Friday August 31 2018

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Scripture: Job 9:1-15; 32-35

Key verses: (5-7, 15, 33) 5he who removes mountains, and they do not know it, when he overturns them in his anger; 6who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; 7who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars;

15Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.

33There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

Reflection: Job is grieving. Earlier in the book, Job suddenly lost his oxen, donkeys, camels, sheep, and servants, his children, and his house. Every person and possession is gone except his wife. Job has no idea what to do with these challenges, particularly as there is a sense that Job did not sin. While he and his family partied every night, Job gave offerings to God every morning; the narrator even states Job did not sin with his lips. The theme of disinterested righteousness is clear. If I sacrifice to God every day, I can do what I want every evening.

Job is wrestling with his grief and wants to sue God. He recognizes this is nearly impossible as God is plaintiff, judge, and prosecuting attorney. Job raises the question: can mortals be righteous before God?

The passage refers to God as the divine warrior shaking the earth, having reign over the sun and stars, stretching the heavens and commanding the sea. These actions are examples of God’s righteous judgement and a parallel to how God trampled evil in the ancient world.

Job ends up looking for a mediator between him and God; a mediator between disinterested righteousness and righteous judgement. Job eventually recognizes he can have no justice before God. In a courtroom, God is on all sides: defense lawyer, plaintiff attorney, and judge.

The passage invites us to communicate with God, be angry with God, and even want to sue God when life does not go our way. It tells us to remember God is our creator, sustainer, and redeemer. God created the heavens and earth and the waters and the sky, and is the ultimate mediator. We must look to God for justice.

Prayer: Divine warrior, we are grateful for your creation of the heavens and earth and waters and sky. We ask for forgiveness when we take on a righteousness we do not deserve. We are grateful that we can turn to you when life is not going our way, be angry, and even want to sue you. Through this, we recognize that you are the ultimate judge, attorney, and mediator. Be with us as we continue to wrestle with our righteousness. Amen.

Author: Amy Speas

[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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Thursday August 30 2018

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Scripture: Acts 10:17-33

Key verses: (25-28) 25 On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.

Reflection: It is important to love not just in word, but in deed and in truth. Have you head of the 7%-38%-55% Rule?

Research tells us we communicate only 7% with our words, 38% with our tone of voice and 55% with our actions. Albert Mehrabian did years of research on communication but I believe Maya Angelou said it best – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Peter’s visit to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, spoke volumes about love, acceptance and the inclusion of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.  Peter’s visit meant that the truth of the gospel could overcome almost any barrier.  Peter was prohibited from even entering the home of a Gentile. It took great faith to accept the call to go to this community.  It took great faith to extend an invitation and gather the community. Both Cornelius and Peter were offering the love of Christ to each other.

It is easy to compartmentalize and keep people in their boxes. Often these boxes we put people in come with a defined stereotype that divides. This scripture has challenged me to consider what friendships or connections I should make to further the Kingdom of God.  Where can you offer hospitality or accept an invitation to someone’s home, where the gospel message might be shared?  May those we interact with today, know and feel the love of Christ through our actions.

Prayer: Shepherding God, lead us this day. Invite us to the table of acceptance for all who hunger and thirst. Let the cup of our life overflow with love and welcome for all of your children. May goodness and mercy follow us throughout this day and all the days of our life. In Jesus name. 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].

Wednesday August 29 2018

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Scripture: John 7:1-13

Key verse: (6) “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.”

Reflection: Last month I took a mini “stay-cation.”  On Sunday, we had the opportunity to worship at The Park, and hear Bishop Claude Alexander preach.  His sermon was on Judges 5 — no doubt a favorite passage for many.☺ It was the story about Barak and Deborah being called to battle Sisera and his army.  Some of the tribes of Israel joined the fight, others did not.  His sermon was part of a series on leadership.  Part of his message dealt with the fact that when you lead, not everyone will follow, as evidenced by the tribes that did not follow Deborah and Barak.  But his key message was that ultimately it’s not about who is following you, but rather, who is leading you.  God was leading Deborah and Barak, and so they achieved victory.  Who followed them in that was ultimately not the critical question.

I thought of Bishop Alexander’s sermon in reading John 7.  It’s a passage filled with opinions about Jesus; about who he is, where he should go, what he should do.  Some think he’s the Messiah, others don’t.  Some support him, others are trying to kill him.  If Jesus led by opinion polls, if he led on the basis of how many people were following him, he would have suffered paralysis by analysis.  But Jesus is not concerned with who is following him.  He’s focused on who is leading him — the One who sent him, as the passage puts it.  He’s focused on accomplishing what God has given him to accomplish.  He has clarity about who he is called to be and what he is called to do.  Therefore, what the crowds or the religious leaders or his brothers are doing will not distract him from his purpose.

In the midst of the decisions you have to make today, what would it mean to not be ultimately concerned with who is following you, but rather with who is leading you?  What would it mean to follow Christ in everything you do; to follow the way that is the truth about life we see in Him?  What would it mean to make your decisions in the way of truth, the way of justice, the way of mercy, and the way of love?  Ultimately, that’s what really matters.

Prayer: Lead me, O Lord, in the way you would have me go today. Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[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 28 2018

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Scripture: Psalm 28

Key verse: (6) “Blessed be the LORD, because God has heard the voice of my supplication.”

Reflection: This psalm is a prayer for deliverance attributed to King David.  If you are familiar with the history of Israel, David spent a lot of time in battle fighting those who wanted to destroy him or his country.  He regularly asked for protection and much of the book of Psalms chronicles his fervent prayers for deliverance.  The Psalms also include his joyful songs of praise.  Sometimes these two themes of deliverance and praise are woven together like we see in today’s psalm. Notice the way David uses poetry to give voice to his personal struggles and those of the people of Israel.  Now consider how these same words, spoken across thousands of years, also give voice to our struggles.  These are words of comfort and strength that help us, especially when we feel like we are under attack by the challenges of life.   We have hope, like David, that God will hear our prayers in the midst of struggle. Perhaps you are facing an “enemy” right now.  Read this psalm as a prayer to God.  Then, trust in the LORD and let God be your strength.

Prayer: Almighty God, we need your strength.  Help us to trust you in every circumstance of life.  Remind us that you care for us and what happens to us.   We give thanks that you hear our cries and will not forsake us.  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 August 27 2018

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Scripture: Acts 9:19b-31

Key verse: (21) All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”

Reflection: Is transformation possible? Saul was a religious leader who persecuted faithful people. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the early church grew exponentially despite persecution. According to Acts 9, Saul was traveling to Damascus in order to arrest anyone who “belonged to the Way” (the early description of those who sought to live in the way of Jesus Christ in the world) and bring them as captives to Jerusalem. On the way to Damascus, Saul had an encounter with the Lord that blinded him. A disciple named Ananias was sent by God to heal Saul of his blindness.  After his healing, Saul immediately began to preach the good news of Jesus. We know this man as Paul; even his name changed!

All who heard Saul preaching were amazed. They knew Saul, or knew about him, and couldn’t imagine that he had been transformed to become a missionary of the gospel.

This gives me hope that God is able to use the most unlikely people to further the kingdom. And that includes me!  God’s gracious power can transform lives. On the days when “who I want to be” feels far removed from who I am, I am hopeful that God transforms in amazing miraculous ways.

God is able to use the most unlikely people to further the kingdom.  And that includes them, whoever they are! Whoever I have a fixed idea about, whoever I ignore or write off or avoid, whoever I think is a lost cause or a hopeless case, God might be transforming them in a way that will surprise me.

Prayer: O God, open my eyes to see the good news where I least expect to see it today. Transform me to be more like Jesus Christ so that my life proclaims good news too. 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].

Friday August 24 2018

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Scripture: Job 2:1-13

Key verses: (9-10) Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Reflection: Have you ever heard a sermon on Job? I’m curious to hear from anyone who has. Job is a book not often preached, likely because it has more questions than answers. That was a main take away from one seminary class, “Back to the Text – Job.” In the class, we acted out the book each week in different contexts culminating in a dramatic performance at the end of the semester.

In our final production, Job, his wife and his children were having their typical party with lots of celebration, as they did each evening and quite suddenly Job’s oxen, donkeys, camels, sheep, servants, his children, and his house (yes, everything, except his wife), were gone. Job’s wife said, “Curse God, and die!” This was an easy line for the actress to deliver after we visually saw all of these animals and people perish right in front of our eyes in the play. The actor Job said to his wife quizzically, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” The narrator followed with, “In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” These verses are the crux of the entire book of Job.

The passage could be read with Job as the hero. What did he do wrong? According to verse 10, Job did not sin with his lips. However, we know as Christians, we are all sinners (even Job!). We do sin with our lips, and our entire bodies. So the question becomes, what about Job’s heart? Did he sin with his heart? And, as 21st century humans, what’s in our hearts? Who do we worship? What do we praise?

Prayer: Dear God, let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

Author: Amy Speas

[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 23 2018

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Scripture: John 6:16-27

Key verses: (16-21) When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Reflection: Cards are the preferred game of choice for our vacation. This year, both children learned some pretty cool card tricks that delighted and amazed us all. After seeing one, I knew I had it figured out. I called them on a few moves but I was wrong. In the end, I still cannot figure out how it happened and was more in awe of my children.

The story of the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water are miracles we often want to dissect to find out what happened. With the feeding of the 5,000, I imagine followers so inspired that they take out their lunch and share, so that there was more than enough to go around. Others might be set on seeing the miracle of Jesus creating enough bread from one small meal.  In the end, the how is not as important as the why. Why was there more than enough to eat? People were hungry and Jesus fed them. He loved them and wanted them fed.

On the sea, Jesus saw the fear and offered peace through his presence. Scripture is full of stories and promises of God’s abiding love, providing food and presence when we are afraid. God provides.

These stories are life rafts. These are stories of providence. Scripture is shot through with images and promises of God’s providing, abiding love, promising to feed us with abundance, to be with us in the storm. God will provide.

God does not promise a life without storms or even hunger.  However, God promises abiding love. Continuing presence. Peace. We can be secure in God’s love which stretches further than we can begin to imagine.

In the scripture we see Jesus walking on water to guide the disciples in the moment of fear. Even as the day is yet to really begin, I have seen Jesus in the love that surrounds a friend as they face an unexpected death.  I have seen Jesus in the midst of the worries and the wondering of parents taking students to college. I see Jesus with me as I worry, speaking peace. I see Jesus feeding people, showing them that the love, support and community are there with them, just as God’s presence is there with them. I see Jesus blessing us all in surprising ways, feeding us. We go into our day with the good news that Jesus is the source of peace and God is near

Prayer: Even with the wind and storms threaten to overtake us, remind us of your presence God. In our hunger, nourish us with your good news and a hope that will sustain us all of our days. 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].