Wednesday February 19 2020

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Scripture: John 10:1-18

Key verses: (7-10)  So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Reflection: I have come to rely on a deep breath to help me be present and I know I share that with you … a lot. Mindfulness has really helped me to savor the holy in the everyday ordinary.  As part of that mindful practice, is a cycle of recognizing both gratitude and pain in my days.  In both of those practices, I am more aware of God.  I believe that God wants deep and abiding peace for all of us.  I do not think that I can bring about that peace through a deep breath, but I do have to remind myself of that occasionally.

Other faithful people hear the verse above and are willing to just sit and wait for the blessings to come.  Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. They hear prosperity, riches and an easy life.  It is anticipation of a good life and the reward of heaven.

I don’t believe that is it either. The abundant life that Jesus brings to us is not about blessings. It’s not about what we get and it’s not even about living a good life so we can get eternal life.

Abundant life is choosing the way of Jesus. It is living right now with grace, truth and peace.  Abundant life is our shared life together as Christ’s body, choosing love for each other and for the good of the world.

Prayer: God, remind me that the chief purpose of humankind is to glorify you and enjoy you forever. That probably requires some laughter. And some deep breathing. And a whole lot of love given and received. Thank you for being patient. 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].

Tuesday February 18 2020

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Scripture: John 9:1-41

Key verse: (40) “Surely we are not blind are we?”

Reflection: Sunday evening I returned from an amazing vacation. We spent a week sailing in the British Virgin Islands, a splurge for us to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary coming up two weeks from today. It was an experience of beauty and Sabbath like none other.  Each day had its routines, including a little work to be done around the boat, but the majority of time was spent relaxing and taking in the beauty surrounding us, from snorkeling along coral reefs filled with the most vibrantly colored fish, to sailing electric blue waters powered only by the steady winds, to star gazing atop the deck at night. Slowing down like that gave me the chance to see in ways I often miss in the midst of the demands of life and work in everyday living.  Toward the end of the trip I found myself profoundly moved by the many blessings of my life.  Considering my marriage, my family, my call, the opportunity to take such an extravagant vacation, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy.  It was an opportunity to see the gifts of God much more intensely.

Today’s reading is about a man born blind who receives his sight.  It’s a long one, but well worth the few minutes it will take you to read. As the story progresses, the man born blind is not the only one who sees.  In fact, those who think they see come to understand their own blindness. The disciples are challenged to see in the man not a sinner, but a child of God born to reveal God’s glory.  The townspeople are confounded by his healing so much they don’t even trust their eyes to recognize him.  And the religious leaders, who believe they see so clearly, seeing sin so clearly are actually revealed to be blind to the grace of God unfolding before their very eyes.  They are so blinded by their fear that they drive the man out of the community for being healed.  Stunning.

In yesterday’s devotion, John Magnuson wrote, “God’s love through Jesus by the presence of the Spirit is among us all the time! Too often we just miss God’s presence. What would our days look like if we expected to see and hear God’s presence? … Notice grace, love, and hospitality. Name these moments as God’s presence.”  Reading that my first day back from vacation, his words perfectly articulated what I had experienced on that boat.

I hope you can take the time today to slow down for a moment and see the beauty of the world that surrounds you. See God’s grace flowing in your life, perhaps even through your life.  Together may we join the man born blind who was healed by Jesus that we might all say, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Prayer: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  Thank you, Lord.  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].

 

Monday February 17 2020

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Scripture: 1 John 1:1-10

Key verse: (3) “We declare to you what we have seen and heard…”

Reflection: For the first followers of Jesus, the good news was spread by word of mouth. In scripture we read accounts of people engaging with Jesus, having a transformative experience, and then telling others. Much of scripture is a witness to these word of mouth stories being passed on until they were written down. Seeing, touching, and hearing were a large part of faith and believing that Jesus is God, that Jesus is the Messiah. Do you think it was easier for those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles firsthand to have faith? Were those who sat and heard Jesus’ teachings more likely to believe in him? Do you wonder if those touched and healed by Jesus were more deeply moved and committed to following him?

I often hear people wonder why it is that miracles happened more in the time of the Bible than they do today. Or, people may wonder why we don’t have the personal experiences with Jesus or the Holy Spirit like it happened in the Bible. Have you ever wondered this? The reality is, God’s love through Jesus by the presence of the Spirit is among us all the time! Too often we just miss God’s presence. What would our days look like if we expected to see and hear God’s presence? What would our encounters with others look like if we expected that the Holy Spirit was among us and active? How would we live with others if we anticipated that the love we experience daily is the love of Christ? We too have the opportunity to pass on stories of what we have seen and heard, what we have touched and experienced. Try this day, this week, to seek God’s presence in your daily physical reality, in what you see and touch and hear, and in those you meet. Notice grace, love, and hospitality. Name these moments as God’s presence. But don’t just stop there, but share your experiences, so like the early believers your joy may be complete!

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for your presence throughout all time. We praise you for your love for all people. We thank you for your Spirit which moves among us. Open our lives to you in our midst and empower us to tell of your work in our world. 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].

Friday February 14 2020

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Scripture: Romans 13:1-14

Key verse: (8) Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Reflection: Paul reminds the Roman church to “pay to all what is due them — taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” Leave no debt remaining to those who you are indebted to.

Today is the day when all the candy disappears from the shelves and the flowers are gone from the florist shop. Today is filled with red hearts, bouquets of flowers, assorted chocolates, and stuffed teddy bears. All of this is to show our love for someone. Today is Valentine’s Day. And there are some who will go into financial debt in the name of love.

According to a survey by CompareCards, 10% of Americans say they’ve gone into debt spending for Valentine’s Day; 22% of people believe such debt is worth if it makes their partner happy; 26% of Americans have gone into debt pursuing a romantic relationship. I do not believe this is the “love-debt” Paul speaks about in this passage.

The only debt that we should have is the debt to love one another. This debt-obligation comes out of the realization of what Christ did for us. Once we understand how Christ overcame sin and death as a sign of God’s love, bringing us back into a restored relationship with God, it gives us a new perspective about each other. We didn’t deserve grace or mercy but because God loved us so much we received both. In the same way, because God loved us we should also extend both grace and mercy to each other.

I wonder how you are showing your love today. I wonder how you are responding to God’s love found in Jesus Christ today and every day.

Prayer: We love because you first loved us, O God. Christ came to love those labeled other and outsider, those who the world deemed unworthy and unlovable. May we do just that, in the name of Love. 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].

Thursday February 13 2020

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Scripture: Romans 12:9-21

Key verse: (18) “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.”

Reflection: One of the things I appreciate about the Apostle Paul is his lists.  He has a way of outlining the goals of the Christian life in proverb-like statements.  Today’s passage is one long list of actions we can take in our everyday lives that will show who we are and what we believe as followers of Jesus. These actions are the by-product of a life transformed by God.  It can be difficult for us to be diligent about loving, hoping, persevering and contributing to the well-being of others when we live in a culture of disagreement and retribution.  There are many wonderful things in the world around us, but we can easily get caught up in our anger and frustration which leads to many of our troubles.  What might happen if we sought to live out what we believe?  Read through this list again and choose one or two things to focus on today.

Let love be genuine

Hold fast to what is good

Love one another

Serve the Lord

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer

Contribute to the needs of the saints

Extend hospitality to strangers

Bless those who persecute you – do not curse them

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep

Live in harmony with one another

Do not claim to be wiser than you are

Do not repay anyone evil for evil – be noble

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

May God continue to transform our lives so that more and more people looking at us might see something of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Loving God, we are grateful for your holy word that encourages and inspires us to trust in you and live out your grace in our daily lives.  Help us to set aside our differences.  Remind us that we belong to you.  Send us out into the world with the message of your transforming love found in our words and actions.  Be with us this day and every day.  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].

Wednesday February 12 2020

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Scripture: Romans 12:1-8

Key verses: (1-2)  I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Reflection: You are loved by God exactly as you are! And God loves you so much that God doesn’t want you to stay the way you are!

It’s a key tension in the gospel. In Jesus Christ we experience the grace and love of God that accepts us, forgives us, welcomes us and claims us. And in Jesus Christ we experience the call from God to a lifelong journey of transforming faithfulness. In today’s passage, Paul calls disciples to give themselves totally to God in a way that opens themselves up to the transforming power of God. Another key tension in the gospel is that we can’t transform ourselves. Only God has that power. But we can let go and offer ourselves. Ask anyone in a twelve-step program about the paradox of letting go of control and allowing God to transform.

God is in the business of transformation, not maintenance. God delivers those who are captive, God brings new life to those who are stuck, God gives second chances to those who have made mistakes. The life of a disciple is a journey of constant renewal. The journey isn’t a straight line. Every life has ups and downs, struggles and joys. But God is with us and offers renewal.

If we are faithful to Christ, we aren’t the same people we used to be. Perhaps you are trying a new ministry and learning new skills. Perhaps you have faced a hardship and have learned to trust in God for help. Perhaps you have been through a dark time and have grown in patience and compassion for others. If we are faithful to Christ, our community isn’t the same as it used to be. God will be at work through us to bring good news to our neighbors. God will renew our worship and our study. God will call us to deepen our relationships in ministry. Thank God that God is in the business of transformation! God’s mercies are new every morning!

Prayer: O God, I offer myself to you as a living sacrifice. By the power of your Holy Spirit, transform me to be more like Jesus Christ. Transform my community to be more like your kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. 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].

Tuesday February 11 2020

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Scripture: John 7:53-8:10

Key verses: (8:2-5) 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

Reflection: You know this story. Everyone is a sinner. Or is it “The town of sinful Men”?  It could easily be one of those titles but you know the story as the woman caught in adultery.  The woman is shamed and humiliated and dragged before the town, ready to be killed. It was in the laws. Her execution was legal. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it is right.

The execution is interrupted.  Jesus tells all the men with stones in their hands ready to kill the woman: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” In the Gospel story, the stones start to drop, and the men scatter, leaving Jesus alone with the woman.

No one is beyond redemption. Jesus is not the one that shames or humiliates them. Jesus offers healing. He offers life.

No one is beyond redemption. Jesus doesn’t shame the men and call out their sins. He certainly could have humiliated them in that moment. You know we would have wanted to be passive-aggressive but Jesus is about redemption.

No one is beyond redemption. Not the woman, not the men, not you and not me. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Remind me that my transformation is a journey, God.  I am always in need of you. Thank you for never letting me go. 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].