Friday January 29 2021

Scripture: Exodus 36:1-7

Key verse: (2) “Moses then called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful one to whom the LORD had given skill, everyone whose heart was stirred to come to do the work.”

Reflection: When was your heart last stirred to do work? Do you get excited or moved to fold laundry or sweep the floors, or cut the grass? Does your heart jump at the opportunity to cook a meal for an outreach partner or pick up a hammer for a Habitat build? When we think of work, I feel like there are often categories of work that “has to get done” and work that “we desire to do”. What do these categories look like for you?

In our text for today, the tabernacle is being built. This is the moveable tent where God’s presence comes to reside. The tent itself will not contain God but it will be a place where the people can specifically encounter God through certain worship practices. Bezalel and Oholiab, the two chief artisans, are tasked with a specific plan for building the tabernacle, and the plans are beautiful. We read of gold lamps, colorful yarns, an altar for sacrifice, and the holy ark of the covenant as God’s own seat. The plans come together and the people are moved. We read, “Moses then called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful one to whom the LORD had given skill, everyone whose heart was stirred to come and do the work.” While the work of the tabernacle as a whole must have been a beautiful scene to observe, I wonder how the individual artisans felt about their work? I also wonder about others not mentioned, but just as important for the whole project to be completed. I wonder about the people who came in to sweep up after the woodworkers were finished chiseling the ark of the covenant. I wonder about those who went through the messy process of pressing olives for oil and gathering spices for incense. Do you think their hearts were stirred? I think so, I like to I imagine that their hearts were stirred just as much as the weavers and gold workers, that God gave a wide variety of gifts to the community for the job to be completed.

Have you paused lately to consider what gifts God has blessed you with to bring to your community? There is a concept called Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) that runs with the idea that all communities have what they need to thrive. This mode of thinking often goes against our modern capitalist mindset that we need to pay a specialist outside of our immediate community to fix our problems. However, for ABCD, if time is taken to determine and utilize the gifts of neighbors, a community is blessed and thrives on the skills of all. In fact, there are often skills that are surprising to the community and are found to be underutilized. Perhaps even, if we take time to truly see the gifts of all those around us, we too will be like Moses and realize that we have more than we need! Consider your gifts and how God might be calling you to use them in your neighborhood, the church, and the wider community. Consider also what the gifts of those around you might be. And may we give thanks to God for blessing us all with unique gifts.

Prayer: God of all gifts, we give you thanks for the ways in which you bless each community. Open our eyes to both the needs and gifts of those around us. Stir within us so that we may be moved to use our gifts to your glory. 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].

Thursday January 28 2021

Scripture: Exodus 32-34

Key verse: (33:19) And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Reflection: “What is in a name? That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous line in Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet questions the meaning and power of a name. If you remember, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love. They are doomed from the start, however, because they are members of two warring families. Here, Juliet is telling Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and she loves the man who is called “Montague”, not the name or the family that comes with it. It is their names, and their names alone, that keep them from each other. What power does a name give? Or perhaps take away?

As we have read up to this point in the Year in the Bible, we have seen several stages that build upon the name God has given for Godself: I am the God of your ancestors; I Am Who I Am — or perhaps better, I Will Be Who I Will Be; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order that I might live among them. These stages, built upon the former names given, tell us something about the maturing and growing intimacy between God and Israel. The names given tell us about God’s nature as revealed in the names given. And here, we read of another stage in the self-revealing and self-discovery of God’s own name and character. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” The God who was “I Will Be Who I Will Be” is now revealed as “I will be Gracious to who I will be Gracious; I will show Mercy on whom I will show Mercy.” God’s character is grace and mercy, and it is there on Mount Sanai where God shows God’s love and compassion, choosing to forgive and have mercy on the rebellious Israelites.

I wonder what your name for God might be as a meaning for your relationship with God. I wonder how intimate or how distant God may feel at times and how our naming of God reflects that. There are many names for God that demonstrate the vastness of God’s goodness and God’s power. I invite you to look at the images provided; these are inclusive names for God found throughout scripture. Is there a name for God that speaks to you? Share it with a friend and talk about why that name was chosen.

Prayer: The name above all names, we give you thanks and praise. Adonai, Holy One, Everlasting Spirit, Sophia, Eternal God, YHWH: it is by your name we are set apart, for you are with us, Immanuel. May we proclaim your name to all the earth. 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].

Wednesday January 27 2021

Scripture: Exodus 31:12-17

Key verse: (17) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”

Reflection:I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. What is rest and how do we find it? In our current “work from home” times, all our spaces are mixed together. They are for work and play, sleeping and eating, productivity and relaxation. How can we find rest when there is such a combination of activities everywhere we go? And why should we rest when productivity seems to be the ultimate goal?

Today’s scripture reminds us of the importance of Sabbath. Mirroring the creation of the earth, a normal, healthy cycle includes both work and rest. It ends with a time to stop and reflect. It gives us space to breathe and take a step back. God instructs Moses that the Israelites should take time for Sabbath as a sign of the renewed covenant between God and God’s people. It’s not that all we do is rest but we set a side time for rest, which is holy in the eyes of God.

We are living in a time when it feels like there is so much work to be done. Whether it is for our jobs, for our community, our church, the list goes on. There are so many places we can put our time and energy. But God offers us another way. That in the midst of the weight of the work we take time to pause, breathe. We are renewed and refreshed to continue.

I wonder what rest would look like for you this week. Maybe it means reading a book in a new place in your home. Maybe it means setting aside an area of your house that isn’t for productive things, only restful ones. Maybe it means taking a minute to reset before entering your time of rest. Whatever you need today, may you breathe deep and allow yourself to feel the holiness of the moments.

Prayer: God of the Sabbath, you taught us to set apart time in your presence, without lists, or work to be done. Help us in this time to find those moments, to pause and feel refreshed. May these moments renew our spirits. In your holy name. 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].

Tuesday January 26 2021

Scripture: Psalm 26

Key verse: (2) “Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.”

Reflection: I have met very few people who like a test.  And yet, testing is the way we find out how much we have learned, how much we are capable of, and how we have grown. Athletes routinely put themselves to the test by challenging their strength through various tests and contests.  This is how they build strength both physically and mentally.  Challenges can build character and help us accept both victory and defeat. But, it is a rare person who asks God to test their heart and mind. Most of our testing happens against our will.  Life presents many challenges when we least expect them, so why would we ask for more?  We wouldn’t.  But, I don’t think that is what the psalmist is asking for here.  No one needs bad things to happen, yet hard times test us.  I think the question is whether we want to dedicate our lives more and more to the LORD.  Do we want to grow in faith?  Do we want to submit ourselves to the steadfast love of the LORD?  Are we afraid to find out that we weren’t walking in faithfulness to God? What happens when we ask God to prove us and try us testing our hearts and minds? 

Just like an athlete, we wouldn’t run a marathon without training.  My guess is that each of us is aware of where we are in our journey. What might happen if we took an assessment just to see?  I invite you to use this psalm to take inventory.  We can use each verse to see how we measure up.  Do we trust in the LORD without wavering?  Are we thankful?  Do we love to spend time with God?  Are we walking in integrity?  The psalmist believes he/she is doing all of these things and wants God to test his/her resolve.  This kind of test reveals both strengths and weaknesses.  It can inspire us to draw closer to the LORD so that we might grow more and more in faith.  And, if we are wanting in any area of our lives, God loves us so much that God will provide a way that we might experience the kind of transformation that only comes from the LORD.

Prayer:  Holy God, we cry out to you in times of trouble to ask for help.  We try to live out our lives in faithfulness to you and yet we are still met by adversity.  When we are wrongly attacked, we call on you to make things right. Test us today so that we might find the affirmation of your great love in both our successes and our failures.  Thank you for your presence in our lives, the way you challenge us, and the way you have promised to never fail or forsake us.  We bless your name, now and forever.  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 January 25 2021

Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9

Key verse: (1) The LORD said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me.

Reflection: Today’s reading focuses on the tabernacle, the “portable” dwelling place for God in the wilderness. The instructions are elaborately detailed. OT scholar Terence Fretheim points out that God gives the Israelites two gifts in the wilderness – the law and the tabernacle. Living faithfully (i.e. following God’s commands) is paired with prioritizing worship (symbolized by the tabernacle).  

The tabernacle is built with ordinary materials but is set apart as a holy place. This is similar to the way that Christians use ordinary bread and juice or wine as symbols of the body and blood of our Savior. The ordinary becomes holy.

The tabernacle is the dwelling place for God’s presence and yet God cannot be contained or trapped inside the tabernacle. The tabernacle isn’t like a cage at the zoo, keeping God safely confined and accessible only when visited. God is always beyond any limits of what humans can build.

The tabernacle is built from materials offered by the people. There is no tax or required dues. There is no mandatory payment for God’s presence and protection. Instead, the people are called to spiritual discernment, determining what they are prompted to give.  The tabernacle will be the result of their own offerings much like church buildings are in our own community. Some faithful people balk at giving to “buildings” and they complain that churches shouldn’t spend money on structures. Yet, throughout history, church structures have honored God with beauty (think of the Notre Dame cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, or the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, NM). Church structures have inspired awe, wonder and praise. Ordinary materials, shaped by gifted creative humans, have become holy sanctuaries for worship. Yes, you can worship God anywhere and the Israelites could as well, but God instructed them to build a tabernacle, a gift that called them to worship and that assured them of God’s presence.

Prayer: O God, thank you for places that inspire my worship. Thank you for lights and candles, for stained glass and carved wood, for paintings and sculptures, for pews and chairs and kneeling benches. Prompt me to offer my very best 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].

Friday January 22 2021

Scripture: Exodus 16:4 

Reflection: The wilderness is not an easy place to be. The Israelites blame and complain. They complain bitterly, become cynical and are not their best selves. I think we know something about being in those wilderness places.

They were wandering and worried they would not have enough. Hmmm. Moses tells them to take enough for today. For you. Hoarding was not an option because when the panic sent them out for more, that extra manna would burn up in the heat or rot in the night. That isn’t part of the plan. Take enough for today.

It is hard to trust. Hard to trust that God will see us through to the next day. It is more than toilet paper, chicken or manna.

God will see us through this time.

Prayer: God, help us put our trust in you and not in things we buy or consume. May we find our rest in you today. 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 January 21 2021

Scripture: Exodus 14:15-31

Key verse: (22) “The Israelites went into the sea on dry land.”

Reflection: Within the Jewish tradition, Rabbis through the centuries have debated with each other about the meaning of various passages of Torah.  Their debates are found in the Talmud, which includes wonderful stories developed by the rabbis to “fill in the gaps” of the Biblical narrative.  One such story exists around the crossing of the Red Sea. In the Babylonian Talmud Rabbi Judah asks, “Why does it say they went into the sea on dry land?”  He responds by saying that when Moses told the Israelites to go forward into the sea, they did not go.  Rather they began arguing with one another about which tribe would have the honor of going first.  No, Benjamin, after you!  No, Judah, we insist, after you.  Suffice to say, none of them were anxious to get their feet wet.  In the midst of the debate, a boy from the tribe of Judah, Nahshon ben Aminadab, (son of Aminadab) began wading into the water.  He went in to his ankles, and nothing happened.  He went in to his knees, nothing happened.  He waded in up to his waist, nothing; then up to his chest, and nothing happened.  At this point the Israelites were wondering what on earth Nahshon was doing.  Had he given in to despair?  He could not swim. What was he thinking?  The water got up to his neck and past his chin, still nothing happened.  As he waded deeper in, the water hit his nostrils, and at that very moment, the sea parted and a way was made.  That’s how the Israelites went into the sea on dry land.  It all began when Nahshon ben Aminadab had the courage to wade into the water.   In fact, his name, Nahshon, means “waves.”

What’s your Red Sea?  How are you called to go forward, to wade into the water trusting God to make a way?  Maybe it’s those first steps into the treatment you never dreamed you’d need, and you are trusting God will make a way toward healing.  What does wading into the water look like for us?  Where are those places in life when we feel trapped between the devil of Pharaoh’s army bearing down on us to one side, with our backs up against the deep Red Sea?  What might it mean to wade into the water?  Whatever that looks like for you, hear God’s word this day:  go forward.

Prayer: Loving God, in those times of life when we feel trapped and we don’t see a way forward, give us courage to take a step forward anyway. Give us faith that you can make a way and deliver us from whatever threats we face.  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].

Wednesday January 20 2021

Scripture: Exodus 12:1-11

Key verse: (2) “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”

Scripture: We are a few weeks into the first month of 2021, what have these weeks been like for you? It seems as though these last few weeks have been years in themselves, full of historic events on a national level. And on a local level, I continue to hear of church members who are affected by the pandemic, turning their lives upside down. Whether in the past few weeks, or during another time in your life, I imagine there have been events that you remember where you were when they happened, events that have marked time for you, events that have changed your life. Often times these events gather you closer to those most important to you, and sometimes these events call you to take a stand and make your values known.

In our passage for today we find the Israelites at the end of a long saga with the Egyptians which began centuries before as Joseph came to Egypt sold into slavery by his brothers. It was those brothers who then later came to Egypt and found assistance from Joseph who rose to prominence in Pharaoh’s court. As Genesis ends all of Jacob’s family is safely in Egypt, settling into the land. And yet, as Exodus begins the Israelites are enslaved, being persecuted and terrorized by the Pharaoh who was fixed on killing all the newborn boys of the Israelites. God hears the Israelites cries, sends Moses to stand before Pharaoh, and promises to free the Israelites. Leading up to our passage for today God sends ten plagues, each one more intense than the last. By the time of the tenth plague Pharaoh concedes and is ready to let the Israelites go free. This is a turning point. After days of plagues that I’m sure felt like years, the day of freedom has come, a marker that will define the Israelites for all of time, the Passover.

This day of new beginnings, this marker of time for the Israelites gathered the community together and called them to publicly show a sign of their faith. Even though the Israelites were promised freedom by God, this stepping out into faith was still a big step, enslavement was familiar and freedom was foreign. Joined together by a shared meal and marked by the sign of blood of the lamb, the Israelites began their journey from a people enslaved to a people set free.

Here we are, two thousand years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and thousands of years since the first Passover. As Christians we are people of a shared meal and marked by Christ’s blood, set free from the enslavement of sin. These markers placed upon us are permanent, and yet we often forget to fully live into their promise. Take a moment today, remember that you are marked by Christ, sealed by his love, and called to a life of freedom. As we reflect upon the markers of this freedom, however, may we remember that we are free not to ourselves or our own desires, free not to harm but to help, free so we may serve, free so we may be a blessing to others, free to be claimed by Christ in faith, hope, and love.

Prayer: Loving God, guide us in your ways, lead us in your love. Open our lives to your calling in our midst, that we may mark our lives as committed to you. Through Christ we pray. 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].

Tuesday January 19 2021

Scripture: Exodus 7-9

Key verse: (9:14b) so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.

Reflection: This section of reading showcases the “plagues” or “signs” brought on in Egypt in order to persuade Pharaoh to release Israel from captivity. We read of water turning red like blood, frogs hopping everywhere, gnats or ticks and flies, livestock terribly diseased, skin sores on each person, and deathly hail falling from the sky. Even more plagues are to come in tomorrow’s reading. What do we make of these “signs” given to Pharaoh by God through Moses and Aaron?

What amazes me in reading of this events, is the co-agency and dependence of God and of human. God and humans (Moses and Aaron) are involved in various degrees for each sign given. God is explicitly active in only 6 of the signs. Moses and Aaron are involved in a dual role in 3 of these, while acting alone (as best we are told) in 4 of them. This tag-teaming is evident that we, as humans, play a role in the release of captives and the justice of all the earth. These signs are God’s signs, the human activity within them must be recognized. Moses and Aaron would not be effective without God’s power working in and through them, and God is dependent on Moses and Aaron, working in the world. It is by God’s power that our humanness is what brings the divine to the places of the earth that are hardened. We must recognize the dual agency in the work of God’s redemptive and restorative justice.

How have you seen God work in and through you for the plight of others? Can you feel God’s power in the work of justice and peace on earth, seeking release of the captives and freedom for all creation? The work we do, much like the signs given, have one goal: that all the earth may know there is no one like our God.

Prayer: Almighty God, it is by your power we are agents in the work of justice and peace on earth. Guide us in the work we do that all the earth may come to know you and know that there is none like you. You are our God. We are your people. 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].

Monday January 18 2021

Scripture: Exodus 6:26-30

Key verse: (30) But Moses said in the Lord’s presence, “Since I am a poor speaker, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

Reflection: Our scripture reading today ends on a question many of us have also found ourselves asking, “why would anyone listen to me?” In these days in which there are so many loud voices out there: on social media, on the television, anywhere we go really. We are constantly encountering people who are adding their voice among the crowd. So we ask, why would anyone listen to us?

In the text, Moses asks this of God in response to God’s call to confront Pharaoh. This is often seen as Moses unwillingness to answer God’s call – Moses is skeptical of his ability to carry out the request, he isn’t able to trust in God’s plan. While this is certainly an element, Moses shows God his fear of what will happen and if his role in the plan will be effective. “Why would Pharaoh listen to me?” Moses seems to be pleading with God saying there must be someone else who will do a better job, who will be more persuasive. Send them.

I wonder how often our lack of confidence in our own voice leaves us in a similar position to Moses. If we don’t trust that God might have a plan in store for us and so we ask, why would they listen to us? The answer to this is twofold. We will be listened to because we already have the gifts within us giving us the ability to speak truth to who God is. God created us just so. And, we will be listened to because of the message we bring to others. We bring a message of justice, mercy and love given to us by God, exemplified in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and remaining with us still through the power of the Holy Spirit. I wonder what God might be calling you to say today. I wonder if you might be able to say those words, regardless of who will listen. I wonder if rather than fearing those we encounter we can trust in the voice that God gave us.

Prayer: God of our ancestors, you formed us in the beginning and created us out of love. Help us to find the voice to answer your call, and to share your message with others, even in the face of fear. 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].