2 Chronicles 6:12-21

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it as it is today.

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

20141103-5936 20141103-5975 20141110-6691

These three photos are of large and impressive buildings given to religious purposes. One is a museum. One is a mosque. One is the largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica. But God does not dwell in temples built by human hands – even the most beautiful and ornate ones. It is sad when a church becomes a museum. It is sadder even still when people tie their faith to any building. God’s Holy Spirit sustains us in the faith – no matter where we may gather with others for worship. Gather we must (it’s vital to gather to reorient our moral and spiritual compass to the true north of God’s word and to receive God’s blessings of word and sacrament). Thank God we do have  beautiful place in which we may gather! Thank God that he dwelt with us in the human temple of Jesus’ body, and invites us to dwell with him forever in his kingdom of light, life, joy, and salvation!

Revelation 2:12-17

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

The seven churches of Revelation offer a broad spectrum of challenges and blessings. They hear words of encouragement and approval. But they also hear words of challenge and a call to repentance. We who follow Jesus each also must hear the words of approval and a call to repentance. There is need for us all to stand strong in the faith to which we have been called. We can be thankful that God sees our hearts through the cross of Jesus. But we can also rejoice that God is always calling us forward, and that our need to repent is less about a need to feel guilty, than it is a calling to a better life of faithfulness to God.

Acts 16:11-15

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

What a joy to learn how God opens people’s hearts to believe his message and support those who bring that message to them and others. Lydia is one such person whose gift of hospitality is a fresh breath of air and a source of great encouragement to Paul and Luke and their traveling companions. Although Paul seems never to be dissuaded by opposition, surely he was greatly encouraged by this act of hospitality. We can offer our resources for those who are on the front lines of the Mission of God as well. This is both a privilege for us and a blessing for them.

Acts 17:1-9

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

The charge here against Paul was that his allegiance was to another king (Jesus) rather than Caesar. Was their fear was that such allegiance would be forced upon them? Was it that Jesus’ reign would have far-reaching implications that would undercut their freedom? Luke tells us that they were jealous. Their influence was being undercut. They wanted to get rid of Paul and Silas so that their lives could go on as before - untouched and unchanged by this Jesus. Sadly, many people today prefer to remain unchanged by Jesus. They are missing the gift of God, the hope of the resurrection, and the promise of eternal life that comes only through Jesus. Paul knew that. He also knew that God wanted everyone to know of, believe in, and love and serve this King for all eternity.

On this All Saints Day, we rejoice that Paul and many others have embraced this King by faith, and even now experience the eternal salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Acts 18:1-18a

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria,accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.

The place of judgment in worldly terms is before a judge. In England they call it “the dock.” We call it the bench in the USA. It is a location, however, that has great and consequential implications. As we see the place in Corinth at which Paul stood we might recall how Paul remained faithful in the face of false accusation. We may be impressed and thankful that Paul stood strong for the Gospel when threatened. We may regret and shake our heads at the sad reality that people actively oppose the Gospel message. But we must surely be thankful that when we face the great Last Day - before the ultimate place of judgment, through faith in Jesus we will hear words of acquittal. The reality of God’s love will fill our hearts and minds for all eternity.

I Samuel 1:16-18

Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

IMG_0923.JPG

Hannah’s heart was broken both by means of the failure to conceive a child as well as by the ugly treatment of Elkanah’s other wife and Eli’s poor estimation of her. When confronted by Eli her response showed the difference between brokenness and resentment. Both spring from the same well; both spring from pain.
Brokenness, however, is a much different response than resentment or cynicism. Brokenness opens our hearts to God’s love. It allows us to pray with a searching heart. It places us in a position to receive God’s grace. Cynicism requires proof. Resentment requires repayment. Brokenness allows love to heal.
When Hannah answers Eli, she is speaking out of brokenness. Eli’s answer offers her hope, and something wonderful occurs. Hannah’s attitude changes as soon as she hears Eli’s answer.

Prayer from a broken heart, spoken in faith, allows God’s grace to speak. In Hannah’s attitude changes before her circumstances change. This is a lesson for me. It be a lesson for others as well.

1 Samuel 1:12-18

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Painted Church  near Schulenburg, Texas

Painted Church near Schulenburg, Texas

Perhaps you have poured out your heart to God like Hannah did on this occasion. She was a woman “troubled in spirit” speaking out of her “great anxiety.” She desired to have a child. She spoke only in her heart, without sound, but with moving lips. Eli thought she was drunk. He thought she was blaspheming. This leads me to realize that some people don’t understand us when we pray. They don’t understand our motives. They don’t understand our situation. They don’t understand our practice.

If you bow your head before you eat your lunch, it might be awkward for you and your co-workers. If you breathe a little prayer before you take an important test, those around you might not understand. If you spend time in prayer even in your home your own family may not understand. Even Eil, the priest, didn’t understand that Hannah was praying.

But here’s the good news: God understands. He not only understands, he listens and promises to answer our prayers. In the case of Hannah, her prayers will be answered and she will have a son. That, however, is a whole other story. For now, I am thankful that God understands my prayers, hears me, and answers me when I call.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers