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The First Week of May

We Read…

When we hear that God is all-powerful, it can be really easy to assume that this power is restricting and demanding. This might even be reinforced when we learn that God gave people a long list of rules and commandments to follow. Is that all our faith is? A scary God and a list of rules? I hope you know that the answer is no, but in case you need more help seeing it, our passages for today do a great job of showing who God is.

In our Psalm for today, we hear the people praising because of all of the wonders God has done. God has stayed with God’s people, created all of the world and is greater than anything we’re overwhelmed by, and this God deserves praise. 

Then, in Acts 10, we see that all people are invited in, and we’ll talk more about this later in our “we believe” section. 1 John 5 and John 15 continue this idea, showing that God doesn’t want to just rule over us; rather, God loves us with unconditional love. Because we are loved and cared for, we should want to listen to God’s guidance. And where can we find God’s guidance for our lives? Well, we find it in the bible and the commandments. God doesn’t give a big list of rules to make our lives harder. Instead, God gives guidance out of love. God knows that our lives and our neighbors' lives will be better if we treat one another with respect and love.

Psalm 98

A psalm. 

    1 Sing to the LORD a new song 

     because he has done 

      wonderful things! 

    His own strong hand 

     and his own holy arm 

     have won the victory! 

    2 The LORD has made his salvation 

     widely known; 

     he has revealed his righteousness 

     in the eyes of all the nations. 

    3 God has remembered his loyal love 

     and faithfulness to the house of Israel; 

     every corner of the earth has seen 

      our God’s salvation. 

    4 Shout triumphantly to the LORD, 

     all the earth! 

     Be happy! 

     Rejoice out loud! 

     Sing your praises! 

    5 Sing your praises to the LORD 

     with the lyre— 

     with the lyre and the sound of music. 

    6 With trumpets and a horn blast, 

     shout triumphantly before the LORD, 

      the king! 

    7 Let the sea and everything in it roar; 

     the world and all its inhabitants too. 

    8 Let all the rivers clap their hands; 

     let the mountains rejoice out loud 

      altogether 9 before the LORD 

     because he is coming to establish 

      justice on the earth! 

    He will establish justice 

     in the world rightly; 

     he will establish justice 

      among all people fairly.

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.

1 John 5:1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. 3 This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, 4 because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. 5 Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son? 

6 This is the one who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. Not by water only but by water and blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

John 15:9-17

 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.

We Think…

  • What stands out to you in these verses?

  • Does anything confuse you or not make sense?

  • How do these verses compare to your own experience in life or the church?

  • What are you considering? What questions come to mind?

  • Why do you think Jesus points back to the commandments so often?

We Feel…

  • What emotions are you experiencing today? How are you making space for these feelings?

  • Where have you seen God today or this week? 

  • What is pointing you to God (maybe it is something in creation, maybe a friend or adult that cares for you)?

  • What has God made new in your life? In your heart? 

  • How have you experienced love through the commandments?

  • The psalmist uses personification to bring creation to life and show its power. How does this make you feel?

We Believe…

In Acts 10, the Spirit falls onto unexpected people. Jesus’s disciples were all Jewish, and most of the people he spent time ministering to were in the Jewish faith (just like he was). Some of his followers believed that Jesus only came for the Jewish people, not for any of the outsiders (Gentiles). So you can imagine their shock when they realize that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles as Peter was preaching. They didn’t know what to do! They quickly tried to figure out who was in and out and how they could control the situation. But Peter reminds them that the Gentiles now have God in their hearts, just like the Jewish Christians. God turned the tables on everything they believed about who was included and who was supposed to be on the outside. 

We believe that all people are invited into a relationship with Christ. No one is too far gone, no one is too far on the outside, and no one is too different to be included. In our tradition, we believe that all have the chance to accept this relationship. God has not chosen a select few to be in the special club; instead, God has extended an invitation to ALL people. 

We Practice…

For our practice this week, take time to reflect on how you abide in God. 

  • What practices do you currently have in your life that help you to refocus on God?

  • How are you abiding by the commands God has given you.

  • How are you strengthening your relationship with God?