Thursday, June 30, 2016

READ IT! - June 30th

In the Psalms, David says that God satisfies him like eating a good meal satisfies his appetite. He also says that he thirsts for God. Is that how God is to you? Does God satisfy your thirst? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?

Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:1-43:5

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

READ IT! - June 29th

In the Psalms, David says that God satisfies him like eating a good meal satisfies his appetite. He also says that he thirsts for God. Is that how God is to you? Does God satisfy your thirst? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Latter Prophets

See, a king will reign in righteousness
    and rulers will rule with justice.
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
    and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
    and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
    and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
    and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
No longer will the fool be called noble
    nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

For fools speak folly,
    their hearts are bent on evil:
They practice ungodliness
    and spread error concerning the Lord;
the hungry they leave empty
    and from the thirsty they withhold water.
Scoundrels use wicked methods,
    they make up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
    even when the plea of the needy is just.
But the noble make noble plans,
    and by noble deeds they stand.

Isaiah 32:1-8

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

READ IT! - June 28th

In the Psalms, David says that God satisfies him like eating a good meal satisfies his appetite. He also says that he thirsts for God. Is that how God is to you? Does God satisfy your thirst? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Former Prophets

David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.

When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillaithe Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”

2 Samuel 17:24-29

Monday, June 27, 2016

READ IT! - June 27th

In the Psalms, David says that God satisfies him like eating a good meal satisfies his appetite. He also says that he thirsts for God. Is that how God is to you? Does God satisfy your thirst? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 8:1-20

Saturday, June 25, 2016

HOPE! - A Good Samaritan?

In Luke’s Gospel, A Torah-Teacher, a Pharisee, approaches Jesus and he asks him, “Rabbi, What is the greatest commandment?” 

The answer is obvious: the priests, the Levites, and the Pharisees, all of Israel’s great teachers of the day, had always taught the greatest commandment is The Shema! – or to love God with all of yourself – heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And how do you love God with all of yourself? With the second greatest commandment! Love your neighbor! 

But the man wants to know, “Who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus says: 

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

And then what does Jesus say next?

Does he say a Pharisee came along, saw the half-dead guy and had compassion on him?


He says, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” 

Why does the priest avoid the man lying for dead on the road? Because he’s a holy man. Because he knows the Law that says “Don’t touch dead bodies!” 

The priest believes the laws of cleanliness are more important than the law to love ones neighbor. 

The Levite does the same, walking clear over on the other side of the road (practically walking off the edge of a cliff to avoid loving his neighbor) 

And the Samaritan is the only one that knows how to love his neighbor!!! The Jews didn’t even think Samaritans counted as human! 

So Jesus says: Go love the person who despises you! Go love the person you hate! Be like the Samaritan in the story and love the Samaritans! – Love your enemies! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Living on Mission – Going Out of Our Way

Living on Mission – Going Out of Our Way

Jesus went through Samaria. It was not a popular “must see” tourist destination. It wasn’t efficient. It wasn’t convenient. Even though it was the most direct route, it was to be avoided by Jews. However, for Jesus, it was necessary to go there.

John 4:4 says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Why? Because Jesus had an appointment with a Samaritan woman. She wasn’t aware of the appointment, but He knew where to find her. He knew that her place in society would dictate her location. He knew her guilt and shame would drive her to that place at a time nobody else would choose to go there. He knew her circumstances in life. He knew her past. He knew her and loved her and set out to meet her.

We will look more into the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in the coming weeks, but today let’s focus on Jesus going out of His way. Jesus was on His way from Judea (Point A) to Galilee (Point B.) The trip from Point A to Point B does not lead through Samaria if you are a Jew because Samaria was filled with half-breeds who were considered “not cool.” This place was to be avoided; it was the bad part of town, the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

Jesus was led there by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the Kingdom of God and to declare the Good News to this woman. This is what happens with Missional Impulses – the Holy Spirit leads us to do and/or say things that may not seem logical to us.

How do we react when we are prompted to do something that would be less convenient than we would like? How willing are we to give a word of encouragement to a stranger? How often do we go the extra mile to show love? How much scorn and judgment are we willing to endure for choosing to do the right thing? How far out of our way will we go for that divine appointment?

Let’s practice Living on Mission and surrender ourselves to His promptings no matter how far out of our way we must go.

Pastor Angela

Thursday, June 23, 2016

PRAY IT! Thirst Things First - The Samaritans

John 4 presents us with the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus.  But before this encounter is described, Jesus has to go through Samaria first.

Thirst things first.

Samaria was despised.  Samaria was avoided.  Samaria was icky.

Who or what is your Samaria?  

Is it that neighbor or co-worker?  Is it your employer?  Is it a political party?  Is it an entire country?  

God may be calling you (and me, and everyone) to a season where you have to follow a missional impulse that involves intentionally going to "Samaria" and/or ministering in some way, be it through prayer or practiced action.

Thirst things first. 

Before the practiced action, it may behoove us to engage in some practiced prayer.  Before the practiced prayer, it may be helpful to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and help gently point out who or what it is that we despise and avoid.

Spend some time with the Lord.  Lift up your "Samaria" to the Lord.  Do this with the strength of the Holy Spirit.

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." -Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)

Pastor Celia

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Thirst Things First”

A new family must have moved into the house behind us over the winter.  We hadn’t known; there was no way we could have seen the For Sale sign or the moving vans from where we lived.  But suddenly, once the snow melted and the temperature warmed up, there were lots of boys running around our shared backyard.  Now, it turns out they didn’t all live in the house behind us.  A couple of them did, and the rest of the boys were their neighbors who came over to enjoy the expansive yard.  At first my kids were over the moon at the thought of new friends.  Finally, they had someone to play with besides each other.  And the boys ranged in ages, so both of my kids had someone their own age to talk to.  But after awhile, my daughter became less enthusiastic about playing with “the boys.”  When her dad and I asked what had changed, she stumbled around for an explanation.  “They’re loud.  And sometimes they’re mean.  And they’re just…different.”

I knew what she meant.  They were different—a lot different from her, in fact.  These boys liked loud, rowdy games, which meant they weren’t too interested in a game of make-believe with a wonderfully detailed and complex story line.  They didn’t want to take turns jumping in the trampoline.  They wanted to bounce together, colliding and trying to knock each other down.  They treated each other in ways that my children had learned were disrespectful.  Based on the short interactions we’d had with the parents, I guessed their home lives were different from my kids’, as well.  So I understood what she meant.  But did that mean my kids shouldn’t play with these other children?  

What do you think?  I’m sure you’ve known lots of people who were really different from you.  Maybe they came from a different country, spoke a different language, and ate really different foods.  Maybe their family treated each other differently than your family did.  Maybe they liked to do way different things, things that didn’t even sound fun to you.  Maybe they had different values, or even worshipped a different god.  What do you do when you’re around people who are so incredibly different?   Is being different a good enough reason to avoid someone or a group of someones?  

Take a minute and talk about that with your family.  What does everyone think?  When is “different” too different?

The Jews thought their “neighbors,” the Samaritans, were different.  Even though some of their ancestors had been Israelites, God’s chosen people, those ancestors had married people from other nations, nations that believed in many gods and not the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  That meant they were, well, different.  At the time Jesus and His disciples were teaching, most Jews wouldn’t even talk to someone from Samaria.   But Jesus decided to turn that practice on its ear.  Read what happened when Jesus traveled into Samaria, on purpose, in John 4:1-9.  

Jesus didn’t deny that the Samaritans were different.  He knew they had some views of God that were just plain off.  But maybe that’s what made it even more important to Him that He visit Samaria and share the real God of glory with them.  He knew that God wanted to be reconciled to ALL of his children, including the Samaritans.  And since they were so different, it would take a special connection, like Jesus talking with a woman at a well, for them to hear how much God loved them.  He could have avoided them.  After all, everyone else was!  But instead, He marched right into their downtown and told them about God.

Who are some of the “different” people in your life?  Have you been using that as a reason to avoid them?  What about Jesus?  What does He want for these different folks you know?

Talk together about ways you and your family can help people feel more welcome.  How can you share God’s love with even the most different kid at your school or in your neighborhood?  Pray together and ask God to help make you successful in reaching out to those who are different from you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

EXPLORE IT! - The Samaritans

A long time ago, the nation of Israel split into two separate nations – Judah in the South and Israel in the North.

The capital of the southern kingdom of Judah was in Jerusalem.
And the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel was in a place called Samaria.

But the kings of Israel and Judah were evil and both kingdoms eventually fell – Israel to the Assyrian Empire, and Judah to the Babylonian Empire.

Later, the king of Assyria brought different groups of people from places like Babylon and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites.

The king of Assyria also sent back one of the captive Israelite priests to teach the new people in the land how to worship the God of that land.

The people, who came to be known as Samaritans, worshiped Yahweh, but they also worshiped other gods, and they sacrificed their children in the fire.

Now eventually, the Persian King Cyrus, let the Jews go back to their home land and rebuild their temple, and when they got back they discovered their cousins, the Samaritans, still living in the north between Judea and Galilee. 

Back when the Jews overthrew the Seleucid rulers and were independent for about 100 years, they destroyed the Samaritan temple erected on Mount Gerizim – not a very neighborly thing to do! This campaign was led by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus who invaded Samaria in 108 BC.

And so, when the Samaritan woman started up a conversation with Jesus about the proper place to worship — this question would have been a hot topic to most Jewish rabbis, many of whom believed that God should only be worshiped in Jerusalem! 

But Jesus declares that in the new age, it will no longer be about worshiping in a particular place. Worship won’t be a matter of geography. Rather, the true test of worship will be whether it’s “in spirit and truth.”

Like the story of Nathanael sitting beneath the fig tree, this story also brings to mind the life of Jacob. This story takes place at Jacob's Well, and like Jacob, Jesus offers the young woman he finds there water... though not of the same variety.

Monday, June 20, 2016

READ IT! - Thirst Things First (week 4)

John writes, “In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” And he says that Jesus has given us this command: “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah: Deuteronomy 11:1-32
From the Former Prophets: 2 Kings 17:1-41
From the Latter Prophets: Jeremiah 2:1-37
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Job 31:1-40
From the Late Books: Ruth 2:1-23
From the Gospels: Luke 10:25-37
From the Epistles: 1 John 4:7-21

From the Torah

Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him— then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.

Deuteronomy 11:1-32

From the Former Prophets

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him.

Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser’s vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.” The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.”

But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”

They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.

When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. When they first lived there, they did not worship the Lord; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. It was reported to the king of Assyria: “The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.”

Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord.

Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. The people from Babylon made Sukkoth Benoth, those from Kuthah made Nergal, and those from Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim. They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the Lord gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.

2 Kings 17:1-41

From the Latter Prophets

The word of the Lord came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“This is what the Lord says:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
    the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
    and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.

Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
    all you clans of Israel.

This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
    that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
    and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
    who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
    through a land of deserts and ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness,
    a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land
    to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
    and made my inheritance detestable.
The priests did not ask,
    ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
    the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
    following worthless idols.

“Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the Lord.
    “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
    send to Kedar and observe closely;
    see if there has ever been anything like this:
Has a nation ever changed its gods?
    (Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
    for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, you heavens,
    and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth?
    Why then has he become plunder?
Lions have roared;
    they have growled at him.
They have laid waste his land;
    his towns are burned and deserted.
Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
    have cracked your skull.
Have you not brought this on yourselves
    by forsaking the Lord your God
    when he led you in the way?
Now why go to Egypt
    to drink water from the Nile?
And why go to Assyria
    to drink water from the Euphrates?
Your wickedness will punish you;
    your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
    how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the Lord your God
    and have no awe of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

“Long ago you broke off your yoke
    and tore off your bonds;
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
    and under every spreading tree
    you lay down as a prostitute.
I had planted you like a choice vine
    of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
    into a corrupt, wild vine?
Although you wash yourself with soap
    and use an abundance of cleansing powder,
    the stain of your guilt is still before me,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.

“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running here and there,
a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.
Do not run until your feet are bare
    and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!
    I love foreign gods,
    and I must go after them.’

“As a thief is disgraced when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests and their prophets.
They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’
Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns.

“Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all rebelled against me,”
declares the Lord.

“In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
    like a ravenous lion.

“You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

“Have I been a desert to Israel
    or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
    we will come to you no more’?
Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
    a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
    days without number.
How skilled you are at pursuing love!
    Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
On your clothes is found
    the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
    though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
    you say, ‘I am innocent;
    he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
Why do you go about so much,
    changing your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt
    as you were by Assyria.
You will also leave that place
    with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
    you will not be helped by them.

Jeremiah 2:1-37

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

“I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look lustfully at a young woman.
For what is our lot from God above,
    our heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked,
    disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways
    and count my every step?

“If I have walked with falsehood
    or my foot has hurried after deceit—
let God weigh me in honest scales
    and he will know that I am blameless—
if my steps have turned from the path,
    if my heart has been led by my eyes,
    or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown,
    and may my crops be uprooted.

“If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
    or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door,
then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
    and may other men sleep with her.
For that would have been wicked,
    a sin to be judged.
It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
    it would have uprooted my harvest.

“If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
    whether male or female,
    when they had a grievance against me,
what will I do when God confronts me?
    What will I answer when called to account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
    Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

“If I have denied the desires of the poor
    or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept my bread to myself,
    not sharing it with the fatherless—
but from my youth I reared them as a father would,
    and from my birth I guided the widow—
if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
    or the needy without garments,
and their hearts did not bless me
    for warming them with the fleece from my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
    knowing that I had influence in court,
then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
    let it be broken off at the joint.
For I dreaded destruction from God,
    and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.

“If I have put my trust in gold
    or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
    the fortune my hands had gained,
if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
    or the moon moving in splendor,
so that my heart was secretly enticed
    and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
then these also would be sins to be judged,
    for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

“If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
    or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
I have not allowed my mouth to sin
    by invoking a curse against their life—
if those of my household have never said,
    ‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
    for my door was always open to the traveler—
if I have concealed my sin as people do,
    by hiding my guilt in my heart
because I so feared the crowd
    and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
    that I kept silent and would not go outside—

(“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
    I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me;
    let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
    I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
    I would present it to him as to a ruler.)—

“if my land cries out against me
    and all its furrows are wet with tears,
if I have devoured its yield without payment
    or broken the spirit of its tenants,
then let briers come up instead of wheat
    and stinkweed instead of barley.”

The words of Job are ended.

Job 31:1-40

From the Late Books

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”

Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”

“The Lord bless you!” they answered.

Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”

The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”

Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”

Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Ruth 2:1-23

From the Gospels

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

From the Epistles

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:7-21