Tuesday April 30 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-10

Reflection: Easter brought forth grand Alleluia’s and a cross dripping with flowers.  New life came to all of us as we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord. Easter is not just a spiritual event but an experience that continues to move in our life. We are Easter people, standing on resurrection hope every day in our real lives.

We cannot deny that we are sinners.  We don’t have to pretend that shadows fall across our days. Easter does not bring perfection. Easter does not take us out of our lives. Easter gives us the hope to stay present in the darkness. Easter gives us the ability to move though whatever life throws our way with joy and love.

As we live in communion with God, we take a deep breath of peace knowing we have an advocate, Jesus.  Jesus is righteous when we are not and Easter calls us out of the shadows and enables us to be honest about our lives and keep walking toward the light.

Prayer: We rejoice, Almighty God, in your power to turn sorrow into joy, our despair into hope moving us to contentment. Continue to guide us out of the tombs that trap us into the new life of grace. In the name of the Risen One, Jesus our savior, 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].

Monday April 29 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-10

Key verse: (8) “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

Reflection: Calvinists in general, and Presbyterians in particular are known for what some see as our obsession with sin.  One of the hallmarks of Reformed theology is the concept of total depravity—that every person, every institution, even creation itself is distorted by sin. This is not a very cheery doctrine.  Nor does it do much for us in attracting younger people to the faith.  Many contemporary expressions of church really don’t talk that much about our sinfulness.  Let’s be honest; it’s a real downer!  Yet according to the Bible, not to mention our experiences of life in this world, it’s absolutely true.  In response to this truth, we Presbyterians confess our sin together every week.

However, sin is not the final word about us, nor is it the first word.  The first word about us is that we created in the image of God and declared “very good.”  Then sin distorts who we are created to be.  That’s true for all of us.  But it’s not the ultimate truth.  It’s not the final word.  The final word about us is redemption.

1 John 1 reflects this truth.  The letter begins referencing “the word of life,” and the joy that word brings us.  That’s the first word.  Then we get a very honest assessment of the reality of sin. Today’s key verse is often used as an invitation to confession in more traditional worship settings. The invitation continues with v. 9: “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I’ve never heard anyone employ v. 10: “If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his word is not in us.”  That’s a bit more pointed!)  But this moves us toward forgiveness and cleansing, toward redemption. Reading the rest of the letter we will learn of the call of the redeemed, to live out love.

Our worship services are designed to reflect this same reality.  We begin with praise of God for the gift of life.  Then we confess our sin together.  Then we are ready to hear God’s word and to respond to God’s call.  Confession is not what our worship is all about, it’s a means to the end of redemption and faithful living.

So it is with us.  If we can’t be honest with ourselves about our own sin, then we will miss the joy of redemption and living the faithful life.

Prayer: I thank you, O God for the gift of this day.  Thank you for the gifts you have given me in my life.  Forgive me for all the ways I fall short of who you have created me to be.  Free me from that sin that I may live into the fullness of life you will for me, in Jesus’ name.  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].

Friday April 26 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: Acts 4:1-12

Key verses: (1-4) While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

Reflection: You’ve got to wonder why, in the days just after the first Easter, so many people were annoyed by the good news of Jesus. Why did a message of a risen Messiah so frighten those who were supposedly waiting for that Messiah? Perhaps it was that the news of a Messiah whom God raised from the dead was ushering in a new kingdom. If the dead could be raised, and a suffering servant was the Son of God, then everything was upside down. Or perhaps, everything was about to be turned right side up. God was doing a new thing. And new things are threatening to those who are currently in positions of power.

The Sadducees, the priests, and the captain of the temple are threatened by the message of Peter and John. Though the disciples of Jesus preached with no intent to start a new church or synagogue, at this point, their message means the current religious authorities are no longer the authority. If common fishermen can suddenly command a crowd with the news that a carpenter from Nazareth was the Messiah, then the place of the religious leaders is at risk. The message must be stopped. So Peter and John are arrested. But look what God does…. about five thousand believed. The movement has begun.

In these days after Easter, where are we in this story? Are we among those 5,000, hearing the news in wonder, and signing on to follow? Are we standing with Peter and John, telling the gospel story so that others might know what we know? Or are we those who are in comfortable positions of power, and annoyed by anything that means we might have to change? Wherever we are, and however we respond in these post-Easter days, the good news is that God is still doing a new thing. Let us join in.

Prayer: God, you are still at work in the world, turning all things right side up. Help us find ourselves wherever you call your disciples to be. Open our lips to tell your good news. Open our hands to care for our neighbors. Open our eyes to see your kingdom work in the world. Open our hearts to continue to be molded into the body of Christ in and for the world. In the name of the risen Christ, we 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 April 25 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture: John 15:12-27

Key verses: (16-17) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Reflection: Sometimes in the work and ministry of helping others we forget Jesus’ command to love one another. At the Last Supper, Jesus reminded his disciples that they were his friends, connected to each other in common life and ministry.  He tells them to love one another as he loves them. It may seem obvious that we are to love one another and relate to each other as beloved brothers and sisters, but I suspect we don’t think much about it.  Jesus knew that it wouldn’t be very long before he was arrested, tried and executed. These events would scatter the disciples and their loyalties and love would be tested. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him three times, and the other disciples ran and hid. After his death, the disciples were together, hiding, in fear for their lives.  They were grieving the loss of a loved one. Did they criticize each other and refuse to forgive?  We don’t know. The story tells us they prayed and worshiped. They stayed together which says a lot about their love for each other.  They lived out Jesus’ command to love while living under tremendous stress.  Remembering that Jesus had chosen them gave them the determination to continue God’s mission.

As we go about God’s appointed mission, we may face tough situations and experience people who let us down, try our patience, or turn their backs.  In spite of this, we are to bear fruit in God’s name to fulfill God’s desires; not our own.  We are called to a high standard – to love the way Christ loves us. What might happen if we reminded ourselves of this every time we went into a meeting, or worked together to make a decision? Everything would change!  We would remember who has sent us and this would give us humility, grace, and most of all love for one another.

Prayer: Gracious God, forgive us when we put our mission, our needs and desires, before your own.  Forgive us for thinking that this ministry is ours when it belongs to you.  Transform us by your Holy Spirit so that we might be the people of God you have called us to be and love one another as you command.  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 April 24 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture: John 15:1-11

Key verse: (4) Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

Reflection: In today’s passage, Jesus is speaking to the disciples at his last supper with them. According to John, after washing the disciples’ feet and eating with them, Jesus taught them to prepare them for their future. In this passage, Jesus uses the word “abide” eleven times!

What does it mean to abide? We sometimes use “abide” to mean “accept or act in accordance with, or tolerate” If you don’t abide by the rules of the household, you can’t live here! Jesus used “abide” to mean something much more than accepting or tolerating. The word here is used to mean a lasting persistent togetherness. In English, this definition of “abide” is closely related to “abode” and reminds us of a restful, safe, settled home.

Jesus was abiding in God. He knew God’s presence with him and that presence gave him an assurance that enabled him to be faithful in the midst of great difficulty. Jesus invites us to abide in him. We are invited to put our trust in him, to seek to live in his way in the world, and to turn to him for help and strength when we reach our own limits. When we abide in him, we are able to bear fruit. Our lives look different. Other people can look at us and see something that points to the presence of God. In these days after Easter, may you know the presence of Christ with you in a way that brings you rest and peace.

Prayer: Abide in me, O Lord, and enable me to abide in you. Give me a deep assurance of your presence with me no matter where I go or what I face today. Fill me with your peace and your strength so that I can be faithful to your way. In Jesus’ name 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 April 23 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture: Acts 2:36-47

Key verse:  (42) “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”

Reflection: I will never forget the conversation I had one morning over coffee with a potential new member at a former church.  Like most people these days, she’d had a variety of experiences with the church, as well as several seasons of life marked by absence from church.  She was attracted to our traditional Presbyterian worship style and encouraged by the warmth of the congregation, but was having trouble getting on board with saying the Apostles’ Creed every week in worship.  This was because she did not fully understand what it meant to confess that Jesus “descended into hell.”

We had an interesting conversation from there.  To me, the line highlights the unwavering love of Christ, who walks with us in all circumstances – even and especially those times in life that feel godforsaken.  That, even there, when we do not see or sense God at work, we confess that God is present.  This is hard to do when you’re the person experiencing one of those times.  But, to me, there is something powerful about hearing the community around you confess this in worship, even when you cannot.  When there are things we cannot believe for ourselves, our community steps in our behalf.

That is the power of being part of a community of faith.  We are drawn together by the risen Christ to proclaim good news to a hurting world.  Sometimes, that means claiming it for those who sit just down the pew who cannot claim it for themselves.  In our individualistic society, we are taught that it is virtuous to “go it alone,” but life itself teaches us another lesson: we need each other to get by.  Being part of a faith family means we are buoyed by the faith of others.  We rely on one another.  We care for one another.  We hold faith for one another.

None of us can -nor are any of us called to – go it alone. In these weeks after Easter, how might you recommit to fellowship with others, trusting that there is blessing to be found in sharing life with others?  How might you engage your faith with other people?  Is there a group you’ve been thinking about joining – or starting?  Is there someone who would appreciate a visit?  Do you find yourself in a season where you might benefit from the support of others?  Keep your eyes and ears open! There are so many ways to do this at MPPC and beyond – and, indeed, it is part of our common calling.

Prayer: Dear God, when I am tempted to try to live by my own strength, challenge me to reach out to others.  When I have become so cozy with my own opinions that I haven’t heard another one expressed lately, help me to seek out diverse community.  When I am not sure how, or where, I fit, give me the courage to recommit to something that has brought me life – or to explore new ways of engaging my brothers and sisters in faith. Amen.

Author: Anna Dickson

[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 April 22 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: John 14:1-14

Key verses: (1-2) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

Reflection: With these words Jesus cares for his disciples, his closest friends, as he prepares them for his death at the Last Supper.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Our hearts are often troubled. We worry. Sometimes we are anxious and sometimes we are stressed. We long for an assurance that God is with us and that God is at work in the world. God hasn’t abandoned us no matter what we face.

Believe in God, believe also in me.

Believing in God isn’t about acceptance of a list of principles or doctrines. Believing in God is about trust. Do we trust God to care for us and to love us? Do we trust God even in the midst of great difficulty?

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

God’s house is more expansive than anything we can imagine. The hospitality is awesome. Every single human being is created in God’s image, belongs to God’s family, and is welcome in God’s house. Many, many dwelling places.

If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Preparing a place is a sign of radical hospitality. We are known. Our uniqueness is cherished. Jesus chooses to care for us with personal intentionality. Finding a place that is prepared for us means we belong here. We know the destination of life’s journey is already prepared so we are set free to embrace the journey along the way.

Jesus brought the good news of God’s love and grace to the world. Jesus embodied that good news in his death on the cross and in his resurrection from the tomb. Death doesn’t have the last word. God brings new life. We respond with faith and with hope, with faithfulness and with service.

Prayer: God of all consolation, our refuge and strength in sorrow, by dying, our Lord Jesus Christ conquered death; by rising from the grave he restored us to life. Enable us to go forward in faith to meet him, that, when our life on earth is ended, we may be united with all who love him in your heavenly kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(prayer from the Book of Common Worship pastoral edition, committal service, p. 230)

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 April 19 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: John 13:36-38

Key verses: (36-38) Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Reflection: On Good Friday the light disappears. We are tired at the end of Lent, weary from the journey to the cross. Today, from noon until three, we will watch as the world grows dark.  It is not an eclipse but an experience similar where we remember the cross. We remember the death we follow. We remember the darkness that followed after Jesus took his last breath.

When Jesus said his final good-byes to those he loved, he told Peter of his betrayal. Peter moves into this darkness with denial for the one he loved, fulfilling the prediction of Christ. We remember Peter’s betrayal today. We experience the darkness of Good Friday as we are honest about our own broken promises and rejection. Darkness looms with lost hopes, grief, death, broken relationships. Good Friday invites us to sit in the darkness.

We don’t remain in the darkness. The journey to Easter continues and we carry with us hope and the promise of resurrection and redemption.

Prayer: As we remember the Good Friday events of long ago, O God, give us courage to linger in the darkness holding tight to hope found in the promise of resurrection.  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].

 

Thursday April 18 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture: John 17:1-26

Key verse: (23) “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Reflection: Today Christians around the world will observe, “Maundy Thursday,” by gathering to worship, remembering the Last Supper, celebrating communion, and following the story to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed and taken into custody, setting in motion his trial, torture and death on Good Friday.  The name, “Maundy,” comes from the Latin, mandatum, meaning mandate or command.  This derives from the words of institution, “Do this remembering me,” and from his command in John 13 to love one another given after he washes the disciple’s feet.

In John’s version of the Last Supper, after a lengthy farewell speech, Jesus offers what scholars call, “The High Priestly Prayer.”  This is our reading for today.  If you typically just read the key verse, I would encourage you to read the whole prayer today.  Knowing Jesus prayed for us, reading how he prayed for us and what he prayed for us will bless you on this holy day.  Jesus’ words weave together a beautiful tapestry using the threads of first, second and third person pronouns.  “I in them and you in me.”  “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them.”  “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”  If the threads of this beautiful tapestry are the pronouns, then the world and the kingdom of God are the “warp” and the “weft” of the weaving loom—the longitudinal and latitudinal threads, woven in opposite directions.  We do not belong to the world, just as Christ did not belong to the world.  The world is hostile to the Word, yet as God sent Christ into the world, so Christ sends us into the world.  The tapestry woven by all this is love.  It is done, “so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them,” as Jesus concludes his prayer.

Like Maundy Thursday, this week in our world has been filled with sin and evil, with tragic death, with painful reminders of the fragile nature of our existence.  We witnessed the destruction of African American churches in Louisiana at the hands of a white supremacist, seeing the evil that is too real in this world assaulting Christ’s church.  We witnessed the body-cam video of a Charlotte police officer shooting and killing a Charlotte citizen, seeing the complexities that exist on the front lines of our world where life and death decisions are made every day, and where too often those fragile moments tip in the direction of death for young, African American men like Danquirs Franklin.  The fragile world we live in was revealed in the tragic fire that consumed so much of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Almost 300 years to build to completion, over 800 years of worship, and a matter of hours to bring it to ruin.  Such is the nature of this world in which we live.  It is so fragile, so transitory.  Indeed, it is passing away.

Jesus’ high priestly prayer reminds us that it is into this world we are sent.  We are sent to live out the love of God we know in Christ Jesus, so that He might be in us, and we in Him, so that we may be one.  Or as Jesus put it at the conclusion of his prayer, “so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  God knows this world needs such love this holiest of weeks.  See you in worship tonight at 7 in the sanctuary.

Prayer: For your love lived out for us this holiest of weeks, we thank you, O God.  May your love embodied in Christ live in us and we in you so that the world will know that you are love, and that those who abide in love abide in you and you in them.  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].

 

Wednesday April 17 2019

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture: Psalm 27

Key verse: (4)

4   One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.

Reflection: As I write this, Notre Dame Cathedral is burning. The damage looks devastating. On social media, people are posting their own photos from travels there. I looked back through my own vacation album from last summer, when I was standing in front of it, sweltering in a different kind of heat. I can’t bring myself to post any of the pictures, though. My smiling face, my daughter’s Instagram-worthy posing—all of it seems too light-hearted in the face of what seems sure to be a historical loss. I want to lift up the joy of our trip there, and give thanks for the soaring architecture, and the centuries of faithfulness and inspiration represented, and affirm that another renaissance will come. But I’m honestly too sad today.

I’m also conflicted. I understand the collective and communal sadness at the damage to an architectural wonder. I’m also aware that my travel photos in front of it, and yours if you have them, remind us of our privilege. To hold a passport, to have so many vacation photos I have to really concentrate to find the right ones, to have an office with a window that has a Rose window sticker from the Notre Dame gift shop in it—all this reminds me how very fortunate I am. And we are. And how so many lose so much every day, while I too often scroll right past.

Holy Week is a week of sadness, and conflicted feelings. It’s a week of loss and tears, and beauty turned into ashes. It’s a week of power and privilege seeming to overwhelm humility and weakness. It’s a week when Jesus takes all the messiness in me, in you, in our culture and our world, and bears it willingly, out of love. There may not be services this week in Notre Dame, but there are opportunities here to lift all our messy conflicted selves to God, and remember how we are known, loved, and redeemed.  Join us for prayer stations in the parlor, Wednesday morning communion in the chapel, Maundy Thursday service in the sanctuary, and Good Friday service in Oxford Hall.  Join us to get ready for Easter Sunday. Like the story of the cathedral in the middle of Paris, which is sure to be rebuilt, the story of Jesus doesn’t end in ashes. We know that Sunday is coming.

Prayer: Lord, you take all our mess, and our humanity, and love us anyway. Help us walk through this week fully. Help us not look away from the ashes of death and destruction. Prepare us for the joy of Easter resurrection. 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].