Home Altar: Week of October 10, 2021

by Jane Spriggs

Sunday, October 10
James 1:9-11; 5:1-6

Fragile Beauty


          

I gasped for joy while unpacking the Valentine’s Day flowers my husband had ordered—a dozen uniquely colored roses! An hour later, I groaned with dismay as one by one each of the flowers bent its head over and died. (The cause of their demise was a below-zero night in a delivery van.) 

The writer of the book of James would understand the brevity of the beautiful flowers’ lives. James says, “The sun rises with its scorching heat…its flower falls, and its beauty perishes” (1:10, NRSV). And James compares rich people to flowers, saying their lives and wealth will disappear quickly too.

Why does this passage warn wealthy people of life’s fragility? To warn us away from hoarding material things, and to encourage us to use our resources to serve people, especially the poor. Jesus even says in Matthew 25 that helping the poor is the same as helping him! 

Jesus, help me recognize all that I have as gifts from you, hold onto what I own lightly, and be willing to use what I’ve been given to help others, especially the poor. AMEN.

Monday, October 11
Mark 10:17-22

True Love


“I love you, Jane.” Those are the words I heard when the seminary chapel speaker asked us to sit silently and listen for God’s voice. I was disappointed. I was hoping to hear details of my future call. Instead, I heard those beautiful words—that God, the Creator and Redeemer of all things, loved me and knew me by name. 

Jesus knew and loved a man who asked him how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus, answered, looking at the man with love, saying, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (10:21, NRSV). Sadly, the man walked away because he was rich.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it—and whatever Jesus says to us is through his heart of love and care. He knows your name.

Jesus, help me believe you know and love me, and help me follow you. AMEN.

Tuesday, October 12
Mark 10:23-31

But with God….


Jesus’s disciples had just watched a wealthy man choose his possessions over following him. Then Jesus added that it’s almost impossible for a rich person to surrender to him—like, fitting-a-camel-through-a-sewing-needle implausible! The disciples were astounded and asked, “Then who in the world can be saved?” (Mark 10:26, NLT). 

Jesus responded that what looks hopeless through our human eyes isn’t difficult for God—because with God, all things are possible!

If we believe that’s true, what impossible things in your life are you willing to give to God? Can you give him a challenging area of your life? Can you give God your doubts and questions—trusting him to be with you in your wrestling, trusting him to work in ways you can’t possibly imagine?

Gracious God, help me learn to trust in you and surrender to your love. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 13
Job 23

Standing Strong


We couldn’t find our car. My family and I were enjoying our Florida vacation—until we looked for our car in the SeaWorld parking lot. As I saw a thunderstorm approaching, and looked around and saw Dodge Chargers that weren’t ours, I cried out, “We’re all gonna die!” 

Fortunately, Job exhibits more faith in God than I—even though he is suffering. Job’s children have been killed, he’s lost his possessions, and he has a painful skin disease. Now, Job can’t find God. He’s looked for God everywhere, and God can’t be seen.

In the middle of all of this, Job stops demanding answers from God. Instead, he knows that God is aware of his suffering, and “when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold” (23:10). Job knows he is precious to God, because only valuable metals are refined, and he will withstand this test.

Dear God, help me to know you are with me in my suffering, and help me to stand strong in you. AMEN.

Thursday, October 14
Psalm 22:1-22

Rescued!


Have you ever needed to be rescued? Michael Packard did—when he was trapped inside a humpback whale’s mouth. Michael, a New England lobsterman, thought he was going to die. Instead, the young whale spit him out feet first!

King David needed to be rescued when he wrote Psalm 22. David is suffering physically (“I can count all my bones,” v. 17), emotionally (“All who see me mock at me,” v. 7), and he feels abandoned spiritually (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” v. 1). Jesus used those very words to cry out to God from the cross. 

Eventually, David acknowledges that God has rescued him, and praises him. God wants to rescue you too.

Are you suffering? Do you feel abandoned? Jesus and David cried out to God, and you can too. Know God is with you and is listening to you.

Jesus, help me to be honest with you when I’m suffering, and help me to know you as my Rescuer. AMEN.

Friday, October 15
Psalm 90:12-17

Never Alone


How has the pandemic affected you? Do you feel like God is absent? I don’t know why God allowed the pandemic, but do know he has not left us alone, because God said he wouldn’t fail or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5, NLT). I struggle with a chronic illness, and there are times when I ask God why he is allowing this suffering. God isn’t upset by my questions or even my anger. I believe he grieves with me, that he is with me and understands my pain. But, even so, this is hard. And so, the words of this psalm (believed to be written by Moses) are precious to me. When Moses says, “Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants!” (v. 13, NRSV), I cry out in agreement for myself, and for all of you who suffer. And when I read, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love” (v. 14), I know that is what I, and what we, really need—God’s love that never fails. 

Lord God, have mercy on us and our world—and help us to know your never-ending love. AMEN.

Saturday, October 16
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Being a Champion


Who’s your favorite superhero? When my sons were young, they loved Iron Man—we even painted a basement hangout room red and gold, the colors of Iron Man’s suit.

According to the Old Testament prophet Amos, it’s easy to be a superhero. Simply treat the poor fairly—economically and legally—always tell the truth, do what is good, and run away from evil. If we do these things, Amos says, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies himself will be our helper (v. 14, NLT)!

What would it look like in our lives and churches to help people on the margins receive justice? We can start by being a friend to someone who is different from us ethnically or economically by getting to know them and maybe having them over for a meal. The more we get to know people on the margin, the more we will care and pray for each other, and become the people God wants us to be—real heroes!

Dear God, show us how to care about each other, especially people who are poor and living on the margins. AMEN.

About the Author: Jane Spriggs

I am an ordained Covenant pastor and have served as an associate pastor in St. Paul (The Gallery Covenant Church) and lead pastor in Monticello, Minnesota (Monticello Covenant Church). I previously worked as a Registered Dietitian in Wisconsin, Oregon, and Minnesota, have a passion for feeding people spiritually and physically, and am on the board of the Monticello Help Center (food shelf). I also love music and coaching other pastors and leaders. I’m married to Mark, and we have two sons, Trevor and Robert, and a gentle Standard Poodle named Jack.

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