Today is Thursday, the twenty-third of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.
Peace be with you!
I’m feeling much better, this morning, than I did yesterday morning. I was in a bit of a fog all day, yesterday, mostly because I simply woke up too early. For inexplicable reasons, I was awake at roughly 4:30, yesterday morning, which gave me just over five total hours of sleep. Fortunately, the lack of sleep didn’t make me grumpy (there is always that risk, with me), and I got through the day just fine. But I was in bed by 10:00 last night, and slept until about 6:30, this morning.
We watched an old movie that I ran across at the library Tuesday night. Cat Ballou, from 1965, a sort of western musical comedy, featuring Jane Fonda (very young) and Lee Marvin. It also featured Nat King Cole as half of the singing, guitar/banjo-playing (sort of) duo that sang “The Ballad of Cat Ballou” throughout the movie. The songs weren’t very good, but the movie was funny and entertaining. Lee Marvin actually played two parts in the movie. It also had Dwayne Hickman (well-known as Dobie Gillis), and Michael Callan, a rather well-known character actor who has had parts in many shows, over the years. Over all, it was just a fun movie. The reason I had checked it out was because I had memories of liking it when I was a young boy.
The Texas Rangers, after beating the Phillies 7-0 Tuesday night, beat them again, yesterday afternoon, 4-2. This means that they swept the entire series with the Phillies, for the season, two two-game sets. The Rangers are 33-35, back within two games of .500. They are back in second place in the AL West, ten games out of first, and four out of the Wild Card spots. They are off again, today, and start a weekend series against the Nationals tomorrow, in Arlington.
The Boston Red Sox swept the Tigers, beating them 6-2, last night. They are 39-31 for the season, and in third place in the AL East, only a half game behind the Blue Jays. They have slowly worked their way up the ladder, this season. They are currently in the second of three Wild Card spots. First is Toronto, and third is Minnesota. The Sox are also off today, and begin a series tomorrow night in Cleveland against the now first-place Guardians.
The Yankees continue to be the best in MLB (51-18). Am I the only one hoping for a post-All-Star-game-collapse? The Athletics continue to be the worst (23-47). The Red Sox own the current longest win streak, at four games. The Cincinnati Reds are still on that losing streak, and have now lost six consecutive games. The Yankees still have the best run differential, at +145, and the Nationals have the worst, at -113. The Rangers, after that two-game series with Philly, are at +5, and the Red Sox are at +55.
This weekend should be fun. C and I have tickets to see a touring production of Oklahoma! at Bass Hall Sunday afternoon. I’m really looking forward to seeing that. Oklahoma! is one of my favorite Broadway musicals, and, from what I have been hearing, the set for this production is updated, somewhat, and more “minimal” than previous productions. However, they claim to have kept the words and music the same.
Today being Thursday, I will be working at the library from 11:15-8:15, in the Computer Center.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Lord our God, grant your peace in our hearts. Grant that we may be your children, allowed to serve you in true peace through the forgiveness of sins. Turn your eyes to the world and its sin, that something new may come for all who are deeply unhappy, groaning under the anguish of their lives. Your mercy is great, your compassion is beyond measure. For Jesus Christ’s sake you will bring into the world the salvation that is promised. You will bring the great day of Jesus Christ the Savior, who has shed his blood for us. He can come to those now in need and misery, bringing his peace and his power into their hearts so that even death turns into life and everything serves your praise and glory, Lord our God and Father in heaven. Bless us and bless our nation. May life from heaven grow in those who understand you and who are to be your people. May your will be done, Lord God, until your kingdom comes in its fullness and all the world may see that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to your glory, O God our Father. Amen. (Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
(Colossians 3:14-15 NLT)
Today I am grateful:
1. for the love that binds us together; may we fully know that love and may it control all that we do, say, or think 2. for the peace that comes from Christ; may it truly rule our hearts 3. for God's faithful provision in my life 4. for the examples of King David in his dealings with "enemies" 5. for the community of saints, past, present, and future; oh, how we need one another!
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. (Mark 6:45-56 ESV)
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood." Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head." But the king said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?'" And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today." (2 Samuel 16:5-12 ESV)
Father, may we seek more knowledge of this Jesus, our Savior, who walked on water, stilled the stormy seas, and healed people who merely touched the fringes of His garments! May we have the faith to fully believe these things and see such miracles occur in our own world, which has become complacent and unbelieving.
And then, Father, when I read these accounts of David, I am most impressed by his attitude toward his “enemies.” I pray that I might have the same heart as David when it comes to those who might seek to curse me or even kill me. Saul was trying to kill David, and David would not avenge himself, even though he had multiple opportunities. David would not stoop to harming Your anointed, and even felt guilty for cutting off a corner of his robe! And then, David would not allow his people to avenge him against this one who was cursing him and throwing stones at him, because he felt that You might have sent him. Such humility and grace in this man. Help me to be more like him.
Today’s word from Pray a Word a Day is teamwork.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.
(Mark 2:1-4 NLT)
I expanded the selection just a little, as the reading only features verse 3. I have stated, multiple times, in this platform, that our need for one another is crucial, it is essential. We cannot walk this journey alone. Yes, solitude is important; yes, silence is important. But not as permanent features of our lives. We need community, and we need acts of worship and service done in the community of saints. We need to take the Supper together, as the Body of Christ. Accounts such as this one in Mark 2 only scratch the surface of our need for one another.
I’m not sure that “teamwork” is the right word for this, but, for the writer of today’s reading, it does the job. I cringe when he uses a cliche, at the end, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” We aren’t living a “dream.” We are walking in the Kingdom of God, and Jesus, as well as the Father, have made it clear that we should not ever be attempting it alone.
Father, I praise You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, even those with whom I might be somewhat “estranged” for various reasons. Help us to love one another, especially when we find ourselves in disagreement over things. Help us to remember the ways that the apostle Paul described our need for one another in the Body, and how each of us has a purpose to fulfill, even if it’s something as menial as washing dishes in the church kitchen. I pray for unity within this body, and that the current fractures that seem to be caused by political issues will be healed. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cause us to focus on the things that really matter, such as walking in Your Kingdom, loving one another, and making disciples.
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
(Psalms 94:19 ESV)
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
(Mark 10:13-15 ESV)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
(Psalms 37:25 ESV)
Father, there are so many verses in Your Word that comfort us in our times of anxiety. So many, that we are foolish when we allow ourselves to be anxious about anything. “Be anxious for nothing,” we are told. You care for us, we are told, and we should eagerly cast our anxieties upon You! Our Savior, in Matthew 6, gives us such words of promise and encouragement, telling us how much more valuable we are than sparrows and flowers, which You care for with great love. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” Jesus tells us.
And yet we worry, oh, how we worry. Mostly, as a general rule, we worry about things that probably won’t even happen. We create these imaginary worst-case scenarios, and then convince ourselves (apparently not a difficult thing to do, either) that they are going to certainly happen! How foolish we are, Father. How patient You are, to still be taking care of us, in spite of our obvious lack of faith and trust, for that is what anxiety is, is it not? Anxiety is a lack of faith, period. If I am worrying about something that may or may not happen, I am not trusting in Your great care for me.
(I do understand that there are disorders of anxiety that require some deep professional help. I am not talking about those, here. I’m talking about basic worry about things.)
And, Father, we seem to find ourselves worrying over things that indicate how entitled we are in this country. We worry over what I call “first-world problems,” like when our Internet stops working or we can’t watch the sporting event that we want to watch on TV.
God have mercy on us! When I am tempted to worry and have anxiety about things, I pray that You would remind me of several things. I pray that You would remind me of these words from Your Word, that tell me how much You love and care for me, and how You will not forsake me, and that You are always with me, no matter what. I pray that You would remind me that, somewhere in the world, right this minute, there are people who don’t have clean water to drink, and people who may not have enough food to feed their families today, while I worry about what I’m going to take to work for my “lunch break” today.
And then I pray that You would remind me that the likelihood of most of the things that I worry about even happening is very slim.
I praise You for Your great care for us, Father, and pray that You would increase my faith and help my unbelief. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, "Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." (Psalms 40:1-8 ESV)
Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
(Psalms 24:7 ESV)
“We live too much on the surface. All of us do.”
And our culture does everything in its power to make sure we keep doing that. We are “preoccupied with things like making sure the images we see in our mirrors are acceptable, getting across the street without being hit by a car, and keeping food on our tables and gasoline in our cars.”
These sound like things that fit into that bit about worrying and anxiety, up there.
The loudest voices are screaming at us: “Consume! Hurry! Buy! Don’t think! Don’t be quiet! And, above all, don’t pray (except in emergencies).”
How do we strengthen ourselves against such noise? How do we swim against the stream, like salmon in society? “Seasons of prayer and fasting, such as the yearly discipline of Lent, amplify those good murmurs of dissent that do speak against the louder messages.” And, as I occasionally mention, the spiritual disciplines, such as silence and solitude, also help.
But we are afraid of silence. Even in our churches, we seem to be afraid of silence. Most pastors with which I served, as a music minister, always wanted some music playing during the prayers, and other places in the service where silence would have been a pretty good thing. I don’t know why we are so afraid of silence, other than the possibility that we simply don’t know what to do with it. Or maybe we are afraid of our own thoughts, because that is what silence and solitude make room for.
When we practice those disciplines, like silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, we have moments with nothing to do but sit with ourselves. At least that’s how we tend to view them. It’s not true, of course, because we are with God. And, rather than simply being in the presence of our own unpredictable brains, we are in the presence of God and His Holy Spirit, who can direct our thoughts toward holy things.
“Listening, we give our attention to Jesus and dive into the depths, exploring freshly the reality beneath the surface, the wonderfully complex reality of God’s image formed in us, of Christ’s salvation worked out in us.” The quieter voice of dissent begins to be louder than those voices that scream at us. The voice of dissent says, “Deny yourself! Slow down! Live! Think! And, above all, pray.”
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)
Oh, my Father, I pray for mercy and aid as we all need to do better at these things. As I type in this daily blog, I try, at times, to be one who joins in the voice of dissent, but I don’t always follow my own advice! I catch myself worrying. I catch myself hurrying. I catch myself not thinking and paying too much attention to the louder voices. And I catch myself failing to pray. Yes, I know, I type several paragraphs of prayers in this blog every day, but that’s never enough.
Remind me, Lord, to continue those prayers after I leave this place. As I drive to work, as I do my various duties at the library, remind me that prayer is not just for emergencies. How sad is it that we meander along in our lives, living on the surface until something major happens, and then we fall on our faces in anguish, pleading for Your help. Prayer is not just for emergencies. We are told to pray without ceasing. Prayer should be like breathing to us; constant and natural, habitual, because if we don’t do it, we will die.
Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.