Wednesday August 31 2016


Scripture: Psalm 147:1-11

Key Verses: (7-11)

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Reflection: For me the jury is still out on whether beaches or the mountains are the most beautiful places to be. Both have magnificent displays of the glories of God’s creation. Having just spent a couple of days in the mountains I have vivid memories of amazing vistas, cloud-filled valleys, and green pastures. Almost every morning we awoke to see the clouds settling into far-away valleys, making a green and white blanket from east to west.

In the quiet of a mountain retreat, giving thanks to God comes more easily, perhaps, than in our busy, distracted lives. In such a place it is possible to see how the rain nourishes the earth and animals find sustenance. It prompts our thanksgiving.

But this psalm selection begins with our delight and ends with what delights God. God as Creator has made the world and has placed us in it. Then God provides for the world. What delights God is not the symbols of the world’s power and might – the strength of the horse or the speed of a runner. What delights God is much gentler – those who revere and respect God and who put their trust in the God who made the heavens and the earth.  God delights in those who delight in him.

You can do that in the mountains, at the beach, or wherever you are right now.

Prayer: We do give thanks, O God, and delight in the beauty of your creation. Help us to honor and respect you and all that we say, think, and do. Help us to live so that you might delight in us. In the name of the God of all creation, 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].


Tuesday August 30 2016


Scripture: Psalm 146

Key Verses: (5-9)

5   Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6   who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7        who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8        the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9   The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Reflection: This time of year many of us are getting our calendars and schedules organized. At the church we are preparing for a shift into fall worship and program times. Families are changing gears and scheduling school and activity details. It takes time, and an attention to detail, to look ahead and be ready for what is coming.

I read this Psalm and heard it through the lens of someone planning for what is to come. There are words of hope for the future here. Hope for a world where justice is done, where the hungry are fed. Hope for a world where those who are bowed down are lifted up, where the blind can see. Hope for a world where all who are bound up and imprisoned are set free. It’s a vision for a future I want to be a part of. Don’t you?

On closer look, though, I realized the Psalmist is not talking just about the future. In Hebrew, the verbs about God in verses 5-8 are mostly participles. They suggest continuous occurrence of an activity or way of being. We are not hearing about what a future God will provide, but about what God is already doing. We are already in the middle of it! This is indeed good news, as well as a call to join in God’s continuing work. May we schedule our lives accordingly.

Prayer: God of the past, the present and the future, our days are in your hand. Open my eyes to your freedom and justice already at work in the world. As I plan my days, help me find ways to participate in your already, and not-yet kingdom. In the name of Christ 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].

Monday August 29 2016


Scripture: Psalm 62

Key verses: (1-2) “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God comes my salvation.  God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.“

Reflection: Do you trust in God no matter what is happening in your life?  When life is going well, it is easy to trust in our own strength.  Our stuff, our money, our position and our power all conspire to draw us away from God.  When the economy fell into a deep recession eight years ago, people lost their jobs, businesses, homes, and life-savings.  All of a sudden, our trust was put to the test.  The way we viewed our security changed and we found out how unhappy or happy we were without the money and possessions that had come to define us. Many returned to God with renewed enthusiasm. We were reminded that God is a refuge for us.

There are always crises around us — some we experience directly and some we only observe in another person’s life.  Every day, no matter our circumstances, we are called to place our trust in God. Sometimes we only do this when we have been driven to despair over our losses. Loss of health, loss of life, loss of innocence, loss of security, loss of relationships, and loss of our dreams are just some of the losses we face. We try to handle everything on our own — in our own strength — only to find out we don’t have the strength or resources to hold up under every stressful circumstance.  This Psalm reminds us: to lay our burdens down and hope in God; to rest in God’s deliverance and learn to trust; to let God’s strength lighten the load and change our perspective. Let us encourage one another to trust in God’s power to transform our lives in the good times and in the bad.

Prayer: Faithful God, help us to trust in your loving kindness during times of challenge.  Through your power may we find rest in 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 August 26 2016


Scripture: Psalm 20

Key verses: (2-3) 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings.

Reflection: Despite the commercial frenzy and specter of doping that plagues every modern day Olympic event, Olympic fever was still easy to catch.  Watching people try to do their best among the best is well, the best. One thing we noticed was how different a ‘model’ athlete looked. If you lined up a gymnast, swimmer, wrestler, basketball player, shot putter, and golfer and asked who looked like the Olympian, who would you pick?  Gold may be the singular focus but it takes a mosaic of color, shapes, sizes and styles to achieve great things.

Did you watch the sprinter Andre De Grasse?  Overshadowed by the insane Usain Bolt, De Grasse yet shone as a new sprinter on the track scene setting records for his country and winning silver and bronze medals.  He didn’t start sprinting until late in high school and when he did run he lacked equipment and proper attire, yet he still was fast!  A coach noticed his natural talent and helped guide him to the world stage.  But here’s the thing.  De Grasse has an unorthodox form, sloppy even.  His left arm flails the faster he goes, lacking the tight, measured symphony of movement that sprinters aspire to exude. A good coach would look at that mess and spend hours of practice time correcting it. Unless of course it was working for you, then maybe like De Grasse’s coach, you just go with it.

God enjoys your honest offerings in exactly the way you make them. Only you have your style of movement and thought.  It’s just you who has lived your life and loved your loves, pondered your ponderings, and began your beginnings.  You have had enormous help — coaches in the form of friends, lovers, colleagues, enemies and family have encouraged, taught, and challenged you.  But your life’s gifts are your offerings. They are what you have done and are doing with all your blessings from God.  You might have perfect form or flail your arms like all get out; you might be as burly as a shot putter or sleek as a swimmer. Wherever you are and however you make them, your faithful offering to God will be remembered by the One who made it all possible in the first place.

The new school and church year is upon us. Delight our Lord with the sweat-producing, heartfelt offerings of your life. And flail those arms if you want to.

Prayer: All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, Lord you made them all.  For my part in your mosaic, for my place in your plan, I rejoice and give you this day. 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].

Thursday August 25 2016


Scripture: Acts 10:17-33

Key verse: (26) But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.”

Reflection: Chapter ten of Acts is a tremendous turning point in the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was a Jew.  All of the disciples were Jews.  They understood the gospel to be good news for Jews — the Messiah had come to bring salvation to God’s chosen people.  But in chapter ten, Peter had a dream that opened his mind and broadened his understanding of the good news.  He was led to an encounter with a Gentile (a non-Jew) named Cornelius.  He proclaimed the good news to Cornelius and Cornelius believed and was baptized as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I confess that I have read this story many times but I never thought much about the key verse above.  Now I think it might be the most important verse in the story!  When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ home, Cornelius was expecting him and he fell at Peter’s feet and worshiped him.  That’s when Peter told him to get up and confessed, “I am only a mortal.”

“I am only a mortal.” I am not God. I am not to be worshiped.  I am not the judge of your faith or your salvation. I am not the creator of life or the giver of grace. I am not the one who determines the boundaries of the kingdom. I am not the one who controls the wind of the Holy Spirit.  I am only a mortal.

I haven’t had anyone fall at my feet and worship me (yet!!). But I need the regular reminder that I am only a mortal.  I need to say that again and again to myself when I am tempted to act like God.  I need to live with that humility that enables God to work through me in new and surprising ways. I need to recognize my limits and I need to honor God’s limitless mercy.  I am only a mortal.  And you are too.

Prayer:  Almighty God, sometimes when I’m trying to be faithful, I overstep and forget my place. I judge others with arrogance.  I create boundaries for grace and obstacles for salvation. Remind me of my mortality.  Humble me gently so that I might live with gentleness.  Through 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 August 24 2016


Scripture: Job: 7: 1-21

Key verses: (17-18) What are human beings, that you make so much of them,
that you set your mind on them,
18 visit them every morning,
test them every moment?

Reflection: Suffering compels us to ask some of the hard questions of faith. We go back to some of the most basic questions like, “Who are we?” and move to, “Who are we in relation to God?”  This is where we find Job, as he moves from addressing God about this unbearable experience to a reflection on the human condition. Job turns to Psalm 8:4, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” and comes back with some direct criticism of this view of humanity.  Job, in the midst of great suffering, believes that humanity is subject to God’s testing in every moment.  Job feels as if the suffering may consume him.

When we were at Outdoor Challenge this summer we were on the high ropes course and found ourselves saying the crazy things we tell people when they are suffering.  The high ropes course, especially the V-swing at the end, brings out some deep fears. We found ourselves saying phrases like, “God is there to catch you!” and “Everything is going to be ok!”  When we de-briefed, Lydia Farr, who was just 10 at the time, said that we needed to rethink the things we tell people who are scared.  Lydia said, “You never know if you will fall and crash because sometimes we do fall. I believe instead that God holds us through the jump and continues to hold us even if we fall.”

Job sits with his suffering and I believe that God sits beside Job and promises to sit right beside us in our pain and suffering.

Prayer: God, in awe-filled love you created us and called us to be a holy people. In loving awe, we discover that, in the midst of our suffering, you are right beside us. Thank you for tolerating our questions and criticism. In your Son’s name we 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].

Tuesday August 23 2016


Scripture: Psalm 96

Key verses: (11-13)

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.

Reflection: Sometimes, when a person is tangled up in the justice system, their only hope is to be assigned to a judge known for his or her fairness and compassion.

There are judges who are known for their strictness and their unbending devotion to the law. You want to avoid those.

You have to hope that the judge you get will see beyond strict obedience to rules and law and see real people in difficult circumstances.

God does hold us accountable. But it is the character of God that determines our consequences.

The psalmist knew the God who is coming to judge the earth was a God not to be feared but to be celebrated. In fact, the earth rejoices and everything and it, because it knows that God will judge the world with righteousness, and all the people with God’s truth.

So when everyone says, “Here comes the judge!” instead of cringing, we rejoice. We know that God’s redemptive justice is our only hope. We can relax and be glad.

Prayer: You, O Lord, are ruler of heaven and earth. When you hold us accountable judge us not by our flaws and failings but by the depth of your compassion and love. We pray In the name of Jesus the Christ, who reveals your character and justice. 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].