Rushing Past New Beginnings

It is funny to me that our culture is determined to move on from things so quickly. Christmas Day is past, take down the tree. New Year's Day has come and gone, time to bring out the Valentine's Day décor. Here we are at the end of the first week of January, and it seems like we are rushing past this new beginning. I am afraid we’re missing opportunities to ponder and reflect. I don't want to rush through these opening weeks of a new year. I want to linger.


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Charity Kemper Sandstrom
Week of Monday, November 20th

As the holiday hubbub begins to circle around us like our own, personal tornado, it’s worth it to slow ourselves down just a little bit, to take the time to practice a little of what the holiday season is about. This week, we’re going to practice the Lectio Divina, a meditative type of prayer that allows us to enter into the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s a slow, contemplative rhythm to prayer, designed to help you hear the voice of God.

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Monday, November 13

Gratitude As Invitation
We receive invitations all the time. Invitations to showers, weddings, speaking engagements, even sales. Imagine going through your mail and finding an invitation to a palace.

An invitation to not only dine with royalty but to sit at the feet of the king and intimately share your life with His.

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Saturday, September 16

Closely related to the last parable, this story again teaches the value of the kingdom in the personal realm -- a pearl, worthy of full sacrifice. The repetition underscores the importance of the message. Jesus wants YOU to PERSONALLY know the value of the kingdom. 

What is the value of your relationship with Jesus? How do you protect it, nurture it, and care for it? How do you prioritize it? 

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Thursday, September 14

Yeast was considered to be corrupting and contaminating. It is interesting here to see that it is a woman who yields it. Though it is now invisible, small, and even secretive, Jesus promises a time in which the kingdom of God will subvert the cultural norms of Empire: hierarchy, patriarchy, social injustice. 

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Tuesday, September 12

This parable seems to explain why evil coincides on earth with good -- Jesus is waiting for the harvest. It even seems as if this is for the protection of the wheat -- "for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest."

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Monday, September 11

In this parable, Jesus explains that there are 4 types of responses to his message, and 3/4s of those responses will reject him for various reasons. The enemy plays a role, as do hardened hearts. Jesus compares the seeds of the Kingdom of God with seeds that the enemy sows. 

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Sunday, August 20 - Fishing For Resistance

Read through this beginning of the Sermon on the Mount once more. Which of these things seems most difficult or alien to you? Which seems like second nature? Which seems like an impossibility? 

Think about each one for a moment, and consider it. Have you experienced this in your life? Have you receieved it or given it? Have you blessed a mourner or been a mourner who is blessed? Have you given and received mercy? 

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Saturday, August 19 - Fishing For Resistance

The Beatitudes represent the beginning of Jesus's teachings, but also the first description of what the Kingdom of God actually looks like -- a community comprised of justice, shared resources, and transformed social relationships (also from my Study Bible, page 1754). Jesus often spoke of heaven (the place with many rooms that he is preparing for us) but he also often announced that the kingdom of heaven has arrived. 

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Friday, August 18 - Fishing For Resistance

Let's talk about demoniacs. The scripture here makes a distinction between epileptics and demoniacs, which indicates that perhaps the population back then did recognize one from the other. My handy study Bible says that the demon possession represents the invasive rule of empire -- political, military and economic control. In healing demoniacs, Jesus "counters the sinful effects of the imperial system, and anticipates the promised time [of] God's empire..." (The New Interpreter's Study Bible, pg. 1754).

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Thursday, August 17 - Fishing For Resistance

Let's take a look at this "good news" that Jesus preached. It's important to understand the subversiveness that Jesus was actually preaching. In ancient Rome, the empire used the word for "Good News" to proclaim propaganda celebrating an emperor's birth or ascension to the throne. For Jesus to usurp the term and use it to demonstrate God's kingdom is a direct taunt of sorts to empire. He then makes a point to heal the sick -- who were many, despite Rome's constant claims of bringing good health to the poor. Jesus was essentially shining a spotlight not just on Rome's failures, but on the immense gap between the elite and the working class, and promises a kingdom in which good health and abundance is available for all people.  

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Wednesday, August 16 - Fishing For Resistance

The valley around the Sea of Galilee is lush and green, and you can see the haze that hangs over this large lake in the middle of a desert (I've been there, and I stood on the side of the Decapolis, looking across to the other side). This scripture says that Jesus traveled around the kingdom, preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and great crowds followed him. 

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Tuesday, August 15 - Fishing For Resistance

As we see from the introduction, Jesus called these men out of more than a few systems. First, their immediate family dynamic was interrupted. John and James, the scripture makes a point to say, left their boat and their father. Second, they left the guild -- a kin-based economic system (similar to a fisherman's union) that was a larger part of empire rule. And third, they left a sphere of social class as the working peasantry to go and become the student of a rabbi. 

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Monday, August 14 - Fishing For Resistance

I can't wait for you to (watch) this week's essay, a sermon by Terry Wilson. In it, she talks a little about this moment when Jesus calls the first disciples, and how odd it really is (you'll have to watch to understand what's so weird about it!). As I began to study for this devotional, however, I came across an interesting note in the scholarship around this verse: fishermen were despised. I knew tax collectors were not popular people, but I never knew that about fishermen. 

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Saturday, August 12 - Life Abundant

Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and here we see him serving the disciples breakfast. It is a beautiful act of nurturing, and indeed, very often a woman's role to prepare a meal. But Jesus doesn't seem to care about hierarchies -- at least not man made ones. And if he does, they're all flipped around.

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