A Different Kind of Exile

Scripture: 1 Peter 2.15-17
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Reflection: A Different Kind of Exile
By John Tillman

In 1 Peter 2, we see that the scattered exiles from Jerusalem must live in submission to masters, whether harsh or kind. Their lives—their good deeds—are literally the arguments they are to defend themselves with.

In Isaiah, we see a different message to the soon to be exiled. It is a taunt for their enemies to be used in the distant future after the current hearers are long dead and a future generation is restored.

But as Christians go into exile in the rising anti-Christian culture, we don’t seem to be willing to serve our oppressors in love. We want to taunt them now, not later.

As the exiled people of God, Peter tells us to silence the ignorant not by shouting them down, but through service, respect, love, and honor.

Peter encourages his exiles not to allow the oppression and suffering they are going through to be something that crushes their faith. Instead they are to allow the weight of their suffering to press them deeper into the footprints of Jesus Christ who has walked the path of suffering before us.

Living as outcasts in society has nearly always brought healing to the church through suffering. The historical church that suffers, tightens its grasp of the Gospel as it loses worldly influence and power. The church that suffers scatters, spreading the Gospel to new areas and communicating it in new ways. The church that is oppressed, attacked, sidelined, and shunned, is shunted back onto the narrow path of obedience to Christ.

Peter’s words about living in a pagan society have always been applicable, but they seem especially appropriate to our times. Most people who don’t accept Christianity aren’t concerned with our theology. They are concerned by our actions.

They need to see the argument of our actions line up with our words, and they need to see the integrity with which we suffer.

In this world, we are cast out. In the renewed world we will be brought in. May that day come soon. And may we bring many following behind us.

Prayer: The Small Verse
Keep me, Lord, as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings. — Psalm 17.8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 14 (Listen – 5:04)
1 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:48)

The Wrong Fear

Scripture: 1 Peter 1.17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Reflection: The Wrong Fear
By John Tillman

Christians have been taught that we are “living out our time as foreigners.” But in western culture, that was built on Christianity, it has been too easy to forget and too easy to feel at home right here in the world. But for the first time, some Christians are beginning to feel unwelcome.

This cannot be called persecution. It is at worst a loss of status.

Persecution of Christians around the world is more than murder, rape, and torture. In the countries in which Christians suffer the most, persecution is social and systemic.

It is this type of persecution—a systemic loss of legal rights and status—that scares Christians in the west more than facing down a knife attack, a rampaging truck, or a bullet.

This fear has made Americans Christians a paranoid and unpredictable group. Liable to believe fake news, liable to vote for candidates and support policies that two decades ago would have been inconceivable, and liable to turn on each other.

Nothing demonstrates our paranoia better than the increasingly divisive nature of religious dialogue. Progressive Christians blame conservative Christians for being dogmatic and mean-spirited. Conservatives blame progressives for abandoning central Christian teachings.

This is how people act when they are living in fear. But this is not the reverent fear of the Lord that Peter speaks of. That reverence is born out of love and leads to loving one another deeply, from the heart.

We live in fear that the Lord will let us suffer rather than rejoicing in that suffering as Peter instructs. We are living in fear that soon we will be considered the extremists—cast out from society.

The believers Peter was writing to were the losers and outcasts. They had literally been scattered from their homeland and cast out to the margins.

Christian thought has always been extremist thought. It is a revolutionary rejection of the world’s power structure. Jesus was crucified for extremist thought. It was Christian extremist thought that brought down slavery.

We need not fear being marginalized if we properly fear God. Christianity has done much of its best work from the margins.

It was from the margins that first century Christians won more than converts, they won the culture. Not by winning court cases or electing the right officials, but by demonstrating the extremity of God’s love that comes from the Gospel.

May God give us grace to follow their example.

Prayer: The Greeting
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118.23

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 13 (Listen – 3:11)
1 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:53)

Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go

Scripture: James 3.17-18
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Reflection: Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go
By John Tillman

It almost takes a special occasion for many of us to pause our fast-paced lives and eat together. We eat on the go, in the car, at our desks. We even skip eating—not for a spiritual purpose, but using faddish intermittent fasting to kick our bodies into burning fat. (In American culture skinniness is next to godliness.)

Even Christ’s disciples ate on the go at times, But food is more than physical nourishment, and the regular meals Christ participated in and instituted for the church were acts of community and communion.

In his essay, Beyond Easter, Milton Brasher-Cunningham sees an expansion of the table of communion to the community around us.

“As often as you do this” might mean more than simply observing the Lord’s Supper. What if Jesus had in mind that we would remember every time we broke bread or sat down at the table together? What if Jesus was calling us to widen our sense of every table to include those who harvested the crops and raised the animals, and to make sure they are paid fairly and treated justly?

Christ’s breakfast on the shore is a model for us of gathering those who have failed, reinstating each other through Christ’s redemption, and being sent out to feed others.

What if all our meals were markers—altars of forgiveness and belonging? Come to the table. Lay down your burdens. Offer forgiveness. Ask for it, too. And bring anyone else you can find. Christ is risen!—pass the potatoes.

The power of Christ’s resurrection is realized most, not in our building of monuments or institutions, not in our grand schemes and fantastic programming, but in the breaking of the bread, the quotidian collecting of those whom we love around a table that nourishes us all, and praying God would give us new eyes to see those who belong alongside us.

How do we expand the Communion table to include every table? How do we make sure everyone has a table and food to put on it? How does every meal become part of the story of our redemption, our sustenance? How do we hear the call to feed the sheep?

May we pray these questions from Cunningham’s conclusion and expand our hearts and tables to those we have previously excluded.

May we take our meals together and our forgiveness to go.

Prayer: The Greeting
Hosanna, Lord, hosanna!…Blessed is he who comes in the nam of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. — Psalm 118.26-26

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 9.8-10.4 (Listen – 8:50)
James 3 (Listen – 2:38)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 10:5-34 (Listen – 5:14) James 4 (Listen – 2:25)
Isaiah 11-12 (Listen – 3:39) James 5 (Listen – 3:01)

Meaning of the Ascension :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Luke 24.51
While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Reflection: Meaning of the Ascension :: Throwback Thursday
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Jesus will come again. Our Lord is doing the best thing for his kingdom in going away. It is clear that he has not quit the fight, nor deserted the field of battle. It was in the highest degree expedient that he should go, and that we should each one receive the Spirit. He has not taken his heart from us, nor his care from us, nor his interest from us: he is bound up heart and soul with his people.

The scriptures tell us—and this is a reason why we should get to our work—that he is coming in the same manner as he departed: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [What does this mean?]

Do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you. Jesus is coming as a matter of fact, therefore go down to your sphere of service. Give of your wealth and don’t talk about it. Consecrate your daily life to the glory of God. Live wholly for your Redeemer.

Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way, he is literally and actually coming, and he will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore, now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by proxy, go out through that portion of the world which you can reach, and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity.

Be ready to meet your coming Lord. What is the way to be ready to meet Jesus? If it is the same Jesus that went away from us who is coming, then let us be doing what he was doing before he went away.

Don’t stand gazing up into heaven, but wait upon the Lord in prayer, and you will receive the Spirit of God, and you will proclaim, “Believe and live.” Then when he comes he will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.” So may his grace enable us to do. Amen.

*Abridged and language updated from Spurgeon’s sermon The Ascension and the Second Advent Practically Considered.

Today, across the world, millions of believers celebrate Ascension Day, on the Thursday, 40 days after Easter. Easter season continues, until Pentecost. 

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
And they will say, “Surely, there is a reward for the righteous; surely, there is a God who rules in the earth.” — Psalm 58.11

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 8.1-9.7 (Listen – 7:02)
James 2 (Listen – 3:32)

Prayer of Confession and Praise from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: James 1.27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Reflection: Prayer of Confession and Praise from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

Gracious God, we have gathered for worship,
Seeing worship not as a function of place and hour,
But an attribute and attitude of life.
May our worship at every moment reflect
the focus and the commitment of this hour.

Sometimes that is difficult to do.
We are consumed with the sins and successes of yesterday.
Guilt and pride conceal our true identity.
Consumed by remorse or celebration we find it
difficult to praise and glorify you, O God.
We are often caught between the conflicting beliefs
That we either are so sinful you would have
Nothing to do with us, or we are so good
We have not need of you.
For our lack of faith, forgive us.

Some days we are caught in tomorrow.
We overlook today in order to see what lies ahead.
We look to the future, believing what is most important is yet to come.
We live in expectation of events and experiences,
Trusting that what will be
Is somehow more important that what has been
Or what is;. We wonder where the time has gone,
Only to discover that it slipped through our hands
While we waited. Forgive us, O God,
When we have failed to live in your present and presence.

We have come to worship.
We give glory to you, O God, for your majestic love
that awes us, and for your magnificent grace
that covers our multitude of sins.
With all of our heart, soul, and mind we offer ourselves to you.
Help us receive again your transforming gifts
of grace and love that encourage us to sense
your presence and share your love in every moment.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 7 (Listen – 3:51)
James 1 (Listen – 3:26)

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