(NRSV) 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”
(The Message)6 “Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.”
Eugene Peterson unpacks this verse in an interesting way, as he acknowledges the sacred mysteries of God that cannot be reduced to simple words. Jesus invites us to open up our hearts before him and entrust our deepest selves to the mystery and loving understanding of the Trinity.
- Are there mysteries in your life and journey with God that you are trying to reduce to words?
- What makes it difficult to sit in the sacred mystery of your relationship with God?
- Who in your life needs to be invited to experience God in a deeper way and how can you encourage them?
Gracious God, thank you for being near and for engaging with our spirit in ways that words cannot adequately express. Expand our hearts to embrace the mystery of your presence in our lives and in the lives of our friends. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Jesus compares our human capacity to love those closest to us and give them good things to his infinitely abundant capacity to give us what we ask for. We are invited to boldly ask, boldly search, and boldly knock, trusting that God will give good things to those who ask.
- How easy is it to ask God for what you need?
- What are you searching for?
- What will it look like for the door to be opened to you? What or who is behind the door?
Gracious Lord, you invite us to come boldly before you – asking, seeking, knocking – and you promise us good things. Help us to not hold back our requests but to ask audaciously and live in anticipation of your loving provision for us and those we love. In Your holy name, Amen.
12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Have you ever read these verses together before? Perhaps the challenge to find the narrow gate relates to choosing to treat others with the same dignity and compassion that you would want to be treated with. It is more difficult to be mindful of the other, especially in today's culture we are in, but as image bearers of God we are invited to find and honor others as those who bear the image of God as well.
- Where are you being invited onto the narrow way of treating others with the same dignity and respect that you desire?
- When have you found yourself choosing the easy way?
- Who in your life needs to be seen as an image-bearer of God and how can you reach out to them?
Gracious God, thank you for creating each of us in your image, a reflection of you in some mysterious way. As we interact with others, especially those who hold different perspectives than us, remind us and empower us to treat them the way that we desire to be treated, even when it means walking the narrow way. In Jesus’ name, Amen
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.”
In his warning about people who aren’t what or who they say they are, Jesus tells his followers to look to their character to discern the validity of their message. Do their lives reflect the fruit of the Spirit? Jesus is challenging us as well to tend to the health of our inner lives so that we feed and nurture the good fruit of our lives and ministry.
- When have you trusted someone whose inner life was inconsistent with their outer life? How did this impact you?
- What are you doing to tend to your inner life?
- Where do you see your external fruit reflecting the inner work that Christ is doing in your life?
Gracious Jesus – Give us discerning hearts and minds to know who to trust and follow. Thank you that you are good through and through and all you do reflects your goodness. Help us to tend to our souls so that we live lives of integrity for your glory and for the sake of others. In Your name, Amen.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Sometimes pride or shame can keep us from coming before God in confession. We compare ourselves to others, rather than standing before the throne of God, in need of and covered by His grace. When we can honestly acknowledge our sin and God’s abundant forgiveness, we begin to extend the same generosity to others.
- Where do you need the mercy of God in your life?
- What keeps you from imagining with gratitude standing in God’s presence, forgiven?
- How does your ability to confess your sins and receive forgiveness impact your capacity to forgive others?
Gracious God, it is so unfathomable that we are the recipients of your generous forgiveness, especially in a world that is so quick to judge and condemn. Help us, Lord, to come to you with uplifted hearts and hands to confess and receive your forgiveness, so that we might turn toward those around us with the same mercy and compassion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.