Devotional for July 21, 2019
Due to excessive heat warnings that are due to be in effect through Sunday night, worship at Beacon on 7/21 is cancelled. Please stay safe and seek out cooler areas. Below is a devotional to take you through the readings that we had scheduled for Sunday. A song, recorded by our worship leader Abi Reimold, will be shared here on Sunday.
You’re invited to use this devotional in whatever way is most effective for you. It could be read through in one sitting, or spread out over a few days. You can play with the order as well. At the end are prayer requests for the week.
Opening Psalm 52
Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
God will snatch and tear you from your tent;
God will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see, and fear, and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches, and sought refuge in wealth!”
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
God of challenge and comfort, we admit that sometimes it’s easier to stay stuck in our worries. We are so good at distracting ourselves and numbing our feelings to avoid the painful process of growth. Help us to be open to change, and walk alongside us as we lay down our familiar distractions and face the truth. Make us brave and make us kind as we try to love you, our neighbor, and ourselves better. Amen.
“For I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Jesus Christ, we find grace, peace, and forgiveness. Thanks be to God.
Amos 8:4-12: Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
Luke 10:38-42: Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Song: All Who Are Thirsty (Click here to hear a recording from our worship leader, Abi Reimold)
This passage from Luke has long been simplified to paint Martha as a resentful, cranky person and Mary as a quiet, devout follower of Jesus. It sets up acts of hospitality and acts of listening to and learning from God as things that are in opposition to one another.
But what if the issue isn’t working versus listening but the worries and distractions that Martha had allowed to fill up her mind and heart?
As soon as Jesus arrived, Martha jumped into the tasks that were expected of her as a host. But she didn’t really pay attention to what her guest needed or wanted. Jesus apparently needed to teach first, and then figure out food later.
I wonder if we can see Jesus’ response to Martha’s triangulation (because after all, if she had an issue with Mary, the healthiest way to deal with it would have been to address it with her) as compassion and challenge wrapped up together, rather than a scolding?
Can we imagine Jesus saying “Martha, Martha,” in a gentle tone that acknowledged her search for recognition even as he went on to challenge her to approach the situation differently?
When Jesus said, “you are worried and distracted by many things,” one of the alternate definitions of the Greek there is “you are being turbided,” or, you have become turbid—which is a word that means murky, muddy, or confused.
The implication there is that when we allow worry and distractions to fill us up, to be the lens through which we see the world, we become confused and led away from what God is calling us to do—which is, to pay attention. Hospitality is work we are called to, just as much as we are called to listen and learn. But first, we are called to pay attention.
Mary Oliver wrote in one of her poems, titled “Sometimes,” these words:
“Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.”
Perhaps this is what Mary received praise for—her attentiveness to the situation and their guest. Perhaps this is what Jesus was challenging Martha to do—to allow God to hold her worries so she could have enough head and heart space to pay attention, and in so doing, be astonished and tell about it.
What worries are weighing on you recently?
In what ways might you be distracting yourself instead of paying attention to what is happening in your life, your family, your neighborhood, the world?
When was the last time you felt really present in any given moment? What was it like? Painful? Moving? Beautiful? Joyful?
What is one way you’d like to try paying attention this week?
(For example: putting away your phone during a meal; taking a walk and purposefully noticing what you see as you walk; reflect back to a friend what you heard them say during a conversation)
Inspired by Colossians 1:15-28 Loving God, we thank you for sending us your son Jesus so that all things, on earth and in heaven, might be reconciled to you through the cross. We thank you that the reconciliation you provided extends to us, even in our own brokenness and sinfulness. We ask that you would help us to be established and steadfast in the faith and hope to which you call us, the faith and hope that you so generously give to us. Strengthen us to hold fast to the hope that comes with the gospel we’ve heard proclaimed in scripture, story, and song. Amen.
Things to Pray for During the Week:
Our neighbors struggling with addiction and homelessness, and those without access to air conditioning, that they might find support, recovery, safe housing, and hospitable, cool places to endure the heat wave.
Our neighbors at our southern border, detained in inhumane conditions by our government, that they would feel God’s presence nearby in this traumatic time, and that justice would come about as soon as possible.
Our neighbors experiencing transitions at home or work, those searching for purposeful work, those beginning new jobs or roles, that they might gain clarity about what God is calling them to do, and that a way forward would become clear.
Our neighbors experiencing illness or grief, that they might feel supported by family and friends, receive the care they need, and feel God’s presence as they pursue healing.
For Beacon, that we might be a church of welcome and love for all our neighbors, and that those who join us in the yard during the week or in worship on Sundays would know themselves to be loved by those here and by God. That our community would grow as we get to know more of our neighbors.