Wednesday May 27 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16

Key verses: (1-2) “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”

Reflection: Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, unity in peace. This is the life to which you have been called. At first glance these lifestyle postures may seem meek, mild, and boring. Who wants to be called to a life of patience when I can get what I want now? Who wants to be called to a life of humility when I can receive recognition for the hard work I have done? Who wants to be called to a life of gentleness when I can force to get things exactly how I like it? Who wants to be called to a life of bearing with one another when others are just plain unbearable? Who wants to be called to a life of unity in peace when aggression and “us vs. them” is all we have ever known?

Instead of meek and mild, this life to which we have been called is revolutionary, revolutionary as it dares to place unity over individuality, service over being served, listening over being heard, patience over immediacy, the well being of all over the gain of a few. Again and again Paul stresses the “oneness” of the church, and of all people. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, who is above all and through all and in all.

The passage finishes by talking about all of the gifts that each of us brings to this calling of oneness. While we are united as one, our gifts are many and different. I wonder what gift you bring? What gifts do you naturally have that promote the life to which we are called? What gifts can you work on and strengthen? By the grace of God we are each given gifts for unity and peace; may we use them well, recognize them in others, and glorify God in all that we do.

Prayer: Gracious God, we give you thanks for the gifts which you have granted us. Empower us to use these gifts for unity and peace, for the sake of all so that we may be one, lifting each other up in your love. Through Christ our Lord. 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].

Tuesday May 26 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-21

Key verse: (19b) that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Reflection: “Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” This is what we yearn for: to be filled to the brim of our being with all the fullness of God. This is what God yearns for us on our behalf. What an incredible feeling that would be! Paul takes us through the progression of getting to this point. More specifically, Paul prays us through …

First, that God would strengthen us with the power of the Spirit in our inmost being. Secondly, that Jesus might fill and dwell in our hearts. Thirdly and lastly, that we might be grounded in love and rooted in love. God’s strengthening, Christ’s indwelling, and the foundation of love are inseparable; any of these entail the other two.

It is by love that God strengthens us. It is in love that Christ dwells in and fills our hearts. It is through love our lives can be founded upon a firm foundation. This divine love is not knowledge gained by private study or measured by completing faithful check-lists, as if our work produces God’s fullness and love. Although these are fruitful, this divine love is learned through the fellowship and community of the church. It is a love that surpasses knowledge. I pray for a love beyond knowing, a love of being.

Now, as limitations are lifted and as states begin to reopen, I wonder what fellowship and community might look like. I wonder how the church can remain grounded in love and continue to grow in the soil of love even in the uncertainties of life. Imagine how you may use Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians as a guide.

Prayer: God, the Father of faith and the Mother of mercy: I pray that out of your glory and grace my inner being may be strengthened with the power of your Spirit, so that Christ may fill my heart. 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 May 25 2020

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Scripture: Joshua 1:1-9

Key verse: (9) “I hereby command you:  Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Reflection: After Moses died, Joshua, a man who is described in scripture as full of the spirit of wisdom, was chosen by God to lead God’s people into the promised land.  Here in the beginning of the book of Joshua he is repeatedly charged by God to be strong and courageous.  The people were facing a big challenge and were preparing for the unknown.  They were frightened and dismayed.  God instructed Joshua to keep his eyes forward and not be distracted because the “LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” In the first chapter of this book, Joshua reminded the people of God’s promises to them.  He called on the people to hold on to their faith in the LORD, knowing that God was with them.  There was a promise of success if they would meditate on the book of the Law day and night and not depart from it.  Joshua was the new leader, Israel was about to cross the Jordan, and life was about to change.

There have been many times in my life when these words from the LORD have encouraged and sustained me – times when life was changing and I was following God into a “new land”.   I believe we are living in such a time now as our lives have changed and been challenged by COVID 19.  This public health pandemic has cost people their lives, their livelihood and their dreams.  It has driven those who are the most vulnerable in our community to the verge of despair.  It has changed how we recreate, work, socialize and worship.  There is anger, frustration and grief. And, yet, I have seen people of faith be strong and courageous knowing that no matter what happens God will be with them.  I have seen people devote themselves more fully to the practice of their faith through devotion and service.  I have seen incredible generosity as people have reached out in love to people they know and don’t know.  I have seen the dedication of those in hospitals, service industries, and social services work tirelessly to provide for everyone.  So many people around us are showing courage as we move forward into the unknown.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet, we can be strong and courageous in the midst of our fear, because we know that the LORD our God is with us.  This promise made in our text is still the promise God makes to us today and every day.  I hope and pray the LORD will give you the strength and courage you need.

Prayer: Almighty God, we turn to you in our uncertainty and fear knowing that you have promised never to fail or forsake us.  Help us to move into this new season with courage knowing you are with us. Strengthen our faith as we continue to serve you. In Jesus’ name. 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 May 22 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

Key verse: (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Reflection: As a young person I memorized this Bible verse as I tried to figure out what it meant to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m not so young anymore and this verse means so much more to me now. As I mature I realize more and more the depth and breadth of God’s grace for me.

When I speak to our eighth grade students in confirmation, I teach them this quote, attributed to author Cathleen Falsani: “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” As one wise disciple told me (a lawyer!), we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. Grace is the lavish extravagant love of God poured out on us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Grace is so much more than forgiveness; grace is the abundance of spiritual blessing we experience as God’s people.

In my younger years, I was driven to prove myself as a student, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a disciple. I wanted to show God that I was worthy. That’s why I memorized Bible verses and kept long prayer lists in a journal. None of that hard work made God love me anymore than God already loved me from the moment of my birth. I have more understanding of what a gift it is, rather than a reward for my attempts at good behavior. Grace through faith – pure gift. Like the beauty of the sunrise, the laughter of a child, the embrace of a loved one – pure gift. We are surrounded by glimpses of the gifts of God’s grace. May your heart be open to God’s gift of grace today. This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!

Prayer: Your grace is enough for me, O God. I am grateful for the gift of grace you have so generously given me. May your grace shape my life today. 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 May 21 2020

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Scripture: Psalm 10

Key verses: (12-18) Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?
14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more

Reflection: Day 487. I really don’t know how to number the pandemic days and I have forgotten what week we are in of this new “virus time”, but some days it feels like 487 days, doesn’t it? How are you holding up?

We go to a psalm of deliverance today because that is exactly where we are and what we need. In these psalms, we are invited to cry out directly to God for support in the chaos of life. We know that God has the power and compassion to respond to our cries. God holds us in the curve of God’s arm and hears us.

It always comes back to God’s love that gives order to the chaos. God’s love that brings transformation around us and within us. In a time when many feel deep loneliness, we are reminded again that we are loved. God loved on day 1, on day 487 and will love you until the end of time. God’s love is trustworthy. Breathe it in and let it transform you.

Prayer: God, even when we cannot create, structure and order the world in the way that makes us feel safe, remind us of your love. Remind us of your love that brings order to our days. Let us live into this love today and always. 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 May 20 2020

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Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-10

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Ephesians 1:1-10 and is in video form. You can access it here or by clicking the image below.

05 20 Joe

[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 May 19 2020

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Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Key verse: (1) “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.”

Reflection: In this letter of 1 Timothy, we find a community of new believers in tension with each other and with the world around them. We are a far way from the unity perceived in the early chapters of Acts where the believers shared all things in common and committed themselves to daily prayer and meals with one another. How quickly divisions can arise! And so what is the advice given to the community? Is it to identify enemies, and draw a clear line between us and them? Is it to call out false teaching and condemn heretics? Is it to draw back from the world and forget about earthly matters all together? Throughout the ages, Christians have taken each of these postures at different times. But here, in this context Paul is urging his brothers and sisters to pray. Pray for those who are in power, pray for those you disagree with, pray for those who persecute you, pray for everyone. This call to prayer comes for it is, “God who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4). If it is God’s desire for all to be saved, who are we to cut people out of the family. If it is God’s desire for everyone to be saved, who are we to speak badly of others. If it is God’s desire for everyone to be saved, who are we to hope for the failure of others.

Praying for all is not an easy task, it sounds much more delightful in theory than in practice for we live in a broken and divided world. But, this kind of prayer helps place us within God’s will, so what does it look like? When praying for those in power, we let go of grasping for control and rightfully recognize Christ who reigns over all. When praying for those we disagree with, we open ourselves to a love that is bigger than our opinions. When praying for those who persecute us, we highlight the life giving power of the resurrection as death and destruction lose their grip on us. Praying for all is easier said than done, but when we align our hearts this way our feet and our hands will follow in line so that we may lead a peaceable life.

Prayer: Loving God, grant us the strength to pray for all. Grant us the courage to follow in your will. Grant us the grace to love as you love. 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].