Ep.077: Psalm 30: You Turned my Mourning to Dancing.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 30 is an envelope Psalm that  begins and ends with praise. It starts,
    I will exalt you, Lord  (v. 1)
and it concludes
    O Lord my God, I will praise you forever (v. 12). 

Inside this envelope of praise, the poet tells how he moved from despair to thanksgiving. The story begins with his intense need. He was in a  life-threatening situation and felt dragged into a dark pit. He was stuck in desperation and despair. 

Then God rescued him.  When he felt most abandoned, God showed up and pulled him out of the pit. The poet says God was angry, but that “his anger lasts only a moment; then he gives favor forever” (v. 5). The poet wept for one brutal night, but in the morning God gave the gift of joy (v. 5). The poet was shuffling hopelessly through life, but God set his feet dancing (v. 11).  

That’s Psalm 30, the poet’s thank you card to God, tucked nicely in an envelope of praise. 

Let’s pray our own envelope prayer, like the poet did. 

Lord, we give you thanks, we give you praise. Though parts of the world are darkened by industrial pollution and wildfire smoke, yet the sun still shines and crops still grow. Though right wing politicians mock truth and left wing politicians propose utopian fantasies, your law still governs our hearts and minds. Though the church strays into errors of liberalism and fundamentalism, still your word is preached and prayers are offered. Though our lives are narrow and selfish, you have made your home in us. We give you thanks.  

You answered our deepest prayers. The woman whose son has been decades in prison is at last able to visit him. The man who fell again into pornography confessed and started over. The boy dying of leukemia responded to treatment: his prospects are hopeful. The victim of unthinkable abuse has begun to find healing and forgiveness. The minister who scolded his people every week with the bad news of sin has at last found the good news of grace. We who resented the church and your laws and your people now feel your Spirit softening our hard hearts with a new way of love. 

We say, “Thank you, good Lord.” Thank you for intervening in our sickness. Thank you for showing us our sin and pointing us to a new life. Thank you for not abandoning us to the deadly consequences of our ways. Thank you for finding us drifting on the ocean and giving us a compass and setting our sail for home.

Where we were abused, you taught us forgiveness. Where we were lonely, you became our companion.  Where we were isolated you called us into community. Where we made bad decisions, you gave us grace to start over. When our carelessness broke relationships, you taught us how to rebuild. When all our roads led to despair, you built a bridge of hope. 

Thank you for not leaving us in the pit we dug. Thank you for shining light into our darkness. Thank you for rescuing us from our enemies. Thank you for being our help, our stronghold and our salvation. 

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.        

Ep.076: Only the Best Wine.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

Today, we look at the second chapter in the Gospel of John.  Jesus and his disciples went to a wedding in Cana. Soon the wedding ran out of wine. I hope that doesn’t happen you attend weddings.

Jesus’ mother, thinking he might want to help, said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus replied, “Not my problem.” But Mary persisted in hoping Jesus would get involved, so she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

After a while, Jesus decided it was his problem after all, so he said to the servants, “Fill those jugs with water.” Then he said, “Take some to the headwaiter.” The headwaiter tasted it and said to the bridegroom, “This isn’t average wine. This is the good stuff. Why didn’t you serve this first?” 

Let’s pray this story from the viewpoint of several actors. 

Lord, in this story you are a full participant in human culture, a welcome guest at a wedding. Help us  follow your example. Help us not to isolate ourselves in churchland with people who look like us and think like us and believe like us. Help us to participate fully and freely in our neighbourhood, our workplace, our community. Lord, how narrow we have grown, seeing the same people every week, having the same conversations about religion and politics and world events, hearing the same sermon at church. Jesus, help us to engage a wider circle, those from different economic classes, social strata, and countries. Teach us to care for outsiders — immigrants, widows, orphans, prisoners, and gays.

Lord, your mother was accustomed to domestic life with you in your Nazareth home. But in this story she learned a new way of relating to you. You brushed off her and the problem and she had to wait in uncertainty about what you might do. Like Mary, we have grown accustomed to our domestic life with you. You are the carpenter in our family, and we organize the household. But our intuition says you are not as domesticated as we think. Our churches don’t demonstrate your power to build community and make good wine. Jesus, teach us like Mary to see the problem, bring it to you, receive your response, and wait for your action. Help us not to strategize our solutions for the wine we know is missing–help us look to you, to find in you a miracle that supplies only the best wine–no matter when it comes our way. 

Lord, in this story the disciples saw your first sign and believed in you. O Jesus, this exposes the problem of believing. It was not a rational problem: where the disciples needed the right system of doctrine, it was not a philosophical problem: where they needed to discover and adopt the right world view. It was a spiritual problem to see you at work, to look beyond the wine to the winemaker. Help us to see the work you do. 

Jesus, who understood what happened? Did the servants understand when they drew water from the jugs? Did the headwaiter investigate the source of good wine? Did the bride and bridegroom understand the transformation? We are your disciples, we have caught a glimpse of water turned to wine, of the carpenter become winemaker. Jesus, help us drink your good wine, show us the source, teach us to believe in you. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Ep.075: Psalm 29: Thunderstorm.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 29 is a thunderstorm bookended in gifts.  It starts with our gift to God, saying,
“Give to the Lord the glory due his name
  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”  (v. 1). 

And it concludes: 
“The Lord gives strength to his people;
        The Lord blesses his people with peace” (v.11). 

Between our gift of praise to God, and God’s gift of peace to us, the psalm describes God’s power in a storm. It is much like that passage in Job where God speaks in a thunderstorm. Elihu said, 

“Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
        how he thunders from his pavilion?
    See how he scatters his lightning about him,
        Bathing the depths of the sea” (Job 36:29-30). 

One summer our family vacationed on the eastern edge of the Rockies. We stayed at a campsite in our thin nylon dome tent with matching blue nylon rain sheet. The made-in-China tent was supposed to sleep six, but the four of us filled it up. The gravel pad under the tent bent regular tent pegs, so we substituted 12-inch nails driven in with an axe. The tent floor had a small hole created by campfire embers from some forgotten expedition, but fortunately I had patched it with duct tape. 

One night after our evening walk to the running water and flush toilets at the “Trading Post”, the late summer twilight darkened quickly as black clouds hurried over the mountains. Large raindrops splattered on the dusty path so we crawled into our sleeping bags, zipped the nylon door, and waited. Heavy rain lashed our thin shelter and bursts of lightning flashed blue light through the walls. After each burst of light, a dark pause, then a rumble and an awesome crack of thunder. Water streamed down the flysheet and flowed in shallow rivers away from the tent. The duct tape on the floor held fast.

That’s probably the least protected I’ve ever been in a thunderstorm. It was beautiful and it was awesome, but in a  fearful and dangerous way. Like the voice of God.

Let’s pray the familiar verses of Psalm 29. 

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
    Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
    and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ (vv. 3-9).

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.        

Ep.074: The Second Beginning.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

Today, we look at the Gospel of John.

The Book of John starts at the same place as the Book of Genesis: back in the beginning. Genesis says, “In the  beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” John says, “In the beginning was the word. . . Through him all things were created.”

 In Genesis when God started speaking, his first words were: “Let there be light.”  In John when God sent his word into the world, it says, “In him was life and that life was the light of every human.”  Twice, God sent his light into the darkness..

And when God sends light into darkness, things happen!  At creation, the darkness of chaos surrendered to the light of God. In John’s Gospel we expect a similar result. When God sent Jesus as light of the world, human darkness should be swept away and human chaos should surrender to the light and life of God. 

But that did not happen. John says, “Christ the true light came into the world, but the world did not know him. He came to his own and his own did not receive him.” God sent Jesus to light up the world, but the world just shrugged and continued in darkness. 

What went wrong? Did God’s word lose its power somewhere between Creation and Christ? When God sent Christ, was he too weak to turn on the light in a way that would get noticed? The new beginning in John’s gospel suddenly feels like a bad Hollywood sequel. The original movie was great. but the best thing about sequel was munching on popcorn. 

John explores this problem in his gospel. He tells stories about people who met Jesus, but they thought the new light was just a bad reflection, or they thought Jesus was just darkness in disguise. But John also tells stories about people who saw and responded to the new light.  

Let’s pray.

Our father, we rejoice in the light of each new day. It reminds of that first day when you said,  “Let there be light.” But we wonder why the light of Christ does not transform our lives. Why are there so many dark corners the light doesn’t find? Why do our character flaws and habits not change in all our years of being Christians? As John said, The light has come into our darkness, but the darkness does not understand it. “Christ came to his own and they did not receive him. But to those who did receive him, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). Yes Jesus, we receive you again. We receive your light. Light up our lives with your presence, expose our darkness and drive it away. May today be our day of new creation and new light.

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.