Friday January 30 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: For Derek Macleod, our newly installed Director of Outreach, as he attends the Synod Meeting in Cuba on behalf of our Cuban Mission Team.

Scripture: Mark 6:47–56
Key verse: (50b) But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Reflection: Sometimes the only thing we can see is the chaos around us. So much so, that even when Jesus does show up we don’t see him. Even if we do, our response is not relief, but fear.

This passage from the Gospel of Mark is another story of Jesus, the disciples in a boat, and the threatening chaos of a storm.

Jesus sees the disciples struggling against the wind and goes to meet them — by walking on the water! When they finally take notice of this figure walking across the waves they are terrified.

They don’t see Jesus, they see something that strikes fear into their hearts. Jesus appears to them so outside the box (boat) that whatever help Jesus might be for them is drowned out by fear, not of the chaos around them, but of the unexpected way Jesus comes to them.

The disciples, especially in the Gospel of Mark, come across as clueless. Their difficulty in recognizing Jesus was repeated in the Church in the decades following Jesus’ resurrection. But, to be fair, how can anyone expect the unexpected?

The disciples—and the Church—found themselves in chaotic and threatening times. Yet Jesus showed up for them all.

What winds of storm threaten you? What chaos pushes against your efforts to move forward? Do you see that movement in the corner of your eye? Does it look like something impossible? Does it go against every expectation you have for how the world works? Does it frighten you and fill you with fear?

Take heart. Do not be afraid. The God who created the wind and water and waves sends his Son to calm our fears and set us back on course. “It is I” shows up in unexpected ways, but, thanks be to God, always shows up.

Prayer: You know the things that threaten us, O God. In those times when chaos surrounds our lives open our eyes and hearts to see you, even where we least expect you. Calm our fears and give us courage for the rest of our journey. In the name of the one who walks on water 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].

Thursday January 29 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our Upper Room Devotional Team at Urban Ministry Center, as they lead devotions with homeless men and women during the lunch hour.

Scripture: Mark 6:30-46
Key verses 30-32: 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Reflection: This is the familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5000. A crowd listens to him teach late into the day. The disciples get worried that the people have nothing to eat. Jesus sends them to find provisions and they return with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus multiplies the food to feed the entire crowd, with more leftover. It’s a great story of an amazing miracle, and of sharing, and of trust. It also teaches an important lesson about our own needs as disciples, in relationship with others.

At the start of it the disciples themselves are tired and hungry. They have been busy with many people and “had no leisure even to eat.” Jesus calls them to come away and rest. He is good at heading off by himself when he needs to rest, rejuvenate, and pray. Perhaps he wants to instill the same balance in his followers. Imagine the relief of the disciples when they get into the boat with Jesus, headed for dinner and a nap. Instead, when they arrive onshore, they are greeted by a crowd again. Jesus has compassion on the crowd and begins to teach them. So much for rest and food for the disciples. I wonder if their eventual suggestion to let the crowd go find something to eat is really about themselves. The story never does say if or when the disciples got their dinner. When they have served the whole crowd and gathered the leftovers, they immediately get into the boat again and head out on a windy sea. According to Mark, when the boat lands again, Jesus and the disciples are again immediately surrounded by a crowd, this time needing healing.

Sometimes our needs are eclipsed by the needs of those around us. Sometimes faithfulness means postponing our plans in order to serve. And sometimes it is in serving in faith, that our real needs are met as well.

Prayer: Lord, you have compassion on all your people. When I want to serve myself first, and take care of my needs while ignoring the needs of others, forgive me. Teach me that you provide. Teach me to give and to love with my eyes on you. In your name 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].

 

Wednesday January 28 2015

Refle

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: Our Harvest Center volunteers, who prepare and serve meals, tutor, and lead devotions for our neighbors in need.

Scripture: Mark 6:1-13
Key Verses: Mark 6:7-13
7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Reflection: It is interesting how Jesus sort of stripped down the disciples before he sent them out on their mission.  It’s as if he didn’t want them to be over-prepared.  He sent them out a little bit needy and dependent on others.

Sometimes it’s possible to overshoot the runway.  If we over-think it, over-prepare for it, we can miss our dependency upon the Holy Spirit for something to happen.  We just do it ourselves.  When Jesus sent these people out he empowered them but he also ordered them to “take nothing for their journey” except for a staff, sandals and one tunic.  No bread, no bag, no money.  That’s either odd or it’s brilliant.  (I’m going to go with brilliance since it was Jesus.)  The church can have too many resources and not enough dependency on God.  Give us the task and we will do it.  Tell us the goal and we will reach it.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’m not sure how we can do this, but is there a way for us to be the church and at the same time to “take nothing for our journey?”  Something to pray about.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t think you need me to fix anything or to do anything.  I don’t think you are looking for me to impress you with my goodness or my abilities.  It’s a miracle that you’re even aware of me, but I’m aware of you and I’m in need of you for the very breath I’m getting ready to draw.  Help me to cultivate my dependency upon you and receive my thanks and praise.  Through Christ our Lord.  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].

 

 

 

Tuesday January 27 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: Our Congo Mission Team, as they support the girls’ school and strengthen healthcare services in Tshikaji and local villages.

Scripture: Psalm 28
Key Verse: 6 “Blessed be the LORD, because God has heard the voice of my supplication.”

Reflection: This psalm is a prayer for deliverance attributed to King David.  David spent a lot of time in battle fighting those who wanted to destroy him or his country.  He regularly asked for protection and much of the book of Psalms chronicles his fervent prayers for deliverance.  The Psalms also include his joyful songs of praise.  Sometimes these two themes of deliverance and praise are woven together like we see in today’s psalm.   Notice the way David uses poetry to give voice to his personal struggles and those of the people of Israel.  Now consider how these same words, spoken across thousands of years, also give voice to our struggles.  These are words of comfort and strength that help us, especially when we feel like we are under attack by the challenges of life.   We have hope, like David, that God will hear our prayers in the midst of struggle.   Perhaps you are facing an “enemy” right now.  Read this psalm as a prayer to God.  Then, trust in the LORD and let God be your strength.

Prayer:  Almighty God, we need your strength.  Help us to trust you in every circumstance of life.  Remind us that you care for us and what happens to us.   We give thanks that you hear our cries and will not forsake us.  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].

Monday January 26 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: Our Men’s Shelter Ministry, serving meals, leading devotions, and providing job skills counseling to homeless men.

Scripture: Isaiah 48:1-11
Key verses: 9-10 For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, so that I may not cut you off. See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.

Reflection: In my coastal home of Halifax, right on the dock of the deep harbor in an old warehouse is the Nova Scotia Crystal Factory. They claim to make some of the most beautiful crystal in the world there and I have no reason to doubt them.  When you come to my home we will raise a crystal glass of something to your health and gaze upon their fine craftsmanship for ourselves.  The doors of this crystal factory are wide open inviting you as you pass to look inside and see how the crystal is made in the small workshop.  Making crystal by hand and breath requires raw material, tremendous skill and a lot of heat.  One furnace works at 2,588 degrees Fahrenheit in order to make a malleable material that can be blown and cut into a desired shape.    That something so beautiful and delicate can come from something so raw and intense is a marvel.

God is angry in Isaiah but, before we write it off as another image of the angry Old Testament God, let’s remember that anger is one of the ways our loved ones show their love for us.  God’s anger is real and fierce (and thank God it is contained in its intensity for our sake) but anger expressed in a loving relationship always seeks to correct not to condemn.  Anger can get our attention and help us redefine and recreate.   If anger was all we had in our relationship with God and each other it would be abusive.  But God’s anger acts like a furnace — the prophet Isaiah suggests — a furnace that refines and prepares us for the Creator who would lovingly fashion us to his way and will, for his purpose and people.  In the midst of struggle and adversity, in good times and bad we are being taught to trust the One who is at work in our lives.

Prayer: God my life is in your hands.  With your fierce and tender love, create me as a vessel of your grace and an instrument of your peace.  May what I am reflect who you are.  Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[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 January 23 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is:  Our members engaged in Meal Ministry, preparing delicious and well-balanced meals for others in times of need.

Scripture: Psalm 32
Key Verse: Psalm 32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Reflection: Every Sunday when we gather to worship, we pray a prayer of confession.  God already knows our sin.  We cannot hide our failures and our weaknesses from God.  We pray the prayer of confession, not to tell God new information, but to acknowledge publicly that we have fallen short.  We haven’t lived up to God’s ideal for us.  We have not loved God with our whole heart and mind and strength and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

After that prayer of confession, one of the pastors proclaims a declaration of forgiveness.  Again, that isn’t new information.  We have probably heard before that God forgives us for our sin.  Yet we need to hear it again and again, from different voices and with different words.

We repeat this pattern every week, confessing our sin and hearing the good news of God’s forgiveness.  This pattern is at the core of our faith.  The Lord is gracious and merciful.  Our transgression is forgiven and our sin is covered.  Thanks be to God!  Worship this Sunday to hear that good news once again.

Prayer: Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.  Forgive us.  Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image.  Through Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

(prayer adapted from the Book of Common Worship, p. 88, prayer #3)

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 January 22 2015

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A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: Our El Salvador World Vision teams, as they sponsor children and families and promote peace with a holistic approach.

Scripture: Mark 4:21-34
Key Verse: 23 “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Reflection: Jesus sometimes ends his parables saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him listen.” The problem was the disciples had a hard time hearing. The crowd did not always have ears to hear and we may have evolved only to hear the obvious.  Hearing the gospel is not simply about a human capacity. Having “ears to hear” is about possibility.

We are hard on the disciples for not being smarter, quicker or tuned into the message of Jesus.   They could not hear the message of the parables because it often took them out of their comfort zone. Our deafness continues to make us uncomfortable when we read parables.

I imagine the crowd, as they passed by Jesus, saying, “What a great story today!” or “I love the story about the seeds, since I am a farmer.”  I imagine those comments because I have said those words.  I am not always listening deep enough.  My ears hear the obvious.  The good news in this passage, for me, is that Jesus opens deaf ears so that good news could be heard. It is something we do not have the capacity to do on our own.    May we have ears to hear and may we pay attention as Jesus continues to disturb, comfort, challenge, invite and remind.

Prayer: Prompt me to listen, O God of parables and good news, and surprise me with your Word. I pray in the name of the one who continues to invite me to have ears to hear. 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].