Friday November 29

Scripture

MATTHEW 20:17-28
Key Verses 26-28: It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Reflection
The table is set and you are welcome. Even if you show up "a day late and a dollar short", as the saying goes, you are still welcome. Sometimes, we do not get the invitation and we are upset. Maybe, we don’t get the invitation in the right way or through the right person. We might want to set the table our own way or serve something fabulous that no one else is serving. If you wonder what meal or party this is…..I am talking about Church.

We have people who have pulled a chair up at God’s table after a lifetime of confusion. Others go through periods of ignoring God completely and hoping He would go away. Then there are those who sit for decades on the fence over issues of faith and worship. God has set a place for each and every one of these individuals. God welcomes us, despite our doubt, fear and even our tardiness. God welcomes those who try to take control and those who have definite menu’s for this dinner party.

I like to think we are welcome to a round table, where there is no head spot. No line. No one honored guest. God’s table where everyone feel’s included and serves each other. There I go again, wanting to create and design God’s table.

Prayer
Guide me, O Holy one, into a space for renewal.

Guide me, O Holy one into an Unclenched moment-

A deep breath, a letting go…of to do lists and Thanksgiving groceries and expectations.

Guide me, O holy one,
So that I may be filled with the joy that is you. 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].

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Thursday, November 28

Scripture

Matthew 20:1-16
Key verse: (16) So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Reflection
So… you’re waiting in line to fill up your plate with Thanksgiving turkey. It’s taking a while since there is a lot of food. Then, someone cuts in front of you and helps themselves to a meal while you and you line mates start to object.

Just as you get to the front of the line, after waiting patiently for quite some time, the owner decides to open another serving line. All the people behind you immediately rush to the new line and some even get served before you do. Not much to be thankful for here!

Cutting in line is universally discourteous and disrespectful because the way the world works is that the first in line get served first. Those who wait the longest get served first. Or, at least, that’s the way it should be. The first should be first and the last get leftovers.

Unless, of course, you are at the Lord’s table. In God’s kingdom the ordinary conventions of polite society are turned completely upside down. People who get work at the end of the day are paid as much as those who worked all day. Justice is replaced by grace. Judgment is replaced by mercy. Scarcity is replaced by abundance. And everyone gets enough to eat.

On this Thanksgiving Day give thanks for the blessings you enjoy as a citizen of this great country. But also give thanks to a generous God who treats us far better than we deserve and rewards us, not by our merit, but according to God’s radical, forgiving, accepting and amazing grace.

Prayer

For all our blessings this day, O God, we are truly grateful. For life and health and food, for home and family, for your generosity that boggles our minds. Increase our gratitude so that our thanksgiving spills over into sharing your blessings with others. In the name of Jesus, who made the last, first, we pray. Amen.

Author

Von Clemans

[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 27

Scripture

Psalm 134
Key Verses 1-3:

1 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place,
and bless the LORD.

3May the LORD, maker of heaven and earth,

bless you from Zion

.

Reflection

This short gem of a Psalm is one of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) in the book of Psalms. Travelers on their way to the temple in Jerusalem would sing these Psalms as they journeyed. The singing kept their spirits up and prepared them for worship in the temple. The traveling Psalms covered a wide range of topics: praise and lament, God’s grace, the people’s joy. By the time they got to Jerusalem, they had recalled God’s goodness in all facets of life, amid both joy and sorrow. They were ready for temple worship, certainly; but in reality their whole journey to get there had been one of praise and worship.

Perhaps this is a day of travel for you, or preparation to receive travelers. Even if this will be a quiet week of thanksgiving, we are all preparing for the journey to Bethlehem again, and then onward to the cross. In the middle of the prep work and the stress of the journey, how will you praise God? Can you name ways in which God has been good to you? Times when the love and grace of God have been real for you? Or just name the things you are grateful for this day, this hour, this minute. Sing your own song of praise to God, as you travel through this day.

Prayer

Lord, I lift up my hands, my voice, my heart to you and bless you. Thank you for all the ways you bless me and keep me. Accompany me on this day’s journey, and prepare me to worship you in spirit and in truth. Through Christ the Lord I pray. Amen.

Author

Julie Hester

[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 25

Scripture

I Peter 1: 1-12
Key verse 8:" Although you have ot seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, . . ."

Reflection
Isn’t it remarkable that we love Jesus, even though we have never seen him? Many people grow up in Christian families, and as a result, they can’t remember a time when they didn’t believe. From their earliest days, they were taught about Jesus and this is all they know. But, love for Jesus doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We may not have seen Jesus the way the first disciples did, but we have seen him in each other because of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that this love of Jesus can be seen in our lives. But, every kindness, every word of encouragement, every good deed that helps someone else helps others see him. Knowing this can make a tremendous difference in how we relate to each other. Don’t underestimate the power of Christ in you. If you are willing, God will use you in all kinds of ways. And, others looking at you might see something of Christ’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. Now that is something to rejoice over.

Prayer
O Lord, we love you. Not is a sentimental way, but with all our being. Help those who are struggling today with their faith. Help them discover they are loved by you because of us. May we be gracious in our words and in our deeds. 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, November 22

Scripture

Matthew 18:10-20
Key verses: Matthew 18:15-16 "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses."

Reflection

Jesus was teaching conflict management techniques to the disciples! He knew that the church is a community of sinful human beings, so there will be sins and conflicts among its members. In these verses he gives clear guidance about how to respond in these situations. Instead of talking ABOUT the person to everyone else, he commands us to talk TO the person first.

If only! In my years of ministry, this is a teaching from Jesus that many of us struggle to live out. Talking to someone who has hurt us is a very difficult thing to do. It takes great courage to be a faithful disciple. It’s so much easier to complain to everyone else. And we either avoid the offender or we look for opportunities to inflict pain in revenge. In today’s on-line world, we sometimes choose to send an angry email or to post a bitter comment. Those are one way communications and not the dialogue that Jesus intended us to have.

Sometimes we need to have difficult conversations, and we know that those honest conversations are an important step on the road to reconciliation. Who do you need to talk with today? Should you make a phone call or invite someone to lunch? Yes, it’s very hard but Jesus never said being a faithful disciple would be easy.

Prayer
O God, you have entrusted us with a ministry of reconciliation in the world. Forgive me when I avoid your teaching and choose the easy way out. Give me the courage I need to have meaningful, honest conversations with the people around me. 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].

Thursday, November 21

Scripture

Matthew 18:1-9

Key Verses 1-5: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ‘He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Reflection

In the last week I have had to write a lot of recommendation letters for amazing young people going to college or boarding schools giving testimony to their maturity. I have signed forms stating that our young people have accumulated a vast number of service hours. Just once, I would love to be able to sign a form that reports the number of afternoons spent playing or the depth of someone’s laughter.

"Laughter is carbonated holiness," says Anne Lamott. I think this is exactly what Jesus meant when he said we have to become like a child. When we play, we experience the wonder and awe of life. Even as adults. Becoming like a child is not about doing something simple, it is a different pathway to God. Jesus is always giving us more than we can ask, imagine or think. The disciples ask a question about greatness. The response they get is about their life and faith.

How might we change this week and become like a child?

Prayer

May I live deeply and passionately, O God, with all the joy of a child. Quiet my inner critic and curb my need to control so that I can have space to be playful. Help me put aside my compulsions so that I might find delight in the many gifts of the day. In Jesus’ life-giving name I pray. 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, November 20

Scripture

Ezra 10:1-17
Key verse 44: All these had married foreign women, and they sent them away with their children.

Reflection
The prophet Ezra lived in the time the Hebrew people were trying to rebuild their lives after returning from exile to the Babylonians. This event – their nation conquered, men killed, women and children taken captive, their temple destroyed – was life-changing and traumatic. They tried to make sense of what happened to them. How could such an evil thing happen to God’s chosen people?

They wrestled with the question and came up with an answer. Ezra, a prophet leader, proclaimed that God had judged them because they had disobeyed God’s commands. So what was needed was a return to faithful obedience to God’s laws and a rooting out of anything that made them impure. Ritual, cultural and ethnic purity became the goal that, they thought, would put them back in God’s good favor. They doubled down on purity. There could be no compromise on obedience.

With anguish, they began to implement the most personal of purges. While in exile many men, immigrants themselves, had married foreign women and had children and grandchildren, thinking they were beginning a new life. These inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages violated the Hebrew purity laws. So Ezra and other leaders concluded that all such marriages were wrong and would not be tolerated. Believing that the rightness of their belief justified this action, all the men who had married foreign women sent their wives and children away, rejecting them, and consigning them to lives of suffering and, quite possibly, to death.

It’s hard for us to imagine sending people away because they are different from us. Or is it? Are there times and situations where, for the sake of future security, we purge the other in the hope that purity will save us?

Ezra’s purge may have helped in some sense. But any help came at a terrible price, even a temporary price. For it wasn’t long before God’s people were once again captured and enslaved. They purged the other but were not able to purge themselves.

Prayer

Have mercy on us, O God. We would much rather blame the other than root out our own unfaithfulness. Save us from rejecting those you also love until we ourselves have cleaned up our own lives and love others as you have loved us. In the name of Jesus, who welcomed many others. Amen.

Author

Von Clemans

[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].