; John 1:14-18
Joel is writing to people who have become complacent in prosperity and are taking God for granted. They are mired in self-centeredness and idolatry. Joel warns them that this lifestyle inevitably brings God’s judgment. There are three broad themes in this short book: punishment, forgiveness and the promise of the Holy Spirit. But Joel wants to be clear about God’s judgment and grace, which always go hand in hand. Given God’s power and mercy, why would we want to live outside of that, and go on our own? Yesterday’s reading from Joel 2 is an oracle of promise pointing to a future redeemed and restored by God. The term “afterward” in verse 28 points beyond the immediate restoration of blessing indicated in the preceding prophecy; a double promise of God’s abundant grace. The reading from John invites us to see that this grace is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. How do you think judgment and grace are connected? Ask God for wisdom to understand how judgment and grace go hand in hand.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010: The Image of God
Daily reading: Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 97:6-7
Jesus is the image of God. The word for “image” in Paul’s time was used for likenesses on coins, portraits, and statues. To us, it would be like having a photograph of the original. Jesus is the perfect representation of God. J. B. Phillips translates verse 15 this way: “Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being. Psalm 97 warns us to not count on false representations of God: idols. Are there images of God that you worship instead of the One named Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to give you a new image in your mind of the true God.

Thursday, October 281, 2010: The Firstborn of All Creation
Daily reading: Colossians 1:15-16 again; Psalm 89:27-28
Jesus is not only the perfect picture of God, Jesus is in the highest and loftiest position of anything in the universe. Colossians says that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Firstborn is a term of rank more than it is a word of time (see Psalms 89:27). In ancient cultures, if you were firstborn you had privilege and authority. Firstborn is the most honored position in the family. Jesus is the firstborn – the highest rank – in all of creation. When we think of Jesus, we often remember the Christmas accounts of his birth and come to believe that he was born two thousand years ago. This text tells us that Jesus was not only present at the creation of the universe, but caused it all to happen. How might this change your image of Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to open your mind to see Christ as the one who created all things.

Friday, October 29, 2010: Creator and Sustainer
Daily reading: Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:3
The text from Colossians tells us that Jesus holds the highest rank in creation because he is the Creator of all things. There is nothing in the created order that Jesus did not create. John 1:3 confirms this idea. The One who creates has absolute supremacy over all creation. We know that only God can create, and since Jesus is Creator, he is also God. Jesus is more than the perfect image of God, he is divine. He is God. Jesus not only creates all things, but also sustains all things, holds everything together. Because of Christ, the universe is under control and not chaotic. Does this change your image of Jesus even further? Ask God to help you more fully comprehend the incredible greatness of the One who created and sustains all things.

Saturday, October 30, 2010: Reconciler
Daily reading: Colossians 1:19-20; Ephesians 2:16
Not only is Jesus the perfect image of God who creates and sustains all things, he also is the great reconciler of all things. Reconciliation has to do with the restoration of relationships between two parties that have been at war. The text describes this peace that Jesus brings as a result of blood shed on the cross. He is the full embodiment of every attribute of God and God’s saving grace. Jesus is moving all the world toward a ceasing of hostilities, greater harmony, and ultimate healing. He is the great reconciler. Does this continue to change your image of Jesus? In your prayers today, ask God to reconcile those places in your life where there may be hostilities.

Sunday, October 31, 2010: Thy Kingdom Come
Daily reading: Joel 2:28-32 again; Psalm 145:13
When we pray “thy Kingdom come,” what are we praying for, and what should we expect? When we read in Joel that God is going to pour out his spirit on all flesh, what does “all flesh” mean? If this time is characterized by prophesy, dreams and visions by the young and old, men and women, what will that look like? It is quite possible that God is way ahead of us, working in and through all people in very surprising ways, and through people that might surprise us. Are there people you know who you believe God could never work through? Is it possible for God to work through them in surprising ways? Ask God to open your mind to the possibility that God can work in surprising ways through people who may surprise us.

Daily Walk Oct 18-24

Monday, October 18, 2010: Power and Wealth
Daily reading: Matthew 20:20-22; Deuteronomy 8:17-20
We are fascinated by power. In film, a series of superheroes (Batman, Superman, etc.) possess extraordinary powers and show up just at the right time to protect the public good. Generally, good defeats evil in a supernatural way. In our culture, power is always connected to something. We might be tempted to think that power is connected to wealth and success. The mother of James and John probably just wants her boys to succeed; doesn’t every mom? In Deuteronomy we have a warning, and a reminder of where real power comes from. Where does your power come from? Ask God to reveal the places where you are trusting in the wrong things.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010: Power and Pride
Daily reading: Psalm 20
This psalm may have been used liturgically by the worshiping community as the king and his armies prepared to go out into battle. Verses 1-5 are a communal intercession on behalf of the king, asking that God would go with the armies of Israel, perhaps reflecting the ancient belief that God literally went ahead of the armies into battle. Verses 6-9 are likely a prophetic oracle, assuring the people that God has heard their prayers and that victory is assured. The work of the people is to believe God’s promises. The people of Israel are not to find their security or their pride in their strength, but in the strength of the Lord. What are you proud of? Pray for God’s Spirit to increase your pride in God’s strength, not your own.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010: Power and Submission
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19; Isaiah 40:28-31
Verses 17-19 form an interesting contrast to yesterday’s reading. While the psalm envisions God moving out of Jerusalem as a mighty warrior to battle the human enemies of the Israelites, Matthew pictures Jesus walking into Jerusalem as a humble servant to battle the power of sin and death on the cross. The contrast between power and submission is so startling that neither the Jews nor the disciples can see Jesus as the Messiah. It is this misunderstanding of real, divine power that sets up the interaction between Jesus and the mother of the sons of Zebedee in 20-28. The power of God is often revealed in ways that Isaiah describes; strength to the faint of heart and energy to the exhausted. To what powers in your life are you submitting? Ask God to reshape the desires of your heart to submit more fully to God’s plans and purposes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010: Power and Kingdom
Daily reading: Matthew 20:23-28; Psalm 145
Jesus’ disciples and the mother of James and John have a flawed understanding of the Kingdom of God. While Jesus’ disciples think the Kingdom will be an earthly, political, military kingdom in which the Israelites will vanquish all their human foes, Jesus comes to vanquish all the enemies of humanity and establish a spiritual Kingdom with profound earthly implications. So when James and John’s mother ask that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand, she is asking that they hold positions of power and authority in an earthly kingdom. Where are you striving for power and authority? Ask God how the Kingdom Jesus intends can be revealed more fully to you today.

Friday, October 22, 2010: Power and Real Greatness
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28; Ephesians 1:16-23
Real power and greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom will not be “power over” others, but “power under.” This “power under” is ultimately submission to God expressed as submissive service to others. It is this power that Jesus will demonstrate as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies on the cross. This is the power that God honors, validates, vindicates and glorifies. The Ephesians reading summarizes the real greatness that belongs to us because of Christ. How do you measure real greatness? In your prayers today, ask God to work in you to produce something really great through service to others.

Saturday, October 23, 2010: Power and Death
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19 again; Acts 12:1-5
Jesus refers to the cup of suffering, the same cup he references in the garden of Gethsemane. By saying that James and John will indeed drink from this cup he is referencing the fact that both will die as martyrs. James is one of the first disciples to die violently, while John dies in exile. In the movie Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) sacrifices his life to break down walls of racism in his community. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized the civil rights movement and caused great change in our society. How do you relate to suffering in your life? In your prayers today, ask God to reframe your thinking about suffering and death.

Sunday, October 24, 2010: Power and Change
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28 again; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
By what power does Jesus change the world? By what power does he defeat sin, death and the devil? It is the power of love lived out in submission to God and service to others. This is the power of the Kingdom. It is also the power that all disciples are called to live. Militant Muslims and Christians alike are seeking to change the world by forcing their will upon others, either with guns or legislation. But this “right-hand power” will never change the world. While it may temporarily force people to behave differently, it will never change the heart. But love, lived out in submission to God and in service to others, can lead to reconciliation, redemption and restoration. We are changing every day from one degree of glory to another, into Christ’s likeness. How are you changing today? Ask God to change you more and more into the likeness of Christ