Our Names for Jesus, His Names for Us

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series based on the weekly Psalm and associated readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. 

Guest writer: Mary Lynn Errigo

READ

Matthew 16:13-20

REFLECT

In this passage in Matthew, the disciples are walking with Jesus every day. They watch everything He does and they listen closely to all His words and His teachings. They experience the compassion He has for people, and His willingness to heal them as He goes from place to place. They feel the love and forgiveness that He passes on to each and every person He encounters.

And then Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that I am?” When Peter answers that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus tells Peter that he didn’t get this knowledge from the people or the things he has seen, but from God. God, our Father, is so intimately concerned about what we know and how we learn it, that He tells us the things we need to know. Our Father in heaven loves us so much that He wants to tell us things about Himself: things that will bless us, things that will cause us to learn more about Him, things that will heal us, things that will comfort us. Everything we need to know comes from God, and it is His great pleasure to communicate with us.

Peter needed God to tell him the truth about who Jesus was, but he also needed to hear the truth about himself. Jesus responded to Peter by telling him who he was: the church’s rock, the keeper of the keys of heaven. These are truths that came straight from God, truths Peter could never have arrived at on his own. He needed Jesus to tell him, to give him a new identity and purpose and a destiny he could not have imagined.

RESPOND

The Bible tells us that Jesus has many names: Messiah. Savior. Healer. Comforter. King. Lord. Teacher. Author and Finisher of our faith. Advocate. Shepherd. (You can find a longer list of the names of Jesus here.) As you pray today, do you sense any particular name that resonates with you and your emotions and circumstances at this moment? Let Jesus speak to you, through the Holy Spirit, about who He is to you today.

Now, ask Jesus to tell you something about yourself that you may not know, or may need to be reminded of. What is Jesus’ name for you? What role does he have for you in His Kingdom?

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Rescued From Death

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series based on the weekly Psalm and associated readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. 

Guest Writer: Mimi Otani @ crazy4jazz.com

Read

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Reflect

Women played significant roles in the birth and growth of Moses. Were it not for the courage and compassion of these women, the story of Exodus would not be. First, the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: they feared God and disobeyed Pharaoh’s decree to kill the newborn Israelite boys. The Lord later rewarded them with their own families. Second, Moses’ mother: she also defied Pharaoh’s order. Not only did she save Moses’ life, she also had the consolation of being able to care for him until he was weaned. Third, Moses’ sister, Miriam: she watched over Moses from afar and arranged to have him nursed by his own mother. Last but not least, Pharaoh’s daughter: she, too, defied her own father’s order. She knew Moses was an Israelite baby, but she still saved him and adopted him as her son.

Pharaoh thought he could eliminate his enemies by targeting their sons. But God thwarted his plan through the fidelity, courage, and intelligence of women.

Respond

Psalm 124 is a song about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, but it also refers to Moses. He could have drowned as an infant in the Nile, but instead, he was drawn out of the water as one comes out of baptism. In baptism, we symbolically die to our old selves and are reborn as new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ rescues us from sin and death, it is as though “we have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!” (Psalm 124:7 ). With each new day, God gives us life and freedom.

Thank God for the new life and freedom you have in Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you one or two ways you can follow the example of the women in this story. Even though they were under Pharoah’s rule, they lived as though they were free; they chose to follow God and his promptings regardless of what Pharoah did or what risks they faced.

How can you live today in the freedom Christ has given you, regardless of your external circumstances?

Jesus Sees Your Heart

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series from the weekly Psalm and associated readings in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Guest Writer: Mercy Perez

Read

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Reflect

In this passage, Jesus responds to the religious leaders who criticize Jesus and his disciples for not washing their hands before eating, in violation of religious law. He tells them that it is not what goes into the mouth that’s the problem; rather “it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person” (11).

Through that statement and through the parable that follows, Jesus explains that what comes out of your mouth – what you say –  reflects your internal attitude: “And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. Out of the heart come evil thoughts” (v. 18-19, CEB). Jesus reads the evil intentions of the religious leaders in their words. That’s why he calls them “blind.”

Soon after Jesus travels to another region. A woman who heard about his healings found him there. She may have had some trepidation in approaching Jesus because she was a Canaanite and was not sure how she might be received. Canaanites were the people the Israelites fought against when they entered into the Promised Land; they were also known as worshipers of the Sun God. However, the woman did not let her differences or her fear stop her from seeking Jesus. Her daughter was suffering from demon possession and she desperately longed for her to be healed.

When this woman saw Jesus she called out to him. She acknowledged him as the descendant of David, the promised Messiah. Jesus at first did not answer. Perhaps he was testing her, or perhaps he was testing his disciples, who were urging him to send her away. When Jesus did answer, it was to call out her difference: “I have been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel” (v. 26 CEB). Jesus’ words probably confirmed the woman’s fears of being excluded, yet she was not deterred. She knelt before Jesus and asked again for his help.

Jesus looked into the woman’s heart and saw the opposite of what he saw in the religious leaders. He saw the love, desperation, courage, and humility that motivated her words and actions. He saw that she truly believed who he was, and in his ability to heal. His differences from the woman did not stop him from meeting her need and healing her daughter.

Jesus’ purpose on earth was to bring all who believed in him close to God, regardless of their background. Psalm 67 also shows God’s inclusive love for all of us.

Let God grant us grace and bless us;

   let God make his face shine on us,

Let all the people thank you and celebrate.

He judges the nations fairly

God blesses us—our God blesses us!

Respond

Ask Jesus to look into your heart to see your greatest need – perhaps one you aren’t even aware of – and to meet it as only he can.

Then, spend a few minutes in gratitude for God’s unconditional love. Ask God to make you a receptacle of his love. As it flows from your heart into your words and actions, you too will be a source of our Father’s Love.

Love That Goes Beyond Justice

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Read

Psalm 67

Genesis 45:1-15

Reflect

Psalm 67 tells us that one of God’s central concerns is justice is for the whole earth. In the New Testament, Jesus’ ministry and life demonstrate that love goes further than justice, bringing reconciliation and restoration to those are far from God or in conflict with each other.

In Genesis 45:1-15, Joseph is finally reconciled to the brothers that sold him into slavery. He spent years as a slave, then in prison, before God brought him to a position of power in Egypt and used him to prepare Egypt and the surrounding countries for many years of famine.

When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, it’s a tense and dramatic scene. Joseph cries copiously on all his brothers. The story doesn’t tell us what his brothers did, but they probably felt a combination of shock, horror, shame, relief that Joseph was alive after all these years, and abject fear at how he might take his revenge.

How does this story illustrate God’s love that goes beyond justice? Joseph, far from punishing his brothers as they deserved, chooses to see God’s hand in what happened. He forgives them and points them towards the larger purpose: God’s plan to save the people of Israel from famine. Joseph shows his brothers love they didn’t expect and certainly didn’t earn.

God also showed love to Joseph in unexpected ways. God had told Joseph in dreams, a long time ago, that he would rule over his brothers and father. But Joseph must have been afraid that his father (who had to be extremely old at this point) had already died; earlier in the story, he asks his brothers repeatedly whether their father is still alive. Joseph also had no clue that he had a younger brother. All of his other brothers were half-brothers – sons of different mothers; Benjamin was the son of both Joseph’s mother and father. God gave Joseph the incredible gift of being able to save his father and his entire family from famine and added the bonus of a brother whose existence he had never suspected.

Respond

Have you broken faith with God or with another person? Ask Jesus to forgive you and bring reconciliation to your relationships.

Remember you are a child of God, greatly loved by Him (1 John 3:1). Ask God to make you newly aware of how much He cares for you, plans for your future, and blesses you in ways you could not have earned or imagined.

What Is God’s Dream for You?

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series from the weekly Psalms and associated readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Guest writer: Mimi Otani, crazy4jazz.com

Read

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Reflect

Jacob favored Joseph the most among his sons, making him the envy of his brothers. Joseph had dreams of ruling over his father and brothers, which only increased his brothers’ hatred. They nearly killed him before selling him into slavery in Egypt.

Joseph’s plight is vividly described in Psalm 105: 18: “His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron.” What would become of his dreams, now that he was a slave, helpless and far from home?

If you read the story to its end, either in Genesis or in Psalm 105, you will notice that Joseph found his vindication not when his dreams came true, when his brothers had to come to him for food to help them survive the famine in Israel. The purpose of his dreams was not for Joseph to gloat over the brothers who sold him into slavery. Rather, Joseph’s true vindication came when he was reconciled to his family, speaking words of forgiveness and understanding of how God had acted to save his people. Had Joseph not attained a position of power in Egypt, his family would have perished in the famine.

Through Joseph’s dreams, the nation of Israel was preserved, including the line of Judah, which produced first King David and ultimately Jesus. Through Jesus, God has included us all in His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph’s dream fulfilled became part of a story of redemption that continues to this day.

Respond

Whether or not you’ve ever had a dream like Joseph’s, chances are that you have dreams for your life. You may have a dream job, a dream spouse, a novel to write, a mountain to scale, a far country to travel.

In your prayer time today, lay those dreams before God. Ask God to show you to His dreams for your life. Ask for the willingness and courage to live out God’s dreams for your life, wherever they may take you. Be blessed with the certainty that God’s dreams are far beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine for yourself.

Jesus Chooses Us

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series following the weekly Psalm and linked readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

Guest writer: Mercy Perez

Read

Matthew 14:13-21

Reflect

Matthew 14 begins with Jesus receiving the news that John the Baptist, his cousin, had been killed. His initial response was to withdraw to a solitary place to mourn John’s death. The crowds followed him, but instead of dismissing them He had compassion on them. He chose to stay with them and began to heal their sick.

In spite of his grief and his desire to be alone, Jesus did not distance himself from the crowds. On the contrary, He fulfilled the message John the Baptist proclaimed: that Jesus is the Son of God, full of compassion and love.

As Jesus is pouring out his love on those who had followed him, along come the disciples. With the hour getting late, they tell Jesus to send the people away so they can buy themselves food. But Jesus is not done yet. Again, he chooses the people. Knowing that they are tired and would have to go a long way in search of food, He tells the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

How do you think Jesus’ command was perceived by the disciples? Did they interpret it as a real assignment or as sarcasm? Either way, it was a monumental request. And yet again we see Jesus’ love as He performs another miracle, multiplying the fish and loaves until everyone is fed. Jesus chooses to continue to pour out his love and compassion, this time by meeting the crowd’s need for food.

Respond

Just as Jesus chose to be with the crowd, meeting their spiritual and physical needs, He chooses to be with us. He is ready to listen, heal, strengthen, and do the impossible on our behalf.

Take a moment and choose to speak to Jesus. Tell Him about the needs you have that only He can meet. Be ready to receive his love, compassion, and his gift of the impossible.

 

Who God Designed You to Be

 

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series from my church based on Psalms and associated readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Read

Genesis 32:22-31

Reflect

Jacob had a difficult life. Often it seemed like his problems were mostly his own doing. Born the second son in a society that awarded all property and honor to the oldest, he was still determined to take everything for himself. Jacob’s name meant “Supplanter” or “Trickster” and it fit. No matter what the consequences, he never seemed to learn to stop plotting and manipulating. He schemed, fought and tricked his way into an inheritance and prosperity.

When the Lord tells Jacob, “you have striven with God and with humans, and prevailed,” He’s telling the story of Jacob’s life. But He’s also affirming that Jacob is exactly who God made him. God told Jacob’s mother ahead of his birth that he would inherit his father’s blessing, and that God’s chosen line would flow through Jacob, not his older brother. God could have simply caused Jacob to be born first. But that’s not what He did.

Instead, God designed Jacob to be a fighter and a striver, someone who never took no for an answer, someone who would wrestle God Himself to get the blessing he wanted. It’s not that God wanted or caused Jacob to do underhanded things. But Jacob was on a path to become Israel, the father of a new and mighty nation, and he needed to be persistent, shrewd, and unafraid in the face of opposition in order to be ready for everything that entailed. Through Jacob, a lowly second son with an iron will and an unrelenting drive for more, God kept His promises to His chosen people.

Wherever you are in your life right now, it’s worth asking: Who has God designed me to be? What personality and character traits has He given me, and how do they fit into God’s plan and promises for my life?

Respond

Name a personality or character trait that you like about yourself. Thank God for making you that way. Next, name a trait that you aren’t as happy with, maybe one that’s gotten you into trouble, or has seemed to be an obstacle as you pursue your goals. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how God has used that trait to move you in His direction for your life. Thank God for this trait. Then, thank God for who He has designed you to be and for the role He has called you to play in this world.

Remembering God’s Promises

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and reflection series based on the Revised Common Lectionary. 

Guest writer: Mary Lynn Errigo

Read

Romans 8:26-39

Reflect

This week’s lectionary readings remind us that God’s faithful love for his people is present throughout Scripture. In Genesis 29, we read the story of Jacob, who was deceived by his uncle into marrying not the woman he loved, but her sister. Even in his pain and frustration, Jacob kept going. He remembered the covenant that God made with Abraham and with him (Genesis 28) and trusted in God’s promises.

In Psalm 105, we see the Psalmist give thanks to God in all circumstances. In the most difficult of times, he calls upon His name. He gives glory to God who is worthy to be praised, and he seeks the Lord and His strength.

In Romans, Paul tells a Christian community facing violent persecution that God is with them, enabling them to be “more than conquerors.” He assures them that God will never fail or abandon them.

Sometimes when we think that things can’t get any worse, we assume that God isn’t with us. We begin to lose heart and lose hope. However, even in dire situations, when our strength is gone, we can look to the promises that God has made to us throughout his Word, from beginning to end. We can remember the times that He lifted us up when we had no strength — the times when He came through for us and saved us — and know that He remains faithful to His promises.

Respond

Are you struggling today?  Are you looking for answers to situations that seem hopeless?

With the help of God’s promises in His Word, seek the Lord and His strength. Remember the promises He has kept to you in the past: the times He has lifted you up out of the mess, even when there seemed to be no hope.

Remember that Jesus is with you, defending and protecting. The Holy Spirit is also with you, giving words to your prayers even when you don’t know what to say. No matter what you are going through, it cannot separate you from God’s love.

Flawed People, God’s Perfect Plan

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Summer in the Psalms is a sermon and written reflection series from my church. It is based on the Psalm and linked readings for the week from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Guest writer: Mimi Otani @ crazy4jazz.com

Read

Genesis 29:15-28

Reflect

Genesis is filled with many disturbing and controversial passages. This passage is one of them because of its portrayal of Jacob’s marriage to two sisters, one attractive and one seemingly less so.

Some translations and interpretations say Leah’s “tender eyes” were due to her tender heart (perhaps she spent time crying or praying, making her eyes red and swollen), or that they were blue, which would have been a sign of weakness, or that she had a squint or was cross-eyed; others suggest that her eyes were beautiful, but perhaps her only beauty.

Either way, the order of the sentences suggests that Jacob weighs one sister against the other and chooses the one he finds more physically beautiful. There’s no suggestion that he falls in love with Rachel for any reason other than her appearance. Jacob’s superficial attraction makes him an easy target for Laban, who takes advantage of Jacob’s susceptibility and tricks him into another seven years of labor.

Although I am not a big fan of Jacob, I give him a lot of credit, because even after seven years, Rachel was still desirable to him, and he was willing to work for another seven years to marry her. What woman would not long for such an expression of love?

Looking at the bigger picture, we can see that God uses both women to fulfill the promise that He made to Abraham: that He would make Israel a great nation. The sons of Rachel and Leah become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. Rachel, who was initially chosen by Jacob for shallow reasons, is shown his faithful love, the kind of love God has for all His people. Leah, the unloved wife, ultimately is more honored than her sister. She becomes the mother of Judah, the line that gives birth to Jesus. And Jacob, through all his work and struggles and character flaws, is key to God’s fulfillment of His everlasting covenant with Israel and with all His people through Jesus. Through Jesus, we are called children of God and enjoy an inheritance that is more than the land of Canaan.

Respond

Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the LORD our God (Psalm 105:5-7)

God does not sugar coat His story – He is not afraid of revealing human weaknesses and follies in His Word. Stories like Jacob’s help us to learn from our weaknesses: to realize why we all need Jesus to carry our burdens and why we depend on his grace.

Think of a time in your life when God has rescued you from your own weakness and foolishness, bringing good things to you or other people in spite of everything. Give Him thanks for His wonderful works and the faithfulness of His promises.