Some Good News

One of the unexpected blessings that has emerged in the last two months is John Krasinski’s show called Some Good News. Have you seen it? It is amazing. Krasinski is a well known actor from The Office and the new Jack Ryan series. He developed a wonderful show that he tapes in his family room each week which seeks to bring you one thing: some good news. He staged a presentation of Hamilton for a young girl who had tickets to Hamilton on Broadway for her birthday which of course was cancelled. So Krisinski corralled the cast…including LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA…to a ZOOM production of one of the most popular songs from that show. The girl cried. I cried. Then he did a ZOOM graduation, a ZOOM prom, and even a ZOOM wedding. The show is full of video clips of people from all over the country doing very thoughtful things for others. I have literally cried every week watching all the stories of people just being GOOD.

So in that spirit, today we will focus on a happy reading. Let’s take a trip to Romans to see what kind of encouragement we can discover there. Let’s talk about love. Let’s talk about prayer. Let’s talk about showing honor. Let’s share some good news.

Romans 12 (Common English Bible)

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 

Love that is genuine enables people to hold on to what is good. Where is God calling you to show love without pretending? How can you love the people around you (some of whom are probably unlovable) like members of your family? (Some of whom are definitely unlovable!)

God calls us to be happy in our hope. What an appropriate focus for where we are right now. If we didn’t have hope, where would we be?

Maybe the best way to have hope is to give hope away.

13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.

Take these words to heart. Welcome the stranger. Give to those in need. Bless the folks who are ugly to you. Cry with your friends when they are crying. (Turn on Some Good News. That will take care of it.) Hang out with the marginalized.

In short, the way to be happy in these times is to be like Jesus, the original Good News. You have the power to be some Good News to somebody today. Go do it! You’ll be the one to get the blessing.

No Wake Zone by Michelle Robertson

The Next Invasion

Did you know that cicadas, who have lived underground for 17 years, are planning their comeback? According to ABC News, millions of cicadas will soon make an appearance in the southern part of the United States. They can damage plants when they lay their eggs, causing branches and leaves to split and die. But the greatest threat is to our ears. Cicadas are LOUD, and in numbers estimated to be upwards of one and a half million cicadas per acre, that’s a lot of buggy volume.

I lived through a cicada invasion over 30 years ago when my husband and I were stationed in Texas with the Navy. Having grown up in the northeast, we had never heard of cicadas. All of a sudden we were experiencing the 11th plague. Noisy, flying bugs were literally dropping from the sky en masse. When you drove into the K-Mart parking lot, you could hear them crunching under your tires. We would make a mad dash from the car to the front door and were covered in them in the 30 seconds it took to run. There was no getting away. Picnics and outdoor events were cancelled. They were loud enough to keep us awake at night. Fortunately, the life span of a cicada only lasts four to six weeks, so at least there was an end in sight.

In defense of the cicada, the screeching sounds they make are part of their life cycle. Having no access to dating apps such as Tinder or eharmony, they default to their biology:

The noises that cicadas produce are mating calls from the males who are attempting to attract females. It could be an annoyance to some, considering it is described as an “alien-like wail,” according to Virginia Tech. (ABC News)

Surely this impending invasion will bring a new kind of suffering to the communities they invade.

In 1 Peter, we are given a word of encouragement about suffering. Christians all over the world were experiencing persecution for their belief in Jesus Christ. One of the most significant verses in scripture appears in this passage when we are invited to turn all our worries over to God:

1 Peter 5 (New Revised Standard Version)

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 

Are you experiencing anxiety? Do you worry about your life, your future, your health, your job, and your family? God cares for YOU. You are invited to cast your cares upon the creator of the universe. Imagine that!

Peter then offers sound advice about how to combat the source of many of our troubles. Be disciplined. Stay alert. Resist the devil. Look ahead to your deliverance.

Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

So when suffering comes, remember that you are in good company. Give all that anxiety over to the one who will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. Your steadfast faith and God’s power will bring you through anything. Even a cicada invasion.

Sunlight Flowers by Jan Johnson

Periphery

Do you belong to a church?

Do you love your church?

This pandemic has wreaked havoc with church-goers and their pastors. When we all built our churches, we had no thought that keeping people six feet apart would ever be necessary. We squeezed out every square inch of space and allocated it for classrooms, adequate fellowship halls, and as many pews as we could fit into a sanctuary. Even our hallways are the minimum width required for the amount of people we expect in the building.

Loving your church may be a bit challenging right now. You may be weary of watching your pastor sitting at his/her dining room table, talking into an iPhone. You may be frustrated when the sound is bad and the feed freezes. You probably miss the people who normally sit around you every Sunday. (Come on, now! We know that you sit in the same place every week and have gotten to know them…hahaha!)

We get it. We miss “us,” too. Until our ecclesiastical leaders, our government leaders, doctors, scientists, and our pastoral teams feel comfortable about your safety, we will likely be “open, but un-gathered” a little while longer. Be kind to your church leadership. They are likely losing more sleep over this than you are.

Paul loved his churches. He planted them all over the known world, and kept in touch with them by letter. In his letter to his people in Ephesus, he tells them how thankful he is for their witness and their outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus.

Ephesians 1 The Message

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.

Paul’s love for them turned into a constant prayer that God would help them discern and be smart in their pursuit of Christ, and help them manage the wonderful life to which God has called them. His churches were engaged in the “utter extravagance” of God’s work, and he prayed for their energy and strength:

But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Paul was very clear that while he had planted these churches, Christ was the head. Christ has the final word on everything, and rules the church:

20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.

At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

Did you catch that part about the church not being peripheral to the world? “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world. The world is peripheral to the church.”

So what the world is doing doesn’t influence the church, nor should it. The church is Christ’s body, and it influences the world.

So as we wait to re-gather in our sanctuaries, remember this scripture. Let us take on Paul’s teaching and PRAY FOR (and not prey on) our church leaders.

Pray with thanksgiving for their outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus.

Pray that God would make them intelligent and discerning.

Pray that God would keep their eyes focused and clear.

Pray for endless energy and boundless strength.

Pray that they would experience the presence of Christ, who rules the church.

Are you praying for your Pastor? We sure could use it.

Oregon Inlet Wreck by Kami Trusz

Timing is God’s Business

Think for a moment of all the times you have wished for something, and wanted something to happen that didn’t go the way you planned. Maybe you even prayed about it and your prayers were met with silence. I try to remind myself that God ALWAYS answers our prayers, but sometimes we don’t like the answer. For the most part, his response is one of three things: yes, no, or wait. Of course “wait” might be the hardest one to hear, as it leaves you in some kind of limbo, wondering if he heard you at all.

He did.

But his measure of time and his sense of timing are far higher than ours, just as his thoughts and his ways are higher. When things happen in God’s timing, it is always for our good. But we are an impatient people who want the world and we WANT IT NOW. (Cue Veruca Salt…)

Can you think of a time when you had to wait on God’s timing? Waiting is HARD.

In our Ascension passage today, we find the disciples watching Jesus return to his father after a 40-day period of their being with him after the resurrection. Their hearts are troubled. They don’t want him to leave, but they know that he will come back someday. He promises that if they remain in Jerusalem, they will receive a baptism even better than the one John performed:

Acts 1 (The Message)

1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God.

As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”

Waiting is an important part of this story. Things were not happening quickly, or according to their wishes, but rather at a pace that God had set. Part of what needed to happen during the waiting was for them to readjust their expectations of what Jesus’ return would actually bring:

When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

They were still looking to Jesus to overthrow the existing power structure and establish his kingdom. Even with ALL they knew about their Messiah, they still didn’t quite get the fact that the kingdom he brought was an internal one. It was not time for Jesus to rule the kingdom of Israel just yet:

7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”

As we anticipate the second coming of Christ, let us be about our Father’s work and spread the gospel to Jerusalem (your local community), Judea (your state and country), and Samaria (international destinations). There is much to do while we wait…but as we wait, let us remember that timing is the Father’s business. In his time, he makes all things beautiful.

Waiting for Sunrise

Through Thick and Thin

I have never been embarrassed about my profession as an ordained clergyperson, but to be perfectly honest, there are times when I don’t need or want the scrutiny that it brings. Times when I just want to be a mom or wife without the thousands of questions that come when people find out what I do for a living.

Many years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise with our best friends. We had a great time and loved hanging out with them. They were members of my church, but never treated me differently because I was their pastor.

We got stuck on the ship for a day due to a storm, and the cruise directors quickly came up with things to do onboard to pass the time. They announced that we would be invited to play a “What’s My Line” type of game in the main theater. Contestants with hard-to-guess occupations were solicited, and our friends immediately suggested that I should try out for it.

They took me to the theater to “audition,” and sure enough, I became a contestant. My friend was sure I would win the big prize. You can probably guess the rest: I went on stage, the “expert panel” asked me a series of questions (the audience had already been informed that I was a minister) and after deliberating for a few minutes, they made their best educated guess:

“Are you a Massage Therapist?”

Yep, I won the big prize. A deck of cruise line playing cards.

1 Peter reminds us to never be reluctant to speak up and tell people why we love and serve Jesus:

1 Peter 3 (The Message)

13-18 If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

Being a Christian puts you under a lot of scrutiny these days. People will ridicule and reject you for your beliefs. Through thick and thin, we are reminded to keep our hearts at attention and respond with the utmost courtesy about why we live the way we live. Jesus went through everything just so that we might be brought to God. We should always be ready to tell that to others.

19-22 He went and proclaimed God’s salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn’t listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.

Our job, then, is to live our lives out loud, with a clear conscience and a full understanding that what we say, and more importantly DO, might bring others to Christ…or not.

Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

Home for Dinner By Michelle Robertson

Truth

Truth. What an elusive word. Truth is very much on trial these days. The twisting and manipulating of facts to fit political agendas is so rampant that we don’t trust anything, and we question everything…as we should. What is the truth? Can we ever know anymore?

God’s word is the last remaining truth, and yet we see even scripture being used to forward agendas. Clever people can argue a scripture “both ways” in order to push a personal perspective. It happens at all levels of ecclesiastical structures, the government, and even from your local pulpit and Sunday School class.

I think we have forgotten that God has sent us an advocate who is the only one capable of speaking truth into a situation. The Holy Spirit, referred to as a Companion in this translation, was given to us by Jesus upon his departure from this earth so that we might know the truth. But notice how this passage starts:

John 14 (Common English Bible)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.

Jesus is making a direct connection between keeping the commandments and knowing the truth. The commandments are something else we have forgotten. In a world that doesn’t know or follow God’s rule of living, truth becomes muddled and unobtainable. And while the Ten Commandments still stand as foundational to our society and even our laws, let us not forget what Jesus said are the greatest ones:

Matthew 22 (New International Version)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The TRUTH of the matter is, if we were to do just these two things, truth would be revealed. If we were actually capable of loving God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind, we would contain the truth within ourselves. Loving God with all our minds would mean there is no room for hate-talk, vitriol, prejudice, bias, or ostracizing the “other.” The truth would render us incapable of doing and saying much of what we do and say today. The truth would enable us to truly love our neighbor, and in so loving, all political and personal agendas would cease.

Notice how Jesus refers again to keeping the commandments:

John 14 continued

18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Want to know the truth? Try being the truth. Try filtering all of your thinking through the commandments. And where your thinking doesn’t measure up to loving God and loving what he loves, change your mind. If your words and deeds don’t measure up to loving your neighbor, change your behavior. The Holy Spirit enables us to love as God loves. That’s the truth.

The Truth Will Set Us Free by Barbara Hudson

Comparison Trap

Sandra Stanley wrote an insightful, provocative, and eye-opening book called the Comparison Trap. She explores how advertising and social media can pull us into an endless loop of comparing ourselves with the polished and artificial images we see on television, print ads, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, FAKEBook…yes, FAKEBook. So we tune in or log on in the morning, and we see an ad for a brand new Lexus and think, “Wish I had one!” Then our friend’s vacation pictures pop up on Facebook, and in the back of our minds we are thinking, “What’s wrong with us? We can’t afford a vacation like that.” 

Someone else boasts that their child won the spelling bee, got straight A’s, was named “Student of the Year” right after being selected for the first child to go into outer space, AND won an Oscar. And we think, “I can’t even get my kid to put the toilet seat down.” 

Your friend posts pictures of her new Jenny Craig-body and the caption under her picture (in her new purple bikini, looking AMAZING) reads, “Just turned 55! Finally going the speed limit!!” And you think, “I HOPE YOU DIE IN A CAR CRASH!! IN YOUR BRAND NEW LEXUS!!” OK, you don’t really think that, but you sure feel bad about your own tootsie rolls when you look at her toned abs.

The comparison trap leads us to all kinds of anxiety. The conscious and unconscious practice of CONSTANTLY comparing ourselves to the images we see around us leads us to be more and more unhappy with our spouses, bodies, careers, income, cars, kids’ performance in school and sports, our houses…

I confess that I cannot look at one more Joanna Gaines post. I love everything she does. It is impossibly beautiful. But she makes me feel so inadequate! I look at my living room and go BLECCCCH. I can’t invite somebody over here, there is no FARMHOUSE CHIC anywhere in this place! I have had to kindly rebuke all things Magnolia in the name of Jesus.

Jesus reminds us that stealing joy is an active pursuit of the devil:

John 10:10 (New International Version)

10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

And make no mistake: it’s not just the Enemy who is stealing our joy, killing our calm, and destroying our happiness. IT’S US. Every time you open your device and do that two-finger-expand thing to enlarge a picture for a closer scrutiny, you are opening the trap wider for feelings of discontent, insecurity, and inadequacy to come flooding in. We are our own worst enemy.

But Jesus continues:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Having life to the full means pulling away from every source of unhappiness, including feeling bad about other people’s good fortune, success, appearance, and lifestyle. It means graciously accepting ourselves for who we are.

Stick to what you have. Learn to love who you are. Stop comparing your orange to the apples around you. Find contentment in your backyard and quit looking over the fence. Look at your own Jesus-life in the loving arms of the savior, and ask him to show you the fullness of life that only he gives.

When you see things the way he sees them, your peace will return…in abundance.

It’s A Trap

God-Created

I need to start this devotional with an apology. I have a beef. I apologize that I am about to hurt some feelings. The beef is about the way people are attributing things that happen in their lives to the whim and fortunes of “the Universe.” I have seen this all over social media. I get it. It’s trendy. It’s cool. It’s….wrong.

In short, the “Universe” has no power of its own. It can’t control your fate, bring you good luck, find the right mate for you, or open doors to success. The universe is just part of God’s creation. HE is the one to whom we should attribute our lives and our blessings. God’s creation can not do this. Only God can.

I am in good company when it comes to this. When he traveled to Athens to share the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul saw a lot of things that weren’t right.

Acts 17 (The Message)

22-23 So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.

The Greeks had created a god-structure which was represented in stone, and worshipped these gods as powerful deities. Paul set them straight.

24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

Christians, here comes the warning. God will overlook these slights as long as we don’t know any better.

We know better.

30-31 “God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”

A radical life-change means we don’t follow trends, use popular language the way the secular world uses it, or stray from the things we have been taught. Give God the credit he deserves. He is the only one who is capable of offering you a future with hope. Even the universe knows this.

Praise God of the Universe by Bonnie Bennett

Through Fire and Water

There is a great debate among the faithful about the pandemic and God’s activity in it. Some people believe that God has brought this upon the earth as a corrective measure. The effect of the stay-at-home orders on the environment is cited to support this notion. As the air and the waters clear up, people in that camp point to the lessening of pollution (due to the fact that we aren’t driving and flying as much) as part of God’s purpose in “causing” the pandemic. They point to the plagues of the Old Testament to solidify their argument.

Others are in the camp of “God allows.” This perspective suggests that there are things that simply happen that God allows. In other words, God didn’t cause it, but has allowed a virus like this to sweep the globe, which has brought needed changes and is teaching us many important things. God has allowed this situation, which has brought us a cleansing of the environment. This notion encourages us to know that what he “allows” is within his control, and in his time, it will end.

Wherever you stand on this, or if you don’t care either way, it is good to know certain things about God’s activity in a disaster.

We can know that he is with us.

We can know that he has brought us through fire and water, and he will bring us through this.

We can know that even when he corrects us, he does so with mercy and love.

We can know that he brings us through the refining fires of testing to a rich fulfillment that only he can provide.

Listen to how the Psalmist puts it:

Psalm 66 (New King James)

Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard,
Who keeps our soul among the living,
And does not allow our feet to be moved.


10 For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
11 You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.
12 You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.

Our response, regardless of how we got here, should always be worship. Worship reminds us of who we are, and whose we are.

13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,
14 Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals,
With the sweet aroma of rams;
I will offer bulls with goats. Selah

So if you are having a bad day/week/month, if you are worn out and ready for this pandemic to be OVER, remind yourself of all of the times that God has already rescued you. Can you name them?

Certainly God has heard us. And he always attends to the voice of our prayers.

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
17 I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
19 But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!

God has not turned away. So let us learn everything from him that he is trying to teach us right now. His mercy is always ready to be given! Blessed be the Lord.

Blessed be God! By Margaret Brushwood

Come

Isn’t it exciting to be invited to come to a party or event? Back when all invitations were delivered by mail, it was a thrill to open that small colored envelope that indicated an invitation to a baby shower, birthday party, graduation ceremony, or some other special event. Receiving an invitation was the height of inclusion. Somebody wanted YOU. Your presence was requested. The party would not be the same without you, so COME.

God is the ultimate invitation-giver. The entire bible might be summed up in the word “come.” Come to me, all you weary people. Come to me and rest. Come and be healed. Come and find peace. Just come.

In the 55th chapter of Isaiah, we receive a beautiful invitation. This one is offered to the thirsty, the poor, the hungry, and the people of every nation:

Isaiah 55 (New International Version)

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Even the wicked are invited to come, and we are all invited to seek the Lord. Mercy is found when people seek God.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

In the mystery of this universal invitation, all are invited to come for pardon. This may confuse us. We may question the offer of pardoning to the evil ones who have brought so much destruction to others. Yet God reserves the right to invite whomever he pleases…and it is not for us to question. His thoughts and ways are far higher than ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it
.

So we have two jobs today. One is to accept the invitation to come before the Lord and receive all of his mercy, pardon, and blessing. The other is to extend that invitation to the most vulnerable and hurting among us. Go, and do likewise. Or better still, come.

Come and See the Beauty of Creation by Wende Pritchard