Sunday February 28 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 17-20

Key verses: (18:15-20) The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak — that prophet shall die.”

Reflection: The world is full of voices. Even when we are not around other people and being socially distant. We watch the news. Follow twitter. Read articles. Go through Facebook posts.  It seems that the more distant we are the more voices we are putting in our ears. Maybe you watch a few TikTok stories. And a few more. We listen to podcasts. Audiobooks. Voices upon voices. There is power in words and with it the ability to stir up the waters.

The power of words is not lost in today’s passage from Deuteronomy. These are the words that Moses is giving to the people as they move out of the wilderness. God’s power and authority is clear in this passage. They and we are instructed to listen for God’s voice. The truth here is that God speaks and God is speaking.

In the cacophony of voices, our challenge is to listen for God’s voice. Sometimes that means we have to just stop. Be Still and remember the promise that God is with us in the wilderness, in the chaos and even in the quiet.  

Prayer: With a deep breath, we center ourselves in this moment. Pushing our to-do lists aside for a minute, setting aside the voices that swirl in our heads and being present with you God. Speak to us once again a word of truth, justice and love. May we hear you and your call to us as your people. With a deep breath, we move into our days with an open heart, mind and ears for you God. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Saturday February 27 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 15-16

Key verse: (15:19) Every firstling male born of your herd and flock you shall consecrate to the Lord your God; you shall not do work with your firstling ox nor shear the firstling of your flock. 

Reflection: What to do with firstlings?

What do we do with this passage if we aren’t shepherds and we make no distinction between a first calf or a first lamb? Let us look at this law as it may pertain to us. Perhaps we could devote the FIRST of our time, or the FIRST of our resources to glorify God. How might we do that? Well, consider this – When we are planning our time, is God in there FIRST, or do we squeeze God into a slot that is already full? When obtaining food for Loaves and Fishes or our brothers and sisters in need, do we give our FIRST, our best, or do we reach far into our cupboards for that can of soup that we are never going to eat or the box of cereal that we would not pour into our own bowls? Giving of the FIRST is giving sacrificially.  

During this time of Lent, let us remember that God knows what it means to give sacrificially, giving of God’s FIRST son. And in giving Jesus to the world, God puts us FIRST.  God always has time for us and desires to give the best to all of humanity. So often we are quick to jump to Easter, where we want to be FIRST to worship God in joy and praise. But we forget that we can’t get to Easter without FIRST going through this season of Lent and Holy week, a season of sacrifice.  This is where we learn and discover the love that Jesus has for each of us as he endured the journey to the cross. It is during this time that we define what should be FIRST in our lives, and how we show our love and gratitude to God, by putting God and others FIRST. 

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for putting all your children FIRST. Forgive us for not putting you FIRST in our lives, and for not putting our brothers and sisters, near and far, FIRST, in our daily plans. As we walk together during this time of Lent, help us to grow closer to you. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Author: Angie Edwards, Elder class of 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].

Friday February 26 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 13-14

Key verse: (14:22) “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes the field year by year.”

Reflection: According to the covenant between God and the Israelites, we are to tithe or “give 10% of what we have to the church”. To be honest tithing is not always easy. However, as with anything if done regularly and often it becomes second nature. When I started my career 20+ years ago I was living in NYC and I was barely making enough to cover rent and food. My boss told me that in order to be paid any extra commissions I had to max out my 401k. I thought she was crazy; I could barely pay bills much less save anything! But she told me something that I will never forget, “If you cannot save now you will never be able to save. Saving is a habit that you should start early – you may earn more as you get older but your expenses will be larger too. Make it a priority now and it will be a priority always.” She was right, if you can save when things are tight then you will be equipped to save for life. 

I believe the same is true with tithing. Have you ever felt like you didn’t have enough to give? Or that if you just had a little more, then you could be comfortable to give? When we feel this way, do you notice how tightly we hold on to what is rightly a blessing from God? What might it mean to give not out of comfort but out of sacrifice? Just as my boss took the opportunity to set in motion a lifetime habit, we have the opportunity to do the same in our lives, with our children, and the next generation of the church. When I was growing up, every time I received money as a present I had to tithe, usually it was to our church but I also was able to give to an organization or charity that was important to me. I wish I could say I did it joyfully but that was not always the case. However, through the discipline of this practice and the guidance of my parents, I learned that not only was this the right thing to do but it actually felt good to gain greater perspective of what is truly God’s in the world! I was taught that everything we have is a gift from God. Tithing is an important reminder of this and a way to thank God for all of the blessings God has bestowed on us. Just as saving for a 401k at an early age led to financial prudence, tithing at early age can set in motion a lifetime of gratitude for all that God has given us, for we tithe not to save up greater glory but we give in gratitude of the greatest gift already given.

Prayer: Dear God, we come to you today grateful for all that you have given us. On days when we are struggling or days when we do not feel as though we have enough, let us always remember that you have blessed us with exactly what we need. Help us God to give freely and generously just as you have to us. In God’s name we pray. Amen.

Author: Zelle Dunn, Elder class of 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].

Thursday February 25 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 10-12

Key verses: (11:18-21) “You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on you hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”

Reflection:  As we enter the season of Lent, we are asked to look deeply into the key ideas of preparation, repentance, death and resurrection, justice, exodus and dedication.  The passage above speaks to me about the very essence of dedication.  In fact, you can lift these words and apply this passage to almost every aspect of the Old Testament and the Good News to come.  Always return to God and God’s word in your heart and soul. Show your faith and dedication boldly, never feeling ashamed – on your forehead, on your home and the entrances to your life.  Establish the foundation and the rock of God’s love in your children and tell them over and over how good God truly is. 

In times of uncertainty, God’s steadfast love is the only constant when everything else in life might feel as if it is falling away.  On my first mission trip to El Salvador, written on a doorway of a cinderblock house in the tiny Getsemani community, was the following phrase.  “Pero Yo Y Mi Familia, Serviremos A Jehova”.  A verse from Joshua that translates, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  It was written boldly above the family’s front door – written on the doorpost of their home.  Words that were written into that family’s heart and soul – we could all be so lucky to have such faith.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we move through the season of Lent, please help us remember that you are our rock and our redeemer.  Help us keep your Word in our hearts and our minds, and in everything that we have and love.  Help us trust that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your love is steadfast and will never abandon us.  In Christ’s name. Amen.

Author: Chip Cooke, Elder class of 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 February 24 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 7-9

Key verse: (7:9) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations”

Reflection: In this verse, we are reminded of the covenant God made with us, long before we even knew God. This chapter describes the fear, loss, and hardship that the people of Israel faced for countless generations. Today, we too face many of these same obstacles, especially during this time filled with uncertainty and grief. God reminds us that we never face our pain alone. Just as God never left the people of Israel, we are never left alone either. We can rest in the knowledge that God chose to be bound to us far earlier than we chose God, and that nothing we do can ever separate us from this love. 

Prayer: Dear God, we know that you are with us always, even if times of great uncertainty and fear. Thank you for choosing to be bound to us, again and again, without asking anything in return. Thank you for reminding us of your love that never fades and help us to show this same love to others, as disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Author: Liz Corsig

[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 February 23 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 4-6

Key verses: (Deut 6:4-5) “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

Reflection: Would you please LISTEN?!?!  How many times did we hear that as children?  How many times have we said it as parents?  Usually when that phrase was uttered it not only meant that the recipient listen to what was being said but to listen AND obey. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 are the opening lines of the Shema, which is an ancient Hebrew prayer that is repeated daily as part of traditional Jewish prayer practice. Translated from Hebrew, “Shema” means to both listen and obey.  In Deuteronomy, God doesn’t ask us to just listen to His words, but to hear them, understand them, and then respond to them.

So as Christians, how can we respond to words used in an ancient Jewish prayer during Lent?  That is found in verse 5, which Jesus later teaches as the Great Commandment: Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  To LOVE (action verb) God as the Lord alone and with our entire being.  To not only love God by following the laws given to us in God’s ancient covenant, but to take the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God thru the Son Jesus Christ during this Lenten season.  

Prayer: Lord, our God alone, open our ears to hear your Word and to respond to your grace with faith, love and obedience.  Help us to grow closer to you, and your son Jesus Christ, during this season of Lent. Amen.

Author: Bryan Brooks, Elder class of 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 February 22 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 1-3

Reflection: Faithful. Let that word sit with you for the entirety of this devotion. Moses stood on Mount Horeb to express to the people that their faith, their trust in God, had brought them thus far on their quest for the Promised Land and for the blessings the Lord had promised them. But Moses’ words were challenged when two leaders of their army saw how big and mighty the Amorite and Canaanite armies were. Seeing the threat before them, they thought they would be defeated for sure. Their faith in the Lord was challenged, and their hope was depleting. Soon, the Israelites disobeyed God and would not be granted entry to the Promised Land by the Lord. Caleb and Joshua told the people to be patient and that if they trusted God, they would enter the Promised Land. But their disobedience to God reflects their lack of faith.

Many people, even you, might face trials of your faith or trusting in God. You might say we all are going through a test of faith amid a global pandemic. Just as the Israelites were afraid to trust that they with God’s help could conquer the Amorites and Canaanites, we are all wondering when if we will get out of this pandemic and upside down life anytime soon. But as Caleb and Joshua did, we must trust that God is here, in all of us, around all of us, and be patient for your true trusting faith to show.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I come before you today in need of hope. There are times when I may feel helpless, there are times when I may feel weak. I pray for hope. I pray for hope for a better future. I pray for love and kindness. Some say that the sky is at its darkest just before the light. I pray that this is true, for all seems dark. I need your light, Lord, in every way. I pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. To know that all is right in the world as you want it to be. Help me to walk in your light, and live my life in faith and glory. In your name I pray. Amen.

Author: Carson Sacco, MPPC youth

[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 February 21 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Numbers 35-36

Key verse: (35:28) 28 The accused must stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may they return to their own property.

Reflection: Central to maintaining the purity of the land given was the need to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. However, the shedding of a guilty party was customary; if a man deliberately slew another, the slayer’s life was to be forfeited. Blood is given for blood, however shed, because murder was to take what belonged to God, God’s very life and breath that lived on the earth through a person. But there is more to this story as we read the selection for today.

A city of refuge was made in order to provide time to fully investigate and completely understand the act of an unintentional murder. The slayer could be isolated until the death of the High Priest. At the death of the High Priest, it was understood that his blood would in some way allow for the slayer’s release. The death of the High Priest would expunge the consequences of blood-shed. 

As we journey to the cross in this season of Lent, we sit in a city of refuge. We have failed in our promises and have committed great sin against others, against ourselves, and against God. We are seeking refuge from the punishment in which we deserve for our actions, whether intentional or unintentional. It is by the shedding of blood on the cross that we are made whole and are made free again. Christ is prophet, priest, and king: Jesus spoke God’s word and is the Word of God; Jesus cleanses us by the offering of his life; Jesus is above of all earthly authority and is ruler of all.

I wonder where you are seeking refuge now, as we wait for the High Priest to offer his life for the forgiveness of our sins. In knowing what is ahead in Holy Week, and the victory over sin and death claimed through Christ’s death and resurrection, I wonder how we are to respond through our living and dying, through our blessing of wholeness in Christ, and through our call to sacrificial love.

Prayer: You are my refuge and strength, O God, a very present help in times of need. I run from my failures and seek shelter due to my sinful ways. Draw me into you. By the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus our Lord, make me whole again I pray. 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].

Saturday February 20 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Numbers 33-34

Key verses: (33:1-2) These are the stages by which the Israelites went out of the land of Egypt in military formation under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting points, stage by stage, by command of the Lord; and these are their stages according to their starting places.

Reflection: Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey.

After the tenth plague of Egypt, Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites out of slavery and toward the Promised Land. Numbers 33 names each campsite, 40 in all, between Rameses and the plains of Moab.  The journey took 40 years.  Can you imagine pulling up stakes, packing and unpacking 40 times in 40 years? The Israelites grumbled.

It was all God’s plan … to keep the promise made to Abraham. This traveling horde of grumbling Israelites was the plan’s centerpiece.  Their journey was not a quick and easy trip from point A to point B.  Their journey was a start and stop, broke down, “We want steak!” kind of trip that tested them in ways unimagined.

Is Lent not such a journey?  We begin with the reminder that we are but dust, we give something up or add something in and fail some at both.  We reflect and self-examine and have some “A-ha” moments and some clueless ones.  We despair at the cross and, finally, mercifully arrive at the resurrection.

Perhaps this pandemic has been the same sort of journey.  A journey with roundabouts of possibility and potholes full of failings.  We have traveled through self-discoveries, loss and deep grief, blazing beauty and love and hope and grace.  The journey has uncovered all of the best and the worst of humanity.  And God has remained with us, just as God remained with the Israelites.

Prayer: Dear God, As we journey through Lent, keep us from breaking down or grumbling and bring us, at last, to the bright hope of the resurrection. We know you are with us. Amen.

Author: Teri Boone, Elder class of 2023

[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 February 19 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: Numbers 31-32

Key verse: (32:5) “If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession.  Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

Reflection: How often have I chosen my plans, thinking they are in line with God’s desires in my life?  And how often have I judged other’s plans without fully knowing the reasoning behind their actions?

In this passage, the Reubenites and Gadites are one battle away from crossing the Jordan to reach the west, the Promised Land.  But they decide the east side is more suited to their needs, to their livestock and possessions. From Moses’ perspective, this was all about their financial bottom line. Moses’ first thought is that this goes against God’s plan of having all 12 tribes live together in community, and that these tribes want to escape the trauma of any more battles. Moses lets them have it, he doesn’t hold back.

And yet when given a chance, the two tribes explain themselves, and assure Moses that they will not leave the other tribes defenseless. Instead, the Reubenites and Gadites promise to continue in battle until all the other tribes have reached the promised land.

God loves us enough to give us the freedom of choice and allows us to discern what it means to follow God’s will. Sometimes that is messy, and sometimes we end up walking further away from God rather than closer to God. Sometimes we think we know what other’s intentions are, but are surprised when we stop and listen. Other times, it seems like all has fallen away from God’s desires, like when the tribes were conquered by the Assyrians. And yet, God continues to be present and work through all of the ups and downs, twists and turns in our lives. 

How might the Reubenites and Gadites lives have been different if they hadn’t listened to their instincts, but instead entered the promised land? Perhaps their lives would have been better, perhaps things would have been different. Or perhaps they would have faced a different set of challenges that God would have seen them through. Could it be possible that God doesn’t have just one plan for our lives, but is present with us through all of our circumstances?

God loves us and wants the best for us, so we may be a blessing to others. We see that love in droves when we follow God’s will through discernment, rather than solely relying on our own desires. And yet God is bigger than any one of our decisions, and meets us where we are no matter our choices. During this season of Lent, may we reflect on those times that we’ve chosen our priorities over God’s, and consider God’s presence with us through life’s ups and downs. And through life’s journey may we look to Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the cross offers us both hope and salvation!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we journey through Lent, help us to prepare our hearts and minds, reflecting on the ways we have strayed from your will. Teach us to take up the cross of Christ with grateful hearts and humble spirits. In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

Author: Beth Bell, Elder class of 2022

[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].