Bread – Outcasts

August 11, 2015

Readings for Tuesday, August 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 14:1-20; Acts 21:1-14; Mark 10:1-16; Psalms 94,95,97,99,100


In today’s reading from the second book of Samuel, the woman, speaking God’s words, says to the king “But God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.” 2 Sam. 14:14

From time to time, people so misbehave outside the rules of the tribe, the family, the church, or the city, that they must be banished, they must be outcast. Sometimes they are banished to prison. Sometimes to another part of the world. Sometimes, as in the case of the prodigal son of Scripture, to eat with the pigs. Sometimes they are just fired, if the particular group banishing them happens to be an employer. In the case of a club, sometimes the membership privileges are revoked. In a church setting, we might call it being banished from participation in communion or excommunication.

How do we feel when that happens? On the side of the people doing the banishing, generally it is a combination feeling of relief, anguish, worry, and loss. On the side of the banished, it is generally a feeling of anger, sorrow, depression, worry, and general upset. Both the banisher’s and the banished worlds have been changed.

There are three paths which the outcast can take. They can continue their downward spiral into degradation and death. They can “grow up” and become independent in spirit, but losing all ties to the group they used to be a member of. Or they can be restored to full relationship with their prior tribe, family, church, job, or other group. What makes the difference?

I think the difference is in two people. The first, the outcast, must come to grips with what he or she has become, must turn away from that, and must turn toward home. The second, the banisher, must come to grips with whatever actual or perceived injury has occurred to self, must set it aside, and must forgive. The first we call repentance and the second, forgiveness.

This passage from Samuel is a statement of simple truth which God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Where there is no way to obtain restoration with God through earning it with good works, there is a way through Jesus Christ, beginning with our repentance and our acceptance of His forgiveness.

The first banishment occurred when we were ejected from the Garden of Eden, when our personal relationship with God was broken by our sin. But “God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

The question is not whether God has devised a means; the question is whether we will take advantage of those means. And for that, we need not only God’s means but His power. And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”


© 2015 GBF


Bread – Action

September 22, 2014

Readings for Monday, September 22, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11; Luke 1:1-4, 3:1-14; Psalms 77,79,80


Yesterday in church I was privileged to hear the head of a church in Iraq talk about the four children who refused to deny Christ and who were slaughtered for their faith.

Today, before I read the Scripture for today, I reviewed a “Youtube” video sponsored by an organization urging all Roman Catholics to vote Biblical principles underlying life, marriage, and freedom, instead of voting historical politics and their wallet.

Today in Scripture, I read in Esther about the decree of the king that the Jews should be destroyed. A leader of the Jews, Mordecai, is asked by Queen Esther what she could do to help. He tells her to go to the king and ask him to cancel his order. She sends back a message to the effect that she cannot do that because to go into the presence of the king without an invitation is to invite death. In words which should drive a stake into every Christian’s heart today, Mordecai responds:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14 (emphasis added)

Perhaps all Christians in all times have lived in perilous times, but that does not say that we should not take action in the times which are before us today.

We do not need to keep silent. We need to act in all ways which Christ has taught us, regardless of the consequences. We need to love our neighbors and our enemies, we need to pray on our knees, we need to worship in truth and love and gratitude, we need to obey our Lord, we need to speak out against injustice, we need to preach a gospel of repentance (see our reading today about John the Baptist in Luke) and a gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ alone (see our reading today from Acts). We need to stand in the evil day and, having done all we can as excellently as we can, we need to stand.

And in the process of doing all these things, we may lose everything, including our lives.

As to the four children who were murdered because they loved Christ and would not repudiate Him, the pastor from Iraq said that they did so because they knew that His glory was worth more than anything else.

Do we know that? Do we really know that?

Perhaps we were meant by God to be here, today, standing … loving … preaching … acting … and dying. Who knows whether we have been brought to this kingdom on earth today for such a time as this, so that we can bring light into darkness, health into disease, love into hatred, strength into weakness, life into death, Christ into the world?

Who knows? God does…and we should too.


© 2014 GBF

Bread – Vistas

July 11, 2014

Readings for Friday, July 11, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 31:7-13,24-32:4; Rom. 10:1-13; Matt. 24:15-31; Psalms 16,17,22


A great word typically only used in travel magazines is “vistas.” A vista is a majestic view, describing a broad geography, generally involving many colors and textures. It is an amazing sight.

One of the great vistas I love to both see and imagine is a great mountain chain, where one mountain is larger than the first, even if it more distant. We know that things which are farther away from us are smaller; therefore, when the thing farther away is bigger than the thing which is closer, we know that it is really big. When we see the mountain close, with the mountain middle rising above and behind it, with the mountain farthest rising above the previous two, shrouded in mists, we know we are looking at a major mountain.

Christianity has vistas too. In today’s readings, we see the big mountain of God’s saving grace freeing the Israelites from their Egyptian imprisonment, the bigger mountain of God giving Israel the law (Deuteronomy), the very big mountain of Christ’s sacrifice for us and His satisfaction of God’s required sacrifice for atonement of our sin so that by belief in Him we might be saved (Romans), and the biggest mountain of the end times, where the abomination of desolation appears, ushering in the tribulation which “for the sake of the elect will be cut short.” (Matthew) Unspoken in these passages but dominant throughout Scripture is the biggest, biggest vista of them all, eternity with God for those who believe in Jesus.

For those of us who have climbed mountains, we know something about vistas. One is that to really see them, one has to step back and look up. We cannot see the grandeur of vistas without stopping our daily grind and looking up from our feet toward heaven. The second is that, to get to the largest mountain (the one in the far back, shrouded in mist), we have to begin with the first mountain and go through and over it to get to the next one, etc.

And really, isn’t that what the Christian life is? It begins with even realizing that the vista is there, which is the sovereign work of God in our lives. It begins with our recognition that we are imprisoned and that we need someone with the key. It continues with our following God into the wilderness of life. It continues by our taking God’s standards for our lives (the law) and slowly but surely realizing that there is no way we can work our way into heaven, because all fail to perfectly follow the law, all are sinful, all fall short. The law and our inability to obey it so that God is pleased drives us again to contemplate our sin and the need of someone to save us. We then, with the grace of God and in His sovereign will for our lives, are confronted with Jesus and place our trust in Him, believing in Him with our hearts and confessing Him with our mouths. We then vaguely see the end times, recognizing God’s coming judgment upon us and the world. Finally, we hope in the eternal life with God, which is so wonderful that no English words can express it.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Ps. 121:1-2

Great way to end the week, isn’t it?


© 2014 GBF


Bread – Self-Esteem

June 13, 2014

Readings for Friday, June 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Gal. 5:25-6:10; Matt. 16:21-28; Psalms 69, 73


Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia says this in our readings today: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal. 6:3

What a put-down. What a self-esteem destroyer!

“Self-esteem” means what it says – that we esteem (think highly) of ourselves. It is not other-esteem (thinking highly of others) or God-esteem (thinking highly of God), but thinking highly numero uno, number one, me, myself, and I. The world worries constantly about whether we have enough self-esteem. It is the reason there are no winners in the modern age, because with winners there are losers and nobody can be a “loser.” They might lose their self-esteem!

But Paul is blunt, these people are self-deceivers – “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

Almost all secular “wisdom” focusses on building up the self, on strengthening our ethnic, social, religious, tribal, family, self-identify. If we can identify our heritage, we can build our self-esteem. If we can graduate from school, we can build our self-esteem (whether you know anything or not is, of course, irrelevant to this argument). If we can more closely identify with our community, our people-group, we can build our self-esteem.

And all the while, Paul would say that we are not building self-esteem, we are building a wall of deception which deceives only one person – me. The world’s efforts to build my self-esteem fool only one person – me.

In our reading today from Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be delivered into the hands of men to be killed, and that after three days He will be raised up. He then says “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matt. 16:24-26

What good is self-esteem if it brings you profit in the world and lose to eternal death?

These views are exclusive. One (the world) says that I am good and can be made better, thereby building my self-esteem. The other (God) says that I am sinful and and must sacrifice my self-esteem, my exalted view of myself, on the rocks of repentance, turning away from myself toward Christ, and accepting the mercy and forgiveness extended to me by Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cruel cross and God’s sovereign will and work to bring me to faith.

The truth is that self-esteem is one of the worse things we can have, because it leads us to believe that we are king, that we are master, that we are God. It leads us to eternal death. On the other hand, less self-esteem leads us to recognition of our sin, our powerlessness, our hopelessness, and our desperate need for help – it leads us into the arms of Jesus.

And the wonderful thing about God’s miracle in our life at our lowest point, when we realize that we have nothing to give, is that we realize that we are in fact esteemed, not by our puny selves but by the Creator, by God, who so loved us that He died for us and saved us.

And that builds our self-esteem … but not on the deception of self and the world … but on the solid rock of faith in Jesus., on the knowledge that God so loved us, so thought us worthy, that He saved us from ourselves.

And that is self-esteem worth having.


© 2014 GBF


Bread – Repent

November 14, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, November 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joel 2:12-19; Rev. 19:11-21; Luke 15:1-10; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120


In Monday’s Bread, we dealt with the apocalyptic messages of total destruction for those persons who have not repented and trusted in Jesus Christ.

In today’s readings, the focus is on avoidance of that destruction. That avoidance begins with repentance.

Listen to Joel – “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13. Notice that repentance does not come from speaking a particular set of words or a demonstration of religiosity or ceremony, it comes from a “rendered heart,” one that is broken, one that realizes there is no hope in man apart from God, one that realizes that he or she needs God for everything, one who looks at what he or she has done or not done and realizes that there is nothing but sin, that there is no health in him or her. A rendered heart may occur in bed, in the reading room, in the board room, in the bathroom, in the mountains, on the seashore, in prison, while out of a job and with a job. A rendered heart may happen at any time and anywhere when we return to Him who has created us, understanding our poverty completely, and acknowledging His free gift of life to us who are totally unworthy of even receiving a crumb from His table.

Listen to John in Revelation – “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True .. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords … And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet …These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest [of mankind, who had not repented and returned to the Lord] were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse…” Rev. 19:11,15b-16, 20-21 The white horse stands for victory and the rider of the white horse is Jesus Christ. Those who follow the beast die; those who do not bear the mark of the beast, who have repented and trusted in Jesus Christ, live in victory.

Finally, in Luke we have a description of what happens when a person repents and trusts in Jesus. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7,10

Have you caused joy in heaven already? If not, wouldn’t you like to? If so, begin by repenting.


© 2012 GBF


Bread — When

September 19, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, September 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24; John 12:20-26; Psalms 72,119:73-96


Bread today is taken from our reading from Job: “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job 42:10. The order of events presented by this translation (ESV) is that Job recognizes his proper relationship to God, seeing Him and repenting in “dust and ashes.” He then prays for his friends, taking the mercy shown to him by God and extending it to his neighbors. Once that happens, Job’s fortunes are restored. The NIV translation is even blunter regarding the order of events, saying “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again …” Job 42.10 (NIV). The commentary from the ESV Study Bible confirms this conclusion, saying “It is of utmost significance to note that Job’s restoration occurs only at this point, when he has capitulated to God and he has been reconciled with his friends – still in his broken and bereaved state. Precisely at this point, community is reestablished and Job himself restored.” ESV Study Bible, Note on Job 42:10-17.

Perhaps enough said and the lesson is complete, and perhaps not. I often make the “mistake” of looking things up, which is what I did this morning. It turns out that the Hebrew word for “after” (NIV) and “when” (ESV) has no equivalent Strong’s number, but does have a G/K number of H928. (G/K is a compendium of words like Strong’s). When I ran a search for H928 in the Old Testament, I got 9,283 hits. The word is used a lot and in a lot of different ways. Some examples are:

“In [H928] the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” Gen. 1:1 (NIV)

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between [H928] the waters to separate water from water.’” Gen. 1:6 (NIV)

“And God set them in [H928] the expanse of sky to give light on the earth.” Gen. 1:17 (NIV)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in [H928] our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over [H928] the fish of the sea…’” Gen. 1:26 (NIV)

“By [H928] the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on [H928] the seventh day God rested …” Gen. 2:2 (NIV)

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with [H928] pain you will give birth…” Gen. 3:16 (NIV)

“To Adam He said….’Cursed is the ground because [H928] of you; through [H928] painful toil…’” Gen. 3:17

So the word for “when” or “after” is the same word for “in” (to set time), “in” (to set place or circumstances), “between,” “over,” ‘by,” “on,” “with,” “because” and “through.”

So, the headache begins. What does this word mean? Is it evidence of causation, or mere placement in sequence of time. Does it convey action or mere passive result. Or does it mean merely what the translator wants it to mean, at the time?

In thinking about this, something struck me. What is it that every instance of the use of this word has in common? It is that it is in the context of God’s action and something to do with man. Sometimes it is used in the context of man’s action after God has acted; sometimes it is used in the context of God’s action after man has acted, and sometimes you can’t tell.

And what great truths are built into this single, evasive word! Because God acts both in time and out of time. Because God actions are first causes – we act because God has first acted. In fact, we can only act because God has acted, not because of ourselves. Wherever this word appears, God appears. It is not the word for God, but it’s appearance is certainly evidence of God. And more than evidence of God Himself, but of God’s action within the universe of our understanding, in our history, in our lives, in our abilities, in our salvation, in our science and revelation, and in our hope.

And isn’t this the beauty of the reality of God, of Christ? When was Job restored? Was it when he recognized God for who He was, when he reached out in love to his neighbors, or when his fortunes were brought back to him? Or was it all of the above?

We are reminded in all this that our mind is not God’s mind and our ways are not His ways. From our perspective, Job first repented, then reached out to his neighbor in love, and then was restored. This is an important lesson because, knowing who we are and who God is, it is important that we reach out from our poor circumstances, no matter how dire, to those who need our love, and that we do this without expectation of anything because we deserve nothing. But it may not be the most important lesson today.

No, the most important lesson today may be that God operates in the past, present, and future, inside of time and outside of time, to work His purpose. And that purpose is that we should be restored to Him and to each other. And that purpose is demonstrated in the “whens” of the world, the “ins” of the world, the “betweens” of the world, the “becauses” of the world, and the “throughs” of the world. It is demonstrated at all times and in all places, in poverty and in plenty, in danger and in safety, in and out of our particular circumstances.

This word which appears when Job is restored also appears as the first word of the Bible, “In the beginning…” God is first, God creates, God saves, God restores. God, God, God … not Job, Job, Job … and not me, me, me. When we get that right, everything else falls out into its right order. We can love others because He first loved us; we can restore others because He first restored us; and we can live victoriously because He died for us, rose from the grave, and lives forever.

God lives in the smallest words and the largest places. Does He live in you?


© 2012 GBF


Bread – Swords

August 8, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, August 8 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 7:19-8:12; Acts 3:12-26; John 1:29-42; Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120


As we read in Judges today, Gideon and his 300 men have crept up to the camp of the Midianites and “all the people of the East” who “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and the camels were without number…” Judges 7:12.

If we were writing a novel, this hearty band of brave souls would then creep into the camp and, taking their swords, would carefully slit the tents and then do the same thing to throats of the key leaders. Having surreptitiously decapitated the bosses, Gideon and his boys would take over the camp and declare victory.

We would have written the script this way, because swords are the weapons of old-timey warfare and, back then, they didn’t have guns and cruise missiles.

But wait, that is not the script which God wrote. Gideon’s and his men’s swords were not swords of steel but were the swords of God. “And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands…They held in their left hands the torches, and their right hands the trumpets to blow.” Judges 7:20.

And the Midianites and the people of the East with camels without number were defeated that night not by steel but by might, not by the arm of man but by the arm of God. God’s swords in this battle were broken jars, torches, and trumpets. Nothing that man would choose to use, but what man must use if he is to obey.

And what are these swords of God? A contrite heart (the broken jars), the light of life (Jesus Christ – the torches), and the Word of God spoken (the proclamation of truth, the gospel – the trumpets).

Who is it who possess a contrite heart, the light of life, and the Word of God? Christians do.

So who are the swords of God? We are.

In Acts today, Peter, who has been broken and forgiven, stands in the public square and proclaims the gospel. In John today, John the Baptist acknowledges Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…I have seen and bear witness that this [Jesus] is the Son of God.” John. 1:29, 34.

John is using the torch sword, the light of God. Peter is using the trumpet sword, the truth of God. Both have previously broken their jars, repented and turned, acknowledged their rightful place in relationship to God. In Acts and in John, as well as in Judges, the swords of God are in full display and in full use.

Are we any different than John the Baptist or Peter? Are we? Are we using ourselves to bring light into darkness? Are we using ourselves to acknowledge in the public square our need for repentance, our need for Jesus, our need for the Word of God, our need for truth and love? Are we using ourselves as the swords of God in the battle for life?

If not, maybe it is because we choose swords of our own making, of our own design, of our own strength. God would use broken jars, torches and trumpets. He would use us as broken jars, torches, and trumpets. He would use us as His mighty warriors. But to be so used we must first drop our weapons and take on His. But to be so used, we must first drop ourselves and take on Him.

Will we be warriors today? Will we first repent and then take on the torch of Christ and the trumpet of truth?

We only have two hands. If we break our pots only to pick up the pieces, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both. If we pick up our own weapons in our own strength, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both.

So, what swords will we carry today?


© 2012 GBF


Bread – Sequence

December 19, 2011

Readings for Monday, December 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25; Psalms 61, 62, 112, 115


The sequence of things is important and today’s readings present a very important sequence in the life of the believer.

In the Old Testament, we have the first step in the sequence – God acts. Because we are in the season of Advent, the beginning of the church new year focused upon the birth of Jesus, we recognize the importance of this prophecy from Zephaniah: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment … The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you…The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.” Zeph. 3:14b-17

In the New Testament lesson from Titus, we discover that the next step in the sequence, the quality of our response, is revealed by how we behave – “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.” Tit. 1:16

In the third step of the sequence, God, knowing our failure, sends people to encourage us in the journey, to help prepare our hearts to truly accept God and become obedient to Him. In this season, that person whom God sent is John the Baptist – “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Lk. 1:17 Therefore, John had a ministry of calling the faithful to repentance, to prepare their hearts for the day of the Lord, to turn them from themselves toward the Lord and, with the strength of the Lord, toward each other.

There is a tendency in this time of year to get stuck in the second stage of this sequence – to be so wrapped up in the preparations for Christmas that we run the risk of denying the very God we claim to worship by our actions. In today’s readings, God reminds us that, during this season, we need to remember that (a) Christmas is the celebration of “God with us” for the purpose of saving us, and (b) we become ready for God, not with frantic holiday shopping, but by repenting, by turning toward Him, by listening to the wisdom of the righteous.

What do our actions today reveal? Celebration of His coming? Preparation for the day of the Lord? Or Denial of His existence and power in our lives?



Bread – Ashes

March 9, 2011

Readings for Wednesday, March 9, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Jonah 3:1-4:11; Heb.12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 32, 95, 102, 130, 143


Today is Ash Wednesday, the day where many go to church to have ashes put on their forehead to remind those people and us who see it that we were born in sin, we live in sin, and that we need to repent in, to used Old Testament terms, “sackcloth and ashes.” It is the day which begins the season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and study as we anticipate and wait for Christ’s death on the cross for those very sins and His resurrection from the dead (Easter).

As a result, our readings today have to do with our sin, our repentance, and God’s miraculous mercy.

We begin with Nineveh in Jonah, a large city steeped in sin. Jonah is sent to that city to preach a coming calamity upon the city, God’s judgment upon the people and the city of their and its sin. Jonah thought that he would preach sin and coming catastrophe and that would be the end of the story. However, an amazing thing happened. When the people of Nineveh heard the Word of God, they turned from their sin, repented, declared a fast, and put on sackcloth to admit their sins before God and to repent from those sins, turning away from the world and toward God. Then an even more amazing thing happened because “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Jonah 3:10. In other words, God had mercy.

In the same reported history, we see the reaction of Jonah, the prophet, to this outpouring of God’s mercy upon those who repent. He was mad (because he didn’t like the Ninevites) and he went over into the corner and pouted, angry with God because God did not do what Jonah wanted Him to do. To add insult to injury, while Jonah was over in the corner pouting God sent him shade to protect him against the sun and then later removed the shade so Jonah would get hot. The Lord, however, reminded Jonah that he had no right to get angry about either Nineveh or the loss of his shade. God pointed out that Jonah had nothing to do with either, and that God’s mercy would be exercised according to God’s will and not Jonah’s will or desires or preferences.

There is a profound lesson in Ash Wednesday. It is not only a lesson in the ugliness of the world (Nineveh) and our own pride and selfishness (Jonah), in the abject poverty of our state of sin, and in the coming wrath of God, it is also a lesson in our role, once we have heard the message – repent and turn from our evil ways toward God. The rest is up to God and He will exercise His mercy upon whom He will have mercy.

And who is that, who is it upon whom God will have mercy? I don’t know the answer to that question, because I am not God. However, I do know this – repentance in sackcloth and ashes begins the journey toward the cross of Christ and through that cross to the resurrection and eternal glory for those upon whom God has given the gift of trust, of belief, in Jesus Christ. The day of ashes, Ash Wednesday, leads to eternal life.

Are you today caught up in sin, in disobedience to God’s commands, in hardness of heart, in anger, in hopelessness, in misery, in addiction, in yourself? Take this day to hear God’s Word just like the Ninevites did a long time ago and people throughout the generations have done, kneel before the Lord your God and repent in sackcloth and ashes, recognizing that we have no hope except for God’s mercy, and then look forward to the cross where God’s mercy was shown to us by the visiting of His wrath upon Himself, Jesus Christ.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The words of Jesus Christ from Luke 18:14b.




November 10, 2010

Readings for Wednesday, November 10, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:  Joel 2:12-19; Rev. 19:11-21; Luke 15:1-10; Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120


“PvP” – what kind of word is this? It is a new word, coined by me, to stand, perhaps, for “Private versus Public.”

The reason for the “versus” is that we often believe, based upon the objective evidence of how politicians are routinely decimated by the public media and all forms of evil which appear to run rampant, that the private life and the public life are antagonistic. People who see the “versus” generally believe that, if you lead a public life, you have no private life and that, if you are going to have a quality private life, you must stay out of the public life. This perspective is in part what drives Christian separatists to hide in their Christian enclaves and to engage with the outside world as little as possible. In their view, the public pollutes the private. This perspective is also in part one of the reasons why secularists would ban all forms of religion from the public arena. In their view, one’s private (religious) beliefs have no place in public display – they are best kept in private, in ones hearts, home, and sanctuary. Just as the one believes the public harms the private, the other believes the private harms the public. Each are focused on the “versus” part of the equation.

But, you know, the letter “v” can stand for things more than “versus.” It can stand for the middle number (the Roman “V”). It can stand for “victory.” It can stand for “verse.” It can stand for “version.” It can also stand for “voice.” If you wanted to read the “v” any of these ways, you could come up with a number of interesting and arguable points. For example, consider the fact that private is “voiced” through public.

Our reading in Joel today gives us some insight, perhaps, into God’s perspective on the “private” and the “public.” In verse 13, God declares the following regarding confession and repentance, a uniquely private act – “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God…” The very next paragraph (thought group), God says “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call as sacred assembly…” Joel 2:15 Private repentance, something which is always done one-on-one between you and God, is immediately followed with public assembly in worship (the “sacred assembly”). Once you have repented, you are commanded to appear in public and “blow the trumpet.” Once you have repented, you are commanded to appear in public and in the public, in the assembly, exercise your spiritual disciplines (“holy fast”).

The private conversion (repentance, followed by God’s acceptance of you through His Son, Jesus Christ) necessarily precedes the ability to fast, proclaim, and celebrate in public; but the public demonstration of our Christianity necessarily follows our private conversion. Both are commanded. Neither is omitted.

So, in a sense I fell into a trap and brought you with me into the same trap. That trap is the belief that the symbol between “private” and “public” is “v,” when God says that the correct symbol between “private” and “public” is “&” (and).

The life of the Christian is to be lived in the private and the public. The two are not antagonistic but are bookends of the Christian life. God gives us our salvation through Jesus Christ and our power to believe and love through the Holy Spirit for two purposes. One we talk about all the time – the gift of eternal life. The other we need to remember – the gift of the job of proclamation in the world. We were made and saved for eternal relationship with God in heaven. We were also made and saved so that we might be the public face and hands of God in a dying world. What is forged in private in the power of the Holy Spirit is intended to spring forth in public, also in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Where between the bookends of private and public do you fall? Are you a little closer to the private? – maybe it is time to reflect Jesus’ light in public. Are you a little closer to the public? – maybe it is time for you to engage God in private.

Maybe it is time to get rid of the “v,” the “versus,” and embrace the “&,” the “and.”


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