Daily Bread

1 Jn 5:5-13; Ps 14; Mk 1:7-11

And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I don’t remember my baptism. Like a lot of babies, I was baptized when I was about 6 months old. This has led me, as a pastor, to talk with children about baptism whenever we celebrate one in the congregation. I usually talk about the promises their parents and godparents made, but I also mention the words Jesus heard after his baptism: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” God’s words to Jesus are also God’s words to us. What if our first thought every morning was, “I am baptized. I am God’s beloved child.” What difference would that make in the way we live our lives? The way we treat ourselves? The way we treat others?
With joy, may we draw strength from the waters of God’s endless love and salvation.

1 Jn 3:11-21; Ps 100; Jn 1:43-51

But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Thomas usually gets the title, but maybe Nathanael should be the patron saint of doubters and questioners, those who are perpetually skeptical, those who always seem to think that something good is probably too good to be true. Much to Philip’s credit, he simply invites Nathanael to “Come and see.” Come and see this Jesus for yourself. And even though he’s skeptical, Nathanael goes. When Jesus seems to know who he is before they’ve been introduced, Nathanael makes a bold confession: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” I hope that even after this occasion, Nathanael felt free to ask questions in order to understand Jesus and his mission, because life is a mixture of faith and doubts.
Speak to us, O God; may we know ourselves to be beloved.

1 Jn 3:7-10; Ps 98; Jn 1:35-42

Sing to the Lord a new song.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine the Christian church without music, because faith and music have been intertwined for centuries, with Christians borrowing from their Jewish roots. If you check a biblical concordance for music, you’ll find over sixty entries — more than sixty references to sing, song, singers and singing. That doesn’t include all the references to instruments like trumpets, lyres, cymbals, flutes, tambourines and harps, nor any of the many times rejoicing and praise are mentioned. Even if we’re not musically inclined, music can give voice to our deepest doubts and fears; music can call us to deeper faith and discipleship. Words that are sung work their way into our subconscious and shape us in subtle ways. That’s why many of those suffering from various kinds of dementia often remember the words of the hymns they once knew as children.

1 Jn 2:29--3:6; Ps 98; Jn 1:29-34

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
Many people use a mantra, a word or short phrase repeated over and over, to remind themselves of some inner truth or belief. Perhaps we ought to remind ourselves: “We are God’s children now.” No matter what we have done or not done, we are God’s beautiful, beloved children, created in God’s image. Perhaps even more remarkable, we are still being created to become the people God intends us to be. Beloved is both who we are and who we are called to become. As Henri Nouwen writes, “Becoming the beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make.” Beloved is where we begin.
May we sing your song, Holy One, wherever we are, whatever we do.

1 Jn 2:22-28; Ps 98; Jn 1:19-28

When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to [John] to ask him, “Who are you?” …he admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
The representatives from the Pharisees want to know who John is. They may have wondered what he was doing out in the desert. They ask if he is Elijah or another prophet. John tells them, in no uncertain terms, that he is not the Messiah. Instead, John is the “advance man” who is called to prepare the way for “the one who is coming...” John is content with not being the leading man; he knows his role is to help the Pharisees (and us) recognize the Messiah in our very midst. Where might we see Christ in this new year? How will the Messiah call us to follow him in this time and place?
Gracious God, grant us the grace and courage to become who we are called to be.

Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting them in her heart.
It’s a new year: 365 days are before us. There’s a new calendar to fill with birthdays, celebrations, errands and all the mundane details of our lives. Who knows what joys and sorrows, what lessons and challenges this year may bring! On this first day of 2018, we can learn from Mary’s example of reflection while remembering the blessings and challenges of this past year. As we name our hopes for this new year, we might ponder our growing edges, the things we want to change — not about others, but about ourselves. May this year be a time when we put aside old grudges, try to understand a different point of view, listen to someone we disagree with, forgive someone, laugh more, sing a new song, and share God’s love in word and deed.
O God, bless us this day and this year.

1 Jn 2:12-17; Ps 96; Lk 2:36-40

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
The Christmas presents may still be under the tree. There’s joy in giving and receiving, but we cannot get so caught up in material possessions that we forget it is all temporary. Nothing we buy, no matter its quality, lasts forever. Things break. There are expiration dates, limited warranties. Technology becomes obsolete. Functioning in the modern world necessitates having certain possessions, but today’s readings warn of “a pretentious life.” Chasing after earthly things becomes an endless quest for bigger, better, newer versions, which inevitably leads to disappointment. We can’t fill with stuff the space that only God should occupy. His loving gift of mercy and salvation is the only thing that lasts forever.
Help us, God of abundance, to develop a healthy awareness of our selfish wants and our actual needs.

1 Jn 2:3-11; Ps 96; Lk 2:22-35

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Reports of hate crimes fill the news. Swastikas, racist taunts and acts of violence abound. Attacks against Muslims increased sharply within the last year with anti-Jewish acts and hate crimes against many other minorities increasing as well. Fear, hardship, entitlement and lack of understanding fuel conditions that perpetuate injustice. Groups spewing hateful rhetoric, harassment and intimidation are on the rise, along with bitter xenophobia, misogyny, classism, racism and other arbitrary divisions that encourage violence. We must shine brightly to combat the darkness of evil that fuels hatred and intolerance.
God of light, make us beacons of your love.

1 Jn 1:5—2:2; Ps 124; Mt 2:13-18

“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”
The angel of the Lord prompted Joseph to gather Mary and Jesus and flee a power-mad ruler slaughtering vulnerable children. Imagine Joseph’s fear and urgency to protect his family. Their only option is to leave everything behind, not knowing how long they will be gone or even if they will return. The one certainty is that anywhere is better than the terror at home. It’s absurd to think that refugees arbitrarily pack up and set out. Like Joseph, they fear for their family’s safety. Their blind exodus is their only hope to find comfort and security.
All knowing God, help us to see the plight of the holy family in today’s refugees.

1 Jn 1:1-4; Ps 97; Jn 20: 1a; 2-8

… for the life was made visible …
The Father sends his Son, Jesus Christ to lead us to the mystery of the gift of eternal life — the visible image of an invisible God. Interacting with Jesus, the apostles intimately encounter the incarnation. We look upon their experiences with the eyes of faith because their witness expresses Jesus, their friend and teacher, not only as fully human but as divine. Their testimony allows us to understand the spiritual reality of the word made flesh. The complex reality of the coming together of human and divine is made clear in their coming to recognize Jesus as the bearer of divine life.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see you in all things.