Prepared to Meet God

Scripture Focus: Amos 4.12
“Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
    and because I will do this to you, Israel,
    prepare to meet your God.”

Luke 24.32, 36
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”

Reflection: Prepared to Meet God
By Erin Newton

We have entered into another prophetic book, Amos. Considered one of the first writing prophets, his prophetic period overlaps the ministries of Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. Amos opens with a list of Israel’s, and various nations’ sins: social injustice, inequality, idolatry, and every form of corruption possible. 

God let the people suffer through hardships with hopes of their repentance. Instead the people trusted in their own success. Their hearts lusted after other gods. They saw the poor and abused their weakness. 

Their hard hearts refused to be swayed by pain and discomfort to call out to God. In return, God declares the coming force of his presence. The ominous phrase, “Prepare to meet your God,” is meant to strike fear. The omnipotent God of creation is ready to meet humanity face to face. But humanity isn’t ready.  The proximity of humanity to the presence of God could result in death.  Soldiers died with a mere touch of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6.6). Priests were in immediate danger by their access to the Holy of Holies (Ex 28.35). Now God warns the people to prepare themselves for this fateful encounter. 

Only God could protect the lives of those who asked to see him face to face. 

Yet, this changed with the incarnation of Jesus. Just as it was in the beginning, God and humanity could walk together, talk together, and break bread together without the imminent threat of death. Death was conquered through the crucifixion. Peace came through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the days following the resurrection, God the Son continued to meet with the disciples. 

Instead of the threat of God coming in full force to judge the sins of the people, the people marvel at their experience with Jesus. Their hearts burn within them feeling the vibrancy of life and excitement of connection with Spirit. Jesus comes not riding upon the clouds as a warrior of wrath. He speaks words to calm their hearts. They see the face of God and he tells them, Peace. 

Amos records the warning from God for the people to prepare to meet him. It is still a message to us today. Through the mediation of Jesus, we can prepare to meet God with confidence. Our sins have been atoned and the wrath of God has been paid.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. — Psalm 36.5

Today’s Readings
Amos 4 (Listen – 2:21)
John 6 (Listen – 8:27)

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
When we pray as Jesus taught, we enter into God’s presence through the torn curtain of the Tent of Meeting, and hear his voice because of his atoning sacrifice.

Read more about The Last Shall be First—Resurrection Appearances
Paul describes himself as the “last” to see the risen Jesus and the least of the apostles but he became much more than that.

The Interruptions of Easter

,

Scripture Focus: John 20.15
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

John 21.5
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.

Luke 24.17
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

Reflection: The Interruptions of Easter
By John Tillman

Some of my favorite words about Easter were written by N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope and we return to them frequently. 

I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

… Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.

Eastertide is a season of the church calendar that celebrates Christ’s resurrection over 50 days leading up to Pentecost.

We don’t go back to “normal” after Easter. Normal would mean Mary Magdalene mourning and searching for Jesus’ body. Normal would mean Cleopas walking back home to Emmaus. Normal would mean Peter and his friends going back to fishing. Jesus interrupted all of that. (John 20.1-18; Luke 24.17-25; John 21.4-7)

The resurrection interrupts normal. Normal died. Jesus lives. And in him, so do we. Let Jesus continue to interrupt your normal. Let Jesus interrupt your sorrow as he did for Mary. Let him interrupt your disillusionment as he did for Cleopas. Let him interrupt your guilt as he did for Peter. 

Respond to Jesus right in the middle of your fears, sorrows, doubts, and guilt. Joyfully run to preach the gospel, turn back to encourage others, leap out of your boat to swim to Christ, and learn to feed his lambs and care for his sheep.

If we are to live in Christ, it must be a new kind of living but often we trudge back into our old ways. The risen Christ has something to say to you today. Let him interrupt you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

Today’s Readings
Amos 2 (Listen – 2:12)
John 4 (Listen -6:37)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year

Read more about Who is this King of glory?
Jesus was not the king they were expecting. And Jesus is not the king we often wish for either.

Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, March 10, 2021, based on readings from Luke 24.
It was selected by reader, Jon Polk from Hong Kong
“The Emmaus Road account is one of my favorite gospel stories. I wonder, “How did they not even recognize Jesus?” And then I’m reminded of all the times in my life when Jesus has been right alongside me and I didn’t recognize or acknowledge him. Keep your eyes open and you will see Jesus all through your day, often in places that you wouldn’t expect him to be.”

Scripture Focus: Luke 24.27
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Reflection: Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Disciples don’t always seem to recognize the resurrected Jesus. Do we? 

In younger years, I thought this was part of the miracle of the resurrection, but now I think the explanations are far more likely to be practical than out of the ordinary. 

I used to think that Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener was a miracle, but with age comes experience and wisdom. After living through intense times of mourning in my life, my own tear-blurred vision has made clear to me that probably Mary’s tears were what obscured Jesus, and not a heavenly veil.

I used to think that Jesus blinded Cleopas and his wife on the road to Emmaus, but with grief comes understanding. After walking away from many funerals and deaths of friends and walking through other deep, emotional losses, I know that physical senses are dulled by grief. After what they experienced, it would have been a miracle if their eyes had risen from trudging the road to see the face of the stranger. Even if they had looked up, the shadows of grief in their minds and the shadows of the setting sun on the path could easily have concealed him from them.

However, I do think Jesus helped them miss him—perhaps only by looking away when they looked at him or by wearing a hood or head covering that partly concealed his face. I also believe he did so for a purpose. He was preparing them for his absence and revealing to them his eternal presence. 

Jesus walked along the Emmaus road simultaneously concealing his physical presence and revealing his presence throughout the scripture. He made himself unrecognizable to them on the road so that he could make himself recognizable to them in the Torah. He hid his face from their eyes but burned his features within their hearts. The couple confessed to each other later, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” 

This same Jesus is with us. He sidles up to us and asks, “What are you discussing? What things weigh you down? What are you grieving?”

As we trudge along a path of grief may we listen to his Spirit. He will reveal to us the joy of his presence. 
His presence with us can make our hearts burn, even when they are weighed down with grief.
His love can make us run back, through the darkness of night, to tell others that light and joy have come.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.” — John 10.17-18

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


Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 16 (Listen – 3:45)
Romans 14 (Listen – 3:28)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about In the Face of Grief
The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

He Raises Us — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 2.3
3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, 
you who do what he commands. 
Seek righteousness, seek humility; 
perhaps you will be sheltered 
on the day of the Lord’s anger. 

Luke 24.44-49
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49

Reflection: He Raises Us — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Zephaniah calls tenderly, yet urgently, to those who are faithful in the land to respond to God while there is still time.

Seek righteousness. This is more than seeking our own good or simply doing good for ourselves. Any good that we do that does not also benefit our neighbor deserves not the name of “doing righteousness.

Seek humility. He is already calling to the humble in the land. This shows that humility is a constant seeking and lowering of one’s self and one never truly arrives at the bottom.

Perhaps you will be sheltered. In the family of believers there are many among us who know from experience that we may not always be shielded from all of life’s ailments, sicknesses, and hurts. Our dear Lord’s word that we would have trouble in this world is as equally true as his promise that he has overcome this world. His love is shown as much by his embrace when we are weeping as it is by blessings of laughter and joy.

Trouble is coming to this world. It is, after all, a world of darkness. How could it be otherwise? We made it so.

In our sinfulness, we wrested the world to our whims and wrecked it with our sins. Under Satan’s sway the world we cursed writhes in the evil darkness to which we subjugated it.

But no matter how low we have dragged the heights of God’s creation, he searches these low valleys for us.

No matter how deep in sin we sink our feet, or what bog’s stench hangs on us, or what fell parasites and diseases of the swamp cling to us, he reaches in. He wades deep. He dredges us up.

However low we are, he comes to raise us.
However vile we are, he comes to cleanse us.
However sickened we are, he comes to heal us.
However broken our body, he comes to make us whole.

Seek righteousness! Seek humility!
We may not all be sheltered from calamity, but we will all be raised!

Made like him, like him we rise…” (Christ the Lord is Risen Today — Charles Wesley)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 2 (Listen – 2:44)
Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
We need and pray for donors of all amounts. A donation does not have to be exceedingly large to make a large difference.

Read more about His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent
He is always the God who comes to us—not just during Advent.

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brad
I loved how this commentary highlighted afresh the especially current relevance of Jesus’ ministry, his focus on the marginalized, elevating their status and making them central figures in the gospel story.  As Jesus’ followers, we get to continue his example in treating all people with dignity and respect, being God’s image-bearers. 

Originally published, April 13, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 31 & 1 Timothy 2.

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. — Psalm 98.1– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 34 (Listen – 4:15)
Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped you better understand scripture?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7