Bread – Position

June 23, 2014

Readings for Monday, June 23, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 16:1-19; Rom. 3:21-31; Matt. 19:13-22; Psalm 89


In our reading today from Numbers, Moses is confronted with a rebellion. However, it is not a rebellion arising from poverty and low estate, it is a rebellion of those persons who had it best in Israel – the Levites themselves. They are angry because Moses and Aaron have “better” positions than they do; they are jealous and resentful.

Moses asks them this question: “Hear now , you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them…?” Num. 16:8-9

Apparently it was too small a thing. Moses and Aaron were priests and, therefore, in the first religious position. The Levites were in the second position and didn’t like it. Rather than wait, however, to be appointed by God to the higher task, they decided to revolt and attain the top position by might.

Don’t we do much the same thing? We are chosen by God for salvation and then placed by Him into positions. There is the position of husband and wife, there is the position of student and teacher, there is the position of master and disciple, there is the position of boss and employee. There are many positions with many titles.

And we always want the title or the position we don’t have. Why? Is not the Lord’s choice for us good enough? In Moses words, “Is it too small a thing that the God of Israel has separated you and made you a teacher … a musician … a president …. a dishwasher?”

Why does God place us into the positions He provides? In the quote from Numbers is the answer, “to bring you near to Himself.”

We “jockey for position” all the time. Why? Is God’s choice for us not good enough? Can we do nothing in our current position to let God bring us closer to Him?

The truth is that we do not seek higher position to honor God; we seek it to honor ourselves. The attainment of position becomes the objective, rather than the attainment of relationship with God.

Think about how our lives would be different if we waited for God to open the door rather than kicking the door open ourselves? Would we be poorer or richer in the things that matter? Would we have more or less peace? Would we be braver or more cowardly?

This last question has some punch. We think that the Levites in this story were brave, to confront Moses and Aaron. However, I think the braver person is the one who, in total dependence upon God, accepts their position and awaits God’s action. There is no bravery in us walking through the door which we have kicked open; but there is much bravery in walking through the door which God has opened for us and told us to walk through in faith. When we walk on the path we have created, there is little unknown because we are controlling it. When we walk on the path which God has created, it is a high wire act because we walk by faith and not by sight. We walk through God’s door into an unknown, relying upon the Holy Spirit and God’s truths to help us, protect us, and encourage us.

The Levites did not trust God even though He had put them into a special place in relationship to Him.

Are we going to be that way? Do we not trust Him even though He has saved us for eternity?

Embrace your current position, using it as a springboard for better relationship with God and your neighbor. And see what happens. You may not be able to put “Vice-President” on your door, but you can put “Christian” on your heart. And which position is better?


© 2014 GBF


Bread – Work

May 22, 2013

Readings for Wednesday, May 22, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 2:14-23; 1 Tim. 3:1-16; Luke 13:18-30; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24


Our Old Testament reading today is from Ruth, an honored woman who is in the lineage of King David and Jesus. The passage finds Ruth in the presence of Boaz, who has her eat with the workers and then, when she goes out to glean, he tells the workers to make sure that she has plenty to glean.

Now this in itself is a simple story, but with profound implications for our work in the world while in Christ. To understand this, it is important to see the roles of the parties in this episode of history.

First, there is Ruth. She lives in poverty with her mother-in-law in a foreign land. Every day she goes out to “glean” in the fields, meaning simply that she goes onto the farm after the reapers have collected the crops and picks up the leftovers, if there are any. Gleaners got whatever the reapers by accident left behind.

Second, there is Boaz. He actually owns the land where Ruth is gleaning and employs the reapers. The reapers are then people in Boaz’ employ. Boaz is also a kinsman to Naomi, the mother-in-law who Ruth lives with, and will prove himself to be a “redeemer” as well. Boaz therefore becomes an image of Christ, a “type” of Christ.

So in the hierarchy of life, Ruth is at the bottom and Boaz is at the top. Boaz pays attention to her and lets her eat at his table with his reapers.

But, after showing favor to Ruth, he says this to his reapers – “Let her glean …” In other words, even though Boaz showed her favor and could have instantly lifted her out of her circumstances and at least made her a reaper (although perhaps that was limited to men at the time), but instead sent her back out to work in her current position – to glean. He made her life easier as a gleaner (he instructed the reapers to leave extra on the ground), but she was still a gleaner.

As Christians, have we ever been in position of work, of a job or a customer or a client or a decision, where we just ask the Lord to take the burden of the job off of us? Sure we have. And what often is the answer we get? Go back to gleaning! Go back to work! Go back to scrubbing toilets, dealing with belligerent people, stacking boxes, or whatever work it is that is assigned to you!

Just because God has identified you as someone invited to eat at His table does not mean that you have the option of quitting your nasty job. Your nasty job may be just the place where God wants you to do His work. He may make your work easier to bear (as Boaz did for Ruth), but He may not elevate you to the position you wish.

So, we have been saved by Christ, eaten at the table of his blessings, and sent from the table to pick up our shovel and work at our nasty job.

This is not a prosperity gospel but a gospel that works. A gospel which goes into the lives of ordinary people, us, into ordinary circumstances, into ordinary work and which transforms nasty labor into opportunities for life.

Jesus reminds us today in our reading from Luke of the following: “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures, until it was all leavened.” Lk. 13:20-21.

When we are invited to eat the Lord’s meal and then told by Him to return to our nasty work, we carry with us the kingdom of God. We carry with us the leaven of life. And with that leaven, in our nasty work, we are able to bring the kingdom to others who are in the same circumstances we are in, who are working at the same work in the same place. And our work as ambassadors of Christ, ambassadors of the kingdom of God, in the midst of that worldly work, may plant the seed of that kingdom in the hearts of those who so desperately need to hear about it.

When we go off to work today we may go with the song of lament or the happy song of the seven dwarfs in “Snow White” (Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go….). The writer of Ruth reports that Ruth ate at Boaz’ table “until she was satisfied” and then went off to glean the fields. Which song do you think she was singing?

We as Christians eat at the Lord’s table when we commune with Him at dinner, on the road, in prayer, in meditation, in reading His Word, in worship, and in just talking to Him. When we finish and are satisfied, we are then told to pack up our bags and go glean in the fields. What song will we sing on the way? The song of the redeemed or the song of the dead?


© 2013 GBF

Bread – Plodding

September 3, 2012

Readings for Monday, September 3, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 12:1-6, 13-25; Acts 11:19-30; John 8:21-32; Psalms 9,15,25


Sometimes the readings of the day are filled with great wisdom, beautiful words and thoughts well phrased, which cause us to stand on mountaintops. It is easy to write Bread when the lessons help it. Today, however, we are dealing with lessons with no punch, no great revelation. Instead, we are talking about life, our lives. Where we plod along from task to task, problem to problem, delay to delay, objective to objective. We are plodding along and our lessons today plod along with us.

First, we have the reading from Job. He tells us that he is bad straits even though he is a good man, not deserving of God’s disfavor. Yet, he suffers even more than those people who should suffer (“the tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure” Job 12:8). Furthermore, no one understands his plight, because as he notes “in the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune.” Job 12:5. He knows that, even though he is in the pits of misfortune, brought upon him by God, other people are believing that his misfortune comes from some defect of his – perhaps laziness, inability, spendthriftiness, sin, lack of education, unwillingness, lack of perseverance, etc. Not only are you suffering misfortune which you do not deserve, other people are beginning to unfairly believe that you do deserve it. You in the meantime (like Job) get to plod through life, burdened with your undeserved misfortune, looked down upon by other people, with no (apparent) help from your God whom you trust. Well, as Job points out, as we plod through life God is the same God. The same God who lifts us up can strike us down. Job gives us a list of the types of people who God strikes down – counselors, judges, kings, priests, trusted advisors, princes, strong people, and chiefs. Who would not want to rank with these types of people, and yet they too can be chastened by the Lord. They too are faced with the task of plodding through life no matter what it delivers.

Second, we have the reading from Acts. In Acts, people have been driven from their homes by persecution and begun to move into the Gentile worlds. As they do so, they begin to teach about Jesus, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Jerusalem had doubts about the conversions of Gentiles, so it sent Barnabus as an investigator.  Barnabus goes and finds Paul, who together work in the area for a year, “taught a great many people.” The story ends with prediction of a famine in Judea, with the Antioch church raising financial help for the Jews in Judea from each person “according to his ability.” Acts 11:29. So, here we have people plodding through life, reacting to negative circumstances by moving to a new location, meeting new people, telling them about the love they have for Christ, meeting those people with common beliefs (now called Christians) in community, listening to the Word preached and taught, and giving as they can to help others in need. Sounds like us – we move to a new city to find a job, we meet new people, we bring them into the Christian community as believers, we eat, teach, and learn within that community, and we slowly but surely improve our lives, which we then share with those who need what we have more.

In our third reading, the one from John, we read about one of the common talks which Jesus had with the Jews. Basically, he is saying if you do not believe in Him, you will die in your sins and go to Hell (what he actually says is that “you cannot come” where He is going, allowing us to use our reason to say that, if Jesus is in heaven and I cannot go where he is, then I must be in what is left over, which is Hell). Plain statements made to people with closed ears, hearts, and minds. So Jesus is plodding through life too, obeying the Father, telling the truth, and walking toward the cross.

So what are the lessons today, particularly given the fact that it is Monday? Well, the first is that we have company – Job, the people who fled to Antioch, Jesus – all are plodding through life, dealing with the circumstances which beset them, putting up with the indifference and scorn of the world. The second lesson is that we have help – Job knew that all blessings come from God and therefore, who should complain about their circumstances; Jesus was following the will of His Father and therefore says He is help for us for eternity; in Acts we are presented with the Christian community, which provides a time of teaching and refreshment, and becomes the source of financial help in time of crisis. The third lesson is that we have hope – Job knew there was a better time ahead because he knew who His God was; the Christian community knew there was a better time ahead because they knew who Jesus was; Jesus knew there was a better time ahead because He knows who His Father is.

People who have lived our walk, understand it, and share our burdens; help in time of need; fellowship of the Church and the Holy Spirit; and hope well founded upon knowledge that, because we believe in Jesus we will live with Him in eternity.

As Christians, though we may plod along we do not plod alone, ever.


© 2012 GBF


Bread – The Pits

August 20, 2010

Readings for Friday, August 20th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Job 2:1-13; Acts 9:1-9; John 6:27-40
    Psalms 140, 141, 142, 143
Who has not found themselves in "the pits?"  We see mountains ahead we cannot climb, suffer bodily ailments which seemingly cannot be cured, endure chronic pain, lay in bed not feeling like we can get up and deal with the new day, hear the telephone call with a message we never want to hear, ask for help when none comes, purchase goods which fail, lose jobs or money or prestige or power.  Sometimes these "pits" are merely temporary; other times they last throughout our lives (or at least seem to).  The "pits" are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.  When we say that we shouldn’t criticize until we have walked a mile in the other person’s shoes, what we are essentially saying is that his (or her) "pits" may be worse than ours.  I say "may" because, at least as far as we are concerned, there can never be any "pits" worse than our "pits."

If you noticed the first reading in today’s list, you will know where I am going – yes, Job.  In our reading today, God has already given Satan permission to destroy all of Job’s stuff (his lands, cattle, possessions, money, job, etc.) and He now gives Satan permission to give Job every ailment possible, as long as Satan doesn’t kill him.  Think about this for a moment.  God has essentially denied to Job his escape hatch – death.  God has said to Job – you once were rich and healthy and now you are neither, but you must keep on living.

Even Job’s wife recognizes the situation God has put Job in, because she says to Job "Curse God and die!"  Job 2:9.  She knows that if Job curses God, Satan has won and God will let Job die, which of course eases the worldly pain.  What she does not realize is that her statement may have a deeper meaning, because by rejection of God, by blaspheming the Holy Spirit in denying God’s offer of salvation to us through belief in Jesus Christ, we do in fact die – for all of eternity.  Death can come in many forms, and death to the body is but one.

Job responds as I bet we all wish we could (or would) – "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"  Job 2:10.  Shall we indeed?

In today’s reading from the Apostle John, we overhear this exchange between Jesus and the disciples:

Disciples:  "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
Jesus:  "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent."  John 6:28-29

The disciples ask what they can do – Jesus responds by saying what God does.  Works by man or works by God.

What does Job need to do to get out of the "pits" he is in?  To ask differently the same question, what does Job need to do which God requires?  Job answers that all things come from God, so why should we celebrate any differently on the mountaintop or in the pits?  Jesus answers that the "work of God" is Jesus and that He gives us our ability to believe in Him.

In our third reading today, we walk with Saul (soon to be Paul) on the Damascus road, where Christ appears to him in a vision.  For a while, Paul is in a process of sorting through what just happened, and he is changed.  He might be described as residing for a moment on the mountaintop, where the air is clean, the view is spectacular, and closeness to the Father can be easily imagined.  But that will not last long.

What is different about the likes of Job and Paul, who suffer mightily but who maintain a clear view of their radical dependence upon God for all good things, and those of us who despair in the pits of life?  Perhaps the difference is this – we ask what we should do and God responds by telling us who He is.  The difference is whether we can hear the message.


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