Hope for the Homecoming

Amid tremendous darkness and despair in a time of exile, Isaiah speaks to the hope that is ours. The text gives us pause to wonder, what might our coming home to God be like today? And on that glorious day when Christ comes back in person to dwell with us here on earth? Notice the longings which rise up within you as you pray with this passage. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlarge your hope.

Isaiah 60:1-6 NLT

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.

For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you.

2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,

but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.

3 All nations will come to your light;

mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

4 “Look and see, for everyone is coming home!

Your sons are coming from distant lands;

your little daughters will be carried home.

5 Your eyes will shine,

and your heart will thrill with joy,

for merchants from around the world will come to you.

They will bring you the wealth of many lands.

6 Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,

the camels of Midian and Ephah.

The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense

and will come worshiping the LORD.

For Your Reflection and Prayer:
What word, phrase or picture stood out to you as you listened to the text? Bring this into your conversation with God.

Which emotion rises up within you as you meditate on this passage? Where do you feel it in your body? Gently welcome it and bring it into your prayer.

Rest in any consoling words or images given to you in your prayer.

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Returning and Remaining @Home with God

As Jesus encounters more misunderstanding, opposition, false accusation and threat of harm, he returns to the place where he heard his Father say, "You are my beloved son. I am well pleased with you." This place of the River Jordan where John baptized is steeped in significance. It is here, where God delivered the wandering Israelites. They witnessed the river stop flowing and crossed over on dry land to enter into the promised land - a land flowing with milk and honey. Here God's people erected 12 stones as a remembrance of God's faithfulness to the 12 tribes of Israel. Will you join Jesus in this place and remember what happened here? What was said here? God will bring each of us home where we hear again, "I am God's beloved. I am well pleased with you."

John 10:31-42 (ESV)
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you.

Notice any place of consolation or desolation that you experienced as you listened to and allow the Father to minister to you there.

What touches you about Jesus in this word? Talk it over with him.

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Encountering Faithfulness

In the midst of truth telling - while being known and loved, we witness the Samaritan women encounter faithfulness, perhaps for the first time. She remains vulnerable in the presence of Jesus and boldly asks her big questions about God. Jesus meets her in her questions, her wondering and graciously invites her home to I AM.

The first appearance of I AM recorded in the Scriptures is at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. Moses is invited to take off his sandals and be at home with God. There God makes himself known as I AM. Moses comes to know God relationally. Now Jesus offers the same invitation to this woman from Samaria, in essence saying, 'you who have never experienced faithfulness...come home to me. You will find me faithful'.

As you enter your prayer, consider the true you God is inviting home. Be there with God, as simply and honestly as you can.

John 4:19-26 (NLT)
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What resonated within you as you listened? What feelings seemed to accompany this? Journal your thoughts and impressions.

When do you notice yourself being simply and honestly yourself before God? How does God receive you at those times?

Rest in the presence of Jesus, just as you are in this moment.

Sounds of Freedom

Again this Christmas, we celebrated the coming of Jesus and we remember again the purpose of his coming: to restore us back to God. In this Psalm, we are given a front row seat to hear the voices of a people who are freed from captivity and brought back home to God. Let us find our own voice within this crowd and join the cry for freedom.

Psalm 126 (AMP)
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion (Jerusalem),
We were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal].

Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad!
Restore our [b]captivity, O Lord,
As the stream-beds in the South (the Negev) [are restored by torrents of rain].
 
They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing.
 
He who goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed [for planting],
Will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Footnotes:
Psalm 126:4 I.e. the remaining exiles.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Journal what Jesus says in response to you.

How have you experienced being restored from captivity?  Reflect on your experience; either your lifetime or this past year. Bring your reflections before God in prayer.

Perhaps your longings reveal a desire for new freedom. Ask God to give you courage to listen and discern what they may be revealing. Ask God to meet you in your longings.

Does a spontaneous response arise within you to God? To sing or dance or make music or write or any kind of art form? What ways of expression of worship flow from your marvelous design?

Longing to Belong

The Word we consider today finds the Pharisees and supporters of Herod trying to trap Jesus into saying something or doing something that will give them reason to arrest him. Little has changed in the 2,000 years since.  We still look for reasons to take Jesus out of the picture of our lives. Jesus was the living example of loving your neighbor, of honesty, of fair treatment, of impartiality. Are we expected to live into those same values? Are we to give our heart, our entire being, our belongings, our family, basically all that we have and are to God? What in our lives do we give to God and what to this material world?

Mark 12:13-17 (NLT)
13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,  and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.

For Prayer and Reflection:
What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?

What amazes you about Jesus’ response?

What do you want to say to Jesus about this text? What does Jesus say to you in response?

Where do you notice your deep longing to belong? or a temptation to try real hard to fit in? When have you experienced a sense of belonging to God? What has that been like for you? Ask Jesus to give you a greater sense of belonging to him and his Father.