Tuesday January 21 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture: John 3:16-21

Key verse: (21) But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Reflection: “John 3:16” –– can be seen plastered around town (at least in the South) on billboards, beautifully drawn in sharpie on journals or posters, and even colorfully displayed as graffiti on bridges and freight cars. This verse is one the most well-known and quoted verses of the bible. God gave Jesus, the Son, so that you can have eternal life. All you have to do is believe. Simple. Well, maybe not.

God’s grace is for us all, and God’s love is for us all. But as you keep reading through this passage, we are being asked to do much more than believe. Jesus is asking for exposure.

When a journalist writes an expose’, secrets are revealed; this may lead to condemnation or judgement. We hide things, conceal our faults from others, for we fear that exposing all that we are may not be enough or accepted. Exposure is scary. Exposure is uncomfortable. When we are exposed, some may feel shame or embarrassment. You might be revealing flaws or insecurities. Exposure tends to be viewed negatively due to the shame associated with it.

I wonder what Jesus is saying to us here. Is it a warning that in “coming to the light” we will be found out as a fraud or a fake; or worst, not accepted because of who we are? I wonder how uncomfortable this may be, to reveal our whole self, flaws and faults included.

In asking for exposure, I hear a calling to feel God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. We are being asked to take off our masks, reveal who we are, and come to know that it is enough in the eyes of God. God’s love is deeper than our flaws. God’s forgiveness is bigger than our faults and insecurities.

Imagine how freeing it may feel if we reveal our whole self to God. I wonder how much trust it takes to show God our true self. Jesus is asking you to step into the light, be exposed, and know that you are loved still.

Prayer: You gave your Son so that I may have life, O God. Yet, I confess I hide in the darkness. Forgive me. I fear not being loved because … silent personal prayer. Guide me back to the light and remind me how to live as a child of the light. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday January 20 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: Hebrews 4: 14-5:6

Key verse: (15) “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

Reflection: Every person is tested by life.  We all will, at some point, experience struggles that will challenge our faith.  We will make mistakes that hurt ourselves and others.  Eventually, we will suffer illness and death.  In between our first breath and our last, there will be times of joy, failure, celebration and incredible love. Scripture tells us that God knows everything about us – our strengths and weaknesses and our joys and sorrows.  Jesus promised to always be with us and today’s passage confirms this reality.

While Jesus is above all and in all, he is one who can sympathize with our weaknesses because God came and lived among us as a human being, as Jesus Christ.  Tested by mortal life, Jesus knows both life’s joys and sorrows.  He also died our death.  So, when the hard times come, we are confident that God in Christ understands the depth of our emotions.  When we mess up God in Christ deals with us gently, even when we deserve a harsh punishment or can’t forgive ourselves.  Through Jesus, our high priest, sins are forgiven, hope is offered and we can live knowing that he is near, loving and caring about all people.

If you are wondering about the significance of Melchizedek in today’s passage, he was a high priest who blessed Abram in Genesis 14 and is referred to in Psalm 110. He has no lineage that can be traced, so he was considered a priest for all people.  How much more is Jesus by comparison?  The writer of Hebrews makes a connection between Melchizedek and Jesus in order to point out that Jesus, while superior, is from this same order – one who understands and extends his love, care and forgiveness to everyone, everywhere. With confidence, we can approach the throne of grace and receive mercy and help from God.

Prayer: Loving God, there is no one like you.  We give thanks that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses and understands our frailties.  Help us to rely more and more on him in our everyday lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday January 17 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: John 2:1-12

Key verse: (11)  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Reflection: In the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle is when he turned water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. Here Jesus appeared to be a reluctant miracle-worker. When his mother told him that the hosts had run out of wine, Jesus dismissed her. His mother persisted and the miracle unfolds.

Standing nearby were stone water jars used in the Jewish rites of purification, likely to wash hands before and after meals. Each jar would hold 20-30 gallons of water. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water and somehow that water was transformed into wine. We don’t know anything about how it happened but now the party had 120-180 gallons of very good wine. (A Medieval commentator suggested that the water recognized its creator and blushed.) That wine becomes a sign, the first sign in the gospel, pointing to the identity of the one who performed the sign. A sign is a clue that heaven and earth have intersected in a transforming way.

This sign reminds us that Jesus is God’s extravagant, abundant, full, “lavish beyond our imagining” presence in the world. Jesus has more love, more grace, more power, more truth, more life than we have ever encountered before. The presence of Jesus transforms ordinary things into extraordinary things and transforms ordinary people into extraordinary witnesses of love. God is not stingy. God does not dole out doses of love in little tiny cups. God’s feast doesn’t run out of abundant grace. The good wine of God’s presence flows with abundance.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you have poured out your love for me in Jesus Christ. When I am reluctant, make me generous in sharing your love and grace with the world. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday January 16 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture:  John 1:43-51

Key verses: (43-46) The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Reflection: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? We know the answer is, yes! Jesus came from Nazareth and transforms our lives through his birth.  Knowing the end of the story makes the question seem irrelevant.  Why did Nathanael ask this rhetorical question?

Take a look at the humble beginnings of Jesus. Born in a dirty stable to poor parents, he was one of the least of these. Jesus is not from the center of power. Good things were not supposed to come from Nazareth or all of that.  God had other plans.

This weekend we celebrate the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who also said good news was coming from the poor. He and other leaders began planning a Poor People’s Campaign where the poor from across the nation and across racial and ethnic lines would come together in Washington, D.C. to proclaim to the nation that our world was not in order. Racism persisted despite the civil rights legislation and change was needed. King had come to see that it was the poor themselves who would be called to be the leadership of this movement, and he began pulling together leaders from poor whites, poor blacks, poor Native Americans and poor Mexican Americans and poor Puerto Rican Americans. They were already working for changes in regards to housing rights, living wage rights, land rights, treaty rights, welfare rights, voting rights and education rights but each in their own community. Coming together, they would be good news not only for themselves but for the whole nation and world.

We don’t hear much about the Poor People’s Campaign because King was assassinated before the march on Washington and work could be done. Maybe we don’t hear about it because it’s hard to imagine that good would come from the poor.  MLK knew God and knew that in God’s time, in God’s kingdom, good news comes from the margins.

Good news still comes from where we least expect it. God does not think that some people are more worthy than others. Look to the stable for confirmation that God knows good news comes from even the most unexpected places and in unexpected ways. Let us hear God’s call to work together, where all persons are valued and there is no longer room for poverty, racism, food insecurity or a living wage. Our God comes to us in unexpected ways.

Prayer: God, open our eyes and ears to unexpected leaders working for justice and peace. Open our eyes to your presence.  Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday January 15 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture: John 1:29-42

Key verse: (38) “Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  And they said to him, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’  He said to them, ‘Come and see.’”

Reflection: What are you looking for?”  That’s the question Jesus poses to Andrew and his friend in John 1:38.   They have been following John the Baptist for quite some time, most likely coming to John to be baptized; looking for redemption, to be washed of their sin in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the one who would bring the kingdom of God.  That’s who they were looking for, the Messiah.  But what were they looking for from the Messiah?  Maybe they were looking for adventure, for new experiences, to see the world beyond the sleepy little village in which they had spent their lives.  Maybe they were looking to make a difference.  Maybe they were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives.  Is it possible they were looking for some of the same things 21st- century seekers might?

People come to church looking for something. Some are looking for twelve o’clock to get out and beat the traffic to a favorite brunch spot.  Some are looking for community, for a place to belong, to connect with other people, and connect more with God in the process.  Some are looking for a foundation upon which to build their lives; others for a connection with the divine; others for a connection with the past, with what life was like when they were growing up.  Some are looking for healing, of body or soul or both.  Some seek redemption, new life on the other side of mistakes made or opportunities missed.  People come to church looking for many things.

Jesus’ question carries great power because everyone is looking for something.  The world is ready and willing to offer solutions to the search.  Can it be found in a big salary and the corner office?  How about in that dream house in the perfect neighborhood? The world offers many possibilities: wealth, power, material possessions, the list goes on and on – but they are all ultimately found wanting, for they are dead idols.  They cannot fulfill what the human heart ultimately seeks.

In 1987, the Irish rock group, U2 released what would become one of their bestselling songs, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”   The song’s best version is arguably the recording that includes the Harlem Gospel Choir in accompaniment, found on their “Rattle and Hum” album. See it here .  Its lyrics speak of that search inherent to the human condition.  The song also speaks of a belief in the coming of God’s kingdom, yet ultimately, it expresses an innate sense inherent in the human condition.  “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

At the turn of the 18th century, theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher wrote of humanity’s quest for something beyond themselves, describing it as, “a taste for the infinite.”   In the 20th century, Paul Tillich would speak of God as “the ground of being,” the subject of life’s “ultimate concern,” or concern for that which is ultimate, that is, beyond one’s self.  Until it is recognized that the human heart longs for the infinite, the ground of being, the ultimate concern, we will not find what we’re looking for on this side of eternity. Yet with Andrew and his friend, those who would follow Jesus are invited on a journey.

“Come and see,” calls the Christ.  Join the journey, for in the quest itself, there is life to be found, and from time to time, by God’s grace, one just might get a glimpse of what every human being is looking for.

Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday January 14 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture: Genesis 3:1-24

Key verses: (8-9) “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. God called and said, “Where are you?”

Reflection: So often when I am reading scripture I find myself laughing at the questions that God asks us. In our text for today Adam and Eve have disobeyed God, have listened to the crafty snake, and in their fear have hidden from God in the trees. And then we get this question from God, “Where are you?” God, who created the world that the man and the woman are living in, who created the fruit that they ate, who created the Adam and Eve themselves and the trees that they are hiding in, this God asks, “Where are you?” I find it hard to believe that God didn’t know where Adam and Eve were hiding. God’s sovereignty, presence, and wisdom are too great for God to lose at an easy game of hide and seek.

So what was God’s question getting at? I often think that we as humans get ourselves into situations that we aren’t quite sure how we got into them and at the same time aren’t quite sure how to get out. And instead of seeking help, admitting we were wrong, or facing those who we’ve made mad, we often find ourselves sitting in trees, pretending like nothing is out of the ordinary. But thankfully God doesn’t play along with our tricks, instead God shakes us back to reality, helping us realize that we are grown adults sitting in a tree, hiding. Hiding from a mistake, from fear, from shame, from something that we have made bigger in our mind, from something that we have made worse by our hiding. And God, in God’s loving way jolts us out of our downward mindset and brings us back to God’s loving presence. For in the end, the worst didn’t happen to Adam and Eve, their lives continued, they got out of the trees and moved on with their life facing God and facing each other.

Where in your life have you made a choice, said some words, or done who knows what, and have found yourself up in the trees, hiding, standing firm in your position even if it’s not comfortable and you don’t really know how you got there? Do you know what I’m talking about? We’ve all been there, an argument that starts out small but gets way too big, a firm position we hold that we don’t know why other than we can’t admit there might be another opinion to be heard, a small mistake that turns into avoidance. Wherever that is in your life, pause for this moment … hear God say, “Where are you?” May this be an invitation to get down out of the trees with God’s grace by your side and face whatever it is that brought you up there.

Prayer: Holy God, you know us too well. We are often a stubborn people that allow small things to turn big, and allow anxieties and fears to morph into unhelpful actions separating us from one another and from you. By your Spirit call us down out of the trees, help us to approach each other with your love and grace. For you are a compassionate, patient, and caring God, may we remember that all of our days. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday January 13 2020

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: John 1:1-18

Key verses: (2-4) 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

Reflection: Each time I read this passage I think of Wendy Johnston, a biblical storyteller, who loves exploring creative narration and is challenged by our response to God’s work in the world…God’s ongoing story. She tells John 1 this way…

the word…became flesh

I went to the beginning, and it was light. And white. No darkness anywhere.
I heard someone singing a message. But I didn’t understand.
“Who are you?”, I asked. “WORD”, was the reply.

I asked, “How long have you been here?”
“Always”, WORD said.

“Who is here with you?”
“Oh, God is here with me”, WORD smiled.

“What are you then?”
“I am God”, WORD replied.

I still didn’t understand.
So, I asked, “What are you here to do?”
“I AM”, WORD said.

“Huh?”, I furrowed my brow. I felt dumb. WORD smiled again.
“The Message I sing, tells everyone who I AM. God’s Love Song cannot be silent! Singing Love and bringing Life. I am Creator – through me all things were sung into being.
Nothing came into being without me.
I am Logos – God’s Message to humankind.
I am The Light – no darkness can overcome me.

I thought…HARD!
If WORD was there in the beginning, then WORD was never created!
If WORD was there in the beginning, then WORD was the one who created.
If WORD was there in the beginning of all things, then WORD created ME!

“Come with me”, WORD said, “I’ll show you.”
We found ourselves in an animal shelter. Cows, sheep and …. a newborn baby with his mother and father. Shepherds with simple hearts and shining eyes, kneeling in the dirty hay praising and worshipping God the WORD in human form.

I am starting to understand. WORD said… “My Creation have forgotten me, so I am singing them my Logos; my God Song. Coming to my people in human form: WORD made flesh.

A life-changing WORD from God the Father. Living among you. Bringing the True Light.
And why? To remind you… I LOVE YOU!

And if you believe in me, you are my child.
A “baby WORD” if you like. A child of God. Full of grace and truth.”

Now I understand… I AM LOVED.[1]

Prayer: Ever-present God, you spoke your Living Word and revealed to us in your Son Jesus Christ a love so deep, a mercy so endless, and a grace that abounds for eternity. Speak to us now, so that your Word may fill all of creation once more. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

[1] This story was originally posted by Wendy Johnston in her blog “Once Upon a Story Told” – you can learn more about Wendy and read this work and others on her site found here.