Weekly Guide to Prayer and Study
February 17 – 22, 2020
Click on the day to expand the guide.
Read – Matthew 5:13-16
Notice – This was the keynote of Jesus’ call to citizens of “the kingdom of God.” He didn’t specify that those who follow him should “go” to a certain place. He called them to live in a certain way for God. In Jesus’ day, with no refrigerators, people used salt to preserve food as well as to flavor it. Jesus called his followers to be “the salt of the earth,” living in ways that add flavor to our world and “preserve” life’s God-intended goodness. As one teacher put it, Jesus did not say, “You are the vinegar of the earth”! In what ways are you living out your faith in ways that flavor life positively, and preserve its goodness?
Pray – God, if I forget, remind me that “we the people” ARE the church. By your Spirit, help me to live as your salt and light, your physical presence, right here in my hometown. Amen.
Read – 1 Peter 2:5-10
Notice – Peter’s description of what it means to belong to God’s people, the church, showed how New Testament Christians found Jesus’ work and its effects all through the Old Testament. Verse 6 quoted Isaiah 28:16; verse 7 drew on Psalm 118:22; verse 8 used Isaiah 8:14. Verse 9 took language that first applied to Israel in Exodus 19:6, and verse 10 played off the sadly symbolic names of Hosea’s children in Hosea 1. Peter’s point was that God’s mercy draws and shapes us all into a community in order to bear witness to God’s marvelous light. How can we as a faith community show God’s grace and light in ways we can’t do alone? How can a sense that together we are God’s hands in the world help us better understand the meaning of “church”?
Pray – God, I often fail you, yet you call me chosen, holy, a part of a royal priesthood. Help me each day as I seek to live into the amazing titles with which you honor me. Amen.
Read – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Notice – The apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian Christians that God gives each Christian gifts and talents that empower us to join in the divine mission of changing the world for the better. But no one person receives all the gifts and talents needed for the job. There aren’t “good” and “bad,” or even “important” and “unimportant,” sets of abilities and gifts. God wants each believer to fill a place that makes the overall body stronger. In what ways are you already using your particular gifts and talents to bless others and bring glory to God? Have you ever seen your gifts become more effective when they work together with other people’s various gifts?
Pray – Generous God, you’ve given me a portion of your divine power. You’ve called me to use that power in carrying out your mission in the world. I offer you the gifts you’ve given me to be used for your purposes. Amen.
Read – John 4:19-29
Notice – Jesus met a person with three strikes against her in the eyes of the religious leaders of his day: a) she was a Samaritan, b) she was a woman, c) she’d had multiple husbands. To his disciples’ surprise, he treated her as valuable. The woman expected Jesus, a Jewish man, to despise and avoid her. But he spoke to her seriously, asked her help and treated her with dignity. He refused to argue about whether Jerusalem or Gerizim was the true holy mountain. He said the key was that people worship “in spirit and truth” (verse 24). What makes it necessary to honestly open your whole inner life to God’s love and grace in order to worship in spirit and truth?
Pray – God, open my heart and mind to your word. Bless me with your vision and let me enter into a state of harmony with your divine will. Amen.
Read – Luke 19:1-10
Notice – Zacchaeus was so eager to see Jesus that even as a wealthy public citizen he climbed a tree to offset his shortness. Jesus was so eager to reach Zacchaeus that he very publicly invited himself to a meal at the house of one of the town’s most despised “sinners.” Are you willing to set aside worries about your social dignity and status to “see” Jesus more fully, and to reach others with Jesus’ love? How might that spirit shape our congregation’s choices?
Pray – Jesus, you didn’t reach out to Zacchaeus grudgingly. You cared deeply about the good, generous person he’d nearly forgotten to be. Give me, and our congregation, your eye for the good possibilities in everyone. Amen.
Read – John 13:34-35, 15:9-12
Notice – The night before his crucifixion, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment that glowed with heaven’s light: “As I have loved you, so you must love each other. This is how everyone will know you are my disciples.” The command to love one another was not new, but “as I have loved you” took “love” to a whole new level. Jesus’ followers learned that they couldn’t love that way on their own, and identified love as a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22). Spend time with Jesus, allowing his love to shape your view of yourself, so that by God’s grace your life of love certifies you as one of Jesus’ followers. Imagine you invite a non-religious friend to church. They ask, “Why should I go to your church?” Do you cite our big building, beautiful windows, volunteers, sermons, or music? How long would it take you to reach Jesus’ way of answering that question: “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other”?
Pray – Jesus, I love because you, my creator, first loved me. Keep reshaping my attitudes and actions to more fully reflect your eternal, faithful love. Amen.