Friday May 29 2015

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Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Key verses: (6-7) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

Reflection: Recently, I heard a sermon at another church that reminded me that our brothers and sisters in the faith who struggled under oppression and injustice thousands of years ago in Egypt are our spiritual ancestors. The God we worship is the God of the Israelites. The same God who set the slaves in Egypt free and led them to the promised land is also the God who sets us free from our bondage. As the spiritual descendants of slaves, we can remember what it was like to be held captive and what it was like to be liberated. Because of this liberation, we are told to have no other gods before God. But, sometimes we do worship other gods, don’t we? We forget what God has done and we run after all kinds of things looking for fulfillment and satisfaction. Some of these substitute things become gods in our lives. They take center stage as we push God aside. We don’t observe the commandments that offer us new life.

“Remember”, the LORD says, “who I am.”  The freedom from slavery in Egypt was quite remarkable.  So is the freedom we continue to be offered. God wants to bring us out of the “house of slavery”. Remember who you are so that God might take first place in your life.

Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, help us to hear you. Drive away the fear and anxiety that keeps us from you. May your words of hope instruct us as we live in community with one another. Remind us that you are the LORD our God, creator and sustainer of the universe and Lord of our lives. With grateful hearts we pray In Jesus’ name. 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].

Thursday May 28 2015

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Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18

Key verses: (2-3a) You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ.

Reflection: When I was a kid my great aunt Merna would occasionally send me letters. She only lived twenty minutes away–never mind a phone call away–but she liked to write letters. She was “old fashioned” we would now say (she also read tea leaves, but that’s for another day).  Her letters to me were always addressed to: Master Derek Macleod.  I know now that Master was a polite term for someone who wasn’t yet a Mister, a courtesy title for the eldest son of a family.  To my nine year old mind however, master conjured up images of someone noble, true and brave.  As a master I could sail the high seas, face the deadliest of dragons, or biggest of bullies, even if I still had to be in bed by seven. She was telling me something about myself, for she wouldn’t have called me that–I figured–if it wasn’t true.  I would get a letter from her and I was sure it changed how the world saw me. It certainly changed the way I saw myself in the world.

Paul not only writes to the church in Corinth but describes them as very letters themselves.  By being who God created them to be–by embodying the Gospel–they are the message of the Gospel for any who would take notice.  I remember once hearing someone say that you may be the only Bible that someone reads.  What a privilege and responsibility that is.  I wonder what text you best embody in your life?  Choose something and watch yourself live up and live in to it.

No one sends letters anymore really (too bad!). But we are always communicating.  With all that you are, let many today see and know that God is real and Christ’s love is present.  And why not send a letter to someone today?  Tell them that God has great plans and a greater love for them.

Prayer: Lord for your presence in my life I rejoice.  Help me share with others what I have so generously and lovingly received from you.  In Jesus name. Amen.

Author: Derek Mcleod

[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 May 27 2015

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Scripture: Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Key verse: (2)  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Reflection: Life isn’t fair. And grace really isn’t fair. The religious leaders grumbled about Jesus because he spent time with sinners and included people who were unworthy of his time and attention. In response Jesus told parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin and the Prodigal Son. This parable about a father with two sons highlights our dilemma with grace. We long for justice. We want people to be punished for their wrongdoing. Well, ok, as long as we are talking about other people and not ourselves!

In the story, the older brother questions his father’s judgment. Why welcome a sinner? Why throw a party for someone who isn’t worthy? These questions get at the very core of the gospel. Grace isn’t fair. God’s grace is about forgiveness and reconciliation.  God’s grace is a whole different way of looking at the world and of understanding one another. God’s grace is a huge paradigm shift for most of us.

Who are the sinners you need to welcome? Who should you eat with today? We might ordinarily welcome people who are like us. We eat with our friends and our family. Grace broadens the boundaries of our hospitality. Grace expands the guest list for our dinner table. With grace, God has forgiven us, welcomed us, and eaten with us. So with grace, let us welcome one another.

Prayer:  Loving God, your grace knows no limits. You welcome sinners and that means you welcome me. Fill me with your grace so that I can welcome the sinners around me, even the ones who aren’t worthy of my time and attention. Through Christ my Savior 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].

Tuesday May 26 2015

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Scripture: Luke 15:1-10

Key Verses: (3-6)  So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Reflection:  Who are we in the story? Shepherds? The lost? A neighbor? Who is God in the story? What is the Good News?

We ask these questions when reading Scripture to understand the message Jesus wanted for the original hearers at the time and for us today.

The owner or shepherd has lost something of value. One sheep. He notices the one missing among the ninety-nine and the urgency to seek out the lost overtakes him. The flock is incomplete without this one that is lost. When he finds the sheep, he celebrates, at home. The shepherd invites neighbors and friends to join in the celebration.

Luke presents this as a story of repentance but it is not about a sheep that returns, but a sheep that is found.  Amy Jill Levine in her book, Short Stories by Jesus, asks a very interesting question in response to this parable.  She asks readers today, “Do we know what or whom we have lost?”

There is urgency in our church to find unity in the midst of our great diversity. It is not a new concept but one that we have struggled with since the church began.  It is also something that I believe is a powerful and unique message of Good News. The flock is incomplete when we are not together.  Whether one wanders off, is run off, or is simply lost. The flock is incomplete. The owner lost the sheep, so I don’t think in this story the owner is God. I believe it is me. And you.

Prayer: God, you have never let me go. Give me the tenacity and compassion to care for those around me in the same way. It is in the name of your Son, who challenges me daily, that I pray. Amen.

[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 May 25 2015

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Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Key verses: (3-4) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Reflection: On this Memorial Day we, as a nation and as individuals, do a lot of remembering. We remember family members and friends who gave their last full measure of devotion in service to their country. That giving secures our life and liberties and for that we are humbly grateful. But that memory of loved ones now gone is also a source of grief.  The pain of losing a son, or husband, or mother, or sibling, or any other member of our family never completely goes away. Memories afflict us as profoundly as they comfort us.

The consolation of family and friends can’t erase painful memories. But it can make the pain easier to bear — because we do not bear it alone. The thoughtful note received unexpectedly consoles us. The phone call or text saying, “Just thinking about you,” consoles us. The hours of patient listening to unanswerable questions consoles us.

But if human kindness consoles us, how much more can the mercy of God—the God of all consolation—console us in all our affliction? The tender mercies of God enfold all who grieve today, all whose memories are painful, all who need more consolation that friends and family can provide. The mercy, grace and love of God consoles us, quiets restless spirits, and transforms despair into hope and thanksgiving.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Prayer: We give thanks, O God, for blessed memories and enduring affections. Console us in our need and grant, on this and all our days, not only comfort, but the mercy of your peace.  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].

Friday May 22 2015

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Scripture: Ezekiel 34:17-31

Key verses: (30-31) They shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord GOD. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord GOD.

Reflection: The prophet Ezekiel gives us a stunning vision of God’s kingdom as he describes the restoration of Israel from exile. God will provide a place of peace and plenty. God is the good shepherd, caring for all of the sheep. Showers of blessing are in store, which will lead to abundance and security. God is clearly in control and desires good things for all people.

At the same time, there is responsibility that comes along with God’s many blessings. Ezekiel voices questions from God: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

God has blessed the people, and promises to do so again. But there is injustice and greed and pettiness among them. Some are claiming God’s goodness and preventing others from receiving the same. Sheep are going hungry, and the living water is being polluted.

It is good to remember and sing praise to God for our many blessings. It is also necessary that we examine how we use them, and how our use of them might be preventing others from the same. To whom much is given, much will be required. What can you do today that will help, not hinder, another child of God from enjoying God’s blessings?

Prayer: Lord, I am overwhelmed sometimes by your blessings. Even in the midst of suffering, I am mindful that you provide abundantly. Help me be grateful. Help me be aware of others, of all your children. Keep me from foolishness that prevents others from receiving your promises of food, water, security, and peace. In the name of the great Good Shepherd, your Son, Jesus, 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].

Thursday May 21 2015

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Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Key verse: (37) “You go and do likewise . . .”

Reflection: There are many ways this parable has been interpreted.

I think of it as an “along the way” story of what it means to be a good neighbor. What does the Samaritan do for his “neighbor” that he finds beaten and bleeding by the side of the road? He uses the resources he has available, dresses the man’s wounds and takes him to a nearby commercial inn to rest and recover. This parable is often used as a model for the care of others. But, too often this model is misinterpreted.

Some people think the Good Samaritan was self-sacrificing so this is how we are supposed to be when we care for our neighbor. But, actually, the Samaritan was being merciful while he was going about his business. He cares for the man on the road while he is travelling. He takes the man with him toward his destination and drops him off at an inn. He makes arrangements for the man to be taken care of by others and then, he continues his business trip. He will check on the injured man on his return. Along the way. This is the kind of mercy we are called to show to one another. In our daily lives we might meet people in all kinds of situations. We don’t have to drop everything and give up our lives to be a neighbor. We can help others and love our neighbors — along the way.

Think how much of an effect this would have on our world. Sometimes we turn away because we think if we get involved, the sick or injured person will take all of our time. Not so, if we draw others into the circle of care. We can learn to take good care of ourselves while we show mercy to our neighbor. This is a powerful way to show God’s love to others.

Prayer: God of all kindness, remind us that mercy isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Help us to be compassionate and caring while staying grounded in you. Remind us to seek the support of the community as we show mercy to those who are hurt and wounded by life. 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 May 20 2015

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Scripture: Psalm 118

Key verse: (22) The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

Joe Alblas/A+E Networks, LLC

Joe Alblas/A+E Networks, LLC

Reflection: This is a screen shot from the latest film/television adaption of the Bible.  To find this image you do not need to Google the actor’s name (Diogo Morgado) you simply need to type Hot Jesus. That is what the internet has dubbed this actor’s portrayal of our Lord: Hot Jesus–and he certainly is, isn’t he? Who can hear him say, “Turn the other cheek,”  when you are so busy looking at his cheekbones? And that hair?! I am jealous. Who among us would have any trouble following this guy?

The Bible doesn’t describe Jesus and, even if he were attractive, it would be a very different look in the Mediterranean world of 30 AD then USA 2015.  In the Song of Songs the man praises his bride for having teeth like a flock of goats (I am assume that means they were white and plentiful, but don’t try writing that next Valentine’s day).  What is beautiful is always contextual.

We trick ourselves over and over again thinking that beautiful means perfect, pure and true.  That, my friends, is a lie we must release ourselves from. In the Bible we are surprised over and over again by God who works through those we don’t expect, blesses those we think are undeserving and lifts up those who were far, far below our radar.  The stone the builder refuses becomes the head cornerstone.  I wonder what in your life–or who in your life–might have something amazing to reveal to you about God but, until now, you were just not paying attention?

Prayer: Open my eyes Lord to your presence in all things.  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 May 19 2015

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Scripture: Hebrews 6:13-20

Key verses: (19-20)  We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Reflection: At every funeral I say, “We have a sure and certain hope in the promise of the resurrection.”  The hope we have in Jesus Christ isn’t a view through rosy colored glasses.  Human hope is based on human potential.  We hope for a cure for cancer.  We hope for good grades at school or a good review from our supervisor.  We hope for economic stability or for national security.  Christian hope is based only on the power of God.  Our hope in Jesus Christ does not depend on human potential or achievement.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that, because of Jesus Christ, our hope is like an anchor of the soul.  Christian hope can be steadfast and secure and doesn’t “come and go” with the up and down of my emotions or my success.  We depend on the power of God and we trust our lives into God’s loving care.  We believe that God is at work even when we cannot see what God is doing.  Using the language of the Jerusalem temple, the writer tells us that Jesus went behind the curtain into the inner shrine where only the high priest was allowed to go once a year on the Day of Atonement.  Jesus is our high priest who has gone before us to reconcile us to God and to enable our reconciliation with one another.

Prayer:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

O Lord, may I stand on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ today. 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 May 18 2015

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Scripture: Luke 9:51-62

Key verses:  (57-62) As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Reflection: Our passage today makes an important point about discipleship. We have legitimate reasons to postpone the journey of following Jesus.  It is hard. We are busy. Important matters compete for our attention. There will always be justifiable excuses to defer the journey or put off going deeper in our discipleship.

I understand the person who puts their hands on their plow. I am the type of person that likes to get a few things done before the day begins. Ceiling fans wiped down, laundry stated, something in the crock-pot for dinner. There is a list after work and eventually I will get a free hour when I can consider how I might go about loving my neighbor.

Following Christ is never easy.  We could put it off until we are done with all of our tasks, but there is urgency about Jesus’ mission.  We are called to do Kingdom work, to bring forth God’s reign. Our Scripture today reminds us that following Jesus is our Christian vocation and must be our first priority.

Prayer: God, may I serve you in all that I do. 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].