Wednesday September 30 2020

Scripture: Luke 5:27–39 

Key verses: (36-37) He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.

Reflection: Jesus understood the enjoyment of food and gathering together in community. When Levi accepted the call to follow Jesus, we read about this great feast Jesus joined in Luke 5. Jesus was criticized for joining the festivities and for not adhering to the strict and rigorous laws of that day.

Jesus responded with the image of a new way of living, of new wineskins and a new joy expressed in being together in community. Jesus follower’s found enjoyment in being together and in breaking bread.

Breaking bread not only brings joy but it has an amazing power to heal. Early morning coffee visits on the front porch fortify friends for the day ahead and pandemic picnics have been breathing life into our families.  Youth gather at the picnic tables thinking there is power in the food to comfort but finding it is really the laughter that lifts their lonely spirits. Lots of cookies have been made and delivered during these days with hopes that they are a gesture of love and support while we are separated.  It is not the food that enables us to cope with these days, but the love with which it is offered. 

There may be a new way of living that comes out of this virus time but we will not lose the joy of being together Jesus encourages. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: God of new life, with joy may we gather at tables today with joy and hope. Whether we are alone or at a full table, nourish our hearts and our minds so that we can go out continuing Christs ministry of love and peace. 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 September 29 2020

Scripture: Luke 5:12-26

Key verse: (12) ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Luke 5:12-26 and is in video form. You can access it by clicking the image below or read a printed copy here.

[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 September 28 2020

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11

Key verses: (4-5) “’Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

Reflection: It is credited to Albert Einstein that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’m sure we’ve all encountered this saying before, and I’m even more sure that we’ve all experienced the saying in our lives. Through experience we know what works, we know what doesn’t work. In many ways we are experts on our lives, in our work places, and in our families. We know how co-workers will react to a proposal, what meals will be eaten and which will be less popular among family. We have been around, we know what works and what doesn’t.

In our passage today, Simon was asked to something he probably would have classified as insanity, putting out nets after catching nothing all day. Simon was the expert, he just experienced a day of catching nothing, and yet Jesus asked him to put down his nets one more time. A reasonable person would have said no, a sane person would have declined the advice, and yet Simon says, “If you say so, I will let down the nets.” After letting the nets down, I wonder if Simon was waiting to say, “I told you so Jesus, I knew this wouldn’t work!” But before those words could get out of his mouth, I imagine the boat jerked to one side, almost throwing Simon into the water as the catch of fish caused the boat to begin to sink.

It is interesting to me the fine line here between insanity and faithfulness. I wonder how many times in our lives we think we know the outcome of an event or conversation, trusting more on past experiences rather than being open to the possibility of Jesus’ work in the future. Can we risk being a little insane for the sake of faithfulness? Where might God be calling you to try something again in faith that failed before? May we hold fast to faith, trusting that God can and will surprise us in our lives!

Prayer: Faithful God, we come to you with expectations of what will be. By your Spirit rock our boats, shake up our assumptions, open our hearts to your future, and empower us to take faithful risks following you. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

[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 September 25 2020

Scripture: Psalm 67

Key verse: (4)

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

    for you judge the peoples with equity

    and guide the nations upon earth.

Reflection: My least favorite subjects in school growing up were History and English. I know. It’s funny that now I am a pastor — a lifelong learner, always reading and writing. I found the beauty in the language and literary techniques scattered throughout the bible. With that being said, I hope to make my English teachers proud as I dive into the structure and beauty of this psalm. The structure of this psalm is to emphasize the central point. Can you spot the sequence of ideas? The identical invitations of verse 3 and 5 envelope the central verse describing God’s just character. The invitations to “all the peoples” to praise God is enveloped by the affirmations of God’s blessing on Israel. It is the blessing that takes us back to Abraham, yet it is Israel (the blessed nation) that is called to surround “all nations” with blessing. This mirrored structure (inverted parallelism or chiasm) around a central idea draws your attention to verse 4. The call to praise God for all God has blessed “us” with is in response to God’s equitable judgement of the people and God’s guidance to the nations. In other words, “let all people praise God because God has established justice among the people with equity and guides the nations in their judgement.” Justice and equity seem to be words that are part of our everyday conversation, as they should be. What does justice and equity mean to you? How might we be guided by God in our search for both? Establishing justice is the responsibility and product of both human and divine agency. Our world seems to be crying out to God to bring equity and justice to our streets, and through those cries we are being called to act on behalf of others in response to God’s goodness and grace that God has freely blessed us with. I wonder how we may hear this song with new ears today. I wonder how we might be glad and sing for joy in these days as we work for equity for all peoples and engage consistently in recapturing the biblical vision of racial and ethnic fairness for all peoples.

Prayer: You have blessed me, O God, and for that I give you thanks and praise. Guide me in blessing others, so that all peoples may sing for joy and be glad in the equity of your judgement. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

[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 September 24 2020

Scripture: Luke 4:14-30

Key verse: (17) and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 

Reflection: I love the structure that rituals bring. The ritual of waking up and drinking coffee before starting my day or my Sunday morning walk to church to encounter the familiar pace of worship filled with prayer and the Word read and proclaimed. My brain loves to establish patterns through which I live my life.

One of the things that has been the hardest for me during this pandemic is the lack of ritual. I have had to make new rituals, most of which do not involve a change in scenery but are none the less meaningful in their own right. I have created morning practice that still involve my morning cup of coffee but include sitting quietly and reading. I have begun to bake bread weekly, allowing me to connect my hands and heart to some of the food that I eat. These simple practices keep me tethered during these uncertain and ever-changing times.

In our Luke text for today, we begin with Jesus participating in a weekly ritual as well; he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. I love this passage because we get a glimpse of Jesus doing a very normal thing, gathering in community and reading the Word. Jesus read Isaiah to those gathered. And while the action within this section is ritual, the words Jesus reads shine light on the truth that Jesus brings, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1] This passage is a reminder not only of Jesus’ ability to resonate with our rituals but also the fact that he is the Messiah, the anointed One, who came to bring good news to us all. May we find peace in our own rituals, that they might give us hope and connect us to the good news we find in Jesus.

Prayer: God of all times and place, we give you thanks for routines that hold us together and bind us to you. May our rituals be guided by your spirit, that through them we may be better stewards of your kingdom. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.

Author: Savannah Demuynck

[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].

[1] (Luke 4:18-19)

Wednesday September 23 2020

Scripture: Luke 4:1-13

Key verse: (1) “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, . . .”

Reflection: After his baptism by John at the river Jordan and before beginning his ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested and tempted by the devil.  The temptations in this passage are related to the everyday temptations that human beings face in life:  appetites, position, power and wealth.  I like how one commentator summed up these temptations:  hedonism, egoism and materialism.  These temptations are enticing and Jesus in his humanity experienced the pull of each of them, yet chose to be faithful to God.  He was free to choose, like we are.  The questions the devil asks are quite reasonable. 

After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is hungry.  So, why not turn a stone into a loaf of bread? If you want something, why not get it?  But, there is more at stake here than a loaf of bread.  Our appetites can go far beyond food when we are hungry to an insatiable desire for more and more. Our culture is full of messages about “you are worth it” and “you deserve it” in order to fill this hunger. But, Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy: “one does not live by bread alone.”  In other words, there is more to life than fulfilling base appetites.

The second temptation is about position – our need to be in control and have our own way.  The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promises that Jesus can have authority over them all, if he will worship him.  The ego loves this kind of opportunity to be so important. Many people will sacrifice their integrity and beliefs to attain positions of prominence, but Jesus (again quoting scripture) says: “worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Finally, there is the temptation of raw power.  The devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and tells him to fling himself off the pinnacle of the temple because he will not die. Angels will protect him and lift him up. In other words, Jesus is so important that nothing can kill him.  His final reply is “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”   

How do these temptations manifest in our lives?  How many of them have we given in to?  Do we have an insatiable desire for things?  Do we try to fill our inner hunger with that which will never satisfy?  Are we serving gods of materialism and position clawing our way to whatever we believe is the “top”?  Do we test God again and again with our reckless behavior thinking that nothing can harm us?  My guess is that we have all faced these temptations in one way or another. 

What choices are you going to make today?     

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for being patient with us.  We are tempted by many things – things that sometimes look too good to resist.  Give us wisdom and discernment as we seek to live lives of integrity and purpose.  Help us to find our deepest needs satisfied in you so that we might reflect something of your love to others in our world.  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].

Tuesday September 22 2020

Scripture: Luke 3:15-22

Key verses: (21-22) Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Reflection: I am baptized! Apparently Martin Luther would say “I am baptized!” whenever he faced distress or anxiety. When he was translating the Greek Bible into German, he secluded himself in a castle to do that work and occasionally he could be heard throughout the castle grounds yelling “I am baptized!”

We are tempted to reduce baptism to a sweet ritual typically reserved for cherubic infants. We pick the baptismal gown or we hope the baby fits into the historic family gown. We hope the baby won’t cry or fuss, or let loose an ill-timed gastrointestinal explosion. We plan for the family brunch and arrange for travel plans. But do we realize the power of the sacrament?

Baptism is the visible sign of God’s invisible grace. In baptism we are claimed as God’s children. We belong to God. God is steadfast and tenacious, never abandoning us or deserting us.

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism, the emphasis is on the baptism of all the people. Jesus is one of the people. He is part of the community, a fellow human being. And in his baptism, he hears the voice of God proclaim that he is God’s son, the Beloved, with whom God is well pleased. Yet in the gospel story, Jesus hasn’t really done much yet. He hasn’t healed anyone. He hasn’t taught with any wisdom. God is pleased with Jesus for who he is, not for what he accomplishes. And so, God is pleased with you for who you are. You belong to God. You are baptized!

Prayer: Dear Lord, I am baptized! Thank you for your steadfast love at work in my life.
When I face struggle today and feel like giving up, remind me I am baptized!
When I encounter temptation, remind me I am baptized!
When I have questions about your mystery, remind me I am baptized!
When I am called to love my neighbors, remind me I am baptized!
When I am discouraged and hopeless, remind me I am baptized!
You are my God and I belong to 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].

Monday September 21 2020

Scripture: Luke 3:1–14

Key verses: (7-14) John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Reflection: John the Baptist is one of my favorite people in scripture.  He is unconventional, a bit wild and preaches the heck out of the scriptures. John calls people to repent and get your life right with God. Refocus and find the joy in serving God. We usually read this in advent but this is exactly what we need right now. 

It is easier than ever to get to church but that makes it even harder to set time aside for worship with a community.  There are so many in need but we have hunkered down so we don’t always see the need. We need John the Baptist to wake us up and call us to task!

The crowds ask John how they are supposed to repent and refocus so John tells them, share your stuff, all the extra with people who don’t have anything. Be satisfied with what you have, today.

John the Baptist is direct and honest.

It is hard to hear. I have to admit that it has been easy to stock up on what I need and even think ahead on what I MIGHT need.  Even when so many around me do not have the most basic things for today. One of the youth texted me about three little food pantries they set up weeks ago and I promised to go by and fill them. It would take not time at all.

The youth at MPPC host the food drive for Loaves and Fishes this week. How about not giving the things that are expired or that you don’t want and get what is needed. Get some canned chicken, canned fruit and boxed pasta. Drop it off Sunday between 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Outreach Center. If you are out of town, make a donation to Loaves and Fishes.

Repent. Refocus. It is time. Find the joy of serving our neighbors and loving God with all that we are and all that we have.

Prayer: God of steadfast love, we have not always opened our eyes to the needs of others or kept our feet on the path of peace. Open us to ways we can grow in faith and love as we walk this journey of faith. Today and always. 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 September 17 2020

Scripture: John 12:27-36

Key verse: (35) “Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.”

Reflection: This week the temperatures have taken a little drop, and that cooler air in the evenings and mornings is one of my favorite signs of the seasons changing. With fall coming and the heat (hopefully!) on the way out, one other sign of the changing seasons is less daylight. What seemed like just a few weeks ago I was cutting the grass at 8:30 p.m. and tonight I was racing the sunset as I finished a run around 7:30 p.m. Even with electricity lighting our homes and streets, we can still feel within our bodies and the rhythms of our lives the effect that sunlight has on us.

In our passage for today, Jesus the Son, talks about the importance of walking in the light. In the Gospel of John where we find ourselves, we too are in a season change, a time when Jesus recognizes that his earthly ministry is nearing an end. This season change is not without question and confusion from the disciples, wondering why Jesus must suffer, wondering where he is going, wondering why they can’t go with him. I wonder if the disciples’ questions to Jesus are like youthful attempts to hang on to the last signs of summer, trying to hold on to not only the late nights but also the carefree schedule of the summer? Were the disciples not wanting to see what was ahead of them, enjoying their present too much to let go?

In many ways, this move from summer into fall is not the only season change we are going through right now. In our world, perhaps change seems like the only constant right now. We are going through the season changes of a world in a pandemic, living virtually and at a distance, we are in the season changes of an election year, and the winds have been blowing since last spring of the season changes of racial equity and justice in our nation. How have you been feeling in this season? Change can be frightening; change can be welcomed. Perhaps in all of these changes we are trying to hold on to the last days of summer, perhaps we are trying to hold on to a schedule of life that seemed more “normal”, where we felt in control, where perhaps we were a bit more carefree.

However, just as sure as summer turns to fall and the daylight gets shorter, so too are we in a season of change, we are in it. In this time that may seem directionless, or perhaps the world is moving in a direction you aren’t comfortable with, may we find comfort and direction by holding fast to Christ, the Son, the light of the world. For when we hold fast to Christ, no matter what season we are in, we are walking in the light.

Prayer: God, often times we try to ignore the changing seasons around us, and we wind up walking in the dark. Bind our hearts to Christ, that we may forever walk in the light, through all the seasons of life. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

[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].