Dear Lord, as we enter into a season of thanksgiving and holidays, there’s a lot to think about. Food, gathering with friends and family, travel, and why for goodness sakes there’s Christmas decorations already in the stores. Almost everything except what we’re thankful for and for setting aside time for holy celebration. We don’t have enough time in life, but society keeps wanting to rush, rush, rush us through what we do have.
In this season, help me remember your presence and your calling. Give me peace about the things I need to do, and discernment about what I don’t need to do. May your Spirit be with me, teaching me and guiding me so that I help spread peace, joy, and thanksgiving throughout the end of this year. Be with me in my questions and comfort those in our community who are overwhelmed. Help me to see how I can best contribute and give me courage to take steps of faith in all I do. Amen.
1. Psalm 54-55
2. Reading through 1 Samuel 15-26
To obey is better than sacrifice. That’s what Samuel tells Saul in the first chapter of the reading this week. It may be easy to skim through these chapters and miss that. Stop for a second. Write it down somewhere. This sums up so much of the rest of the Bible (and much of what comes before).
So often when we consider rebellion or rejection of God, we jump straight to those who out and out dismiss God, or forget God, or fight against God. The Bible has a lot of characters like this too and certainly spends time warning against that, and saying what will happen. There’s another side, though, and that’s the side that pretends to serve God.
It can even put on show: “Look at all I’m doing for God!” But God didn’t ask for it and God doesn’t want it and it might even make God mad if that becomes an excuse to ignore what God does want. That should not make us anxious, as if we have to walk on eggshells lest we make God mad. There’s a lot we do that God appreciates even if it’s not something he specifically commands, if we do it alongside doing what he asks for.
As you read through these chapters, look for what God is asking people to do. Saul is chosen to be king, but gets caught up in anxiety or selfishness (which often go hand in hand) and then tries to make up for it with pious sounding actions. Samuel doesn’t listen. So David is chosen to be king. And David shows what it means to be obedient even when life doesn’t work out.
What does God seek? What does God value? What are the characteristics of someone who finds God’s favor? Power, victory, and the rest may not themselves be signs of God’s favor, and though there may be gains in the short term, there’s long term consequences for falling into the trap of sacrifice not obedience. Let us be people who seek God in all our lives, doing that which he cares about and not getting caught up in showy performance or religious sounding distractions. What does God ask from those who are chosen to serve? What kinds of response should be choose to offer back to God?
3. Reading Through John 13-17
These are some of my favorite chapters in John. They can easily be skipped over, as there’s not a lot of action. Even still they are amazingly rich in showing what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do. It begins with Jesus showing love for his disciples. Some say it highlights his humility, but I think that’s missing the meaning. Because then we take it as saying leaders should show humility and do things that show their humility. But that puts the spotlight on the leader again.
The power of this passage is how much Jesus loves those around him. They had dirty feet, and Jesus washes them. He doesn’t hand off the task to someone else, he joins with his disciples and shows them that they too need to help others. Really, it’s living out that message in the good Samaritan. Love your actual neighbor who is in need. Don’t put it off because of seeming duties or status. Jesus is flattening the potential for having a class distinction in the people of God. Not that there’s no functions or roles, but everyone is equal in status with God so we need to actually act like it.
John 14-17 give a sermon of Jesus. We know the Sermon on the Mount better, but this one has a lot of insights that we should, really, just go ahead and memorize. Jesus is giving us the action plan, the pre-game pep talk, putting up the X’s and the O’s on the board and showing how what is going to happen is part of God’s strategy. We get amazing insight into God, how God works, who God is, and this shows a Trinitarian expression. God is three (Father, Son, Spirit) and these chapters provide a wonderful explanation of this.
Most significantly (I think), we get insight into the work of the Spirit, which is important because we often leave the Spirit out of discussions about God’s work, and then try to fill in the Spirit’s work with our own goals or plans.
What does obedience look like in light of the mission of God we read about in these chapters?
4. Psalm 56-57
If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or having started year, don’t worry. Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.
Also, I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff!
And, since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.
Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage. It also is very helpful to share as we learn from each other. Even our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering. Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.
Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.