Thursday December 3 2020

Scripture: Mark 1:12-13

Reflection: We are in the Covid19 wilderness right now and have been for a long time.  How will we navigate this Advent season that is so different from past years?  Advent has always been filled with temptations and challenges – from merchants and family and friends and the world around us. But in Mark’s gospel we learn that Jesus rested peacefully with the animals and the angels as he was in the wilderness. As we await Jesus’ birth in this beautiful time of Advent, let’s consider what we can learn from this wilderness time of Covid19.  If we cannot gather as we have always done in malls, at parties, in all the celebratory ways of former years, how can we grow and be transformed to truly know and love God’s greatest gift to us, his only Son? How can we help our children to appreciate and celebrate this Advent season more fully than in the past?  We still want to have the big fat man in the red suit with the white beard come by our homes, but we need to appreciate God’s love that lives with us in our homes every day.  May we all have some restful peace with the wild beasts as Jesus did as we walk through Advent with the angels next to us, and may we help our children to know more fully about Jesus’ birth during this Advent season.

Prayer: Gracious God, We are living in a confusing time.  We are so grateful for the birth of your Son and for your presence with us in this Covid19 wilderness.  Help us to treasure all the gifts that come from you instead of focusing on what we don’t have and can’t do during this Advent season.  Walk beside us and transform us to be who you want us to be. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Author: Linda Ibsen, Interim Director for Children & Family Ministries

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

“Bible: On the NYT best-seller list since 1953, over 5 billion copies world-wide.”

[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 December 2 2020

Scripture: Mark 1:9-11

Reflection: In one way or another, we all want to be accepted, valued, and to know that we’re not alone. I think most would agree that receiving a little affirmation every now and then is also appreciated. It feels nice when someone acknowledges something you’ve done well. It feels even better when the person who acknowledges you holds great significance in your life. 

In this passage, Jesus’ act of humility and love is immediately greeted with responses from God. The heavens are opened, the Spirit descends, and God uses his voice to honor Jesus, claim him as his Son, and express his affection for him. It is clear that even though Jesus is on Earth, he has not been left alone. 

During Advent, we watch for signs of hope reminding us of the joyful reality that God sees us as His beloved children and is always in our midst. Are there examples in your life where you can clearly see that God was there, cheering you on? Have you felt his comforting presence lately? What are some ways you can step out in faith, like Jesus, and have hope that God will respond?

Prayer: This Advent season, let us remember that through Christ we are a new creation, invited into God’s family and God’s unconditional love. May we each look for ways to serve one another in love as Christ has done for us and hold to the hope that God is right there and He will never leave us alone. Amen.

Author: Chrissy Carlton, Outreach

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 December 1 2020

Scripture: Mark 1:6-8

Reflection: The one who is more powerful than I is coming“. An amazing sentence of expectancy and hope. This is what the Advent season is all about! This year feels particularly more expectant, as we not only wait for the birth of our Savior, but we also wait for life to go back to “normal.” Things we have all taken for granted have found new meaning in our hearts, for example, in-person interactions, hugging a friend, or getting to go to church on Sunday without fear or having to wear a mask are a few that immediately pop into my head. What are some things that come to mind for you?

The difference between these two expectations is that one is temporary, and the other is eternal. We are not sure what 2021 will hold or if life as we knew it will ever return. Yet, among all the chaos, confusion, and fear we can hold onto a hope that remains true yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The hope of Jesus.

As we go through this Advent season, rest assured that your expectancy in Jesus will be fulfilled. Unlike that of our ever changing world, our God is unfailing and keeps His promises. No matter how bleak the world may seem, remember the Rock on which we stand – expecting His presence to bring with it unexplainable peace and undeniable hope.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son. Help us to keep our eyes on You when the world tries to bog us down with fear. We welcome You into our minds and hearts this Advent season. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit as we wait in expectancy for the birth of our Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author: Lexi Kramer, Communications Coordinator

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 November 30 2020

Scripture: Mark 1:4-5

Reflection: Sometimes, people look into different Bible versions of the same verse, to have more food for thought. In my case, I also look into different languages, as my native language is Spanish. One of those versions translates this verse as “…turn to God, be baptized, and God will forgive your sins”. It stands out to me that it literally states that God forgives our sins, directly, based in our belief and actions, even if sometimes we go against the status quo, as Judaism was the main religion in the area during John the Baptist’s call. The scripture mentions that the whole region of Judea came to hear John the Baptist’s preaching and were baptized. In this role, John the Baptist is an instrument, a catalyzer of God’s presence in the area; he’s clearly not the Messiah, but he plays his part in the construction of the Kin-dom. As we live Advent, I call you to reflect who is a catalyzer, like John the Baptist, in your life; somebody whose example and words invite you to turn to God, do what’s right (even if not mainstream) and become a better human. And also – notice how your words and actions influence those around you. How do you embrace your role to build the Kin-dom on earth, as we prepare for the Messiah’s arrival? The Jordan river is far away, but we can always find a river nearby, where justice, love, and peace can roll down.

Prayer: God of radical love, we are thankful for inspiring figures like John the Baptist, inviting us to turn to You and become the best version of ourselves. Cultivate in us the vision, desire, and commitment to do our small part in your Kin-dom’s construction, from our own river shores. Amen.

Year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

I am excited to set intentional goals around reading the bible and be encouraged by one another in our spiritual journey.  ~ Susan Tome

[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].

Sunday November 29 2020

Scripture: Mark 1:1-3

Reflection: Prepare the way of the Lord! And so the season of Advent begins. During the season we usually are busy preparing – preparing for parties, preparing for gift exchanges, preparing for family photographs, preparing for travel. But this year will be different. How can we prepare the way of the Lord this year?

Several years ago I asked a group of children about how they prepare at home for the arrival of guests. They talked about cleaning up their toys, cooking, making beds and even fluffing the pillows! As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we are invited to do some spiritual housecleaning. We are invited into a time of self-examination and reflection. It might be time to declutter and get rid of some old grudges or resentments. It might be time to straighten up by creating a new spiritual habit like daily prayer or Bible reading. It might be time to focus on loving your neighbors by finding a way to serve in our community. We are reminded that Christ is coming into our lives and into our world. This year, Advent will be different. Perhaps it’s an invitation to deeper spiritual preparation. It’s just the beginning of the good news. There is so much more to come.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me prepare myself, my community and my world for your coming. When I am distracted by the world’s busy-ness, remind me of your presence. Make this season of Advent a time of transformation in my life. Amen.

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 November 27 2020

Scripture: Luke 19:28–40 

Key verse: (40) He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Reflection: The day after Thanksgiving is not the day we usually read the Palm Sunday story and yet this is our scripture today. Jesus was on a donkey, turning everything upside down. People were shouting, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” It was infuriating to the religious leaders. It was embarrassing and the voices of the crowds got louder and louder.

The religious leaders told Jesus to make them stop.

It reminds me of the times when my children were little, laughing hysterically on a road trip and my husband would say, “Hold it down!”.  Driving, he couldn’t see the joy in the moment or hear each giggle, he just heard noise.

The crowds were full of joy as Jesus offered them hope of a new day. A new way. Resurrection.

They didn’t know about the new life, Jesus death and resurrection but they knew Jesus was bringing life to a place that had been dead.  They couldn’t help but shout “Hosanna!”.

Jesus replied to the request to quiet them down, “Even the stones would shout.”

It is still Thanksgiving. Well, yes, it is an ordinary Friday but every ordinary day can be holy.  Let’s keep laughing loud, sharing moments of gratitude and offering resurrection moments. New life in the midst of a dead time. Love in the middle of some very dark days. Do not be silent, because even the stones would shout out the good news of today, regardless of how ordinary.

Prayer: God, open our eyes to the holy in every day. Take away our fear of being too loud, too loving, too grateful. Thanks be to you for this moment in time. 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].

Thursday November 26 2020

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23

Key verse: (16) “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”

Reflection: Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  While 2020 has been a year for the books, I pray you can still find much to be thankful for this year. Our gatherings are no doubt different today, but our reasons for giving thanks remain the same.  What’s on your list of blessings to be thankful for this year?  Each Thanksgiving we talk about that as a family.  We’re thankful for family, for the love we share, for health, for the blessings of our respective callings in life.  This Thanksgiving, the absence of my father-in-law will be profoundly felt.  But even that sadness points to the blessing of his life and love we knew for so many years.  What’s on your list today?

Paul’s list in today’s reading focuses on the saints in Ephesus.  He has heard of their faith, and of their love toward all the saints, and so he does not cease to give thanks for them.  Paul’s words speak across the centuries, for he gives thanks not only for the saints in Ephesus but for all the saints who through the years read these words.  And his prayer for them becomes a prayer for us, that we might be given “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Christ, that the “eyes of our hearts” might be enlightened, so that we “may know what is the hope to which Christ has called us.” What a beautiful prayer!

This Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for you, the saints of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, for your faithfulness through this unprecedented time, for your love shared with our congregation.  And I pray for continuing wisdom and revelation in your walk with Christ, that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened to know the hope that is ours in Christ.  God bless you and yours today and always.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for the saints of our church and for the ministry we share.  Give us wisdom and revelation that the eyes of our hearts might be opened to hope for better days ahead.  In Christ’s name we pray. 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].

Wednesday November 25 2020

Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Key verse: (4) “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.”

Reflection: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, For the Lord he wanted to see.” Is it possible to read the passage in Luke about Zacchaeus and not sing the childhood song? (try it, and let me know).

For many, the Zacchaeus story is familiar: a rich tax collector, climbing a tree, Jesus calling him down, and Zacchaeus pledging his money to the poor and righting all wrongs in his life. It is a pretty powerful and compelling story, a story with a call to action. But, for today, let’s focus on what happened before that call, how did Zacchaeus get in that tree?!

In reading this passage, I was struck by verse 4 “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.” If it wasn’t enough that Zacchaeus knew Jesus was someone he should have been following, Zacchaeus took the initiative to go ahead to where Jesus was heading, and climbed a tree to be on the lookout. Zacchaeus knew where Jesus was going. How did Zacchaeus know this? Of all the roads in Jericho leading to all the places, how did Zacchaeus know which way Jesus would turn?

Zacchaeus’ skill of knowing where Jesus is heading is one I invite us all to practice. In the church, we call this discernment. This means taking the time to know the people and the places that attract Jesus’ heart, to become familiar with Jesus’ past actions so we can predict his future ones. Discernment is being aware of Jesus’ character and listening and looking for signs of his presence so we can be present there as well. And when you come to find where Jesus is going, may you dare to follow, even if that takes you up a tree! For often when we go out on a limb to seek Christ we are met with a transformative moment.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are always on the move bringing about your Kingdom through love and peace. By your Spirit open our eyes and soften our hearts that we may know you more fully and be with you wherever you lead. Thank you for calling us along on this journey. 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 November 24 2020

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:10-23

Key verses: (10-11) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Reflection: Motivational speaker and author Jon Gordon speaks on how to build a proper foundation. When builders begin building skyscrapers they do not start by building up. Instead they start by digging below the ground in order to create a foundation of stability. They have to go down deep and excavate soil, sand, clay, all the loose stone and rock to reach the bedrock so they can build something that is sturdy and reach incredible heights.

Our lives, careers and teams work the same way. If we want to build up, we have to first dig deep and develop our foundation. However, it is not always easy to unearth the stuff below (the fears we have, the wounds we carry and the things that hold us back) but once we uncover them, we can reach the core of our foundation and begin the building process to reach greater heights.

Paul develops the metaphor of a building and calls the church a building. More specifically, Paul says the church is God’s temple, the place of God’s presence. It is not just that where God’s people live, work, and fellowship had become holy ground — though that is true — but that the shared life in community is indwelt by God. And noting our work on this “building project”, Paul makes it clear that there is retribution in not following the building instructions given to the church. The building instructions of holiness are pretty simple: a foundation must be laid prior to building up, and that foundation is Jesus Christ; building material must not be made of “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw” but made of things that will survive the fire.

Paul closes with a reminder that all we have been given to build up the church is ours; yet, it all belongs to Christ who belongs to God.

The work to dig deep is hard. It can be painful. It can be scary. But I encourage you that in removing the sand, stone, and rocks that create instability in our lives, Christ is there to provide the firm foundation on which we can begin building up again. We do not have to search for the tools or the materials; everything we need is given to us from God in Christ. Also, this is not an individual endeavor. It is not a building project for one. We, as the church, are all part of the crew, all working together and all helping out. I wonder what we are building now, and I wonder what we will continue to build in our life and the life of the church.  

Prayer: O Lord, you are our firm foundation. For the work of our hands, we pray that it may last for eternity in your name, our Rock and our Redeemer. 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 November 23 2020

Scripture: Gal 6:1-10

Key verse: (9) So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.

Reflection: There is no weariness like the weariness that comes from 8 months in a pandemic. We are tired in ways we haven’t experienced before. We are weary. As we head into Thanksgiving week, many of us are making sacrifices around our holiday traditions. We have to make tough choices about what these celebration days will look like. We are weary and tired of having to decide what the right thing even is.

When reading the Galatians passage for today I was struck by this word, weary, and Paul’s call to the Galatians to remember that the harvest will come. As Christians, we look forward to a time when human suffering will cease and we will rest in the eternal. There is deep hope in this. We live in these weary times but we know that the harvest will come. And Paul tells us not to give up.

I wonder what is making you feel weary today. Where do you place your hope for the harvest? What would it look like for you to not give up today? As we continue to live into this season of tough decisions, draining zoom calls, and new ways to live our lives, I hope that we can look forward to the harvest, even if we are not sure what it will look like. I hope we do not give up because of weariness but find the strength to carry on in each other and even more so in God.

Prayer: God of all things, help us in our time of weariness. Give us visions of a plentiful harvest and the bounty that you show us through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Author: Savannah Demuynck

[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].