Friday October 30 2020

Scripture: Luke 12:13-31

Key verses: (20-21) But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

Reflection: You can’t take it with you! At first glance, that is the message of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool. The land of a rich man produced abundantly and he decided to build larger barns to store his crops so he can kick back and relax with his wealth. Then in the parable God speaks to the rich man. (God doesn’t usually appear in Jesus’ parables as a named, speaking character!). At the conclusion of the story, Jesus offers a summary truth “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Jesus isn’t simply saying “You can’t take it with you!” He is calling us to use our resources with spiritual wisdom to be “rich” toward God. He is teaching us that life isn’t about accumulating possessions (or assets in our estate).

When I read this parable, I think about grieving families who face the challenge of writing an obituary about a loved one. In the midst of their own grief, they reflect on the life and legacy of the one they have lost. Do they write about business success? Do they share about extensive travel around the world or about a love for a favorite sports’ team? Do they include special hobbies or humorous quirks?

As a pastor, I hope they will find a richness toward God as they think back on their memories of their loved one. Perhaps it was dedicated service to those in need. Perhaps it was generosity for the work of God’s kingdom through the church. Perhaps it was mentoring younger disciples in faithfulness. What are you doing with your treasures of time and energy and money? Are you making choices now that make you rich toward God?

Prayer: O God, the world rewards those who accumulate treasure. Forgive me when I store up treasure for myself and my family but do not honor you with my treasure. Forgive me when I act like an owner rather than a steward of the resources you have entrusted to me. Show me what it means to be rich toward 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].

Thursday October 29 2020

Scripture: Luke 11:53—12:12

Key verses: (12:1-3) Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

Reflection: There was a great TikTok encouraging the use of masks that just made me laugh out loud.  A woman said, “I don’t see why we are making a big deal of wearing a mask, we have been hiding behind masks for years!”.  Not everyone in my house laughed but I think we all can admit that we have worn masks or put on different masks daily.  We pretend to be someone we are not for any number of reasons. It is hypocrisy at its best.  We act one way in the dark and then put on a mask to fit in with the crowds in the light.

This is nothing new. We read about how Jesus’ confrontation of the Pharisees and lawyers caused a scene in our gospel reading today. Jesus words were not easy to hear then and they are not easy to hear today. Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to be good and tow the party line. Jesus says that living genuine and honestly before God will get us into trouble. We cannot just accept the status-quo but when we take the masks off, we are going to feel compelled to call out injustice, racism and oppression. It is not easy to be authentic.

Every day, we stand before God maskless.  God looks at our heart and is aware of the meaning of every action. Every time we put on our mask to go to the grocery store, walk with a friend or enter church, let’s be intentional about letting go of all of our other masks.

Prayer: Creator God, help us be our best selves. Guide us to a life of authenticity. 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 October 28 2020

Scripture: Revelation 12:1-6

Key verses: (1-3) A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. …Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great read dragon, with seven heads and ten hons, and seven diadems on his heads.

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Revelation 12:1-6 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].

Tuesday October 27 2020

Scripture: Psalm 12

Key verse: (1) “Help, O LORD, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind.”

Reflection: Throughout the bible, the faithful often get discouraged at the state of the world around them. Moses confided in God about his frustrations with the people, Elijah wept alone in a cave, and Jonah wished God’s wrath upon the unfaithful of an entire city. I’ve heard and seen similar words and actions in our times with people claiming that they are the only ones left who could possibly know and follow God’s will. The world is doomed, the wicked are winning, the faithful is down to … me. Really? Do we really think that this line of thinking is faithful?

Recently, when author Christena Cleveland came to visit she talked about how harmful this line of thinking really is. When we think we are the only faithful ones left and that the world as we know it depends upon our individual action alone, we are thinking too highly of ourselves, too lowly of others, and we are leaving God out of the equation. While stresses, change, and injustice can feel overwhelming, may we never forget that we are not alone. The Psalmist in this passage, while greatly distressed, does acknowledge that help comes from God saying, “You, O LORD, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever.” (12:7)

Trusting in God’s goodness and action, we are able to hold grief and hope together, acknowledging our grief in the world around us, but hoping and trusting in God who holds all things together. In this tension we find faith, not in our own ability to problem solve but in God who is creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all things. May we find peace in the midst of the anxieties of the world trusting in this God who holds us all.

Prayer: Faithful God, we bring to you our frustrations, our grief, our fears. May we turn these over to you, trusting in your actions and faithfulness. Calm our hearts and minds, open our eyes to see that we are not on this journey alone, and quicken our steps that we may follow you with humble joy. 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].

Monday October 26 2020

Scripture: Luke 11:14-26

Key verse: (16) Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Reflection: This casting-out episode takes place after Jesus has taught the disciples about prayer, but there is no indication how long after. Quite possibly, the inclusion of this story after a lesson on prayer, may indicate and reinforce the confidence we can have in prayer. Demons are supernatural beings and can be quite frightening to humans. However, God can cast out demons by God’s finger, indicating light work for the Almighty One, the Creator of all things. But what can be more frightening is our human tendency to doubt — even when seeing miracles with our own eyes.

As soon as Jesus casts out the mute demon, the man possessed regains his ability to speak. The crowd marveled, and they were amazed. Yet, some questioned and even accused Jesus of healing in the name of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Those accusers couldn’t believe what was happening, so they accused to disparage Jesus with the claim he sided with Satan. They demanded another sign to prove Jesus was from God. All the signs they have already witnessed — calming the seas, healing the diseased, curing the sick, raising the dead — were not enough proof for this crowd. They wanted, even needed, a bigger sign, a sign from heaven.

After I see someone do a card trick, my first request is “Do it again” as if I will be able to catch the illusions and not be fooled once more. This is our human reaction to many things that amaze us. We need affirmation and confirmation to believe. What miracles have you overlooked recently? I wonder what miraculous events we witness on a daily basis go unnoticed due to our lack of belief or faith. Doubt is a tricky thing to navigate when we experience something beyond our understanding. God’s hand is at work everywhere and it is up to us to open our eyes, and our hearts, to recognize it. You might be amazed at all the amazing miracles that happen right in front of us.  

Prayer: Open my eyes, O Lord, to see your wondrous works. Open my heart, O Lord, to believe in your mighty hand. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray to see. 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].

Friday October 23 2020

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Key verses: (41-42) But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Reflection: The Mary and Martha narrative is one that is familiar to many 21st century Christians. In a culture that prizes achievement and success, it’s easy for many of us to identify with the doers in the world. As usual, Jesus presents us with a different way of seeing things. We are told to praise Mary for the way she sits at the feet of Jesus. And we look at Martha, her busyness, her desire to do, and scold her for the ways that those acts take her out of relationship with God. This is one way of looking at this text, but it’s not the whole story. In order to get to the heart of this section of Luke, we must compare it to the section the comes before it. In the prior verses, we are told the parable of the good Samaritan, which ends with Jesus’ direction to go and do. It’s a call to action. Then we come to our verses for today, in which Jesus asks Martha to stop, he calls her to listen and reflect.

It’s important for us to hear these stories next to each other as a reminder that there are different ways to live out our faith. Sometimes following Jesus looks like going out and helping our neighbors; sometimes it looks like sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening. These calls don’t look the same for everyone but, if we are honest with ourselves, we all are called to both. As we continue to live into a socially distanced life, I wonder how we might find value in these two important aspects of our faith, to go and do and to sit at the feet of Christ. I invite you today to consider which one of these comes more naturally to you, doing or sitting? Which one should you do more in your daily life? How might you find balance between these two?

Prayer: God of all wonders, you know our hearts better than anyone. Help us to reorient our lives to find the balance that you call us to, through the power of Christ’s love. 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].

Thursday October 22 2020

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Key verse: (35) “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.”

Reflection: This is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan — a parable used to teach us about loving God and loving neighbor. It is one of my favorite parables. The term Good Samaritan is part of our everyday language.  We use this expression to describe “a compassionate person who unselfishly helps others” or “one who renders voluntary aid without compensation to a person who is injured or in danger.”  Basically, Good Samaritans come to the rescue without being asked. Sometimes their actions are heroic, but most Good Samaritans don’t draw attention to themselves.  They do what is right as part of their everyday lives. 

Much has been written about today’s parable related to what it means to be a neighbor. For many in the Christian community, the care the Samaritan provides is a self-less example of mercy.  We imagine this man staying with the injured one until he is well, addressing all of his needs.  But, this isn’t what happens. The Samaritan draws others into the caring circle of compassion.  He initially responds, then, he asks an innkeeper to help and, if necessary, obtain additional care for the man that he might recover from his injuries.  The Samaritan started the care, but then he went on with his business promising to return later to follow-up. If we approached our care for each other in this way, no one would carry a burden alone.  Others would be more willing to get involved, helping provide care. We wouldn’t experience compassion fatigue or burn out.  We might even experience joy by sharing the love of God with someone else. During these pandemic days, I have seen people helping each other in new ways. People are connecting with one another, because they have time they didn’t have before.  Even though we have been confined to home and safe activities more than we like sometimes, I have seen compassion and mercy increase.  Many people are better neighbors.  Is there someone you need to be a neighbor to today? 

Prayer: Gracious God, break down the resistance to help another because we are afraid we will become overly involved.  Remind us that everything doesn’t depend on our effort.  You are the great “cure-giver” and we give thanks for your mercy and love.  Help us show this love to others.  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 October 21 2020

Scripture: Micah 3:9 – 4:5

Key verse: (4:5) For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Reflection: This month at church we have focused on Micah 6:8 “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” These expectations shape the lives of faithful people – justice, kindness, and humility. These expectations inform all of our decisions as we try to live as disciples.

Micah was a challenging prophet, who spoke the truth even when he knew it would be hard for others to hear. He lived in a time of financial success and religious reform, but Micah saw the hypocrisy behind the external achievements. He knew that behind the economic success was tremendous injustice and behind the religious reform was a lack of true faithfulness. Sometimes the outward signs cover up a lot of internal problems. Individuals, groups, institutions and nations can look great on the outside when inside there isn’t justice or kindness or humility. (I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples!)

In today’s passage Micah calls on the political and religious leaders to recognize their hypocrisy. Claiming the Lord’s support for what you’re doing when you aren’t living in the Lord’s way is a big problem. Then Micah offered hope that when the people returned to faithful living, the Lord would bring the blessing of true peace. All people walk in the name of a god. Some claim that they are walking in the way of God but they are following other gods – money, success, rewards, reputation, false security. Micah called the people, and calls us today, to walk in the name of the LORD our God. How will we walk with integrity today? How will we make faithful choices today?

Prayer: You are my God. Strengthen me to follow you with integrity today so that all of my actions, all of my words, and all of my thoughts and motivations honor you. Show me clearly when I stray from your way and give me the courage to repent and return to you. Show me clearly when I fail to bring my faithfulness into my public life and give me the courage to repent and return to you.  In the name of Christ, my Lord, 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 October 20 2020

Scripture: Luke 10:1–16 

Key verses: ( 1-11) After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

Reflection: This should be the official passage for our virus time. Take nothing for the journey Jesus tells the disciples. Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. Sent out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, they were told to just SHOW UP.

Often when we are the church, we brag about what we have to offer. A gym, a great sanctuary, beautiful art on the walls or a great nursery on Sunday morning. Guess what? None of that matters during virus days. We just have to show up for one another.

Take nothing for the journey, Jesus says and go on your way, curing the sick and sharing the good news.

When we were building the outreach center at MPPC, the youth walked the empty shell of the building. We didn’t know what would be in each room but we had plans for what might happen in each room. We shared as we walked the space where basketball teams would play, where we would sleep on CROSS weekend or lock-ins, where we would make Thanksgiving pies and where we would laugh. When we came to the room where we would have youth dinner, one youth shared that this might be where we share our deepest struggles and pray for each other. She shared her fears about a medical test that might change her life that week and we laid hands on her right there and prayed. 

It had nothing to do with the building but everything to do with the relationships and being the body of Christ.  Youth showed up for their friend that week. They took nothing with them as they checked in and walked with her on that journey of waiting.  They showed up and they were the church.

Wherever you are this week. Be the church. Show up for each other.

Prayer: God, give us courage to offer love, words of grace, a few moments or whatever is needed as we seek to be the body of Christ in these 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].

Monday October 19 2020

Scripture: Luke 9:51-62

Key verse: (51) “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Luke 9:51-62 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].