Micah 7:8-20

Readings for this week November 18 – 22
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Capital Conversation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:8-10

A subtle shift in the manner of address in verse 8 signals that we have moved from the prophetic accusation against the people in 7:1-7, to a direct address of the nation’s enemy. In the Hebrew, all the nouns and verbs are in the mode of the feminine singular; the enemy nation is being represented as a female figure, as a way of showing the relationship between the two nations in a more dramatic fashion, in this case, as two women speaking with each other. (The quote in verse 10 is a quote from the enemy and is directed back at her, also in the same mode – thus, two women). Much of the language in the remainder of this chapter echoes the anti-Assyrian language of Isaiah 9-10, and so a fairly safe assumption would be that the two women are the personifications of the capital cities of Judah (Zion) and Assyria (Nineveh).

So what does “Lady Zion” say to “Lady Nineveh”? That Nineveh should not gloat over or taunt Zion for Nineveh’s time of destruction will come soon enough. Lady Zion accepts her punishment as just, as coming from God, and as no more than she deserves for her waywardness and sin. But she also claims that God will eventually vindicate her, and destroy Nineveh in part because of her taunting of Zion (“Where is your God?”). For Judah, for God’s people, there will be redemption and rescue, but only after a period of trial and oppression. Though Judah’s punishment is justified, the story does not end there. Even the reality of God’s judgement does not preclude or obscure the reality of God’s love.

Questions to Consider
How do judgement and love fit together? What is one without the other?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me see when stories are not yet over, when there is more still to come, a Godly twist in the tale that offers hope in the midst of pain. Help me be that hope in the lives of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Promise and Threat

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:11-13

We’ve heard from “Lady Zion”. We’ve heard her ringing affirmation that though Judah will be punished – and rightly so – and that she accepts her punishment, that God will also restore her and rescue his people, while trampling her enemies underfoot. But how well-placed is this confidence in God’s mercy? Well, we’re about to find out, because in verse 11 the speaker changes from “Lady Zion”, who now becomes the audience, to the prophet Micah, speaking God’s response to what has been said. However, even though what is said clearly speaks of reprieve and judgement, that a threat is also included makes these three verses rather difficult to work out. It all depends on how the reader fits them together, and how we want to read verse 12.

Read verses 11 and 12 only. Taken together, these two verses seem to be promising that Judah will have time to rebuild her walls (after exile?) before people flock to her (scattered Jews? The nations?). The verses seem hopeful and full of promise. Now read verses 12 and 13 only. Suddenly the picture is more threatening. The return of so many people to the land (foreign invaders?) ends with the land destroyed. Read verse 12 with 11 and it seems to promise a return of scattered exiles; read it with verse 13 and it seems that judgement is coming in the form of foreign invaders. These verses, depending on how we read them and when we read them (pre- or post-exile perhaps?) contain both a real promise and an imminent threat.

Questions to Consider
What do you think Micah expects to see happen to/for his people? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, when things seem uncertain and confusing, remind me of the certainty and surety of your presence and your love. No matter what I go through, you are greater than it all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Distant Consequences

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:14-15

We cannot necessarily see all the consequences that stem from the decisions we make, both individually and collectively. This is especially true when the possible consequences will not reveal themselves for many years to come, leading us to ignore them, or deliberately leave them to be dealt with by later generations. The arrival in Judah of the Assyrian military threat would have come as no surprise to those living in the eastern Mediterranean world at the time. Anyone paying attention to the contemporary political situation, and with knowledge of local history and current conditions, would have seen much Assyrian posturing and positioning for influence and power, and would have been able to guess what her future ambitions would be. But as the results of Assyrian aggression were still many decades away, so calls by the prophets to be wary and to prepare were ignored.

For Judah at the time, the crisis was concerning, but not daunting – no need to act right away, there was still plenty of time. Seen from the perspective of later generations (like those in exile following Judah’s destruction), the failure of the people to act and respond would appear as at best short-sighted, at worst selfish. God’s people are not immune from choices and their consequences. Many things in our world at the moment are crying out for attention, things that will have far reaching consequences. Are we listening to God’s guiding voice in order to focus on the things we, as his people, should be focusing on? Are we being responsible and stepping up and stepping into what he is calling us to?

Question to Consider
What do you feel God’s people are ignoring today?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive our inaction and apathy; stir us into motion so we can truly be your people, wherever you are, loving who you love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Fear of Yahweh, Hope in Yahweh

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:16-17

We move from Micah’s prayer of intercession to a pair of verses that seem to delight in the terror the nations will experience in the face of God. What causes the nations of the world to fear? Essentially it is in response to God coming to Judah’s aid, vindicating his people and restoring them to their former glory. There are echoes in this description of the original conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites and the responses of the nations to the conquest. In places like Deuteronomy 28:10 and 31:2-6, as well as Joshua 2:9 and 2:24, specific mention is made of the conquered people trembling or melting with fear. The actions described in Micah show the nations in the grip of a paralysing fear, unable to speak, full of shame, eating dust and fleeing their cities – all because of God.

God has power over the nations, and the nations will ultimately see this power manifested in the ways in which God comes to the aid of his people. As well as a reminder to the world of God’s power and sovereignty, it is also a reminder to Judah that their only hope is in God – there is no other source of rescue or salvation available to them. It is a further reminder of the need to cleave to God in all things, at all times, as his protection is their only hope, as their own past history – and God’s reminders of this history – attests. The only possible response to this God and his saving acts in history for his people, is love, obedience and gratitude, for all he has done, and for all he yet promises to do.

Questions to Consider
Why will God coming to the aid of his people provoke fear in others? What is the purpose of this? Have you ever seen this happen?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for all you have done for us and all that you promise to do. May we be worthy of your love and provision, and may others be attracted by your love for your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – One Final Promise, To Be Embodied One Day…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:18-20

The book of Micah contains much that God (through Micah) would have greatly preferred not to have to say to his people, and many things that the people of Judah would have preferred not to hear from God. Many of the accusations God levelled at Judah were, though accurate, incredibly harsh and graphic in their presentation; some would have been downright offensive and unbelievable. (Why would the God who caused the Temple to be built destroy it? Why would he lay waste to Zion? Impossible!). Micah is a very sobering book to read, a reminder of the impossibility of ignoring God without catastrophic consequences.

But that is not the final word. Throughout the book the prophet presents hopeful interludes of promises of deliverance, restoration and peace, signs that, even in the midst of their sin and rebellion, God still loves his people and will not abandon them, come what may. It is therefore fitting that the collection of Micah’s sayings and oracles ends with a celebration of God’s mercy, extolling the virtues of his grace and forgiveness. His anger does not burn forever, and he does not forever remember his people’s crimes. He is merciful, he is kind, and, just as he has always done and will continue to do, he will wipe away his people’s transgressions and remember their sin no more. Circumstances and consequences are not as powerful as God’s enduring love for us. Though destruction was still to come and its consequences were still being lived out, the final word is God’s final word: a word of mercy and love.

Question to Consider
How are verses 19-20 fulfilled by the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your promise of hope and mercy, and for embodying that hope and mercy in the person of your son. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 4

Readings for this week November 11 – 15
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Change of Pace

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:1-5

We now come upon an interlude that, tonally, contrasts markedly with the preceding chapters of Micah. The first three chapters of Micah spoke of condemnation and judgement: the people, including the religious and political leaders, had turned away from God, corruption was rife, society was corroding, and therefore God’s just punishment was coming. The message of the book has been fairly bleak up to this point. But now we move to an editorial interregnum of hope and peace. The promises given in this chapter may be for a day that is far off in the distant future, but they focus on two central themes: the importance of Jerusalem (thus showing that even Micah’s shocking announcement of Jerusalem’s destruction is not the end of the story), and the inclusion of all the nations of the earth among the people who will flock to the city to meet God there.

The nations will recognise God as a great teacher, one who teaches how to live life under his guidance. Because of God’s presence in Jerusalem, the word of God – his wisdom – will flow from the city to all who seek it, and who seek him. He is the ultimate judge, who judges wisely and fairly, and for the benefit of all and the purpose of bringing peace. The inhabitants of the land will be at peace with the surrounding nations. God was never going to abandon his people. Punishment was not to be the end of the story. Consequences would have to be endured, yes, but restoration, peace and the flourishing of the nation – and the nations – was God’s ultimate plan.

Question to Consider
What is the contrasting picture between this chapter and the earlier chapters of Micah?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your message of hope, even in the midst of destruction. Help us hold to hope and trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Swords into Ploughshares

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:3

“[A]n Anglican bishop in Mozambique decided to do something about the proliferation of arms in his country towards the end of a civil war that decimated the nation. He went to every province and asked people what they thought might jeopardize peace in the future. One person responded: “Guns, we have so many guns in our hands. Both sides have been very generous in dishing out guns just like that, so when peace comes are those guns going to be just left alone?” The bishop was not prepared for this question but after much prayer and reflection he received his theological answer from the books of Micah and Isaiah. The following day he announced that disarmament from a biblical perspective would begin, and he issued a request that guns would be returned to collection centres throughout the land. The guns would then be made unusable and exchanged for instruments for production. Since this program started over one million guns and other weapons have been collected and transformed. The program was called “Turning Swords into Ploughshares.” To inspire the future generation, children were encouraged to bring their toy guns to church, where they were smashed, and they were given in exchange toys that did not inspire violence.

“A particularly powerful illustration of the same principle emerges from World War II…An American army chaplain made a set of communion cups from machine gun bullets by extracting the lead and the gunpowder and turning the resulting cases into receptacles for wine, representing the blood of Christ. When he shared communion with a Japanese minster after the war, the lesson was not lost. Bullets that were intended to harm and kill became instruments of life and peace and reconciliation. Whereas the machine gun bullet was once intended to produce blood and death, it had been transformed to contain a drink of everlasting life.”

Stephen G. Dempster, Micah, p.260.

Question to Consider
How can we actively and practically bring peace to our world?

Prayer
Loving Father, may we bring peace to this troubled world by being active agents of justice and reconciliation in every corner of your world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Remnant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:6-8

For Micah, his message – God’s message – is not just about warning and judgement, and the future arrival of devastating catastrophe. There is also a message of hope, words of support and promise for the remnant community that survives the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying off of the Judahite survivors into captivity and exile in Babylon. As well as this double message of judgement and hope, there is also the fact that the book of Micah (as well as a significant number of other books in the Hebrew scriptures) were collated and edited together at a later date, often only reaching their final form long after the prophet has delivered his oracles. They were collected and edited by a community that was in exile, that had already undergone the very catastrophe Micah was warning about.

God promised, through Micah, that he would not abandon them, even though they would suffer through the punishment their spiritual hubris had brought down upon them. Before, during and after, he would be with them, no matter what happened. His faithfulness to his people was not in question, even if theirs to him was. The fact is the compilers of the book of Micah were living in exile, yes, but this was the very time God had promised his people that he would be with them. They were living witnesses to the fact that God had warned them of the catastrophe that had fallen upon them; but they were also witnesses to the fact that God had not abandoned his faithful followers. He was still with them and would remain so. He can be trusted. His promises do come to pass.

Question to Consider
What does talk of a remnant that will be restored mean to you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, God of restoration and renewal, remember me when your kingdom comes and all is made new. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Importance of Faithfulness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:9-12

Is destruction and ruin always needed before deliverance can come? And if so, for whom is such destruction earmarked? All those not God’s people? God’s people too? Anyone found to fall short of God’s requirements and who ignores his commands, no matter who they are and what people they belong to? These questions, today, should give us pause, and halt us from giving a glib, unthinking answer that automatically assumes that only God’s enemies (and the enemies of God’s people) are being referred to.

As interesting as that question is, and as important as the answer may be to us, the issue is really more about our obedience and faithfulness to a God who has always been – and will always be – faithful to his people, even if such faithfulness requires administering occasional judgement and correction on his part. Perhaps deliverance and restoration do require destruction – but only because, however dire the consequences of our actions and however just judgement may be, God will always be true to his word, he will punish iniquity, deal with sin – and still restore his people. The real question is: what will his people do in the meantime? How will they live? Micah presents two possible ways in which people can respond. One is a litany of vice, selfishness, Godlessness, oppression, injustice and corruption. The other way is a simple call to justice, kindness, mercy and love for God and neighbour. Those who follow this way need not fear destruction. God will have the last word.

Question to Consider
What do you think you would like God to remove from your life so you can become more obedient to him?

Prayer
Almighty God, may we always follow the call to justice, no matter where it leads. May others know us for our kindness, justice and mercy. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Past, Present and Future

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:13-14

The book of Micah, and the rest of the Book of the Twelve, is a good example of the coherence of God’s prophetic message and of its relevance and importance beyond the specific places and times it may be directly referring to. Past, present and future are all woven into the tapestry of Micah and the other Minor Prophets. Past events, present concerns and warnings, the arrival of prophesied future punishment as well as promised hope and restoration – all combine together and influence each other and illustrate the coherence of God’s message. It is this coherence, and the lessons and instructive wisdom that we can glean from these messages – about the nature and character of God and about ourselves – that make the prophets important for us today.

Reading about the past informs the present. We learn that current circumstances have a history. There is a discernible path that leads to where we are today. The readers of Micah in exile could see that previous generations had refused to listen to God’s message. The decisions of the past affected the(ir) present. They would have read about how God delivered on his promise of judgement, at the same time as experiencing God’s promise to be with them in exile. And their decisions in the present will affect the future. How will they live now? Will they choose to remain faithful? Will they remain watchful against corruption and injustice? Will they listen to the words of God and live as he has called them to? Will we?

Questions to Consider
How are the prophets and their message a part of the regular rhythms of your life? What do we learn from them about God and ourselves?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may your words sink deep into my heart; may they manifest themselves in my love as a sign of your transforming power in my life and of your love for all people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 3:1-12 & 6:1-16

Readings for this week November 4 – 8
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Shouldn’t You Know Justice?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 3:1-4

Rhetorical questions need no answer because the answer is obvious, it is inherent in the question. Clearly the nation’s leaders should know and do what is right, but they do not do it. They have failed in their duties to lead properly. In fact, so badly have they performed, so warped are their values, so corrupted is their leadership, that Micah inverts the famous call of Amos 5:15 to “Hate evil, love good” and accuses them of hating good and loving evil, coupling it with a (metaphorical) accusation of cannibalism. This horrific image is designed to show the leaders’ behaviour in the most graphic way imaginable. This is what they are doing to their own people. Rather than shepherding their flock, they are feasting on them; rather than dispensing justice, they are fleecing them, abusing their power in the name of greed.

Rhetorical questions need no answer, but the prophet provides one and twists the knife further by coming at the question from the other end. Shouldn’t the leaders know justice? Shouldn’t they be judged for their crimes against the very people they are supposed to lead, guide and protect? Shouldn’t they be punished for their iniquity? Shouldn’t God’s justice be visited upon them? Again, the answer is obvious: yes they will be judged and will feel God’s wrath poured out upon them as judgement for the way they exploited their people, the poor, the widowed, the orphan. They will know God’s punishment and they will be in for a shock when that punishment comes and God does not intervene to rescue them.

Questions to Consider
How much do you think the leadership of a nation defines its character? Why might this be important?

Prayer
Lord God, you spoke truth to those in power, through your prophets and through your son. You call us to do the same. May we do so fearlessly and always in the service of those damaged by the abuse of power. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Lone Voice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 3:5-12

It is not easy to be a lone voice calling for justice in the midst of corruption, exploitation and injustice. Confronting those in power when they abuse their power is never easy. But standing on the side of justice – and at the side of those oppressed by injustice – is what God calls us to do, just like he called Micah to do. When other prophets and priests were leading the people astray, Micah stood up and proclaimed the justice – and just punishment – of God and denounced those in positions of power. So powerful were his words (treasonous even, from the leaders’ point of view) they echoed down the years to the time of Jeremiah, one hundred years later, when that prophet, also confronting a corrupt leadership cabal, was similarly threatened with death. It was only the words of Micah, quoted back to the king (3:12 in particular), that turned the king from putting Jeremiah to death.

The words of Micah echo around us as well, today, and, if we are listening properly, present us with a series of questions in need of answering. In the midst of the clamour and clatter and comfort of our lives, do we still have the ability to hear the voice of God calling for justice? When our own entrenched ideas and beliefs are challenged by God, do we respond? Do we fail to see suffering? Do we block out injustice? Do the cries of people in distress fall on deaf ears? Or, like Micah, when God speaks, do we listen, obey, and act, no matter the cost to our prestige, popularity or comfort?

Questions to Consider
What is the difference between Micah and the false prophets? How does this difference help define who we are in our society?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, remove the blinders from our eyes and the walls from our hearts that stop us seeing injustice. Push us to look harder and deeper at our world and its people, to see how you see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Indictment as History Lesson

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:1-5

Again we begin with the call to “Hear”, as we return to the themes of Micah 1-3, and God calls the courtroom into session once more. God has a complaint against his people, a lawsuit to bring against them of cosmic proportions, as attested to by the call to plead the case before the mountains and the hills. The arrival promised in chapter 1 has now eventuated: God is here, bringing suit against his rebellious, unfaithful people, calling upon them to tell him how he has offended them, only to immediately present them with a litany of past historical occasions in which he rescued them from destruction and delivered them from slavery into the promised land – a land that is now seriously under threat, not just from invading Assyrian armies, but also from the possible punishment that would follow a guilty verdict from God.

It is interesting that the majority of the accusation against Judah is taken up with a recitation of God’s salvific acts on behalf of his people. It is more a history of redemption – liberation from slavery, guidance in the wilderness, deliverance from Balaam’s curse and the gift of the land itself – than a list of indictments. The point is that this history lesson is meant to remind the people of God’s great love and provision for them, the way he has walked with them, guided and protected them, and given them the gift of the covenant with him. This, in turn, should have led them to a life of covenant faithfulness, walking in the ways of God, to be holy as God is holy, a nation blessed so that others could be blessed.

Question to Consider
What would such a history lesson from your life look like?

Prayer
Loving Father, remind us of your saving power. Remind us of the times when you were with us, when you saved us, when you guided us and answered our cries. May we be slow to forget. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – True Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:6-8

What is true worship? How are we to approach God? Micah gives three examples of what a person should bring before God, each building on and escalating the intensity of the one before. Burnt offerings, thousands of animals and streams of oil, leading finally to the offering of the first-born child: the value increases each time as does the sacrifice required of the one performing the sacrifice. But God does not want more and more of the same ritualistic actions that can be found in any society, and, despite the people’s sins, were no doubt still being ritualistically offered in the Temple at the time. Ethical behaviour is far more important than sacrificial rites, regardless of where such rites originated.

Notice how just as the three offerings mentioned increased in value, so are the answers to what God requires of us presented in the same way: a movement from acts of love for one’s neighbour (doing justice and loving kindness) through to acts illustrative of loving God (walking humbly with him). We are called to move from a life concerned with performing rituals that offer things to God, to a life given over in its entirety to God, a life filled with loving kindness towards all. These verses are not religious pieties. They are not feel-good spiritual bromides. They are the summation of what it means to be truly human – truly made in the image of God – from the one who made us and calls us to be his embodiment in this world. This is what is required of us as his people, in order to ensure that all people can flourish.

Questions to Consider
What doers God NOT require? Why? What is our modern equivalent of these things?

Prayer
Almighty God, sink these verses deep inside us, transform us, and turn us into walking embodiments of true worship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Judging Injustice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:9-16

God has finished arguing in court against his people. Now he moves on to the punishment that is coming, a punishment that will fall heavily upon the people. What God has called his people to – the ways of kindness and mercy and humility proclaimed in verses 6-8 – has been ignored, and contrasts with the behaviour they are accused of in verses 10-12. Their punishments will fit their crimes: those who gorge themselves, those who store things up for themselves, those who seek to enjoy their harvests – all will be disappointed. They will go hungry. What they save will be lost. What they plant will not be harvested. What they look forward to will be taken away. All of these things, so crucial to the life of the nation of Judah, will be taken away. Destruction and exile will follow, as the consequences of sin and rebellion.

God’s word is for all of us. He speaks to all of us. In this chapter of Micah we have seen that God has had something to say to everyone: king, priests, prophets, leaders, the general population. His message of compassion and kindness and justice is directed at everyone; living these values out is the way to be human. But God doesn’t just proclaim how we are to live and then walk away and leave us to it. He watches. He empowers. He guides. He remains with his people. And therefore, when his people stray, when his priests and prophets and leaders oppress and exploit his people and perpetuate injustice, he acts.

Questions to Consider
What is an appropriate response to God’s accusations against his people? How do you respond when God calls you out on something?

Prayer
Loving Lord, thank you for loving us enough to correct us, and loving us enough to want us to join in your saving work. Teach us wisdom, love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 2:1-13 & 7:1-7

Readings for this week October 28 – November 1
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Judgement is Coming

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:1-5

We begin with what seems like a traditional woe oracle that very quickly becomes an oracle of judgement. Micah is railing against those who greedily plan and plot the destruction of the lives of others. His cry is not against random crimes but is rather levelled at systematic plans that are deliberately and intentionally hatched as part of a calculated attempt to steal and to oppress. What these people covet – houses, fields – they scheme for and then take. They are blind to the consequences of their sin, especially the effect it has on others. They have made an enemy of God – a enemy they have no hope of defeating – and verse 3 shifts to the judgement that God is planning to visit upon them, God’s plotting against them echoing their own earlier scheming. The powerful will soon become powerless.

We are called to serve others and to work for their well-being and the health of the entire community. We are always to act in the cause of justice, never in the cause of self-interest and illicit gain. We must continually scrutinise our own motivations and actions and make sure we are not manipulating people and situations for our own gain, or supporting actions and systems that oppress or impoverish others. There is also, beyond the level of our possible individual culpability, the issue of wider social systems and structures that also need to be critiqued and held up to the scrutiny of the gospel and God’s call to justice.

Questions to Consider
How often do you scrutinise your motivations for what you do? How do you alter a bad motivation?

Prayer
Lord God, may I not shy away from the self-examination that reveals the true motives for my actions. Show me the truth of myself and the truth of who you are and how I am to act. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Stark Choice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:6-11

Micah is God’s prophet, sent to deliver God’s message to his people. Micah now issues a stern challenge and rebuke to those who would ignore God’s message and even attempt to stand in his (God’s) way. Those we read about yesterday, those who plan and plot to steal from others, and who tyrannise and coerce them until they get what they want, they are the recipients of Micah’s challenge here. He is speaking on behalf of those who are suffering the depredations of the rich and powerful. Although scholars debate where exactly each of the multiple speakers in this passage begin and end, the challenge to those in power is clear: they accumulate wealth through nefarious means; they use their power to persecute others rather than pursue justice; and they live their lives as if they believe God doesn’t care about what they are doing and couldn’t stop them even if he did.

Micah’s offer to them: flee, for destruction is coming. The upright will hear God’s truth in Micah’s words and find guidance for how to live. For others, destruction is coming, but even then, as we will read tomorrow, that isn’t the end of the story either. The challenge to us is to make sure we walk upright before God and before our fellow human beings. We cannot retreat into a sealed Christian ghetto. Integrity, honesty, compassion, self-sacrificial love – these are to be the hallmarks of God’s people, even in a society in which the rich and powerful do otherwise; especially where they do otherwise.

Questions to Consider
How would Micah’s message go down in today’s society? In today’s church?

Prayer
Heavenly father, help me not only to hear your truth but to live your truth together with others, as your people, as a beacon of love and forgiveness in your rebellious world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – But There is Still Hope

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:12-13

This brief message of hope interrupts the message of judgement, telling of Yahweh himself coming to gather and lead a remnant to safety. These brief couple of verses suggest that deliverance is at hand for a handful of survivors, the remnant of verse 12. With Yahweh at their head, he has come to gather the survivors together, to lead them to safety. The fact that they are referred to as a remnant – survivors, if you like – suggests that judgement has come and they are now on the other side of it. It is highly unlikely that trouble has been taken to gather the survivors together in order to inflict further punishment upon them. Yahweh gathers them like a flock in a pen and then leads them out from the pen.

Another theological point is being made: judgement and salvation both come from God. The prophetic call, both here and throughout the Book of the Twelve (the collection of the books of the Twelve minor prophets – minor due to length, not importance), is one that calls the people to change their behaviour and turn back to follow the ways and precepts of their God because the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. They are called to change, and once it becomes clear that they won’t, judgement comes, judgement that cannot be avoided. The guilty will be held accountable for their behaviour. Injustice and exploitation will be punished; the wicked will be judged, and the poor and oppressed led to safety.

Questions to Consider
How does it feel to know that judgement and salvation both come from God? What relationship is there between the two?

Prayer
Loving Father, may we walk in solidarity with the poor and oppressed; may we only ever be agents of love, leading them to the safety of your embrace, to a just and fair world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Prophet Laments

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:1-6

We jump forward to the beginning of the final chapter of the book of Micah, but as we will see, there is thematic reason to do so at this juncture. Chapter 2 saw God, through the prophet, scold his people for their sinfulness and promise destruction if they – the rich and powerful in particular – did not change their ways. We now skip ahead to the first part of chapter 7, where, appropriately enough in the light of what has gone before, we find Micah lamenting over the state of the nation and its people. All of society is in confusion and disorder. Again, injustice is highlighted as a significant issue and, again, the nation’s judges and officials are raked over the coals for their wickedness and impiety. But in an additional twist, Micah also decries the fact that, as well as the leaders’ failings, it seems that not even friends and family members can trust each other anymore.

Micah is lamenting. He is saddened, distraught even, over what he sees around him. He is not pulling his punches over the state of society and the iniquity of its people, and he holds nothing back in his condemnation of a society in which no one can trust anyone else, at any level of society, from government down to family and friends. But what he sees around him is cause for sorrow. He knows how things should be, he knows how people should be treating each other and who they should be positioning themselves towards but he does not see it. Anywhere. At all. What can he do other than literally cry to God?

Questions to Consider
Have you ever despaired over your neighbourhood/city/nation/society? Why? What resulted?

Prayer
Holy Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours. May love move me to tears and to action. May I look with compassion upon and act with love towards your hurting world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Prophet Waits

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:7

People could be forgiven for seeing in the litany of 7:1-6 a reflection of our society at this moment in time. Division, suspicion, oppression, injustice, lack of trust, dismissal of anything even tangentially related to God – we see a mixture of these elements, and more, spreading across the world, it seems with gathering speed. When faced with a society that has abandoned God and lost any sense of community, any sense of meaning and proportion, what are we, as people of faith, to do? Turn our backs and abandon society? Retreat into our own Christian enclaves and ghettoes and wait for God to move? Passively resist? Give up?

In response to a society in which no one trusts each other anymore and which no longer trusts in God, trusting is exactly what Micah chooses to do. In contrast to a society that has turned its back on its God, cast away his commandments and his covenant, and abandoned even the pretence of relying on his provision and care, Micah vows to wait for God, his saviour. Why? Because God has already spoken through the law and the prophets what is good and what is to be done, something that, through Micah himself, God has beautifully reiterated, as we shall see next week, in Micah 6:8: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. We need to wait on God, and while we do so, live the lives that he has called us to. Lives illustrative of and committed to justice, lives informed by kindness, lives lived humbly before our God, trusting that through our faithfulness and his spirit, those around us will see his light and his love shine through us.

Questions to Consider
Where do you see God moving in our world to remedy these problems? How are you a part of God’s solution?

Prayer
Lord God, guide us into a way of life and a way of love through which others will see you manifest in all we do. Shine your light and love in us. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah

Readings for this week October 21 – 25
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Micah’s Message

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:1

Although, as with all the prophets, the focus is on God and his relationship to his somewhat wayward people, we begin with a little bit about Micah himself. He was a prophet to the nation of Judah, during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which gives an approximate minimum period of 35 years or so in which he was prophesying. We do not know whether we have all the oracles he spoke over this time, but even what we do have is memorable enough. Micah’s message would have been terribly shocking to his audience for the simple reason that he was the first prophet to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He was definitely a prophet with a message that people would not have wanted to hear.

As we will see as we make our way through the book of Micah, these messages promising destruction and judgement alternate with messages of promise and hope. The book contains both negative and positive words for the people of Jerusalem and Judah. The challenge that God brings to his people in the present is necessary if they are to have any chance of a hopeful future. At the end of the book, the reader is left with a sense of hope for the long journey ahead and the certainty of God’s promise to and presence with his people, yet they are also left with dread at what will happen before these promises come to fruition. There will be punishment and destruction before there will be restoration and renewal. But Yahweh will be present through it all.

Questions to Consider
What do you know about the book of Micah? Have you read it before? What do you know of the importance of the prophet’s message?

Prayer
Lord God, speak to me through your word – encouragement when I need it, correction when I need that too. May I always listen to what you say, even when I don’t like it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – All Those With Business Before This Court…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:2-5

We begin with a legal summons, a sort of “Hear ye, hear ye, this court is now in session,” only with all the earth and its inhabitants called to witness the arrival of Yahweh from his celestial abode. Micah makes much of the fact that Yahweh’s arrival has potentially devastating consequences for the earth – his arrival is not something to be taken lightly and shows the seriousness of the situation; the earth cannot hold or contain his presence, and yet still he comes anyway. The weight of his presence causes the mountains to crumble and the earth itself to burst open. He is a terrifying presence, so powerful that human resistance to him is futile. And he is coming to earth to deliver judgement.

And here is the most shocking thing of all: Yahweh’s judgement is against his own people! ‘Jacob’ refers to Israel, as the reference to Samaria reveals: it was the capital of the northern kingdom from the time of Ahab until 722 BC when both city and kingdom were destroyed. Their sinful idolatry and disobedience has provoked him to come down, to call the world to witness as he testifies to the perfidy and wretchedness of his people. Yahweh accuses both Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem) of rebellion against him. He treads upon the high places in verse 3 and they are destroyed; in verse 5 he tells us why – because of Jacob’s trespass. Judgement is coming to Samaria – and with it, a warning to Judah of the fate that awaits her if she does not turn away from wickedness and return to God.

Questions to Consider
Why does Micah make so much of the consequences of God’s arrival? Why is he judging his own people like this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, remind me of your awesome power and majesty and your righteousness and faithfulness, especially in those times when I feel the need to go my own way rather than follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The City and the Temple Not Immune

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:6-7

People cannot turn away from God with impunity, no matter who they are. The destruction of Samaria is the judgement of Yahweh against his own rebellious people. They have sinned and Yahweh will punish them. But Samaria’s demise is also to serve as a warning to the people of Jerusalem as well. Holy city of Zion it may be, but she is not immune to the wrath of Yahweh, especially when she too has turned from her God and embraced idols and false gods. What punishment Yahweh pours out upon Samaria will also be visited upon Judah and Jerusalem. Samaria is the first step in a process that will envelop both Israel and Judah, eventually including Jerusalem and the Temple itself as well, as shocking as that is.

Nothing is mentioned of the people and their destruction. Only the destruction of the city is described, and in such a way that no one can doubt the completeness of the wrath to fall upon it. It will be as though the city never existed. The ground will be swept clean, just like a farmer clears his field; the rocks will be removed, making the ground ready to be planted again (hinting at both God’s restoration of his people and the renewal of his people into faithful followers this time around). Special attention is paid to the way the city worshipped false ideals and sold herself to other lovers – prostituted herself, in other words – and abandoned her God, thus reinforcing the reasons for God’s destructive judgement falling upon them. Just because they were part of God’s chosen people, didn’t mean they were exempt from possible punishment.

Question to Consider
What had God commanded Israel to do in Deut.7:25 and 12:3? Did they?

Prayer
Loving Lord, you chastise those you love in order to bring them back to your embrace. Be gentle with me when I stumble and sin. Thank you for your perseverance with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – God and Us and Them

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:8-12

Some people today ascribe all the disaster and destruction that occurs in our world to the hand of God, and see natural and national disasters as proof that God has been provoked into action against those considered to be his enemies, those flouting his rules and disobeying his commands. There is an ‘us’, and there is a ‘them’, and God acts against ‘them’ when his wrath is triggered. Others invoke the name of God only when our science and technology fails to provide an adequate explanation for these phenomena. Disaster and destruction are seen as aberrations; God is good, gentle and loving and so the destruction we see and experience is simply the unavoidable consequence of living in a fallen, imperfect world.

But it is interesting that we see judgement announced against God’s own people, against the ‘us’, not the ‘them.’ We cannot label disaster in the world today as simply God’s wrath against ‘them’, against those we perceive as God’s (and our) enemies. And yet, neither can we dismiss God from the equation as irrelevant and obsolete in the face of our technology. The judgement we encounter in Micah is powerful, monumental, bordering on cosmic, not to be dismissed by people claiming to follow God simply because it seems like an old-fashioned and outdated concept. Instead, this is where our theological reflection begins: reflection on the nature and character of God, on our actions and their possible consequences, and what such warnings mean for us. Who is this God? Why does he do what he does? How are his people supposed to behave?

Questions to Consider
In v.8 what does Micah say he must do? What does this tell us about how he feels about what is happening?

Prayer
Almighty Father, give me your heart for those who turn away from you. As I grieve for them may I pray for them and reach out with your love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Setting Things Right

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:12-16

Micah does not show God coming unannounced and for no reason. Micah assumes that the judgement against Samaria is justified and is therefore not a surprise to people – their idolatrous, rebellious behaviour is obviously reason enough for God’s wrath to fall upon them. But it does not come out of the blue, as if God simply arbitrarily decided one day to destroy them. He appears because wickedness is in the ascendant and all previous attempts to get people to alter their behaviour and repent have failed. God comes to set things right. They were warned – many times – and given ample opportunity to change course. They didn’t, and suffered the consequences.

Also, God’s coming tips the world and its systems on its head. His appearance and his action are not designed to keep things as they are; it is not his intention to preserve the status quo, but to announce judgement against the powerful and the wicked and the wealthy. As we will see throughout Micah, many of the accusations God makes against his people are aimed at the wealthy and those in power, who make decisions based on self-interest, who deliberately blind themselves to the plight of the poor – a plight often caused or exacerbated by the greed and idolatry of the wealthy and powerful – and who perpetuate systems of oppression. God’s people are a covenant people, a covenant that at its heart calls for love of God and love of neighbour. The book of Micah shows us what happens when people betray these commands, and how God acts to rectify and restore things to the way they should be.

Questions to Consider
What would you do if God gave you a message like this? Why?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, you speak and act on behalf of the oppressed and the neglected. May I do so too in all I do, speaking out against injustice and siding with those on the margins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Covenant and Encouragement

Readings for this week October 14 – 18
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Covenant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 7:21-25

The idea of covenant is at the heart of Jewish belief. Though God created the entire world and all peoples in it, he called Abraham and his people to belong to him in a special way so that ultimately the blessing poured out on Abraham and his kin would be carried by them to all human beings. The agreement between God and Abraham’s family came to be seen as similar to the agreement a king might make with his subjects, or the marriage bond between a husband and wife. The word ‘covenant’ was used to describe this relationship. This covenant was renewed several times, most notably on Mount Sinai, and prior to entry into the Promised Land, and a return to covenant faithfulness was what the prophets exhorted the people to each time they strayed from their God.

The covenant was always still operative, never forgotten, disdained or disestablished by God, even when his people abandoned it and him. Later prophets like Jeremiah also promised that after the punishment of exile (a punishment prophesied as the just desserts of refusing to repent and turn back to God), God would renew his covenant with his people and restore them to himself. Jesus believed that this was coming true through what he was doing in proclaiming the kingdom of God, ultimately signified through his death and resurrection. His followers later came to see that these promises of covenant renewal had been fulfilled in Jesus, and that his followers were to be the vehicles of the blessings promised to the world.

Questions to Consider
What did God hope to achieve through the covenant? How was this renewed through Jesus?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, we praise you for your plan for all people and all creation and we praise you for your faithfulness to us in spite of our failure to be faithful to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Covenant Begun in Grace

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:1-11

The covenant contains both rule and promise, both law and grace. It is not a one-sided deal imposed upon a people with no say in the matter. It was an agreement between God (I will be your God and you will be my people and I will always be with you) and Israel (you will be our God and we will be your loyal, obedient people). But it begins with grace. God had already acted before the giving of the Law and the Commandments. He had graciously rescued his people from slavery. He had acted out of the natural goodness and love of his heart to rescue his people, re-establish them before the nations as his own, renewing his covenant with his chosen people, and offering them a further sign of his love for them by giving them the Law.

The Law was a many-layered gift. It would show that the Israelites belonged to God, it was a glorious gift designed to set them apart, to show up sin when it was present and to deal with it by refining and remoulding the Israelites so they could be holy before God, a sign to others of the blessing that comes from knowing and obeying the Lord. The Israelites weren’t accepted by God because they kept the Law or because they never broke the covenant (or even because, failing, at least God was happy they tried); they were saved and accepted by God first, and showed their love for him by entering into the covenant relationship he offered them, complete with obeying the Law as a sign of their continued commitment to God and to his covenant with them – a sign of his grace.

Questions to Consider
What is your view of the covenant? Why? What is the relevance today?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for calling all people to be your people. Thank you that you love to give good gifts to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Covenant with a People

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Genesis 17:1-8

We’re familiar with the idea that God initiated a covenant with Israel and made them his Chosen People. The Jewish conviction, found throughout the entire Old Testament, is that the one God, Creator and Sustainer of all that is, had called Abraham and his family to be His special people, to belong to him in a special way in order to bless the whole world through that relationship. And of course the New Testament talks of a new covenant in Christ, a renewal of the old.

Covenant is about calling – God calling us to return to Him, and to be His people. And so, it is therefore also about belonging – recognising that we belong to God, but also that, as God calls all people, we belong to each other too. Often we think of the covenant relationship as simply one between God and his people. But because he calls a people, the covenant is also a relationship between the people called to follow. Our relationships with each other matter because we are called to be a people, a new community, not a random collection of individuals who never coalesce into anything greater than themselves. Our relationships with each other are crucial to the covenant relationship with God.

God calls a people, a community, and so, ultimately, at the very heart of covenant is relationship – with God, yes, and also with others: dynamic, evolving, loving, life-changing relationship.

Questions to Consider
Why is relationship at the heart of covenant? What does this imply about our role as a community modelling this covenant relationship?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for making us relational creatures capable of loving. May we love others as you love us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Call to Encourage

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sometimes it seems as if encouragement and edification are alien to our culture. In a society that sometimes appears hell-bent on telling us – to the exclusion of all else – that we need to look out for number one, make sure we push to get what we want, and make sure no one ever steps on us or inhibits us from achieving whatever goal or identity we are chasing after, the idea of encouraging and building up others can seem pointless, if not naïve. And if we’re spending so much of our time worrying about who “likes” us and how people are rating us or how many are “following” us, then taking the time to look around and genuinely support others and spur them on in their endeavours simply seems irrelevant.

So many times in scripture, God encourages us to encourage others, to affirm and build up each other as a sign of love and grace. Edification and affirmation are important human needs that everyone has, and as followers of the God who created human beings and gave them worth and dignity, we are to affirm others’ worth and dignity as beloved creatures of God. We need to turn away from our comparison culture and create a champion culture, a culture where we encourage others, spur them on, cheerlead for them, and build them up rather than tear them down. God loves each person and part of our task as his followers is to remind people of this fact at every opportunity.

Questions to Consider
Who encourages you? How? Who are the people in your life you feel a particular call to encourage?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for the people in my life who encourage me and build me up. May I always be an encouragement to others. Help me see the ways in which I can support others in what they do and who they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Looking for the Good, the Pure, the Noble

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 4:8

The Christian cultural cul-de-sac can be a comfortable place. The presence of fellow Christians, Christian versions of every cultural commodity freely at hand – music, films, books, clothing, etc. – everything viewed through the lens of Christian life, however that might be defined. But it was never a place we were meant to inhabit. Some segments of the community of Jesus’ followers would prefer to remain within the safety of this Christian community and its products, away from the evil world and its pernicious influence, its corruption of human nature and the world.

But there is much good being created and fought for and strived for in this world, many places where the God-given attributes of humans are being exercised faithfully, even if it is not deliberately or knowingly being done in God’s name and for his glory. Because there are so many places in this world where God is moving and where God’s will for his creation is being worked out that occur outside our cul-de-sacs, an openness to the world is a necessary attribute for God’s church to have. Yes, it can sometimes require discernment to see it, to look beyond the surface and see what is being aimed for. But wherever there are good things happening, wherever human freedom and dignity and worth are fought for and celebrated and cherished, we should be there too. Not everyone sitting around a table where such discussions and dreaming is taking place will be Christian, but every table where such discussions and strivings and yearnings are being voiced should have Christians – us – sitting at it.

Questions to Consider
Where do you see God moving in our world? How can you join in and support what God is doing in the lives of others?

Prayer
Lord God, give me eyes to see the movement of your Spirit in this world, the places you want me to be, the endeavours I need to support. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Refugee Resettlement

Readings for this week October 7 – 11
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Refugee God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 14:29-31

The Israelites were a refugee people. Oppressed, enslaved, finally released but then relentlessly pursued, they were a people without a home, without the option of choosing where to go and what to do. But they did eventually find refuge, though it was a long hard road to get there. They had once been a proud extended family group – Jacob and his sons and their extended families – laid low by famine, but rescued and sheltered by God, who worked through the twists and turns of this family’s internal relationships to eventually put Jacob’s second youngest son, Joseph, in a position of power and influence in Egypt. From this position Joseph was able to rescue his family and provide for them.

God’s heart is with the enslaved, the oppressed, the war ravaged, the persecuted and those driven from their homes against their will. He rescued Israel from slavery and gave them a home. Even when they strayed from under his wing and lost their home, becoming exiles and wanderers once again, he still looked after them and cared for them, ultimately sending his son to rescue them – and all who have wandered out from under God’s wing – and bring them home once more. Those who have no home, no place to stay, those who are not welcomed and invited in, those who are scorned and abandoned – God calls them his people. He is the refugee God, calling a people to himself in order to share his Father heart for those who have lost everything.

Question to Consider
If God is the god of refugee people, how should that shape our response to those seeking refuge from war and persecution?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the God of the lost, the oppressed, the homeless and the hurting. You made them your people. May we have the grace and courage to live out your love today for those in great need. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Flight from Home

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 2:13-15

Jesus was a refugee. We don’t usually see this as part of our nativity plays and Christmas stories and Advent calendars. We remember the baby Jesus lying in the manger, surrounded by the very recently arrived shepherds and wise men. Jesus has safely been born, representatives of the peoples of the world are genuflecting before him and all is well. But the holy family had to flee their home, under threat of death, escaping murderous soldiers sent to kill them and every other child in their village. The story of Jesus begins with persecution and displacement.

The travelling couple who had found themselves in a strange town in their own country, looking for welcome and shelter with extended family, soon find themselves forced to flee to a foreign country for an indefinite period of time, in order to protect the life of their young child.  Jesus’ life – his life with his parents – was not a life of immediate calm and domestic restfulness back home. They were displaced, persecuted, unwanted. Due to the threat against their child and the uncertainty of the fate of all of them as long as they stayed in Israel, they were forced to take refuge in a foreign land – perhaps living with other Jewish ex-patriots, but still living amidst different people and customs with a different language – until it was safe to return home.

Question to Consider
What do you think it would have been like for Mary and Joseph, being forced to live in an unfamiliar, foreign land, afraid to return home?

Prayer
Almighty Father, comfort those who are afflicted, reassure those who are afraid, heal those who are wounded – and may you do this through us, your people, as we share the joy and peace that your coming brings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Stranger as Jesus in Disguise

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 25:31-40

The bible says firmly, repeatedly and unambiguously that God’s people are to treat strangers with dignity and to welcome them with hospitality. In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew bible, the word used for stranger appears almost fifty times. The book of Deuteronomy itself contains many injunctions to not only treat the stranger kindly, but to offer them active support and provide for their needs: every three years farmers are to set aside a portion of their harvest for strangers, widows and orphans, and many passages remind the Israelites that they are not to oppress or neglect the sojourner in their land. Everyone has the potential to be a stranger at some point in their lives – the Israelites themselves were acutely aware of this – and so everyone is to be treated with dignity, respect and welcome.

Jesus makes an explicit link between those who are sick, hungry, imprisoned – those isolated on the margins – and himself. He does not tell his audience that when they feed the hungry, visit the sick and the imprisoned it is as if they are feeding and visiting him. He says that they are feeding and visiting him. Jesus’ identification with those on the margins is total – it is not figurative or metaphoric or exemplary, it is real. In the faces of strangers – the poor, the unknown, the lonely and the sick – in the faces of those deemed unimportant and unlovable, and therefore, we are told, not worth our time and love – we see the face of Jesus.

Questions to Consider
Where do you encounter the face of Jesus each day? Who are the people embodying Jesus for you today?

Prayer
Lord God, if we are truly seeking your face, we know where to find you. Help me have the courage to seek your face in the lives of strangers and those in need, wherever they are, however I can help. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – We Need Your Love

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Lamentations 5:19-22

In 2017 the government implemented a pilot scheme for Community Organised Refugee Support and called for community groups to volunteer to support newly arrived refugee families. SWBC applied to support three such families and were accepted as part of the scheme. The three families assigned to us, two from Syria and one from Iraq, arrived here in July of 2018. These families have been living with us now for fifteen months. During this time three of our neighbourhood communities have been supporting them and walking with them, while people from all over the church, and the wider community and the city, have helped with welcoming them and supporting them in their new lives here with us. Find out more here.

No one, on either side of the equation – the families or SWBC – knew exactly what they were getting into. No one knew what it would be like, how it would go, whether parts of it would be easy or hard, how we would all navigate the cultural, religious and language differences we knew there would be. All we had to offer was love and support. We said, “Welcome to New Zealand.” We said, “Welcome to our city, to our neighbourhoods and our communities.” We said, “You will be safe here.” We were wrong. The violence they had fled came to meet them here. The events of March 15 saw a member of one of the families seriously wounded, while another of our families lost a father and son and had another son badly injured. There is so much grief. They – and so many others – now walk a road suddenly longer, harder and more tortuous than before. As best we can, until the end, by God’s grace and in his power, we walk it with them.

Question to Consider
How can you support the families being cared for in our neighbourhoods?

Prayer
Loving Father, for those we care for give us wisdom and grace to love them unconditionally, to love them in the pain and the joy, to love them as we love you. Take us beyond ourselves and our capacities. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Prayer for Refugees

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 58:6-7

God of our Wandering Ancestors,

Long have we known
That your heart is with the refugee:
That you were born into time
In a family of refugees
Fleeing violence in their homeland,
Who then gathered up their hungry child
And fled into alien country.

Their cry, your cry, resounds through the ages:
“Will you let me in?”

Give us hearts that break open
When our brothers and sisters turn to us with that same cry.
Then surely all these things will follow:
Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
And hands will reach out—
working for peace in their homeland, working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.

Lord, protect all refugees in their travels.
May they find a friend in me
And so make me worthy
Of the refuge I have found in you.

AMEN

© Catholic Relief Services

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Mark – Parable of the Growing Seed and the Fig Tree

Readings for this week September 30 – October 4
Click here for a pdf of this week’s reading

Day 1 – Small Beginnings

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:26

From small beginnings big things – unexpected things, miraculous things – can grow. One tiny snowflake can be the final drop onto a mountainside that triggers a massive avalanche. A casual glance at a stranger can lead to a lifetime of married love. We don’t necessarily know where these small beginnings originate, and we cannot always see where they will lead. We do not know which way things will turn out; we cannot always see what type of plant will grow from seed that we may not even know is resting beneath the soil, waiting to grow. In many ways the kingdom of God – like God himself – is unfathomable, unpredictable. It doesn’t arrive in the manner we think it will, and does not develop along predictable lines.

We’ve encountered the parable of the sower and the soils, and seen how the sower sows wildly, across all soils, and how, even though much of the seed is lost and bears no fruit, the harvest of the small amount that fell on the good soil was still overwhelmingly huge. Again, from small, seemingly hopeless – or even wasteful – beginnings, great things can come. The seed is small, but under the right conditions produces so much. We need to make sure we are people who are open to the small beginnings we see around us, the opportunities and experiences and events that, though seemingly unimportant and innocuous, are potential avenues for God’s kingdom to manifest itself around us. We are vigilant, not because we want to control what God does, not because we can plan and predict and guarantee the harvest – we cannot – but because we know that God moves in mysterious, often small, ways that can lead to big things.

Question to Consider
How have small beginnings led to big things in your life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, give me eyes to see those small opportunities that can be moments when your kingdom springs forth in our midst. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – In Unexpected Ways

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:27-28

Things don’t happen the way we necessarily expect. In this little parable Jesus shows us once again the strangeness of the kingdom. Notice how the farmer goes to bed and then gets up, and then goes to bed again and gets up again. His actions mirror the seed’s actions: he is sleeping, just like the seed is sleeping in the soil. And just like the farmer, there will be a time when the seed ‘gets up’ too – when the preparatory work is done, the unknown, unfathomable, secret work of the kingdom is done and the harvest is ready. But, again, apart from the reaping, the farmer does nothing. Through the rhythms of nature and creation God works his purposes; from small, unnoticed beginnings, a great harvest can grow.

The kingdom of God does not arrive in – and therefore does not look like – the form that people expect. What Jesus is doing in Galilee – the picture formed by his words and his actions together – might not look or sound like the triumphant, exile-ending, nation-restoring return of God that people were expecting and hoping for. But actually it is: it is the true seedtime for the promised harvest, a harvest that will seem unexpected and that people will wonder how it happened and where it came from. Like the farmer who doesn’t know how the seed grows, people won’t be able to see how the harvest God has promised will grow from this particular seed. But for those in the know, remaining vigilant, who understand how God works, there is the hope of a bountiful kingdom harvest.

Question to Consider
What seemingly impossible, miraculous, out-of-the-blue kingdom moments have you experienced in your life lately?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the God of the impossible, the surprising, the unexpected. From small innocuous beginnings big things can grow. Help me look for and nurture those small beginnings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Sickle and the Harvest

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:29

These parables and sayings that we are looking at follow on naturally from Jesus’ parable of the sower and the various types of soil that the seed can come to rest in. The growth of the good seed leads to the harvest. That is the point of sowing the seed in the first place. For the seed that finds a home in good soil and grows, the harvest is the inevitable outcome. Jesus, through his preaching and teaching of the good news, is scattering seed, seed that will eventually grow up into the new communities of people worshipping and following him. And then, at some, unspecified point, comes the harvest and the sower with his sickle.

This reference in verse 29 is to Joel 3:13. The prophet Joel was heralding the coming Day of the Lord, looking ahead to the time when, after the devastation of suffering by God’s people, he would restore them and pour out judgement upon Israel’s enemies. But, as we have hopefully started to realise by now, this promised moment of judgement and vindication isn’t going to play out in the way that people expect. The parable of the sower showed us that though much of the seed will be lost, the harvest will still be abundantly plentiful. This little parable shows that, though the nature of growth is mysterious and somewhat miraculous, and though we may struggle to understand the workings of the kingdom, the harvest will still come and with it judgement – and both in a manner that will be surprising to many.

Question to Consider
What does the use of seed metaphors teach us about the kingdom of God, and God’s and our role in its coming?

Prayer
Almighty God, continue to teach me through your word what it means to be a citizen of your kingdom. Grow your love in me so that I can be a window to your kingdom for others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Fig Tree

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 13:28

In Mark 11 Jesus had cursed a fig tree (for its lack of fruit, even though it wasn’t the season for it) and it had withered up. This cursing and withering had occurred either side of Jesus’ judgement upon the Jerusalem Temple. Now, Jesus uses the image of a fig tree – and we are meant to connect it back to the episode of the cursing of the real tree – to show his followers how they are to be watchful, but also that they are to be hopeful. Yes, the blooming of the tree illustrates how his followers are to look around for the signs of God’s movement in the world. But this is not meant to happen only in a fearful “watch-for-the-end-of-the-world” kind of way. There is also hope.

The point of this parable of the fig tree is to give people hope that, despite all that may be happening in the world and how bad things may appear to be, there is still hope. God is coming to restore his people and judge the nations. God is working his purpose out in the world. This parable links back to the cursing of the fig tree (judgement), but also to the parable of the seed growing in secret (hope). The withering of the tree was a sign of imminent judgement; but now, the disciples are invited to view the blooming of the tree as a sign pointing towards judgement, and also blessing. The fig tree is an apt illustrator of this point as it loses its leaves in winter but blossoms in late spring; when you see leaves on a fig tree, you know summer is near.

Questions to Consider
What signs of hope do you see in the world? Where do see you see God at work?

Prayer
Loving Father, give me hope. Help me see where you are working in the world. May I remember the hope that you have given me; help me share that hope with others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The King, the Kingdom, and Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 13:29-33

As we come to the end of our journey through the gospel of Mark this year, it is perhaps apt that, rather than finish with the end of the gospel itself (covered at Easter), we finish here with Jesus calling attention to the signs to look out for that will herald the coming of the Son of Man, and encouraging his followers to remain watchful and vigilant, yet also hopeful and kingdom focused. Yes, keep our eyes open to read the signs, to know what is happening when God moves and acts so that we can move where he leads. But do not, as some do, get so focused on the signs that we lose sight of our king and his coming kingdom, and the task he has given us. Though many Christians today interpret these signs solely in terms of some sort of apocalyptic Armageddon in which the earth (and most of its inhabitants, it must be said) are consumed in a fiery furnace and the chosen (very) few are whisked off to heaven, this is not the point at all. There is always hope: for the lost of this world, we are to be that hope.

Throughout the gospel of Mark we have seen Jesus speaking and acting the kingdom into being on earth in all that he has done, through his teaching and his preaching, through miraculous demonstrations of the power of God, through the healing of fractured minds, souls and bodies; in short, through offering the entirety of his being to God in the service of his kingdom and in service to others. This is the King we follow, the King we obey, the King we seek to emulate in all we do – all in the service of his kingdom and in service to others.

Question to Consider
What does working for the kingdom look like in your life?

Prayer
Gracious King, you are Lord and King of my life. I praise and honour you for your grace, wisdom and bottomless love that calls me to live my life for you and for others. Praise your holy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Mark – Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Tenants

Readings for this week September 23 – 27
Click here for a pdf of this week’s reading

Day 1 – What is the Kingdom of God Like?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:30-32

Jesus begins with a question, one that resonates very strongly with a question from a famous passage from the Hebrew bible. Jesus asks, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like?” What is God’s kingdom like, what should we expect to see when it arrives? Many people had many different answers to this question, some based on scripture, some on hope, others on pure desperation borne of impatience, anger or hopelessness. The question Jesus asks echoes a similar question posed by the prophet Isaiah: To what will you liken God, to what will you compare him too (Isaiah 40:18). Isaiah was offering a fresh vision of God to the people of Israel, who had endured destruction and devastation, and were wondering if God was still capable of rescuing them, of restoring them to their former position, their former glory as his people. Isaiah’s answer was a resounding “Yes” – but they needed to see God afresh in order to be ready for the new ways in which he was going to move.

That’s what was happening with Jesus. God was doing something new and exciting in answer to the cries of his people, but it wasn’t happening the way people expected. A travelling preacher with a rag-tag bunch of followers, traipsing around the countryside in the rural backwaters of Galilee – how could the kingdom of God come about through such a seemingly inconspicuous start? The mustard seed is the smallest seed at the beginning, but it produces the largest shrub. So too with the kingdom of God. That’s the way God chooses to work: from small beginnings.

Question to Consider
How have you seen the kingdom come from small beginnings in your life, in your community?

Prayer
Lord God, help me see you and your kingdom with fresh eyes so that I can join with you wherever I am, and wherever you move. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Kingdom for All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:32-34

The reference to the birds coming to make their nests in the branches of the fully grown mustard plant is another echo of a well-known image from the Hebrew Scriptures. Not only does it illustrate the size of the plant – so large birds can build their nests in it – but it also draws attention to the ways in which kingdoms are described in terms of trees in the Old Testament. In books like Ezekiel and Daniel the picture of a tree with spreading branches is used as an image of a great kingdom, growing so that nearby people can come and shelter and seek protection beneath its branches. The coming of the birds to nest represents the coming of all peoples – the Gentiles included – and the gathering of all the nations to Jerusalem, just as prophesied by Isaiah (66:18-21).

There’s a little bit of a sting in the tale here though, one that Jesus was trying to get his audience to understand. Despite current circumstances, the future is not in the hands of the Gentiles and their pagan kingdoms – but neither is the future Israel’s alone. The future is God’s, and the kingdom that is coming is his, no one else’s. The present state of affairs – persecution, oppression, exile, hopelessness – would soon give way to the coming of God’s kingdom in all power and glory; the destruction of the evil, pagan nations surrounding Israel; and the gathering of all the faithful – no matter who – in God’s protective embrace. Yes there would be rescue and restoration – but now for all who want it and seek God in search of it.

Question to Consider
Why might some of Jesus’ hearers not be thrilled at what he was saying?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, your kingdom is for all who want to enter. May I be a welcoming ambassador to everyone who seeks you – as well as those yet to know you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Another Echo from Isaiah

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 12:1

Isaiah again! But we should be used to this by now. Right from the beginning of the gospel (the second verse) Mark has shown an affinity for the prophet Isaiah. The parable of the mustard seed further illustrated this and now, with the parable of the tenants and the vineyard, Mark again shows us how Jesus uses the kingdom imagery of Isaiah as a launching pad for a scathing attack on the leaders of Israel and the way they have responded to God’s message in the past – and how they will again. In Isaiah chapter five we find a poem describing God planting a vineyard, watching over it, tending it in the hopes that it will produce a good crop – and yet the end result is a bad crop: wild grapes have invaded and grown instead of the bountiful crop God was wanting. So the vineyard will be taken down, animals will overrun it. Such is what happens to a people who continually refuse to take up the role God intends for them.

That is the background to this parable. What Jesus adds to the story is the idea that God waits at a distance, patiently sending his messengers and prophets to Israel in the hope that the people will finally obey his command to obedience and become the people he longs for them to be. And when that fails, God sends someone more than a prophet, someone dear to him: his beloved son – knowing that even so, despite this auspicious messenger, the message will still be rejected and the messenger – the son – killed. Again, as the story is told, there is no happy ending here.

Questions to Consider
What is your first reaction to this parable? What stands out to you? Why?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for sending your son to us, even though you knew how we would receive him, how we would scorn him, how we would kill him. Thank you for loving us so much better than we deserve. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Owner and the Tenants

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 12:2-8

This parable has a lot to say both about the vineyard owner and the tenants. Mark goes into great detail about the vineyard owner’s preparations for establishing the vineyard: he plants it, builds a fence around it, digs the pit to hold the winepress, and builds a watch tower. The owner is heavily involved and is shown taking considerable care in his preparations. When the tenants he leases the vineyard to refuse meet with his servants sent to collect his share of the produce – even after they have beaten and killed some of these servants – he sends his son, believing they would respect him. God hoped for the redemption of Israel and sent his own son to bring it about. That he was killed simply amplifies the tragedy.

Such a wise, careful, considerate, sacrificial owner contrasts starkly with the wicked, selfish, sinful, murderous tenants. And yet the tenants did not start out as they ended up. This parable also shows the corrupting power of sin and the slippery slope that unchecked human sinfulness always leads down. The tenants did not start out wanting to steal the vineyard from the owner: they only wanted to keep the vineyard’s harvest for themselves. They did not begin from a position of murderous intent: the first servant was merely beaten. Yet when the path they had started on required murder as the next step to gain what they wanted – even of the owner’s son – they did not hesitate. They wanted the harvest, yet ended up thrown out of the vineyard altogether. Sin is invidious and dynamic: it evolves, and when indulged in or tolerated, leads to utter destruction.

Question to Consider
What do the owner’s preparations tell us about God’s character and plans?

Prayer
Heavenly father, convict me when I start to stray. Reign me in, bring me up short when I start to play with sin. Give me the strength to resist. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Challenge and Invitation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 12:9-12

One thing to notice about the parable is that at the end, the owner of the vineyard (God) still holds the initiative over what to do in response to what the tenants have done. Yes, they have tried to take the harvest of the vineyard for themselves; yes, they have beaten and killed several of the owner’s messengers; and yes, they have finally killed the owner’s own son. But the question in verse nine (“What will the owner now do?”) shows that the power to determine the end of the story still lies with the owner – with God.

This parable isn’t just about prediction. It is not simply a case of bringing the audience up to speed with where the story is, establishing where Jesus stands in the story, and then showing them what is about to happen to him. That is still part of what the parable illustrates, but there is also a challenge and an invitation in the parable too. Jesus is challenging his audience – which contains several chief priests and scribes – to ask themselves how God might respond to the dismal job they have made of stewarding and caring and leading the people of God. The parable is their warning. But also, Mark is inviting his readers to ponder how God might have – but didn’t – respond to the crucifixion of Jesus, and how God’s love and care for the vineyard, and all people, is illustrated by what did happen to Jesus and what happened after. The son was killed, but God’s love endured and triumphed even so. God’s love ensured that the vineyard was preserved and entrusted to all.

Questions to Consider
What is challenging you in this parable? What invitation does it hold for you?

Prayer
Loving Lord, in all that you have done in your dealings with us, you have shown grace, compassion, mercy and love – the hallmarks of who you are. May they be characteristics of what I show those around me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Mark 4

Readings for this week September 16 – 20
Click here for a pdf of this week’s reading

Day 1 – Prepare Your Ears to Hear

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:1-3

“Now hear this! Now hear this!” Something important is on the way; an important message is about to be delivered, so ears open and pay attention people! This is what Jesus is saying to the crowd; the addition of “Let him who has ears hear!” later on in verse 9 offers a post-parable reinforcement of this point. He wants their attention and so he grabs it – and then seems to let it go straight away with a very boring, commonplace opening line: a farmer went out to sow. But this rhetorical strategy is designed to hook his audience in even more. By commanding their attention and then offering such a plain beginning, Jesus creates the suspicion that there must be more here than there at first appears to be, just like in a riddle or a paradox.

But once our attention is engaged, where are we meant to focus it? What are we meant to look at, question, interpret, ponder? There are three main things that people have focused attention on to varying degrees over the millennia that this parable has been read and wrestled with: the sower, the seed, and the harvest. To focus on the sower is to look at Jesus’ role as revealer of the kingdom, the one whose ministry leads to an incredibly bountiful harvest. Or if we focus on the seeds we see the perennial rigours and risks of sowing: birds, rocky ground, thorns and weeds. And then there is the harvest, the end product of the sowing, measured in terms of the ratio of seed to crop yield.  A parable is a short story, yes; but short doesn’t mean simple or one note. Even in such a brief tale, there is much that Jesus would say to his audience. Let those with ears hear.

Questions to Consider
What do you notice in this parable? What draws your attention? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Guide me into wisdom, show me who you are and who I am in you and the part I have to play in the harvest. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Getting Our Heads Around the Parables

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:4-9

Have we become immune to the parables? Have they become so familiar to us that whatever bite, whatever edge they originally had, whatever deep ruminations they were designed to engender in their hearers’ minds, has long since been blunted by repetition? We are so familiar with the stories and images and characters, and so easily come to what we think the point is meant to be, that it sometimes seems hard to believe that they often caused deep offence – and perplexity – to Jesus’ audience. The parables are short tales, drawn from everyday life and experience, often with a sting in the tail. But 2000 years’ distance can sometimes leave us missing the more subtle effects, and walking away from the parable with so much left uncovered.

For example, our first thought about the sower might be, “What a wasteful, uninformed idiot.” He doesn’t plough his field in preparation for the planting of seeds, he just seems to chuck seed randomly all over the place, some on the field (but almost by accident really), some by the path, other seeds on the rocks. But this was the nature of sowing in that particular time and place; this was how the farmers distributed their seed, sowing first and then ploughing the field, hence why the seed falls in places we wouldn’t expect. And what are we to make of the fact that after the first line of the parable, the sower is not mentioned again? The parables pull at our minds, stretching them, taking us down paths of thought we might not otherwise travel – if we will take the time to let them.

Question to Consider
What does this parable tell us about God and his coming kingdom?

Prayer
Almighty God, give me fresh eyes to see anew each day what your word reveals about you and about your plan for this world. Enlighten me again so that my life may be a blessing for others the world over. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – “There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:10-14

Bearing in mind what we said previously about the nature of parables, it seems paradoxical to think that Jesus deliberately spoke in parables so that certain parts of his audience would not understand what he was saying. And yet, unlike his other parables, Jesus felt the need to offer his disciples an interpretation of what he had said, an interpretation that reveals the hidden, mysterious nature of the kingdom of God. We like to think that we are on the ‘inside’, that we are the chosen ones who understand exactly what he means, privy to what Jesus is saying and doing in a way that others aren’t. We know the disciples sometimes felt this way too – their arguments over who was the greatest are testament to the fact that insider status was initially very important to them. Is it the same for us too?

“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.” We all want to be like the disciples, part of the ‘in’ crowd. And yet Jesus’ statement is immediately contradicted by his question in verse 13 about whether the disciples understand this parable, or any parable – so maybe they don’t really get it after all! The kingdom remains hidden, veiled, and mysterious – for everyone, inside and out. Without Jesus, true understanding of the kingdom eludes us and entry to the kingdom is impossible. Mystery abounds: yes, Jesus was God’s agent in bringing the kingdom to us. But the fullness of the kingdom is, at this moment, a case of ‘not yet.’ Even as his followers we must remain watchful, alert, open to the mysterious promptings, nudgings and leadings of the Holy Spirit, never for a moment thinking that we’ve got it all mapped out ahead of us and that we know everything there is to know.  There is always more of God to experience.

Questions to Consider
What stopped the disciples understanding Jesus? What stops us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive my complacency and arrogance; forgive me when I stop chasing after you and settle for ‘what I have always known and done’ Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Mystery of Hope

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:15-20

This parable of the sower is above all a parable about the mystery of hope, and how acting on that (often hidden) hope requires us to trust in the faithfulness and providence of God. Jesus, as agent of the kingdom, assures us, if we will hear, that the gospel will be heard, God’s will shall be done and the harvest will come. The fulfilment of the kingdom of God is as mysterious as an abundant harvest. It is a mystery for us because we see so much seed seemingly going to waste, disappearing in wasteful fruitlessness. Poverty is evident all around the globe; hatred and violence reign unopposed; relational fragmentation and environmental destruction are in the ascendant. The evidence of seemingly wasted seeds and fruitless soil is everywhere.

As followers of Jesus the parable is not so much calling us to be good soil (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that and I certainly would not discourage it); we already have the gospel implanted in us and are hopefully already living faithful, fruitful kingdom lives. What the parable is encouraging us to do is live confidently in faith that the scattered seed, despite all the signs to the contrary around us, will bear fruit and the harvest will come – somehow, mysteriously, despite the signs of failure around us, a bountiful kingdom harvest will eventuate. This is not to say that we need do nothing, that we can sit back and just wait for the harvest to come. We are God’s workers in the field, working in partnership with the sower, who guarantees the harvest. The kingdom, now veiled, will one day be triumphant, of that we can be assured.

Questions to Consider
How do we live in hope? What does this look like in today’s world?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the hope of the world, the one who holds all things in your hands, the one who will bring all creation back to fullness and wholeness. Remind me when I forget. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Light That Reveals All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 4:21-25

What is the basis for the hope and trust we are called to have that the kingdom will come in all its fullness, that the harvest will be plentiful, and that God will reign supreme? Mark reminds us that the answer is Jesus, the one who embodies the light of God’s truth and reign. Jesus is the light and his coming confirms that God has begun the process of dispelling the darkness that surrounds us and seems to be threatening to overwhelm us. The purpose of a lamp is to give light; the purpose of Jesus coming was to bring light to the world – the light that reveals and brings to light that which is currently hidden – namely, God’s mercy and judgement.

Secrets will be brought into the light and revealed, both the secret, ultimately unstoppable purposes of God and the secret sins of the wicked. God is sovereign and he still reigns, even despite the darkness surrounding us. The light of the Son has shone forth, and continues to shine still, revealing how we have measured out our lives – and therefore revealing how judgement will be measured out to us: the fair treated fairly, the just justly, the scornful treated with scorn. God is already at work in the world, and the principles of the kingdom, though hidden, determine what the ultimate consequences of the way we live our lives and the choices that we make will be. Those who strive to be light for others will be enlightened themselves; those who scurry for the darkness will get their wish, in full. The light has come; how will we live in this new reality?

Questions to Consider
How is Jesus the light? How are you the light for others?

Prayer
Loving Father, so many live in darkness, unaware of the light. Help me share your light with others: the poor, the downtrodden, the hopeless, those pushed into the darkness by others. May your light reveal their plight and all that causes it. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)