Devotional – Genesis 25.29-31

Devotional:

Genesis 25:29-31

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”

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Communicating the stories of scripture to young children is a challenge. Ask any young person even remotely familiar with the bible about their favorite story and you’re likely to hear something about Noah’s ark, Jonah and the Big Fish, or David and Goliath. But the bible is so much more than those stories and they need to be shared with all people.

During Chapel Time with the preschool students at my last church I would often try to come up with different and imaginative ways to tell the story. Long ago flannel-graph representations of characters and objects would be enough to impart the story in a young person’s mind, but today, with the advent of social media and youtube, different means are necessary.

Every year I would guide the children through the bible and whenever we came to the story of Jacob and Esau I asked the children to join me in the church kitchen. All of the ingredients were prepared ahead of time and each student was able to add a portion of the ingredients to make some “red stuff” (chili). They would stand there mystified as the ground beef mixed with the tomatoes and the black beans and the spices and they all struggled to stir the giant pot with a large wooden spoon. When it was ready to cook I would put it on the stove and let the kids return to their classes for a few hours.

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At the end of the day, right before they were dismissed, I would bring the chili downstairs and each child was offered their own bowl. While we ate together I would tell them the story of Jacob and Esau and how Esau was willing to get rid of something so wonderful and so precious for a bowl of red stuff. The kids would stare into their empty bowls and contemplate the greater blessing of a full stomach or the blessing of almighty God and then we would pray together.

I loved teaching the lesson every year, but what I didn’t anticipate was how well the younger children would remember it with each passing year. Because by the time the 2 year olds became 4 year olds they refused to even taste the chili for fear that God would remove the blessing from them!

The stories of scripture offer us a window into the divine. The bible is a strange new world that we enter whenever we open the book, and stays with us whenever we put it down. In the world today we are offered all kinds of things to quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger whether its literal liquid and food or relationships or experiences. But all of them are fleeting when compared to the immense blessing of God in Jesus Christ.

Devotional – John 20.30

Devotional:

John 20.30

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

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My favorite piece of scripture is Mark 10.45: For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” I love the idea that, like Jesus, we are called to serve the needs of others rather than focusing on ourselves all the time. One of the verses that has made the most impact in my life is from Matthew 27.46: “And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Through it I began to realize the depth of Jesus’ humanity and what he went through on our behalf.

There are plenty of verses that make me laugh, like Acts 20.9: “A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.” And there are some passages that leave me scratching my head in confusion, like Mark 9.50: “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”

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Last Easter my friend Jason Micheli preached his sermon on what he called “the biblical verse that really ticks [him] off, the scripture verse that irritates the you-know-what out of [him] is John 20.30: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.”

And I have to agree with him.

Why in the world would John omit other stories about Jesus’ life? If there were other miracles, other teachings, other divine moments, why wouldn’t he include them in the gospel? Most of the time I read from the bible I feel very fulfilled, but when I read John 20.30 I feel like I got short-changed.

Yet, on some level, I feel like it’s quite appropriate. If Easter tells us anything it’s that the living Lord is still on the move meeting us on the roads of life. John’s gospel could never contain all of Jesus’ miracles because he is still making them happen here and now. Sometimes we believe that we can only find and discover the Lord in the sacred texts of scripture, but that’s when we need to open our eyes to the wonders around us and see how God is still moving in the world.

When was the last time you felt the presence of God? Hopefully you experienced the Spirit of the Lord during your recent Easter service, or maybe you discovered God in the breaking of bread during communion. This week, let us all take heart knowing that we can find God in the words of scripture and in our experiences in the world.

Devotional – 2 Corinthians 4.5

Devotional:

2 Corinthians 4.5

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 

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Have you ever listened to someone discuss a topic only to realize that you learned more about the speaker than you did about the subject?

There were many times in college that I would leave a lecture knowing more about my professor’s interpretation of an event than I did the actual event. Similarly, there have been church services that taught me more about what the pastor was doing in his/her life than what I should be doing to live out God’s Word in mine. The temptation, for all of us, is to point at ourselves rather than the subject at hand.

Brian Williams, the anchor for NBC’s Nightly News, recently fell into controversy regarding comments he made about his experiences during the US invasion of Iraq. Williams stated that he was on an helicopter that was hit by an RPG and forced to land. However, reports have subsequently come to light that call his memory into question; a flight engineer who was on board one of three helicopters that were hit, reported that William’s helicopter arrived at the scene nearly an hour later to interview the crew members about the attack.

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In the days that followed William’s false report, he has been scrutinized by a number of media outlets and veterans about his claims. He has taken a leave from his regular Nightly News  broadcast, and executives from NBC have announced there would be an internal investigation into William’s reports on Iraq and other issues. Moreover, debates are taking place regarding whether or not he will be replaced in relation to his newscast.

When we share information with our friends and family about issues facing the world, there is a strong temptation to point at our relation to the subject rather than the subject itself. Instead of talking about the issue of poverty we talk about how we have interacted with people begging on the streets. Instead of talking about what we can do to help our education system, we share stories about what we experienced in school. Instead of talking about what Jesus did for us, we talk about the many ways we are living out our Christianity on a regular basis.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth as a reminder about who was truly at the center of the church: “We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” As Christians, we are called to the same proclamation.

When we feel the temptation to point to ourselves and what we have done, Paul helps us to remember to point to Jesus. We can certainly celebrate our accomplishments in our faith journeys, but we are called to serve one another as slaves for Jesus’ sake.

This week, let us point away from ourselves to Christ, and seek new ways to serve those around us.