Friday January 29 2016

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Scripture: John 6: 1-15

Key verse: (11) “Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

Reflection: Jesus had a wonderful way of bringing people together and teaching them how to care for one another. This story about the loaves and fishes is often viewed as a miracle that Jesus performed. And perhaps it is, but not in the way we may think. Thousands of people were following Jesus to hear him preach and teach. The text says that Jesus knew what he was going to do, but he tested the disciples by asking “where are we to buy bread for all these people?” The disciples realized that this would be an impossible task. The question assumed that the people left their homes without any food or water. Highly unlikely. The boy that Jesus found had some fish and bread and my guess is that others in the crowd did, as well. But, they probably were unwilling to share what little they had with each other. Knowing this, Jesus had them all sit down. He took the bread and fish from the boy and lifted it up for them to see.  He gave thanks and the disciples distributed the food.  Everyone knew this wouldn’t be enough for 5000 people. The question is: did he miraculously multiply the fish and bread in a magical kind of way or did the crowd participate with him?  As the food was passed, did others put what little they had in the baskets so that everyone would have enough to eat?  Isn’t that the real miracle?  Jesus brought people together and taught them how to share with one another so that no one would go hungry.  There was even food left over!  This continues to happen today.  When we are willing to let go of our fear that we won’t have enough, others benefit.  Jesus invites us to cultivate spirits of generosity, not fear. And, when we pool our resources it is amazing what we can do together.

Prayer: Faithful God, transform us by the abundance of your grace.  Where we are clinging in fear, release us to serve you by serving others.  Where we think there is scarcity; help us experience abundance so that we might live courageously for you and others might experience a miracle.  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].

Thursday January 28 2016

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Scripture: Psalm 143  

Key verse: (8) Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Reflection: Is it better to ask for pardon or permission? Pardon I say if answering for myself and definitely permission if I am thinking about what my children should do. Psalm 143, one of the seven penitential psalms (also 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129) that give us language to seek mercy and forgiveness is pretty clear on the question. You should definitely seek permission. That is to say — plan ahead. For our psalmist repentance begins not with an apology after the fact, but repentance begins by making a plan to avoid the need for repentance all together.

If we can wake in the morning listening for God’s love (what an interesting invitation- what will love sound like?); if we first place our day in God’s hands before we put it in gear and drive wildly off in all directions; if we can ask for God’s guidance before we tell God of all of the places we need to be and all of the things we need to do; if we lift up our souls with the same desperation and determination with which we lift up our coffee cups to our mouths; we may discover a day set to unfold rather than unravel.  If we start the day seeking help, seeking love, seeking guidance from God, we may find at the day’s end that we have more to rejoice in than to regret.

Prayer: Satisfy us in the morning Lord with your love. Help us this day to receive all you give, help us this day to give all we receive from you in love and service to all.  In Jesus name. 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].

Wednesday January 27 2016

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Scripture: Hebrews 9:15-28

Key verse: (15) For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Reflection: The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central focus of our faith.  Yet describing what those events actually mean can be very difficult. So the writers of Scripture resort to metaphors and analogies.  The writer of the letter of Hebrews compares the grace we receive to an inheritance.  Someone must make a will (a promise or covenant), and then die (with proof of death like a death certificate), for the will to be executed and the inheritance received.  The death of Jesus Christ means that we are heirs of the covenant and recipients of the gracious inheritance of eternal life.  The writer wants to explain why the death of Christ was a necessary consequence as a part of our salvation.

Most of us have prepared our wills.  If you haven’t, you should (you’re welcome for this public service reminder!).  We want to be sure that our responsibilities are handled, our assets are managed properly, and our loved ones receive our promised gifts.  Do we realize that our most important assets and gifts are not tangible ones? We have received grace and we are called to give grace away over and over again.

We are thankful for God’s grace that we know in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  How would you describe it or explain it to someone who is new to faith?  Think about what metaphors you might use. In a world that focuses on the accumulation of material blessings, how can we lift up the spiritual gift of eternal life? We are called to be witnesses of good news.  Let’s tell the world about the best news we know, the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of life.

Prayer: We give you thanks, O God, for the gift of life and the promise of eternal life.  We give you thanks for the covenant of grace that we know in Jesus Christ.  May we boldly proclaim this good news in fresh and powerful ways so that all may know the power of your love.  Through Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord. 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 January 26 2016

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Scripture: John 5:1-18

Key verses: (2-5) 2Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

Reflection: This pool was supposed to have healing powers. Many waited by the pool and one man waited for 38 years. If there was a pool that could heal me of all that harms, I would find a way to get into it even if I had to beg! Wasn’t anyone listening to this man? It is hard for me to believe that there was absolutely no one who would put him in the pool.  We do not know much of his story.

What we do know is that Jesus chose to heal this man.

Jesus healed him and he was not even grateful. In fact, when the religious authorities see him walking around carrying his mat they ask him, “Who healed you?” He says he doesn’t even know. Then, when the authorities go on to inform him that healing and mat-carrying is illegal on the Sabbath, he squeals and points to Jesus as the one who healed him.  “Jesus broke the Sabbath laws, not me!” This is the one Jesus healed.

He had no gratitude, no faith, no humility, no motivation. He didn’t deserve to be healed. He didn’t deserve anything. This is the one Jesus healed.

Jesus healed this man not because of who the person he was, his faith or his actions. The healing has more to do with Jesus and less about the man healed. That is always the case with Jesus.  This scripture is a parable of God’s grace. A reminder for us of the gift of God’s love which is undeserved and unmerited.  It is the good news of the gospel.

Prayer: God, may I be a minister of your amazing grace when it’s unexpected and maybe even undeserved. In the holy name of Jesus 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].

Monday January 25 2016

Monday

Scripture: Psalm 145

Key verses: (15-16) The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.

Reflection: These verses are used by many households for grace at meals. If you need to “refresh” your standard prayer at mealtime, try these verses as a prayer.

It comes from a beautiful psalm calling for praise of God by highlighting both the character of God and what God has done. In the original Hebrew language you can see the special care taken to craft this psalm — each line begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order.

The psalmist may have known life’s difficulties and challenges, as we all do, but with poetry and word pictures it’s the grace and steadfast love of God that is central. “The Lord is gracious and merciful… The Lord is good to all… The Lord is faithful in all his words… The Lord upholds all who are falling down.” Even to those who are falling and are bowed down the psalmist says, praise! Give thanks and praise God! Focus not on the shortfall of our lives, focus on the abundance of God.

Its more than positive thinking. It’s choosing to focus on something that transcends our lives and even our dreams. It’s choosing to lift up your eyes from here to where God is looking out for us.

Prayer: All our eyes look to you, O God, for you give us the food and the nourishment we need at the right time. All you have to do is open your hand and the desires of every living thing are satisfied. Help us to keep our eyes on you. Satisfy us with your goodness. Open our mouths to speak your praise. In the name of the steadfast, faithful, and gracious God 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].

 

Friday January 22 2016

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Scripture: Genesis 11:27-12:8

Key verses:  (12:1-3) 1Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Reflection: In our Elementary Sunday School we use a Rotation format. Instead of children staying put in one classroom all year, they rotate to different workshops each Sunday. For a month they dig deep into one particular Bible story and engage with it in different ways: Art, Games, Storytelling, Science/Mission, Cooking, or Movie. There is lots of activity, creativity and fun, all while foundational stories of the Bible are being learned by children with a variety of learning styles.

One of our first stories when we began last year was Abraham and Sarah. The children explored the promise made by God to Abraham in several ways. They retold the story themselves, acting it out with props and costumes. They moved around a giant game board to help recall what happened. They explored the science of stars, and created art with sand, as they learned about God’s promise to make Abraham and Sarah’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand in the desert. In the Movie workshop they watched parts of a film called Abraham, starring Richard Harris and Barbara Hershey.

During the movie we see Abraham and Sarah age markedly. As their faces wrinkle, and their bodies change, they stay on the move, traveling through wilderness, encountering strangers and enemies and enduring hardship and family troubles. It is a very long way, and a very long time, between God’s covenant promise to bless them, and the birth of Isaac, the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise. But Abraham trusts God. His faith is the kind that believes in a future a long way off, and doesn’t give up easily. We have something to learn from this story of years of trust in God. In a time when we are accustomed to quick results, to measuring data and improving the outcome ourselves, Abraham and Sarah teach us about faith in a promise that might not be about next week or even next year. It might not even be about us. What it takes to hang in there until the promise is fulfilled is a few people of faith, who are willing to walk on a long road to an unknown place, believing that God walks with them.

Prayer: God of the covenant, you have promised to be with your people. Keep me  walking with you in faith, trusting that even when I can’t see you at work, you are there. As you have blessed me, help me be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ 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].

Thursday January 21 2016

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Scripture: Genesis 11:1-9

Key verse: (4) “‘Come, . . . Let us make a name for ourselves;  otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth’”

Reflection: There is something I missed in all the years I have heard, read, even preached on this familiar story of the Tower of Babel.  It is the underlying meaning of that word scatter.  The human community was afraid of being scattered upon the face of the earth.  So, out of their fear they decided to “make a name for ourselves” — to be the center of attention themselves.  They determined to become powerful, build a city and a tower.  It was a fortress mentality to defend themselves against any threat, particularly the threat of being scattered.

Yet, what had God said to the human community in the Garden?  “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;  and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).  It was a commission to “have dominion,” govern, to be God’s caretakers of the whole earth for God purposes — by filling the earth.

My discovery this week is that the Hebrew word translated as scatter is the same word that is often rendered in the Bible as spread abroad (see Genesis 10:18).  Had not God called the human community to spread abroad — fill the earth —for God’s purposes?  So was effort to make a name for themselves, put themselves at the center of life and build a fortress and tower,  really a defense against God’s calling?

Ponder today ways in which you put up defenses to God’s calling to be spread abroad for God’s purposes in the world rather than for your own self interests.  What fortress — tower — do you build to defend yourself against God’s call?

“My family, God!  I have to first take care of my family.”

“My retirement, God.  I have to prepare for my retirement.”

“My parents, God.  How can I be spread abroad with elderly parents to care for?”

In the next chapter of Genesis, God calls a person who is very settled, very established, frankly very rich, and says, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you . . . so that . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  (Genesis 12:1-3).  That person, Abram, went.  He was scattered — spread abroad.

What about you?  Are you open to being spread abroad for God?  Or are you going to continue to try to make a name for yourselves and build your fortress against God’s call

Prayer: Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.

In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.

Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.  Amen

(From “Will You Come and Follow Me,” Hymn 726, Glory to God.)

Author: Pete Peery

[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].