Friday August 30 2019

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Scripture: Mark 14:27-42

Key verses: (27-29) “And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters…but after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not’”

Reflection: Sometimes titles can be misleading.  If you were to open the NRSV Bibles our church has in our pews and turn to this story, you would find that the editors have placed the title “Peter’s Denial Foretold” just above this story.  Of course, Jesus does foretell Peter’s denial in dramatic fashion here, and Peter responds in protest along with the other disciples present.  They dig in their heels and insist that they will never deny Jesus.  They will die with him, but they will never desert him, they say.

They are so busy refuting this claim of their impending infidelity that they miss the rest of what Jesus says in the exchange.  All they hear is “you will all become deserters” and they begin to mount their defense, missing the promise Jesus extends to them. “You will all become deserters,” says Jesus, “but after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Not only is this story really a foretelling of Jesus’ resurrection (and not just Peter’s denial!), but it is an affirmation that the disciples journey with Jesus is only just beginning.  Though they will desert him, he will not desert them.  In fact, he is going on ahead of them to Galilee – the implication being that he expects to meet them there, to be in relationship and ministry with them beyond the drama of the cross.  There will be life – and life together – on the other side.

That is the promise of resurrection.  There will be life – and life together – with God, despite our best efforts to desert the way.  For in Christ, we have seen that God is committed to us. God continues to call us.  God walks ahead of us to beckon us into a future we could not have possibly imagined, to engage in a mission we would have otherwise missed.

Prayer: We trust that you are faithful to us, O God, even when we are unfaithful to you.  Help me to cling to the promise of resurrection this, and every, day. 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].

Thursday August 29 2019

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Scripture: Mark 14:12-26

Key verses: (22-25) 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Reflection: It is in communion that we get a glimpse of the kingdom of God: The people of God have gathered, they stand before Christ, mutually forgiving and forgiven, they listen as God speaks to them, and they are fed from God’s own table with the body of Christ.  It is the Lord’s Supper and for a moment, heaven and earth meet.

The fundamental language was about a kingdom and Christ’s kingship, not a king. Everything is communal.  Christ’s reign, his mercy and justice, was the foundation with which the Christian community found life and hope. Together. Every time we share in the communion meal, we get that glimpse of this kingdom and the potential for peace. May the kingdom be realized in our midst as we are united by the spirit and together may we call the whole world into divine peace.

Prayer: Let us live in the kingdom of God. 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 28 2019

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Scripture: Romans 8:31-39

Key verse: (39) “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Reflection: “What then shall we say to these things?” Paul asks this rhetorical question to the Christians suffering in Rome, “these things” being their present hardships. There are many things he could say to them regarding their suffering. He could say, “These things happen for a reason.” He could say, “This is all part of God’s plan.” He could say with Job’s friends, “You must have done something to deserve this.” Paul doesn’t say any of these things. What does he say?

“Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  That’s gospel! There is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love — not suffering, not a terrible diagnosis, not our mistakes, not our lack of faith, not anything in all creation! In a world where so much love is conditional, God’s love is unconditional. Nothing can separate us from that love.

Yet so much separates us from loving one another in this world. Imagine a world where we love one another as God loves us. Is that even possible? This side of heaven, probably not. Left to our own devices, probably not. But by God’s grace, through the power of the Spirit, we can love one another this way.

When we experience this kind of love with one another, we get a taste of heaven!

Prayer: Thank you for your amazing love, O God. Thank you for claiming us as your very own in the security of your powerful, never-failing love. Thank you for refusing to let anything separate us from your love. May we refuse to let anything keep us from loving one another, 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].

 

Tuesday August 27 2019

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Scripture: 1 Kings 1:32-2:4

Key verses: (2-3) “Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statues, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.”

Reflection: King David of Israel had a complicated family life.  In the Bible we find seven wives listed by name (plus many more not named); at least ten concubines to keep house; one daughter mentioned by name and 21 known sons, including two infants who died. Six of the sons are named with stories about them.  Four of his sons were by Bathsheba; not including the baby that died.  His daughter, Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon.  Then her brother, Absolom killed Amnon.  Absolom tried to take the throne from his brother Solomon while his father lay on his death bed.  Absolom was killed by his cousin, Joab.  Solomon kills his elder brother, Adonijah when he attempts a political power play.  This is just one slice of the story.  Complicated.  (So, if I got some of this out of order you will understand why).  And, yet David was known as a man after God’s own heart. Even when he finds out his son Absolom’s intentions in today’s passage, he is able to give sage advice to Solomon to walk in the ways of God if he wants to have a good life.  These words jump off the page given the circumstances.  But, that is what happens in the messiness of life.  David was no stranger to serious mistakes and missteps.  He wasn’t a perfect man and he certainly didn’t have a perfect family! While many people have trouble with their children, no one has this much trouble.  Our families aren’t perfect.  What might happen if we turned to God in the midst of the mess and focused on what we could control?  We can’t control our children even when we work very hard to direct their steps.  But, we can be strong and courageous because we know God is with us, especially when we are determined to walk in God’s ways.  We can weather the storm through heartbreak and lost hopes and dreams even in the midst of pain knowing our God remains with us.

At the end of his life, King David, gave one last charge to Solomon (v. 4).  Like any father, he hoped that Solomon wouldn’t make the same mistakes.  It’s good advice for Solomon who would go on to have a long reign.  It’s also good advice for us.

Prayer:  Loving God, we give thanks that you are willing to walk with us through the trials of life.  Help us admit our mistakes, face our fears and know that you still love us.  May we support one another as we seek to follow in God’s ways in the good times and in the bad.  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 26 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 57

Key verse: (1) Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge: in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.

Reflection: Where do you go when you are frightened and need reassurance? As a child, I awoke from bad dreams or in the middle of a thunderstorm and made my way to my parents’ room with hopes of crawling between them for the last hours of sleep. That place in the middle of the bed felt safe and secure. As an adult, I can no longer crawl into my parents’ bed but I do find that getting into my own sometimes brings comfort.

The writer of the psalm uses the image of God as a bird and seeks safety under the shadow of the bird’s wings. The image implies love, care, and protection.

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Sometimes in my prayers, when I am worried about many things and unable to let go of anxiety, I imagine myself settling in beside God. God can cover me with a wing and I can take a deep breath to relax, knowing that I am loved. May you also know the caring love of God who watches over you and will stay with you when the destroying storms pass by.

Prayer: Almighty God, I cry to you when I’m frightened and when I’m anxious. Give me an assurance of your loving presence with me to calm my fears and to settle my soul. Your steadfast love is as high as the heavens and your faithfulness extends to the clouds. Thank you. 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 23 2019

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Scripture: Mark 12:35-44

Reflection: Several years ago, I sat down for coffee with a young adult who wanted to get involved in church, but wasn’t sure she could take the plunge.  We talked about the many reasons she had for that.  A few were theological questions, but mostly, she was concerned about what she called the “behavior mismatch” she observed in many so-called religious people.  Espousing a God of grace, they seemed awfully ready to pass judgment on those with whom they disagreed.  Speaking about the God of love in one breath, they seemed quite ready to talk about the things and people that God hated in the next.  Christians, in particular, had come to be defined by what (and whom) they were against, than what (and whom) they were for – and this concerned her.

If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we should also be concerned about the “behavior mismatch” that bothered my friend so much, because it concerned Jesus as well.  In fact, throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, he was constantly calling people of faith to reevaluate their faith practices, and the way their theological beliefs intersected with their daily living. Here, in the gospel of Mark, we are given a story where Jesus calls for a real integrity for those who would practice (and, in this case, be a leader in) faith.  He tells his followers to be wary of those who love the pageantry and show of religious prestige while at the same time being party to great injustice in the community.  Here, the scribes love to walk around in long robes and say long prayers and be treated as honored guests (that’s the pageantry!) while they also allow the most vulnerable in their community to be taken advantage of in order to line their own coffers (see 12:40, 41-44 – the generous widow should be praised for her generosity, but a case might also be made that those overseeing the treasury might be engaged in predatory practices).

Perhaps this passage provides an opportunity for each of us to examine where the “behavior mismatches” in our own walks of faith might be.  Perhaps it is an invitation for us to consider our own behavior around worship and giving (do we love the fanfare of a Sunday morning, but fail to seek out ways to live in more just and merciful ways alongside our neighbors?).  More broadly, perhaps it is an invitation to prayer, that God might show us where we have failed to live according to Christ’s example, so that we might also ask for guidance in how to align our “walk” with our “talk.”

Prayer: Guide me, O God, as I seek to follow you in all my ways, and give me courage to open myself up to your leading, not so that I can earn your love, but so that I can reflect it in my living, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 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].

Thursday August 22 2019

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Scripture: Mark 12: 28-34

Key verses: (28-32) 28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’

Reflection: Notice the scribe off to the side, listening to Jesus answer question after question.  His life is about the religious rules and he boldly asked Jesus his own question.

What commandment is the greatest?

Jesus didn’t miss a beat citing words right out of the Old Testament. The Lord our God is one God and we are to love God with all of our being. Loving God first helps with everything else. Loving God puts it all into perspective.

Everyone in the room, followers and opponents of Jesus were probably all in agreement about this first part of his answer. Jesus then turned everything upside down by saying the second part is to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving God enables us to get our relationships right with each other. Loving God enables us to love ourselves more fully.  It is not just about being religious or being good, it is about love. It is always about love.

Prayer: God, tear down the walls we have built up around our hearts to keep you and others out of our lives.  Tear down the walls, God. 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].