Wednesday February 18 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: That the Holy Spirit is at work in us and through us.

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-4:11
Key Verses: 3:1-2 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

Reflection: In our Weekday School, the older children visit the Godly Play room for their faith formation biweekly special class. They see and hear a Bible story told using simple beautiful wooden materials. Then, they wonder together about the story. The materials and the method of telling the story help to share the language of faith with them.

Devotion 2-18-15  Jonah

One of the stories on our Godly Play shelves is Jonah. The whale with its open mouth is a favorite of everyone. I love the wooden “waves” that get placed on the felt water. The little wooden boat can be placed on top of the waves to show just how stormy the situation got for Jonah and the sailors. The story is titled, “Jonah, the Backward Prophet.” In the language of Godly Play, prophets are “people who come so close to God, and God comes so close to them, that they know what God is telling them to do. Then they go do it.” But Jonah did the exact opposite of God’s wishes. He ran the other way. His backward response to God led to big trouble, but along the way some remarkable things happened in spite of Jonah’s reluctance. He knew he was the cause of the great storm, and he knew how to fix it, so he suggests the sailors throw him overboard. The story also says this: “Now a prophet is someone who brings people close to God by what he or she says or does. Jonah said nothing; but when the sea grew calm the sailors all fell down and worshiped the true God.”  Even when he was running the other way, God worked through Jonah to change the lives of the sailors, and others too.

Is God calling you to be a prophet? Has God come so close to you that you know what God wants you to do? Are you bringing people close to God by what you say or do? Maybe God will use you even if you are running backwards away from the call of God. Maybe when you feel you are sinking, God will send something that looks, on first glance, to be a whale of a disaster, and turn it into your salvation. I wonder…

Prayer: God, come close to me and tell me what you want me to do and who you want me to be. Work through me, around me, in spite of me. Use me to share your good news with others. Teach me to trust in you no matter what. 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].

Tuesday February 17 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 our newly elected Elders and Deacons as they begin their Officer training.

Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-10
Key Verse: Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

Reflection: I don’t know many people who have gotten up in the morning and decided they are just going to abandon everything good and holy. Don’t you think we “drift away” from it? It happens in small increments without us even knowing it. The tides of greed and self-centeredness help us to slowly drift away from who we really are. Sooner or later, you’re out there so far that you forgot where you used to be! Someone you love or some crisis comes along and reminds you. Wow! How did I get way out here?

The Bible talks about drifting because it’s a real human experience. Nobody intentionally wants to get lost. We do it over time with the slow, gentle currents that carry us away from who God created us to be.

Prayer: I wonder in what ways I may have drifted, O God. It’s hard for me to tell. Have I drifted away from the values that were placed in me long ago? Have I adopted the values of others that don’t really belong to me? Hear my prayer and save me from my drifting, O merciful God, my rock and my redeemer. 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].

 

 

Monday February 16 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 our Strategic Visioning Team, as they try to discern our strengths and weaknesses and outline our path going forward.

Scripture: Psalm 145
Key Verses: 1-3 “I will extol thee, my God and King, and bless thy name for ever and ever.  Every day I will bless thee, and praise thy name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

Reflection: Many scholars believe that today’s psalm may originally have been the final psalm in the Psalter.  The psalms that follow (146-150) are drawn from its focus on praise.  As one author has noted, it was the custom, in Jewish religious tradition to “repeat Psalm 145 as a way to confess the insufficiency of self and the sovereignty of God.”  This psalm reminds us that God is sovereign and the ultimate source of our salvation.  In the face of a world that is full of suffering and injustice, fear and confusion, God invites us to look to God as the source of our hope.   This kind of hope was very important for the nation of Israel as they emerged from a brutal exile.   It also has been very important to the Christian community over the centuries.  St. Augustine, a well-known saint of the church, quotes Psalm 145 at the beginning of his Confessions.  This is followed by his famous words:   “You stimulate (us) to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.”  We are invited to live by “this great truth” and get to know God through praise.

You might not feel like praising God today.  That’s OK.   There may be some great challenge you are facing.  God may feel a million miles away.   Yet, there are still words of assurance and strength here that you can lean on.  Read through the Psalm again and hear God’s word for you.

Prayer:  Gracious God, we give you praise for your relentless love.  You refuse to give up on us and constantly show us patience and mercy.  Help us to sing your praises in the good times and in the bad.  Show us how to put you at the center of our lives so that we might more fully live for you.  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 February 13 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 our incredible Sexton team as they conduct their myriad duties.

Scripture:  Mark 10:32-45
Key verses: 41-45 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Reflection: But it is not so among you.  There it is: a Jesus ‘one liner’— as our current sermon series would put it.  As the disciples wrestle for position, fully embracing the lesser but unrelenting gods of competition and excess (who is going to get the most and be the best), Jesus says: But it is not so among you.

Notice it is not an invitation that Jesus offers as in “might it not be that way among you?” He doesn’t issue a command, “it must not be that way among you!”  It’s not a wish either, “wouldn’t it be great if it were that way among you?” What Jesus gives is a description.  Jesus is not telling us what to do, but reminding us who we are. The jostling, the winning at all and any cost, the lust for power, the taking no prisoners, the desperate craving to be special, the ends justifying the means and the not giving a damn, all of that, has got nothing to do with us.

So then what way is it among us?   Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall begins his book Thinking the Faith with this quote from a Canadian novel about the way it is among us:

Jesus says in his society there is a new way to live:
you show wisdom, by trusting people;
you handle leadership, by serving;
you handle offenders, by forgiving;
you handle money, by sharing;
you handle enemies, by loving;
and you handle violence, by suffering.
In fact, you have a new attitude toward everything, toward everybody. 

It is that way among you.

Prayer (from the hymn Lord, Jesus, You Shall Be My Song):   Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey; I’ll tell ev’rybody about you wherever I go; you alone are our life and our peace and our love. Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey.

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].

Thursday February 12 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 those who need to ask for forgiveness, and those who need to give it.

Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
Key verse: 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Reflection: Sometimes Jesus gets on my nerves!  And his words trouble me.  I find myself pondering them over and over again, questioning his meaning, and examining my own faithfulness.

This Bible story is rich with transformational power.  If it’s not familiar to you, take a moment to read the entire passage now.  This man wanted to know what to do in order to inherit eternal life.  That seems like a good idea but “doing” and “inheriting” are contrasting mindsets.  Jesus challenged him and reminded him about the commandments.  (Duh, you already know what God wants you to do so why are you asking this?) The man then asserted that he has kept all of the commandments.  (Really? I don’t think that’s possible.) Jesus responded with the line above, that the man was still lacking something and needed to rid himself of his wealth in order to follow Jesus.

Jesus loved the man.  Just when the man thought he had checked off all of the items on the spiritual righteousness list, Jesus added something new.  Just when the man thought he had arrived at the destination of eternal life, Jesus called him to stay on the journey. Jesus loves you.  How is Jesus challenging you to move forward on your journey of faith?  What are you lacking?  (See, sometimes Jesus gets on our nerves on purpose!)

Prayer: Dear Lord, staying on the journey with you is hard work. Show me my next step forward. Transform me with your gracious power so that I can be your faithful disciple.  Through Jesus Christ 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 February 11 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 our D2.2 Deeper Discipleship Bible Wednesday Study.

Scripture: Mark 10:1-16
Key Verse: 9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Reflection: Divorce happens.  It is part of our world and we do not talk about it unless we are talking about someone. Normally, I would skip this passage and seek out an easier passage but why shouldn’t we in the church be able to talk about things that matter?

Divorce in the first century was not at all the same that it is in the twenty-first century. In Jesus’ day a man had a right to put away, dismiss, or divorce his wife if she displeased him in any number of ways.  They could divorce over burned toast! The Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, not out of spiritual concern, but to emphasize the political and legal dimensions. Jesus took the question of divorce out of a legal context and shifted it into the spiritual realm. Jesus encouraged them and encourages us to consider why we marry.

Jesus shifted the conversation. Marriage was no longer about a contract or property – it was a transformative experience for two people. Marriage is a covenant of life and love where two people are joined by God and with God.  Maybe this passage is about divorce and maybe it is about marriage.  The question I always ask is “where is the good news?”  The good news for me is that God is in all of life and that even Jesus was willing to talk about the hard things in life.

Prayer: God, in all of my relationships, be at the center guiding me with your love. 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 10 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 parents of children with special needs.

Scripture: Mark 9:42-50
Key verse:  42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

Reflection: If you are feeling judgmental and apocalyptical some day and need a little dose of fire and brimstone, this is one of the Bible’s go to places.

Mark’s Gospel holds up Jesus’ concern for the “little ones” – those who are not as mature in the faith or who are particularly vulnerable in their growth toward maturity.  The Christian way is especially mindful of these and, according to Jesus, we have a special responsibility to avoid creating obstacles for their growth in faith.

If you doubt how seriously the early Christian community took this responsibility you only have to read this text to hear some of the fire and brimstone warnings:  millstones around the neck and thrown into the sea, cutting off your hand or your foot, tearing out an eye, being thrown into the pit of fire and eternal punishment.  Talk about disincentives!  Wow!

Avoiding leading a “little one” astray is obviously a bad thing.  Avoiding the consequences of doing so is motivation enough, but we are also charged to be the salt (flavor enhancer, preservative) to benefit others and bring them peace.

We are responsible for the effect our actions have on others.   Beware when we cause others to stumble.

Prayer:  Help us, O God, live our faith in ways that nurtures the faith of others and doesn’t diminish their faith.  Make us enhancers and preservers of the growing faith of those around us.  Save us from millstones and deep seas.  Through Jesus the Christ who has shown us the way to live.  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].