August 27 – September 2, 2019

WORD

1Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” 7Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 15Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Reflection: Let mutual love continue.

The Gospel is one sustained plea to consider the importance of love for one another.  The idea that we will seek the good for others as they seek the good for us is foundational to pleasing God and living a godly life.  Again, our Scripture is bringing us to this theme of self-abandonment, where we no longer live only for ourselves, but for the mutual benefit of God’s world.  To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians, we can do everything “right” – we can serve others, we can worship, we can know the Bible backwards and forwards – but if we do not ground all the “right” things in genuine love, then we are doing all the “right” things in vain.

The call to mutual love goes back to the statement the LORD God made in Genesis 2, at after the creation of the human being: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  Loneliness was the first thing God called “not good” in all of creation.  The lack of mutual love is the root of evil, because it leads to an impersonal manner of living.  Everything about God’s creation is personal and relational.  When we withhold love from others, we promote the void of loneliness.

The Hebrew in Genesis 2:18 literally reads, “It is not good for the man to be a part of himself.”  In other words, when we are alone – when we withdraw ourselves from mutual, self-giving relationships – then we are incomplete.  There is a part of us that is missing, and the piece that will complete us is the act of sharing the agape love of God.  When we do things for the good of others, when we love others the way we would want to be loved, then we become truly human.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  The word we translate perfect is the Greek word telos.  Telos means “the purpose for which you were made.”  In other words, fulfill your holy purpose, just as God is always fulfilling the divine purpose.  Jesus frames this command within a broader discussion of loving those whom you do not like.  To share love, even with your enemies, is the key to fulfilling God’s purposes for us.  How might you complete your human purpose this week by promoting the good for those you encounter?

Journaling Focus: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

We can look back over the turbulent seasons of living and notice that the one constant in it all is God.  As you write in your journal this week, reflect on how God’s presence has been a steadying force within the variant seasons of life.  When has God been with you in the difficult times?  The joyous times?  The seasons of “blah”?

Sacred Reading:

This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.

  • Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture.  As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
  • Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time.  As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
  • Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time.  As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.

Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!

 

SPIRIT

Scripture Song:

Listen to the song We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise.  Reflect on what it means for you to offer praise, thanksgiving, and joy as a sacrifice to God.  What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?

Prayer Focus: Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.

We are free in the United States to worship God as we choose, without fear of punishment or imprisonment.  This is not true for all Christians around the world.  Pray for those who are imprisoned for their faith and ask God to strengthen them in the face of persecution.  Trust that God is using their witness in a hostile environment to change the hearts and minds of those who persecute them.  Express, also, your gratitude for your religious freedoms.

Meditation Focus: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Think about a time in which God brought someone into your life, even if it was for a brief moment, who was a messenger of God.  That is what angel means, after all: messenger.  My mind goes to the woman whom we gave some food to after Wednesday Night Supper a few months back who called us “the church that feeds.”  We gave her a meal or two, but she gave us a vision for our church.  Think of your own encounter with such an “angel.”  What message did God give you through them?  Meditate on that message.  How is God continuing to speak that message into your life?  How might God want you to hear that message anew this week?

Examen:

Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week.  Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week.  Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.

  • Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
  • Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
  • Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week.  For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening.  If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
  • Ask God to guide you through these questions:
    • How are you putting your faith and love in action?
    • In what ways have you been aware of God’s never-forsaking presence?
    • How have you received God’s help?
    • How is God calling you to the ministry of sharing?
  • Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week.  Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.

Holy Action: 

Give out of the abundance which God has given to you.  This does not have to be a monetary gift, though it can be.  Simply ask God how you might give to someone else as an act of love.  God will put the person in your path who needs to receive such an act of selflessness.

Breath Prayer: LORD God, guide us into active love.

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