Loving and Sharing

Bible:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 ESV

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:1b-7 ESV

Reflection:

Sylvia had lived with her aunt, but then her aunt became too old to take care of her properly and sent her to live with her cousin Bonnie. Bonnie was very excited and happy to have Sylvia come and live with her. She and her family were very rich, and she was eager to share everything she had with her cousin. She wanted Sylvia to have ice skates and new dresses and to share all of her wonderful toys. Bonnie even had a dolls’ house that was large enough to climb into, with a balcony, stairs, a stove that really worked, lovely furniture, beautiful clothes to try on, and real canaries nesting in the roof. Bonnie told Sylvia that she could go into the dolls’ house any time she wanted to. She didn’t say that any of her wonderful things were only her own, but instead that Sylvia could enjoy them as well.

The first Christians had the same attitude toward their fellow believers. Their faith and love were made strong by the way they listened and learned the teachings of the apostles, learned to love and care for each other, took communion, and prayed together. Some of the new Christians were rich, and some were poor, but none of the rich people said that their riches were only their own. Instead, they shared with the people in their group who were poor and needy. Rich people started to sell land and other valuable possessions, and they gave the money to the apostles to give to people in need. Their love for each other, and the wonderful times they had together eating meals in each other’s homes and worshiping in the temple, made other people notice. The apostles continued to preach and teach about Jesus, and the Lord allowed them to do miracles. The Holy Spirit worked to bring more and more people into the church who believed in Jesus.

The Holy Spirit still works through his church today. He helps pastors and teachers to teach about Jesus, and he helps us to show love and concern for each other. We take communion and pray together, and if we know someone is in need, we do what we can to help him or her. We don’t always do this perfectly, and sometimes there are bad times of anger and fighting and selfishness in churches. When this happens, we pray for God to help us to forgive each other and to help and love each other. We are able to love and to forgive because of all the love and forgiveness Jesus gives us every day, the love and forgiveness he won for us on the cross. All our love comes from Jesus, who sends us his Holy Spirit to build his church and make it strong.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and forgiveness, and for the church family that helps us to know you better. Amen.

Source:

Aiken, Joan The Wolves of Willoughby Chase London: Jonathan Cape, 1962.

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Eating a Scroll

Bible:

And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. Ezekiel 2:1-2, 8-3:3 ESV

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. I Corinthians 11:23b-26 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever heard anyone say, “You are what you eat?” That’s actually very true. Much of the food we eat becomes a part of our body. Things like fruits and vegetables and milk and cheese have a lot of carbohydrates, which give your body energy to move and think and work and play. Meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products have a lot of protein, and protein makes up your brain, your muscles, and many other parts of your body. Whole milk, nuts, and avocados are food that have a lot of fat, and our bodies need fat to cushion our organs, to store energy, and to absorb vitamins.

There are many good foods to eat to keep your body healthy, but one thing that would be very unusual to eat would be a scroll! Scrolls were used to hold words in early Bible times, before books were invented. Writing was done on animal skins or on papyrus, on long sheets that were rolled around two sticks. God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll that he gave him, and Ezekiel did that. This scroll had the words of God on it, and when Ezekiel tasted it, it was as sweet as honey. God wanted his words to become part of Ezekiel so that he would know them and remember them and be able to use them.

God also gives us his word, the Bible, and while we don’t eat our Bible, we do read it and learn it and memorize parts of it and make it part of who we are. God sends his Holy Spirit to us to help us understand and to give us faith in Jesus, who died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. While we don’t eat our Bibles, Jesus gives us his Word in a very special way. In communion, he gives us his body and blood with the bread and the wine, and with that he gives us the forgiveness of our sins. In communion, Jesus gives us himself and becomes a part of who we are, and we are given new life in him.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us your Word in the Bible and for giving us yourself in Holy Communion. Amen.

Source:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/absorption-food-human-body-4100.html

Breaking Down the Idols

Bible:

In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. . . . And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city. II Kings 18:1, 3-8 ESV

O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. Psalm 21:1-7 ESV

Reflection:

A long time a Christian woman named Helena wanted to find the cross that Jesus had died on, so she traveled to the Holy Land. It had been almost 300 years since Jesus had died, but according to the story, she found three crosses. She didn’t know which one had belonged to Jesus, so she took the three crosses to the body of a dead man. When two of the crosses touched him, nothing happened, but when the third cross did he rose from the dead! Helena then knew she had found the true cross. Pieces of this cross can be found in many different places today, and there are a lot of stories about people being healed of their sicknesses or even of rising from the dead when they come close to a piece of the cross. But these are only stories. We really don’t know if Helena found the true cross, and even if she did, it is Jesus who heals and helps people, and not pieces of wood. A church father named Ambrose said, “Let us adore Christ our King, who hung upon the wood, and not the wood.”

King Hezekiah became the king of Judah after his father Ahaz. Ahaz had been a wicked king, and he had led the people in worshiping false gods and goddesses. But Hezekiah loved and trusted the Lord, and he did everything he could to get rid of the idols that the people had been worshiping. He even took the bronze serpent that Moses had made and broke it into pieces. God had told Moses to make this serpent when the people of Israel were being attacked by fiery serpents. They were dying because of their poisonous bites, but when they looked up at the bronze serpent on the pole, they were healed and didn’t die. But after many years, the people had given this bronze serpent a name, Nehushtan, and were making offerings to it. Something God had used to save his people became something the people ended up worshiping as an idol.

It can be easy to take a good thing that God has used to help us and turn it into a kind of good luck charm. Wearing some jewelry shaped like a cross can be a good way to remember Jesus and to show others we believe in him, for example, but if we think that wearing a cross will protect us from bad things, we have made it into a good luck charm, and even an idol. God gives us things to help us remember him, and he comes to us through the water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion. It’s not wrong to be thankful for these things and to treat them with respect, but we should always remember that it is God who works through them to help us. In Jesus he became a human person that others could see and touch, and Jesus died on the cross to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. We can trust Jesus completely for everything that we need.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to be our Savior. Please help us to always trust in you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.thecross-photo.com/The_True_Cross_by_Ron_Loeffler.htm

A Stone Memorial

Bible:

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. Joshua 4:1-7, 19-20 ESV

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:19-20 ESV

Reflection:

Some time ago the United States was involved in a war in Vietnam. Many people died in this war, and many people from the United States were sent over as part of the military. Lots of these American people died as well. In Washington D. C. there is the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall. This is a huge stone slab that lists the names of over 58,000 service people who died in the Vietnam War. The stone with the names engraved on it is so shiny that a visitor can see his or her face reflected right along with the names. This shows that what happened in the past is part of everyone’s history, and that it is everyone’s responsibility never to forget the war and the people who died in it.

God called on Joshua to do something similar as the people of Israel were crossing the Jordan. Each of the twelve tribes was to pick up a big stone from the Jordan River, and that evening they were to pile these stones at their campsite. This pile of stones was meant to be a reminder forever of what God had done for Israel at the Jordan River that day. Parents were to show the pile of stones to their children and to teach them what it meant. It was part of their history and of who they were.

The greatest thing God has ever done for his people is to come to us in Jesus and die on the cross to save us. Jesus gave his people a way to remember what he did for us that is much better than something made of stone. Jesus gave his people holy communion so that we would always be reminded of what he has done for us. Jesus uses bread and wine in the holy supper, but along with the bread and wine he gives his body and his blood. We don’t only remember Jesus in holy communion, but he also comes to us and gives us his love and forgiveness. God never wants us to forget his love for us, and he comes to us in his Word and in baptism and communion to help us always remember.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the love and forgiveness you won for us on the cross. Help us to never forget what you’ve done. Amen.

Source:

http://www.nps.gov/vive/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Grain Offerings

Bible:

When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings. Leviticus 2:1-3 ESV

For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?” Psalm 50:10-13 ESV

Reflection:

Through history and around the world, many people have worshipped false gods and goddesses. One thing they often do is offer food to them. Long ago a Roman man named Cato wrote a book about farming, and in this book he explained about all the gods who needed to receive offerings of food or wine. Some of the gods that had to be fed were Janus, Jupiter, Mars, and whatever god or goddess owned the grove of trees a farmer wanted to use. For example, if a farmer wanted to cut down some trees so he could use the land, he was supposed to sacrifice a pig to the god of the grove.

The true God is different, even though things might seem similar when we read about the food sacrifices he taught his people to offer him. God doesn’t get hungry, and he doesn’t need us to bring him any food. In fact, all the food in the world belongs to him, and he’s the one who gives it to us! So why did God ask his people to bring him the kind of sacrifice called the grain offering? The grain offering was meant to be food for the priests. God’s people would settle in the promised land and become farmers, but the priests would be busy leading worship in the tabernacle. So God, who would provide food for all his people on their farms, also provided food for his priests through the grain offerings. By sharing the food offered to him with his priests, God set them apart to do their work of serving him in a special way.

God also provides us with our food and all the things we need every day. The biggest need we have is for a Savior to forgive our sins, and God provided us with our Savior when he sent us Jesus. Jesus died so that we could be brought back to God. He also shares a special meal with his people, Holy Communion. In this meal Jesus gives his people himself in his Body and Blood. Jesus’ death on the cross and the meal he gives sets us apart to do whatever work God has for us to do.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us yourself to be our Savior, and for setting us apart to serve you. Amen.

Source:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cato/De_Agricultura/I*.html

Covenant Blood

Bible:

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Exodus 24:3-8 ESV

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. I Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV

Reflection:

Henry Morton Stanley was a missionary to Africa many years ago. While he was traveling in Africa and looking for his friend Dr. Livingston, he came across a very fierce tribe. There was trouble between Stanley’s people and the tribe, and it got worse until finally Stanley and the chief made a covenant with each other. Both Stanley and the chief had to cut themselves and bleed. A few drops of their blood were put into a cup of wine that they both drank from. Another thing they did was rub gunpowder into the cuts they had made on their wrists, so that the scars from there covenant would always be there. After making a covenant with blood, there was peace between Stanley and the tribe.

When God made a covenant with his people Israel, Moses killed some oxen and put some of their blood into basins. He threw half of the blood against God’s altar, and he threw the other half of the blood over the people. The people made a promise that they would obey all of God’s laws and rules, and this is the promise that was sealed with blood. The blood showed that God’s law was holy and that the promise was serious. But it wasn’t a promise that the people of Israel could keep. They would soon break the covenant because they were sinful. Breaking God’s covenant is a serious matter, and God’s anger and punishment would follow.

But God loved his people so much that he sent Jesus to make a new covenant, not only with Israel but with all people. Jesus didn’t use the blood of an animal, but instead he used his own blood. He didn’t just bleed a little bit, but he gave his life on the cross when he took on all of God’s anger and punishment. Jesus’ blood covers all our sins, and we have the promise of God’s love forever. When Jesus rose from the dead, he still had scars in his hands and feet and side as a reminder of the price he paid for his people. Jesus gives that promise to his people in communion, when he gives his blood to drink with the wine. Communion is always a reminder of the peace we have with God because of Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us the new covenant which you won for us with your blood. Amen.

Source:

Vukovich, R. A. Masked: timeless, thought-provoking, and spiritually challenging Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2011, pp. 118-121.

A Meal of Peace

Bible:

When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.” So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. Genesis 2:26-33 ESV

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29 ESV

Reflection:

Many American Indian tribes used a peace pipe ceremony to make the serious promise of peace with other tribes or groups. When two groups wanted to make an agreement of peace, they would sit together and smoke from the same pipe. Everyone who smoked from the pipe knew they were making a solemn promise that they must not break.

Abimelech wanted to make that kind of solemn promise with Isaac. He was afraid of Isaac’s strength, and could also see that God was with Isaac. When Abimelech said that his people hadn’t done any harm to Isaac, that really wasn’t true. There had been a lot of trouble and quarreling over wells. However, Isaac agreed to make a solemn covenant of peace. He also made a feast for Abimelech and his people, and they all ate together. Sharing a meal in that place and time had the same meaning as smoking a peace pipe did for the American Indians.

Before he died on the cross, Jesus ate with his disciples. While they were eating, Jesus gave them a new meal to eat. This meal was a covenant of peace between God and his people. In communion, Jesus gives his people his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. God made peace with us by sending Jesus to die on the cross. We can look forward to eternal life with God, a feast of peace that will last forever!

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying to give us peace with God. Amen.

Source:

http://www.trailtribes.org/lemhi/pipe-ceremony-and-peacemaking.htm