Tuesday March 31 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-tuesA 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: Jesus wept for the city of Jerusalem. Today we pray for that holy city torn apart by division and turmoil.

ScriptureJohn 12:20–26
Key verse: 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Reflection:  While Jesus was living the disciples didn’t understand what he was about. Even when he avoided parables and metaphors and said things directly the disciples would often miss his meaning. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death and resurrection and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that the disciples started to connect with what Jesus had taught them.

He was very clear in the days before his crucifixion that he was heading for an untimely death. Yet the disciples didn’t want to or couldn’t hear his words. One of the conversations they did remember was a conversation between Jesus and some Gentiles. Gentiles were non-Jews and often represented the larger world beyond the nation of Israel. The fact that Gentiles were seeking out Jesus was a sign that Jesus’ teachings were for the whole world.

Remember, he told them, a grain of wheat cannot bear fruit until and unless it is buried and dies. Only then can its life have value. Only then can its death be transformed into new life.  Only after death and resurrection can we see how God took the end of Jesus’ life and transformed it into a new beginning – not just for those in Jesus’ day, but for all people, everywhere. If a grain of wheat dies and falls to the earth, it bears much fruit. How much more then can Jesus’ death and resurrection bear new life?

The disciples didn’t get it and neither do we – this great paradox of life and living – that for new life to emerge, life as we know it has to die. So it was for Jesus. So it is for us.

Prayer: O God, you bring new life even from the dead. Out of no hope, raise us to hopefulness.  Out of despair, raise us into joy. Out of death, raise us to new life. In the name of the one who died that we might have life, Jesus the Christ. 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].

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Monday March 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:  Jesus cleansed the temple. Help us see today what needs to be cleaned out of our lives.

Scripture: Psalm 121

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills —
from where will my help come?
2   My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

3   He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4   He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5   The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6   The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7   The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8   The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore.

Reflection: This beautiful psalm is often read at funerals and gravesides. When we are down in the valley of despair, we lift our eyes to the hills. With the grieving we affirm that our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. As we walk this Holy Week alongside Jesus and his disciples, I wonder if he or they drew upon this psalm themselves that last week. They would have known it, probably by heart.

I wonder if Jesus heard the words of assurance in his head and heart as he was arrested and beaten: “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” I wonder if he recited any of the hopeful words of promise on the cross in the heat of that last day: “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”

I wonder if the disciples remembered the psalm’s words as their teacher, friend, and Lord died, and they faced their grief: “The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.”

We read the psalm today from the vantage point of the Easter resurrection. It is that same Easter hope that we recall when we read the psalm today for our loved ones who have died. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord, I lift up my eyes to the hills. My help comes from you. Help me trust that you hold my life and the lives of all your children, forever. 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 March 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: For the MPPC Women’s Retreat, as they travel to Montreat for rest and study.

Scripture: John 12:1-10
Key Verse: 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Reflection: There are various versions of this anointing but this one happens just before Jesus is arrested and crucified.  He is in the home of some of his best friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  He had raised Lazarus from the dead which created a tremendous stir and increased his popularity and threat to the authorities.  Mary anoints his feet with costly perfume and wipes them with her hair.

I’ve never really thought about it, but I would imagine such a powerful fragrance would linger for a long time.  It would be difficult for Mary to wash the perfume out of her hair. The fragrance had to linger with Jesus for days.  The house would smell like perfume for maybe weeks!

If that’s the case, the fragrance of this deed may have well lingered well into Jesus’ final week.  For all we know, he could have still smelled the fragrance on the day of his crucifixion.  I find that intriguing.

Our faithful deeds of extravagant love have a ripple-effect that may have no end.  The fragrance of your love can remain with a person throughout their entire life.  Such love is difficult to wash out of your hair!  Such love stays with us even through the darkest hour.  For all we know, Jesus could have smelled the fragrance of this perfume even as he hung on the cross!

Prayer: We pour out our love and praise to you, O God, for your unconditional love and grace.  We admire Mary and her devotion and we long to be like her.  Forgive us for the many ways that we have held our perfume, and give us grace to be liberal in letting it go in glory to God and in love for others.  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 March 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 college students; that they may make good decisions; that they stay connected to their faith and shine their light to others.

Scripture: Psalm 126
Key Verse: 5 “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.”

Reflection: This particular psalm is known as one of the Song of Ascents.  In ancient biblical times, when people travelled up to Jerusalem for festivals and holy days, they would sing these songs along the way.  This group of psalms recounts events in the life of the nation of Israel highlighting God’s saving grace.  Psalm 126 remembers the joy the people experienced when the exiles returned from captivity in Babylon.  It is a wonderful psalm to read or pray after being delivered from a difficult life situation.

Having come through the suffering of the exile, the Psalmist notes how the good things that are happening to them feel unreal – like a dream.  People are filled with laughter and joy in a way that they weren’t before life tested them.   We, too, remember our tears as they are being replaced with joy.  We know that because of adversity, we will never be the same again.  Recently, I heard someone refer to the tears and the joy as a way of “enlarging your soul”.  When difficult events happen in our lives we have the opportunity to face them, accept them and lean on God and each other for support.  In this process, we are transformed – our faith deepens and we grow.  Of course, we prefer to avoid struggle or suffering, altogether, but that is not possible in this life.

Remember – when trouble ends we will rejoice because the LORD is the one who delivers us.  If you are struggling today, there will come a time when the tears you have shed will turn into shouts of joy.

Prayer:  Faithful God, we see things so much more clearly in hindsight.  Forgive us for doubting your presence.  Help us to put our full confidence in you, in the good times and in the bad.  Lead us in your way.  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 March 25 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 the centering of our lives around a faith in Jesus Christ.

Scripture: John 10:1-18
Key Verse: 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

Reflection: Jesus would have read the twenty-third psalm and have known the power and association of saying: I am the good shepherd.  He echoes the poetic power of that first line of the beloved psalm: The Lord is my shepherd.

In the biblical world, saying “God is my shepherd” is the same as saying “The Lord is my king, my sovereign, my authority.”  God is the one who directs, the one to whom I am answerable, the one whom I trust and serve.   Although we may deny and resist it, something in our life will gain our loyalty and allegiance and there are countless things that demand our attention, time and loyalty; but there is really only one who deserves it.  There are many petty claims on our lives— many things that seek to define and control us and many things perhaps that we wish to be controlled and defined by, but the Lord is our good shepherd.  It is Christ who will best define and lead us. It is the Lord of my life who can only truly direct my life. We need not sell ourselves short, or give in, or give way, or give up for “I am the good shepherd” Jesus says.  In his service we find freedom, in his will we find purpose, in following we find joy.

It is a measure of maturity when we are able to make a decision— to let go of one thing in order to gain another thing greater. It is a sign of wisdom when we are able to resist being taken in a million different directions, following every whim and desire.  When we open ourselves to God’s presence, when we claim the opportunities to discern and choose what is best, we plant ourselves in deep soil where we can really begin to grow.  True freedom is found in commitment, community and fidelity. The Lord is my good shepherd.  I have made my choice and that will affect all my other choices from here on in.

Prayer: God my good shepherd, lead me gently but persistently, so that I may hear my name in your voice and my call in your purpose. 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].

Tuesday March 24 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 in our community who are desperately trying to elevate their circumstances, that they make seek God’s guidance along the way, and offer gratitude for what they already have.

Scripture: John 9:18-41
Key verse: John 9:39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

Reflection: The gospel of John is full of mind-blowing word puzzles and metaphors.  Jesus speaks figuratively while those around him listen with literal ears.  In today’s passage he healed a blind man and this healing launches the man and his family into conflict with the religious leaders.  The religious leaders question what happened and what it might mean.

Jesus then refers to blindness as a spiritual metaphor.  The blind man can now see, but the religious leaders who think they know so much are actually blind.   Their preconceived ideas about how God works prevent them from recognizing God at work in Jesus Christ.  They are blind to the witness and his testimony about this miracle.  They are unable to see God’s power.  Their own foolish belief that they can see everything is actually proof of their blindness.  Are my eyes open to see God today or am I blinded by my own insistence that I see everything?

Prayer:
Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
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].

Monday March 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: The members of our congregation who have drifted apart, that they may re-engage with our community of faith and experience God’s love.

Scripture: John 9:1-17
Key Verses: 5-7 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

Reflection: This has always been one of my favorite healing stories. It has nothing to do with the healing and everything to do with the spit. Jesus heals a man, blind from birth, with his spit and some dirt. Jesus mixed his spit with the dirt of creation, and the dirt to which we will return, and brought healing.  Amazing!

The blind man received sight and began to see everything around him in a new light.  As his eyes were opened, he was brought into a new relationship with his healer. His story shows us how we may be blind to the world around us.

The good news is that when we walk in darkness, we have the light of Christ to show us the way out. The light of Christ shines, and gives us the power to be more than the darkness, more than the dirt from which we have come.

Prayer: God, you are always moving in this world. May I not be so cynical that I dismiss your word that might be light or healing. If you can work through spit, who knows what else you can use in this world! In the name of your creative and life-giving Son 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].