Thursday December 31 2020

Scripture: John 8:12-19

Key verse: (12) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Reflection: As we close this year where do your thoughts go? Do you look ahead to the new year? Are you still reflecting on the past? Or perhaps you are just trying to get through the day. For many of us, this has been a dark year, a year shadowed by COVID-19 and all kinds of unrest. And yet, our scripture reading for today reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, promising that we will never walk in darkness. These are not just lofty words, this is not an empty promise, but this is a promise of God’s, who became flesh to live among us so that we would never walk in darkness.

Reading this text, the word in really caught my attention. Looking up the Greek, the word for “in” can mean many things, including “within the limits of some space” and “in the person, soul, or thought of anyone”. The word in is a word that rests and resides, it places a person, thought, or thing firmly in a particular place. Jesus’ promise that we will not walk in darkness, is a promise that we will not reside in darkness forever, that darkness will not consume us, or take up residence in or among us. God came into this world to keep this promise.

Reading between the lines, this text could also offer that while we will never walk in darkness, we may have to walk through darkness. In these winter months if you take walks after dinner, I’m sure you’ve walked through darkness. Perhaps holding a flashlight to guide your way, you are embraced by the warmth of the light immediately around you, and with each step you are walking not in darkness, but through it.

I imagine this is most closely what Jesus is talking about, not a promise that our days will never have shadows of fear, pain, or sadness, but that in those seasons of darkness we have the light of Christ to help us get through those days. Christ is our guiding light as he knows where he has come from and where he is going, may we follow in the light.

Prayer: Holy God, as we turn from one year to another, we give you thanks that you are a constant guide in our life. By your Spirit surround, uphold, and nurture us that we might follow faithfully. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

YEAR IN THE BIBLE

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

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[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 December 30 2020

Scripture: John 7:53-8:11

Key verses: (8:3-4, 11)The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery…. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Reflection: The gospel of John is full of juxtapositions, offering new theological develops that the synoptic gospels were perhaps too young to note (although each of the gospels have unique theological personalities). In the passage that precedes this one, hearers of Jesus’ teachings are confronted with believing if Jesus is the messiah or not. In the passage following our selection for today, Jesus claims to be the light of the world in a culture that links light with God. The deep theological truths that are evident in John’s approach to story-telling are illustrated in this passage for today. The testing of Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees throughout the story is marked by responses that furthers deep theological truths about the nature of the Messiah: a compassionate and thoughtful teacher, a friend to the sinner, and an unconditional offeror of grace and forgiveness. Jesus came not to condemn the sinful world, but to save the world from sin through invitation and acceptance, providing a path of love and mercy.

This is a well-known passage yet it does not appear in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the bible. This does not however take away from the powerful message of this passage and the truths that can be found within it. We find this woman accused of adultery being brought to the temple for judgement. Jesus is teaching in the temple; all of them are sitting. The woman was made to stand in front of Jesus and all those gathered; she was on full display, adding to her already intense humiliation. Dishonor and death were equals in this first-century context, and Jesus works to relieve her anxiety by turning the focus back on the accusers. In the well-known exchange that takes place, the accusers all leave one by one as they realize they too are sinners. Jesus then offers grace and forgiveness before even noting the accusation of adultery.

The accusers were imperfect, yet wanted to condemn. Jesus is perfect, yet chose to not to condemn. The accusers see only one outcome of sin: punishment and death. Jesus sees only one outcome of sin: forgiveness and life. I wonder how we too see only one outcome of sin. How might we offer forgiveness to those who sin against us? What would life look like if we first provided mercy and grace, then the invitation for life anew in Christ? Perhaps it is a world filled with hope and marked by redemption, as we encourage one another when we all fall short. May we be lead in love, not judgement, to ask: how can I ease this person’s pain and be there for their healing?

Prayer: I am a sinner, O God, and I have fallen short of your glory. In my sinfulness, I know grace and forgiveness rest in your hands, and through Jesus Christ I have life anew. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 December 29 2020

Scripture: Isaiah 12:1-6

Key verse: (2) Surely God is my salvation;
          I will trust, and will not be afraid,
     for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might;
          he has become my salvation.

Reflection: How often do you take the time to look back at all that has happened and respond? I don’t find myself doing this very often. More often, I’m trying to live in the moment, to get to the next thing. I’m rushing my way through the day. I don’t feel like I have time to stop and reflect. And when I do, this reflection is not always positive. There are many times when my “stop and look back moments” lead me to frustration and anger. I wonder how could all of those things have happened in such a short time. If I’m honest with myself in those moments, I get to the anger by failing to realize the things that kept me going through those hard times. If I give these moments of reflection a little more time, I find myself feeling grateful for the journey. I realize the strength it took to get me to this moment.

In our text for today, we finally reach the moment to pause, reflect and respond. The previous section describes a picture of what Israel’s restoration will be, but it takes a while to get to the response to such a restoration. Here, in chapter 12, we reach this moment. God turns to Israel in comfort and Isaiah responds with gratitude, telling of trust in the Lord and of the justice that will fall on the nations. After many words about restoration, looking back at what has been and imagining the future, the prophet takes a moment to respond.

This is our opportunity for right now. To pause and take a moment to respond to all that has happened. We are nearing the end of the year, and we all know that this has been a year for the books. So much has happened. I wonder what responding to this year looks like for you. Maybe it looks like gratitude, as our scripture for today demonstrates. Maybe it looks like lament for all that has happened. Maybe it looks like a long, familiar walk to remind you how you have felt grounded this year. Our responses will all look different but I hope we take this time to remember and respond.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your presence this year. Help us to learn to pause, reflect and respond, that we might hear your voice and show others your glory. In the name of your Son. Amen.

Author: Savannah Demuynck

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 December 28 2020

Scripture: Isaiah 49:13-23

Key verse: (13) “For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.”

Reflection: The book of Isaiah is full of warnings and hope.  It is divided into three parts each reflecting a particular period of time in the history of Israel.  It reflects the joys and concerns of God’s people.  Today’s passage falls during the time before and immediately after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.  It contains a promise of restoration even though the people are being held in captivity.  None of us know what it is like to be taken from our homes by force to a foreign land, but we do know what it is like to be exiled from our lives or disconnected from God, ourselves and others.  The pandemic we are living through now is our version of an exile – a time when we have become more aware of all the things we have taken for granted and the illness that is keeping all of us apart. For some, this has been a time of discovery and learning: how far we have drifted from God? where we have placed our trust?  For others, grief and illness have created of feeling of being separated from God.  The pain of isolation and wondering if we are forgotten, is real and debilitating.  This is a challenging time. 

Out of the pages of scripture, God offers words of hope.  Hope born out of distress and not comfort.  The verse I have highlighted above reminds us that God has compassion on us and that God’s promises are real.  This free gift of God’s love that we just celebrated at Christmas, is the same love that will sustain us through today and the days ahead.  All we have to do is lift up our heads and look toward Christ – not as a way to escape the challenges of life, but as a way to face them head on, knowing that God is with us now and always. Wait on the LORD, scripture says.  Even though we are fatigued, God reminds us that nothing lasts forever. God has not forgotten us. God has not forgotten you.

Prayer: Loving Lord, help us find a way to depend more and more on you, trusting in your promises.  Give us the strength to wait on you knowing that nothing can separate us from your love.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner 

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 December 25 2020

Scripture: 1 John 4:7-16

Key verse: (9) God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Reflection: Merry Christmas!! Wherever you are today, whether home alone or gathered with family, whether opening gifts or resting in your jammies, whether looking forward to a big meal or to a simple one, the message is the same: God’s love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas! This is more important than whatever is in your stocking or whatever packages arrived. This is better news than any Christmas family letter or any Hallmark holiday movie. God sent his only Son into the world.

If you are finding today to be difficult, perhaps because it is so different, remember that God is with you. If you are stressed or anxious because holidays are full of unrealistic expectations, remember that God is with you. If you are grieving because someone you love isn’t here with you this year, remember that that God is with you. The message is the same: God’s love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Our God chose to come close to us, to live among us, to become human in Jesus Christ. Our God chose to be revealed rather than hidden, embodied rather than just spiritual, “with us” rather than distant. Our God chose love. And our God chooses love over and over and over again for you, for me, for all of us. Merry Christmas!

Prayer:  Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
worship we our Jesus,
but wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token;
love be yours and love be mine;
love to God and others,
love for plea and gift and sign.

Amen.   (poem from Christina Rosetti, which is the basis for the hymn Love Came Down)

Author: Millie Snyder

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

[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 December 24 2020

Scripture: Luke 2:6-7

Reflection: “The baby is going to do what the baby is going to do.”  That’s what Jennifer’s doctor told her when she was pregnant with our firstborn.  Boy, was she right.  John was due January 13th.  He decided to come on December 23rd, the day before my first Christmas Eve as an ordained pastor.  Never have I felt less in control than the day he was born.  I wonder if Joseph and Mary felt that way.  Surely the scheduled delivery date was after the census had been taken.  Surely the baby would wait to be born until after they got home from Bethlehem.  Surely they would get back to the safe confines of Nazareth, and out from among the farm animals they were relegated to room with.

But no.  The baby is going to do what the baby is going to do.  “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.”  When it comes to babies, we’re not in control.  Yet this baby embodies exactly what we need when we realize we are not in control.  This baby embodies the presence of God-with-us. God’s presence with us in the midst of the mayhem and the madness  and the mangers of this world changes everything.  God’s presence enables us to endure whatever chaos we face.  God’s presence brings that peace that passes all understanding that makes this night holy.  Christ the Savior is born!  Alleluia!  Amen!

Prayer: For your presence with us in the midst of the mayhem and the madness and the mangers of our world, we give you thanks and praise, O God.  You are with us, and that is enough, enough to offer us everything we need to face whatever comes our way.  Thank you for your love.  In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. 

Author: Joe Clifford, Pastor

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

Samson did what with the jaw bone of a donkey?! Read the whole Bible in 2021

[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 December 23 2020

Scripture: Luke 2:3-5

Reflection: Initially, I thought these verses were simple and did not require any additional comments or insights.  But then as always, my curiosity kicked in and I went to where I always go for information – Google. In hindsight, I realize that my first resource should have been God through prayer.

The Scriptures are important for a few reasons. It proves God keeps His promises that were foretold in the Old Testament that a Savior would come from Bethlehem. It also validated that Jesus was who the prophets and Scriptures spoke of because it verifies that Christ is a descendant of King David just as the Word foretold.

Jesus’ heritage made me reflect on the importance of lineage.

I thought: what would it be like to be a descendant of royalty? What is the specific purpose of humans being born to particular parents or a certain bloodline?  

Throughout my life I have reflected upon these questions.  Some answers of my own lineage I’ll never know but there are two things I discovered by reviewing this text. I am a descendant from a royal line. I’m the daughter of the King of Israel that rules forever and my place in this royal family was solidified by the birth, life and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was physically out of the house of David. 

Regardless to whomever my parents are and regardless to what I own or possess, the greatest thing about me, and all human beings, is that we all come from the King and we should treat ourselves and our fellow man as royalty. To truly celebrate the birth of our Savior we must treat each other with the kindness and compassion that the Son of God extends to each of us daily.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the priceless birth and gift of Jesus Christ.  Please help us to remember who our Heavenly Father is and constantly give thanks.  Help us to treat each other the way that we want to be treated during this advent season and always.  Amen. 

Author: Vivian Hailey, Project Accountant

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

Talking over the things which you have read with your companions fixes them on the mind. Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

[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 December 22 2020

Scripture: Luke 2:1-2

Reflection: Just as in biblical times, we have just recently participated in the 2020 Census.  That massive undertaking that occurs every 10 years, when the government attempts to account for every person living in America to help them determine how billions in federal funding is spent each year on critical services, including education, health care, housing, and public transportation.

For many, this is a simple task.  Open the computer, click a few buttons and you’re done or maybe you still prefer “snail mail” so you tear open the envelope, fill in a few circles, put the form back in the provided envelope and send it on its way.

But, for many others, the simple task of completing the census form stirs up all kinds of feelings.  Undocumented immigrants fear they will be deported, our homeless neighbors are reminded of their lack of an address, and many of my friends and family, who are African-American, struggle to align their desire to participate in the system with the inequities and injustices that they face on a daily basis.

The act of completing the census is paramount for our country “to know” how many people live here and to be able to provide the necessary resources for the citizenry.  But, at Advent I am reminded that God already “knows” each of us and He has already provided so much more through the birth of our Savior that none have to walk in fear, lack, or injustice.  Jesus’ birth brings joy as it reminds all of us that we count, as a child of God; as member of humankind worth saving even if we don’t properly complete the form.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for knowing us and counting us as your children.  Thank you for the gift of Jesus who binds us together as humanity and helps us to shed fear, lack and injustice.  Amen.

Author: Donna Fair, Wellness Ministry Director

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

Jesus’ secret recipe for turning water into wine. Read the whole Bible in 2021

[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 December 21 2020

Scripture: John 1:2-5

Reflection: I think it is safe to say, that all of us have experienced darkness and light in some form or another in our life time. I am not talking about the light and darkness we experience in a power surge or when Duke Energy turns off your power or lights. I am talking about the light/darkness in our everyday lives, the pain and suffering we experience sometimes in silence and sometimes the pain/suffering we share with each other. But the scripture says that God is light and in him there is no darkness. For a very long time I lived in darkness and fear every day of my life. When I turned my life over to God, the light of hope was born within me. This advent season, I am asking God to help me be a light leading others out of darkness. What will you give others this advent season? Maybe we should see giving in a new light. Our actions should remind others of Jesus coming and his loving ways.

Prayer: Father God, we ask you in our times of fear, help us to remember you are with us.  Father, keep coming when we least expect you and when we most need you. These and many other blessings we ask in Jesus name. Amen.

Author: Freddie Sherrill, Facilities Set-Up Coordinator

YEAR IN THE BIBLE

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

A whole year in the Word creates opportunity to form habit and routine. That level of consistency allows us to deepen our relationship with Christ in ways we have probably never done before. And the Lord knows, we sure do need Him in this messy world. ~ Bobby McKinsey

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[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].

Sunday December 20 2020

Scripture: John 1:1

Reflection: In the beginning . . .

These words, found at the beginning of John’s Gospel take us back to the first words in our Bible.  In the beginning, the book of Genesis starts, there was God.  Actually, the word in Hebrew means “before the beginning”, that is, before time God was there.  The writer of John makes a strong connection between the coming Messiah, Jesus, and the time before time.  A concept that is very hard for us to grasp since we are bound by time.  Who or what is this Word that was present with God in the beginning?  The Word in Greek can be translated as “reason” or “purpose”.  Here is it being used to tie the God who spoke creation into being with Jesus.  Word is often used as a reference to Jesus because he spoke the living word of God to people.  Jesus was the embodiment of God’s words of creation, hope, forgiveness, love and justice.  This Gospel wants to make it clear that Jesus is the living word of God in human form.  I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus has always been with God.  I don’t pretend to understand this fully.  I can only catch a glimpse of the community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit found in God.  And, yet, I know that I am tied to this community through the gift of faith. So, if Jesus came and lived our life after being present since before the beginning with God, I bow in thanks and praise.  God is present and God understands.  We have all caught a glimpse of what and who God is.  What a gift at Christmas or any time of the year!      

Prayer:  Creator God, we give thanks that you spoke creation into being.  As we worship your living Word, Jesus, remind us of your faithfulness to us.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner, Associate Pastor for Congregational Care

year in the Bible

A Year in the Bible, Beginning January 1, 2021, myersparkpres.org/bible – Join with reading plans for all ages, from children to adult. Supplemented with videos, celebrations, and discipleship events.

This year, find out about Balaam and his talking Donkey. Read the Bible in 2021.

[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].