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Still Very Dark

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35

The boys and I are up early on this Saturday morning, as is our wont. While they watch Wild Kratts, I’m doing this. Today’s New Testament passage from the Daily Texts seems especially appropriate. On this last morning before the end of Daylight Saving Time, there’s still a ways to go before sunrise. Which, to tell you the truth, is pretty much how I’ve been feeling lately. Not down or depressed, just in the dark. When will the sun rise?

The COVID-19 pandemic is reclaiming centerstage in our consciousness. Cases are climbing rapidly. Here in Illinois we set a new record for cases yesterday. Again. One need not be a pessimist to sense that things may rapidly deteriorate. All against the backdrop of a highly-charged politicization of the pandemic leading up to the election (and who knows what that will bring?). When will the sun rise?

Today, I find deep comfort knowing that my prayer in the darkness is held within Jesus’ prayer for us. He, the One who entered our darkness, prays for us. While we wait for the sun to rise, we know the Son has risen. For now, in the darkness, that will be enough. May the sun rise with joy upon you on this All Hallows’ Eve. Stay safe out there.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of light, you are with us in the darkness. Help your Son’s love and peace rise within our hearts today. Shine your light upon our path, that we might feel our way forward in faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The view from the back deck, 5:50 a.m. today.

Yourself

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things.” 1 Timothy 4:16a

Today’s verse from the Daily Texts is part of a longer section of instruction. As a leader in the church, Paul reminds Timothy, it is important to tend to yourself. The immediate point is for Timothy to take care that he is preaching and teaching correctly, but there is a broader point, too. You have to take care of yourself.

Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus reminds us. This call breaks open the inward curvature of our souls, reminding us that we are to live for others. But it also reminds us that we are to love ourselves. Not through selfish gain or by ignoring the pain of others, but by attending to our own health and well-being.

During these days of pandemic and politics, there is no shortage of unease and anxiety. Pay attention to yourself. Christ died for you and was raised for you. The Spirit dwells in you. Slow down. Rest. Throw yourself into a life-giving hobby. You are worth taking care of.

And so am I. Since it’s my day off, I think I’ll go ahead and stop right here. After all, season two of The Mandalorian starts today. I’ll be in a galaxy far, far away.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of life, in you we find our rest. Help us to hear your Word. Let it remind us to take it easy on ourselves, that we might better live for one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: I don’t know, seemed like the world needed a picture of Anders in that sweet hat.

All Times

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Today’s psalm, appointed for All Saints, is a psalm of David. It was not written, however, during his time as king. It comes from a lower point in David’s life. On the run from Saul, he seeks refuge from King Achish of Gath (though the superscription to the psalm says it was Abimelech). David is recognized as a great warrior, which puts him in danger. So, he makes the levelheaded decision to pretend that he’s crazy. Scratching at the walls while spittle runs down his beard, he plays the part well. The king wants nothing to do with a lunatic and sends him away. Out of this event comes Psalm 34!

I will bless the Lord at all times. All times? Yes. Our lives are not always peaceful, easy, or without care. Dangers are ever present. And the world today could make you crazy. But God is good. Christ, in his living, dying, and rising, has given us all that we need. Forgiven and free, God’s praise should continually be in our mouths.

Yesterday in our Cornerstones Bible study, a number of people expressed anxiety about the upcoming election. I know how they feel! Speaking as much to myself as to anyone else, I said, “Whoever wins next week, the Lamb cannot be dislodged from the throne.” In this promise, I can bless the Lord at all times because I know we will live to bless the Lord for all time.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord, you deliver us from affliction and comfort us in our fear. Let us look to you, today and everyday, as our source of peace and joy in the midst of life’s challenges. Let us praise your name! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Our mouths may be masked, but they’re still praising the Lord!

Hey Jude. And Simon.

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?'” John 14:22

Today is the Feast of Simon and Jude. Other than the identities as two of the Twelve, we know very little about them. Simon, known as the Zealot or the Cananaean, is only mentioned in the lists of the apostles. He’s not even the most famous Simon among the Twelve. As for Jude, we’re not even sure if any of the Judes mentioned in the New Testament are the same as any of the other Judes (although we know he’s not that Judas). There are as many as four different Judes! But if we don’t know if Jude is Jude, we’re pretty sure he’s Thaddeus. Got it?

Well, if you’re confused, so was Jude. Jude the apostle, that is. During the Last Supper, as they’re trying to come to grips with Jesus’ impending departure, Jude asks a pretty good question: Why are you revealing yourself to us, but not to the whole world? To which Jesus responds, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Which is to say, you Jude, and all the rest, are the beloved community through which Jesus’ saving love will be revealed to and experienced by the world.

This work continues today. We are the beloved community whose call it is to live together in love and to welcome others into the life that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Legend has it that Simon and Jude went to Persia to spread the gospel and were martyred there. Their deaths did not stop God’s expansive community from growing. We live in a world that continues to resist goodness and grace, peace and love. Let us be the ones to more fully reveal these gifts.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord of life, you have chosen to reveal yourself to the world through the work of your people. Let us cling to Christ and his promises as we make Christ known to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: San Judas Tadeo, El Greco, between 1610 and 1614 (public domain).

The Great Ordeal

“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'” Revelation 9:13-14

Scanning my Facebook feed this morning, I read posts from friends who are evacuating their homes in Southern California. As in Colorado, the fires are raging. I cannot quite imagine what it’s like to leave your home, not knowing if it will still be there when you return. Today we pray for those who flee, and for the firefighters who bravely struggle to protect life and property. What an incredible ordeal for all involved.

This coming Sunday is All Saints Day, and we are shown an image of the saints. Gathered around the throne, they sing praises to the Lamb. They have endured the great ordeal and, for the sake of Christ and by his blood, they have triumphed. Robed now in white (a signifier of Christ’s righteousness, not an indication of the superiority of one skin color over another), they have joined the Church Triumphant.

Who knows what ordeals we will have to endure in the coming days, as fires both real and metaphorical rage around us? But whatever occurs, the end of the story has been secured. The Lamb sits on the throne, and already the saints in light sing praise. So, too, shall we one day. Until that day comes, may we care for one another, lightening the load of this world’s ordeals by bearing one another’s burdens.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lamb of God, we join our voices to the choirs of saints and angels who sing your praise. Give peace, hope, and wisdom in the midst of life’s ordeals until, at the last, we join the song of resurrection around your throne. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The Adoration of the Lamb, from the Ghent Altarpiece, Jan van Eyck, 1432 (public domain).