Friday November 28 2014

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Scripture: Romans 15:7-13
Key Verse: 13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Reflection: As we move in the season of Advent this weekend, we have an opportunity to reflect on who and what we worship. This may be difficult as we are bombarded with ads to buy, buy, buy. A fantasy world, where wishes come true and Santa visits every home, will be offered to us across the airways and throughout shopping malls and stores. We will be distracted by parties, gift buying, decorating and all the holiday traditions we observe and enjoy. All of the emotions of Christmas’ past will rise to the surface and either fill us with joy or dread. It’s an emotional time. But, there is an alternative path we can follow that will assure a peaceful, calm and bright Christmas. We can focus on hope. Not wishful thinking, but the powerful hope that Jesus offers.

We are part of something greater during this season than we can imagine. The Apostle Paul invites us to remember our faith in a particular way – to welcome one another the same way that Christ has welcomed us. This may be harder than we think. Every day we make judgments about who is in and who is out. Too often, we decide who God loves and who God hates but, we are called to live in harmony, not judgment.   The community of the church is reminded that Christ is the servant of all and we are to follow his example. We are called to serve others, not ourselves – at least some of the time. We are invited to see the bigger picture. Jesus’ message of good news is for all people. Let’s keep this news in front of us as we plunge headlong into the Advent/Christmas season. Abound in hope that you might experience the power of the Holy Spirit!

Prayer: God of hope, be with us during Advent. Help us to use this time to draw closer to you and pay attention to your teachings. May we love the unlovable, reach out to the stranger, forgive a family member or friend, so that the hope of you love would shine more brightly in our lives than any Christmas decoration. 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].

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Thursday November 27 2014

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Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23
Key verse: Ephesians 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

Reflection: Happy Thanksgiving! Whatever your plans for the day, whether you are at home or away, whether you are gathering with family or friends or you are alone, whether you will eat a traditional turkey dinner or something a little different, take time today to express your thanksgiving. Consider making a list of things you are thankful for, or writing a prayer of gratitude to God.

Most of the New Testament letters begin with an opening salutation followed by a prayer for the recipients of the letter. The writer of today’s passage is grateful for the faith of the Ephesians and for the love they have for one another. This gratitude inspires prayers of thanksgiving for the Ephesians.

Who are you thankful for today? Who has made a positive difference in your life? Who has shared the good news of Jesus with you? Who has been a role model of love for you? Say a prayer of gratitude for that person. And I encourage you to contact that person to let them know what they mean to you. You might be nervous that the conversation will be awkward or corny, but I bet the other person will be so glad to hear from you.

If you’ve got a few minutes, watch this video to see how powerful gratitude can be. A warning – have some tissues handy while you watch!  (note: there are two instances of raw language in this clip that may not be suitable for children and youth)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

Prayer: O God, today I am thankful for so much and for so many. Make me aware of the blessings you have given me, not just the material things but the spiritual gifts of your presence and your grace and your power. Give me the courage and strength I need to express my gratitude to those who have made a difference for 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].

Wednesday November 26 2014

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Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
Key Verses: 5 Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

Reflection: Jericho is at a crossroads and is a center of wealth. It has a five-mile stretch of road that is lined with roses as you inter the city. It was known for great dinner parties and I am sure they already had plans for when Jesus came to town. Crowds of people gathered around Jesus so that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to see him. I guess it was time to leave when Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and said, “Come down, I am going to your house today.” He was the most unlikely person and yet Jesus chose him — a tax collector who had been on the fringe of society was offered acceptance and forgiveness. Jesus modeled true hospitality for the community.

Hospitality seeks to open up a space where wholeness and fullness of life can be experienced by the one who was once on the outside. Hospitality concerns itself with more than just taking care of another’s need for a meal. Hospitality is about being folded into a loving, accepting community. Jesus lives hospitality and offers it to us as part of the good news of the gospel.

Prayer: God, may I find hospitality in the sacred space of redemption and transformation that you offer. In the name of your Son, who is our good news. 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 November 25 2014

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Scripture: Luke 18:31-43
Key verses: 35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

Reflection: He was easy to walk by. Seated against the wall near the corner, the man’s face pivoted, following the sounds. Vacant eyes, clouded, obviously injured eyes stared out of the weathered face. His clothes were thread-bare, dirty, and smelly. Maybe they were all the material goods he had. He was easy to walk by.

Our group moved as one down the street, trying not to look at this example of the refuse of society, this throw-away example of all that goes bad in this world — illness, poverty, social isolation. We walked on. He was easy to walk by.

Then we stopped. The man’s shouting got the leader’s attention. “What do you want me to do for you?” the leader asked. “Let me see again,” the man said. “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you,” he was told.

While the others praised God, the leader looked at us, saying nothing. In the extended silence we heard our hearts begin to speak: “This man is a child of God, too! He deserves our respect, if not our attention. Is it too much to share God’s compassion with the needy? If we are welcomed and accepted, can we not model that acceptance with others?”

He was easy to walk by. Until Jesus noticed him. Then he became the center of God’s universe.

Prayer: We avert our eyes, O Lord, from the pain and suffering of this world. We choose not to notice so many of your children, our brothers and sisters. Help us to stop and attend to the people Jesus loves. Make us instruments of God’s love and comfort today to one person easy to walk by. In the name of Jesus, who stops and helps. 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].

Monday November 24 2014

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Scripture: Luke 18:15-30
Key Verses 15-17: 15People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Reflection: When my children were small, and their cousins were small, we always had a children’s table at Thanksgiving. Instead of an antique tablecloth the cloth on the children’s table was easy to wipe clean. Instead of the good china and crystal, the children’s table had unbreakable plates and glasses. If there was time beforehand, some kind of fun centerpiece or craft materials were included for the kids to enjoy: something to draw on, a turkey made from cookies and candy, a mini pumpkin to decorate after you finished eating. It was a fun table to sit at, at least for a while. The older cousins eventually protested and squeezed into the adult table. They were too old to sit with the little ones anymore.

One year the very oldest decided he would move back to the children’s table. “I miss the crafts,” he said, and his sister teased him for the rest of the day. What he really missed was helping the younger ones. I watched him pour gravy for one cousin, and pick tomatoes off the salad for another. I watched him prompt his cousins to hold hands around the table for the blessing. I watched him help with the part of the turkey craft that year that was supposed to be easy. I watched the whole table of kids laugh hysterically together when the feathers he was trying to turn into a turkey tail blew all over the room. The little ones were overjoyed that their big cousin was sitting with them.

We tell the story about Jesus insisting that the disciples let the children come to him. The Lord’s table is big and wide and there is room for the whole family around it, children included. But maybe another part of Jesus’ teaching is that sometimes we need to go to the where the children are. Perhaps there is something they can teach us about loving God and neighbor and one another at their table.

Prayer: God of us all, open my eyes to what you have to show me. Teach me what children know about you, what adults might be forgetting. Help me welcome all your children with joy and with thanksgiving. In the name of 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].

Friday November 21 2014

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Scripture: James 5:7-12
7Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. 12Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Reflection: Patience! Don’t read the Bible if you’re in a hurry because everything seems to happen over decades and decades of waiting for the Lord. There are a few times that it’s instantaneous but there is a whole lot of waiting going on in the Bible. In a recent sermon, I made the comment that “I don’t think God has ever seen a clock or a calendar!” I believe that’s true. Our timeframe is not God’s timeframe. Because it hasn’t happened yet, does not necessarily mean that it won’t happen ever.

What are you waiting for today? Who are you praying for, waiting for God’s love to touch their lives? What prayer has gone unanswered? Take some time to read the Scriptures and you’ll find a God who moves very slowly but never forsakes us. Other times you will find God to move very swiftly without any warning. We never know which. The important thing is to know Who!

Prayer: Lord, I’m waiting for you to do something and I want to renew my trust in you today. Our lives are in your hands. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to you. I entrust my will to your will and pray for your kingdom to come. Give me the patience to wait and the endurance to stay. Our lives are ultimately in your hands. Through Christ we pray. Amen.

Author: Steve Eason

[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 20 2014

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Scripture: Psalm 116
Key Verse: 1 “I love the LORD, because he hears my voice and my supplications.”

Reflection: There are times when it is natural to wonder if God hears our prayers – especially when life is interrupted by bad news like a devastating diagnosis or sudden loss. Stressful news throws us off balance. Often our first response is to wish it away. When this “wishing” doesn’t work, we turn to the resources of our faith. Hopefully, when we do this, we discover that the cultivation of faith in the good times has equipped us for faith in the bad times.

I received a letter this week from an old colleague of mine. He has struggled with cancer for 9 years.   It won’t ever go away, yet he is able to be thankful for God’s salvation. When I pray for him and his family, I am reminded of today’s words from the psalmist: “even though I was brought low, the LORD saved me.” My friend is thankful because God has never left his side through the challenges of his cancer.   God can do the same thing for us when we are brought low by suffering. God can save us from despair and doubt when we travel through situations that scare us.

There may be something that is creating distress in your life right now. You may feel God is very far away and you are alone. Remember how precious your life is to God and those who love you. Turn to God and remember God’s compassion for you.   God hears you. Knowing this will give you the ability to give thanks again.

Prayer: Gracious God, life surprises us with things we don’t want. There are times when we feel lost and afraid. Remind us you are near. Help us to pray for one another. And, if there is someone we need to reach out to today, remind us to make that phone call or send that text. May we strengthen each other on this journey that your love might be visible to all. 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].