Prayer for Epiphany

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday Night Thoughts

It’s been a crazy weekend of football. Yesterday, we watched an exciting nail-biter as the Bills played Texans. Being that we minister in the Western New York area, Bills fever was high. It was almost like my own home team was playing. At one point I stood watching the tv – like that was going to help. It was a disappointing loss for the hometown Bills. This afternoon, we were treated to more excitement as the Eagles hosted the Seahawks. I knew the chances of the Eagles winning wasn’t great, but still rooted for them, hoping all the way that there would be a chance for a comeback. Alas, that didn’t happen, so the teams I would really root for are out for the year.

In other news, it’s been a week that started as vacation and finished back at work. I got sidelined in my running this week with gout. By Thursday I was at least back to walking and yesterday I ran 5 miles. It has been nice to have about 10 days off from bus driving. Tomorrow Anna starts back to work, so slowly life is returning back to normal.

This morning in church, we celebrated Epiphany – yes for the purists we were a day early, but I felt it was important to highlight this significant event in the life of Jesus – the visit of the Magi. Yesterday, Anna and I spent the day preparing Reyes de Rosca or King’s Bread. We started the tradition last year and I thought it would be good to do it again.

This week we prepare for our Covenant Renewal Service next Sunday. We also restart our Kid’s Club on Wednesday night. That’s about all I have for this week. Have a great week.

From His Abundance…

Second Sunday After Christmas Day | January 5, 2020

Photo by Jessica Lewis on

Jeremiah 31:7-14 • Psalm 147:12-20 • Ephesians 1:3-14 • John 1:10-18

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

John 1:10-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another…

Usually when we look at this passage…and by we, I mean me…we focus on “The Word became human and made his home among us.” I love that part and it has been the basis of several sermons during the Advent season, and I will even use it this morning during my sermon.

John tells us that Jesus came into the world that He created and the world that He created rejected Jesus. Even God’s very own people rejected Jesus. But the great thing is that if we believe and accept Jesus we can become the children of God. How cool is that?

In another version following the Word became human…the text says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Think about that for a moment. What does it mean to be full of grace and truth – full of unfailing love and faithfulness. The God who came down – who put on human flesh – God, Incarnate, desires us to be one of His own. He wants us to be His children.

Sometimes we get a really wishy-washy idea of what God’s love looks like. Yes, God’s love is unconditional. But even more so, God’s love is pure…it’s not like the love we know. Sometimes our love can get jaded. Sometimes we are not unconditional in our love. We attach strings to our love. But God does not. He loved us so much that Christ came – to put on human flesh – to die for us – to sacrifice His own life for us – so that we could be saved and have eternal life (John 3:16.)

Know wonder John writes, “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” Jesus came with unfailing love and faithfulness. The Apostle Paul writes:

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:5-8

This is the blessing that we receive because “The Word became human.”

Prayer for the Week

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Vacation Project

While home for Christmas I received a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface. I’ve been looking forward to being able to record, but haven’t had the time to get it all set up and get all the software downloaded. Vacation has been nice and I had a nice block of time to get everything set up. Tonight was a learning process. The Scarlett interface is easy to figure out, but learning a powerful, but sophisticated DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software was a bit of a trick, especially when you want to get music coming out of it. With some patience and time I was able to record a nice version of 10,000 Reasons. I recorded a lead vocal with two background vocals, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and some electric. A cool benefit of using a DAW is having a click track, so everything lined up nicely. If you want to hear what I did click on the link below:

10,000 Reasons

New Year’s Day

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 • Psalm 8 • Revelation 21:1-6a • Matthew 25:31-46

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31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46 New Living Translation (NLT)

Happy 2020! Wait! What? We blinked and twenty years have passed. Perhaps that’s what makes this morning’s devotional so poignant – especially when we welcomed 2020 in with such revelry. Toward the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives us a lengthy discourse about how it will all end. Jesus gives warnings to the people to keep watch – to be ready. As we enter 2020 perhaps we should take time – to take inventory to see if we are watching as we should, to see if we are ready like we should be. In Matthew 25, we first get the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. Five who were wise and five who were foolish. The wise were ready for the coming of the bride and the foolish weren’t.

Then there is the Parable of the Three Servants. In this story the master gives the servants silver to take care of – to be stewards of – to invest. Two of the servants are wise stewards and the third just buries his silver in the ground. We learn the importance of being good stewards of what God has entrusted with us.

Finally, Jesus tells us of the Last Judgment in something we know as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Again it’s a story of being ready – it’s a story of being a good steward. I really believe when Jesus was teaching – he was speaking to those who thought themselves religious – those who were following all the religious rules. Jesus reminds us once again of the importance of taking care of the least of these. Jesus is reminding us of the importance of begin good stewards of what he has entrusted to us – that is the Kingdom of God. The righteous ones were shocked to hear that they had taken care of Jesus by taking care of others. By saying this, some would say that I am advocating for works righteousness. That would be a long way from the truth.

In Jesus’ own words, we learn the greatest commandments:

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus told us we must love God with everything we have and at the same time we must take care of our neighbor. You may remember that there was one who wanted to rationalize his behavior and he asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” To which Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus’ command is echoed in these words penned by James:

27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:27

It’s not love God or love my neighbor. It’s love God AND my neighbor. Jesus said that our neighbor is everyone.

I know that was a long tangent, but it really shows how this Parable of the Sheep and Goats fits into the greater narrative of the Bible. Jesus places great importance in loving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength and obeying his commandments, but if we keep that love to ourselves, it means nothing. This also means, we don’t just take care of those we deem are worthy, but the least of these.

In this parable, the cursed ones loved God, but they didn’t take care of their neighbor – they made judgments. They asked, “Why should we take care of the sick? – Why should we take care of the hungry? – Why should we take care of the alien? – Why should we take care of those in prison? Why should we take care of those who are naked? Jesus replies that if you don’t do it for them, you’ve not done it to me. Wow! Those words hurt. Am I doing everything possible to help the least of these? Are you doing everything possible to help the least of these? Too many times we make excuses. Too many times we make it political.

So while we revel in the arrival of a new year – the year 2020 – Let’s remember to be about the Father’s business – Let’s be about building the Kingdom of God – not our own little fiefdoms, but God’s Kingdom. The time is short. We need to keep watch – we need to be ready – and yet we need to keep building!

A Prayer

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Holy Name of Jesus

Numbers 6:22-27 • Psalm 8 • Galatians 4:4-• Luke 2:15-21

Holy Name of Jesus | January 1, 2020

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

Luke 2:15-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

On the eighth day of Christmas – Today is the eighth day of Christmas. Yes, for many Christians around the world it is still Christmas, while most people are reveling in a new year, there are those who see this day as something more. For Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph, the eighth day meant that they would officially name him and because he was a boy, they would circumcise him as well.

We are reminded of this in today’s scripture. Again we have the story of the shepherds – and what were they to do? They went to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. They were excited because they were the first to visit the Savior of the world. After all the name Jesus, means Savior. We find that in Matthew’s gospel when the angel comes to visit Joseph.

Jesus came in to a world to save people from what they couldn’t save themselves. Paul writes:

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

Galatians 4:4-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus was born to Mary at just the right time. He came to purchase our freedom so that we would no longer have to live as sinners – no longer live as slaves to the law. Jesus is indeed the name above all names.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11