Friday March 20 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

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 Christians across the globe who risk hardship, injury or death by profession of their Faith.

ScriptureRomans 8:28-39
Key verses: 38-39  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection:  There is nothing you can say, nothing you can think, nothing you can do, nothing you can believe that will ever make God love you less.  There is nothing that will ever make God love you more.

We say this wording sometimes in worship as an assurance of pardon.  They are powerful words describing the unconditional love of God.  They are a modern paraphrase of the Apostle Paul’s deep conviction and absolute certainty expressed in Romans 8 that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For some modern Christians faith is all about being certain, certain about the Bible, about their understanding of God, about God’s will for us.  For many others the number of things about which a person of faith can be absolutely certain seems to diminish over the years.

There are many certainties I have cast off as the decades roll by, but one thing for me remains at the core of Christian faith, one thing about which, as the Apostle Paul says, I am absolutely convinced — nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.

If nothing else in life is certain but this, I can live, love, and even die holding on to the one thing that never changes — God’s love for me, for us all, and for this world.

If you need one certainty in your life of faith, let it be this:  Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Faithful God, help me to trust in and hold on to your steadfast love.  If my faith begins to fail, help me hold on to your love which never fails. Grant me such confidence in your love that I can live fully and love extravagantly, losing myself in your embrace.  Through Christ Jesus our Lord, I 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 March 19 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

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: Give thanks for the change in seasons; for the beauty and complexity of God’s dynamic creation.

Scripture: John 6:41-51
Key verse 48: I am the bread of life.

Reflection: Sometimes when I get too mixed up in my head, in the world of ideas and thinking, and trying to figure it all out, I will go to the gospel of John. In John’s gospel, Jesus speaks in a crazy mix of symbolic language and everyday images. Viewed from one direction, his descriptions of himself and the kingdom of God are difficult to decipher. But when I stop trying so hard, the symbols turn into simple everyday pictures of a God who is near: I am the good shepherd… I am the light of the world… I am the bread of life.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor and author says that we people of faith “need stuff and not just ideas.” She says that Christianity isn’t spiritual, or intellectual, it’s material.  Jesus dealt in simple real stuff. “If you want to follow him, you can’t even get started without a river, some bread and a jug of wine.”

Jesus showed us a God revealed, not through the reasoning of our minds, but through himself in the flesh, and in food and wine and water. Jesus said when he is around, the Kingdom of God is at hand. And so, at his instructions, we use our hands, our eyes, our mouths, to get close to it, and participate in it. We don’t think our way into following Jesus. We stand up on our feet and go. We don’t just tell each other “you belong to God.” We splash cleansing water on tiny infant heads, until it drips on the floor. We don’t just close our eyes and think real hard about the suffering and the dying of Jesus. We break the bread and drink the wine, and we taste it.

In the sacraments, Jesus left us real gifts:  water, bread, wine. They are for everyone. And they are a special gift to thinking people, to those who try hard to understand it all, and still can’t figure it out. Perhaps he gave them to us so that when all our reason fails us, as it does when suffering and sickness and death show up, there is something material to touch and see, and hold onto, something shaped like love.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for making yourself known in water, bread and wine, and most of all, in Jesus. Be real to me today, in the everyday stuff of life and of love. In Christ’s 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 March 18 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

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: Those who are lost in their own prosperity; who live by their will and do not seek God’s.

Scripture: Romans 8:1-11
Key Verse: Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Reflection: No condemnation?  That can’t mean that God condones everything about me.  To condemn something is to say that it’s no longer viable; that it should no longer exist, it’s beyond repair and needs to be destroyed.  In Christ we are “redeemed” not condemned.

Maybe that’s why we call it “the good news!”  What should be condemned is actually restored.  What should be torn down is actually built up.  What is beyond repair is given a second chance.

It takes a level of love to do this beyond the human capacity to love. This is why we need to be “in Christ Jesus.”  We need to be attached to him so his love flows through our veins.  When we are detached from him we are incapable of this level of love.

Prayer: Thank you for your unconditional love, O God.  Thank you for your invitation to join you in that 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].

Tuesday March 17 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

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 experiencing memory loss and progressive dementia, and for their families and caregivers.

Scripture: Romans 7:13-25
Key Verse: 19 “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Reflection: There is an inner conflict within each of us between good and evil.  Even when we start the day with good intentions of living out our beliefs, we face the evil that lies close at hand.  We are not perfect people.  The Apostle Paul says we don’t understand our actions.  He is right!  We are human beings who are called to rely on God’s grace.  Jesus is the one who rescues us from the despair and struggle related to our sin.  Only God can transform or change us.  We are invited to cultivate a realistic understanding of who we are as fallible human beings.  When we can accept ourselves for who we are, then we can learn to rely more and more on God’s saving grace.  Certainly, we can amend our ways and try to do better, but without God’s help all our efforts will be short lived.  Every day we are faced with decisions – big and small.  Sometimes we will succeed in doing good, other times we will not.  Let us exclaim with Paul:  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  He is the one who will rescue us.

Prayer:  Merciful God, you know our weaknesses and our strengths.  Help us today to rely on you and give thanks for your saving grace.  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 March 16 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals

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: Today, Lord, we pray for perspective on how to use our time this week. What is important?  What isn’t?

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: Here we have again our God, The Great Collector. Similar to Psalm 56 where we read how God collects our tears in a bottle (such a curious, tender image) and like Psalm 34 where we read a few weeks ago how God rescues us by gathering up our bones, Psalm 121 repeatedly sings of a God who is our keeper.  Five times we are told that God keeps us – keeps all of us and all of our days; God keeps how we end and how we begin; keeps us from all evil; from burning sun and long hard nights – we are kept.  It suggests that when we are falling apart, falling down, tripping up and losing out, we are also, always, falling in to a God who protects and preserves us- a God who keeps us.  It sounds magical though it’s not magic, after all so many things befall us.  The psalm doesn’t deny that we end and begin, that we slumber and sleep, that we are weak and mortal and vulnerable.  What the psalm makes great effort to say however, is that God is not weak or mortal nor does he slumber and sleep (lets add that one to our eclectic psalmic titles for God: the Great Insomniac).  God is the one who created heaven and earth and is the one from whom all help comes.  Even while we rest or when we fall, God gathers us and keeps us.  The word keep is a good, holy word for us.  Its origin is found in words like seize, hold and observe. It can also mean a high, strong tower.  In I Corinthians, Paul encourages us to keep the feast just as your parents might have encouraged you to keep the Sabbath, for in keeping we find that we are kept.  By keeping something sacred we find it is actually we who are preserved.  It matters what we keep, it can define and shape us.   It matters what we are, or whom we are, kept by.

As kids if we were lucky enough to have a friend give us a hockey card or a comic book or anything of theirs we thought valuable we would quickly say ‘for keeps?’ meaning ‘it’s ours forever??’  We didn’t know it but we were little theologians, repeating what God assures us of over and over again.  We belong to God- for keeps.

Prayer: God made known in Jesus Christ, your help is always near, your love is never weak, your mercies never late.  Undeserving as I may be, I accept it all and praise you!  Keeper of my life.  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 March 13 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

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 a release from burdens and for the grace to let grudges go.

Scripture: Romans 6:1-11
Key Verse: Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Reflection: Do you remember your baptism?  If answering literally, I don’t.  I was an infant.  I have heard stories about it and I have a faded black and white photo from that day.  Spiritually, I remember my baptism every day.  My baptism is the foundation of my identity because in baptism I have been claimed as a child of God.  My baptism is the source of my calling because in baptism I was empowered by the Holy Spirit for service.

In today’s passage, Paul wrote to the Romans reminding them that baptism is the visible symbol of our union with Jesus Christ.  Paul saw the crucifixion and resurrection as the pattern for the life of a disciple. With Christ, we die to sin and to our old ways of being, believing and behaving.  With Christ, we are raised to new life, not just after death but right now.  We walk in newness of life with new ways of being, believing and behaving.  What new way are you called to embrace today?

Prayer: Gracious God, by water and the Spirit you claimed us as your own, cleansing us from sin, and giving us new life.  Renew in us the covenant you made in our baptism.  Continue the good work you began in us and send us forth in the power of your Spirit to love and serve you with joy, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
(adapted from the PC(USA) Book of Common Worship)

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 March 12 2015

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

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 CrossRoads board as they meet in Grier Heights today, working to build bridges between communities. 

Scripture: Psalm 27
Key Verse:  1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Reflection:  The “imposter syndrome” is alive and thriving. It is not just among our young people who struggle to be the best athletes, dancers, musicians, painters, and so on.  We all wonder if our work is good enough. Was the dance performance good enough?  Was I good enough on the soccer field, lacrosse or field hockey?  We feel like imposters.

All of this points to a deeper question, “Am I good enough?”   I think this phenomenon also has the potential to afflict us in our faith journey.  We come to church on Sunday and wonder if anyone can tell that we struggle with doubts or with our identity as a person of faith.  We are afraid and maybe filled with shame.

The psalmist gives us a verse that I hope everyone would memorize. It has carried me through my worst days, days when I felt broken and when I definitely felt like an imposter.

We are called to bring to God human thoughts and feelings about anything and everything.  This vulnerability can bring about confidence for living through the highs and lows of human experience.

Let us claim the Psalmist’s declaration that the Lord is our light, our salvation, our stronghold, our confidence and our Savior.  This is our hope. This is our strength. This is our confidence.

Prayer:  Lord, you are my light and my salvation, help me not to be afraid – afraid of failing or being really seen. You are the stronghold of my life.  Move with me into this day.  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].