Monday March 25 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 121

Reflection: It is said that when the people of God went on a journey, they went singing. There was a beat, a rhythm, to their walking together, so that as they went, they were able to remember who they were.  Far from home and on unfamiliar terrain, God’s promises remained the same.

Psalm 121 is a journeying song with a steady, comforting beat: Keep. Keep. Keep.  Six times in ten verses, the song reminds the people that God keeps watch over them – God protects and cares for them.  God stays awake to watch over them.  Like a leafy canopy, God shields them from the scorch of the sun.  God watches over their (collective) life.  As they come and go, God tends to them.

As you read the psalm, notice how the promise comes again and again.  With every footstep, a reminder of the One who goes with them.  With every reminder, the courage to take another step.  The promise sets the pace.  Keep. Keep. Keep.

The promise is as sure for the people of God today as it was in the psalmist’s day.  As we accompany each other on life’s journey, we are to remind each other of who we are: people who walk by faith, and not by sight, trusting the one who keeps watch over each one of us.  Sometimes, we are the ones who sing this promise with loud conviction.  Other times, we trust the community around us to raise the theme on our behalf.  Always, it is the promise that binds us to one another in love.

Prayer: O God, you promise again and again to keep watch over your people.  Help us to remind one another of this good news as we seek to follow you. Amen.

Author: Anna Dickson

[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 March 22 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 148

Key verses: (3-12)

3   Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
4   Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5   Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
6   He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

7   Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
8   fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

9   Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10  Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

11  Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12  Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

Reflection: Psalm 148 highlights the beginning of our world, reminding us of the God of creation. The sun and the moon, the waters above the heavens, fire and snow, fruit trees and cedars, and all people were created by our God.

All of creation is to praise the Lord: the shining stars, highest heavens, sea monsters from the deep, creeping things, and flying birds. Similar to Genesis 1, this list of creation culminates in humanity. It’s an inclusive Psalm. Nothing, or no one, is left out, not even the kings on earth, old people, or young people. We are all called to acknowledge the sovereignty and ultimate reign of the Lord.

The first question in the Westminster Catechism, from the Book of Confessions (Part I of the Constitution of the PCUSA) states: “What is the chief and highest end of humanity? Humanity’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully enjoy God forever.”

As we go out this day, let us remember that we are put on earth to glorify and praise God.

Prayer: God, thank you for creation; thank you for creating each one of us. Help us to remember to praise you in our daily lives. And forgive us when we forget. We pray all this in the name of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Amen.

Author: Amy Speas

[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 March 21 2019

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Scripture: John 5:19-29

Key verses: (28,29) Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Reflection: In this scripture, John makes clear his identity with God. Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us. It does not tell us where God is but it tells us where we are, in the presence of God. Our belief in Jesus brings us into God’s presence. It is for this reason that we can trust in the authority of Jesus to judge, and we can rejoice in the grace of Jesus to give life.

As we walk this Lenten journey, we carry with us the hope of new life. Jesus both assures us of eternal life in the future resurrection and declares that “the hour . . . is now here” when we who were dead in sin may have new life in Christ. As we wait and prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, let us remember that we need not wait for the presence of God to bring life and hope and joy to our lives and our communities. We claim that hope today. We live into the hope of the resurrection every day.

Prayer: Almighty God, may we celebrate the resurrection not only as something that will come, but also as something that is already happening. 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 March 20 2019

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Scripture: John 5:1-9

Key verse: (6) “Do you want to be made well?”

Reflection: Thirty-eight years. He had been by the pool of healing for thirty-eight years. Where were you thirty-eight years ago? I was 14, finishing up Middle School. Where were you? That man was at the pool, and has been there the past thirty-eight years.

“Do you want to be made well?” Jesus asks. The word translated “well” could be interpreted “whole,” or “healthy,” or “sound.” On the surface, it’s an obvious question. Of course he does. But after thirty-eight years of lying on that mat, thirty-eight years of isolation watching others helped to that pool in front of him, maybe it’s not that obvious. After thirty-eight years, maybe you settle for life as it is. After thirty-eight years, perhaps you prefer life as you have known it to life as you’d given up dreaming it could be. “Do you want to be made well?” asks Jesus.

How do we answer? The man at the pool doesn’t answer the question, he explains why he’s still on that mat. Perhaps after thirty-eight years, he’s a bit defensive about his past. Jesus challenges him to a new tomorrow. “Take up your mat and walk.” And he does; praise God!

Do you want to be made well? Is there something in your life that needs healing, something that keeps you from being whole? Have you lived with it for thirty-eight years? Has it become so familiar it’s hard to imagine being healed? What would it mean for Christ to call you to take up your mat and walk? What if today was the day you gave it a try? What might tomorrow bring if you did?

Prayer: You know where I need healing, O Lord. I want to be well. Give me the courage to take up my mat and walk into the tomorrow you will for me. 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].

Tuesday March 19 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 146

Key verses: (5-9)

5   Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6   who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7        who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8        the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9   The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Reflection: One of the challenges of faith for me, is remembering my role in God’s plans. I trust that God is at work. I have faith that God desires my participation in building the kingdom. I don’t think God is depending solely on me to accomplish God’s good future (this is good news!) But I do resonate with the idea that God’s future calls forth my active effort — that God desires the work of my hands and feet — and that this might be more for me and my soul than for the results. Not that I must do good works in order for God to bless me — rather, my desire to grow in faith and to serve God comes as a result of God’s presence in, and call on my life.

In theological language, we call this process sanctification. God is at work in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we grow in grace, living out our faith. When I get too tired, or stuck in the idea that God is in charge, I forget that God wants me to grow in grace as I work towards the kingdom. When I get too anxious and stuck in the idea that I am in charge, I forget that not everything depends on me. God’s got the future. Reading Scripture helps me find the balance in the middle. I read the words of the Psalmist and want to serve the God described here. The Lord, who created heaven and earth is also intimately involved in the lives of the creatures who inhabit the earth. God, who keeps faith forever, is at work for justice, for freedom, for healing. God feeds the hungry, protects the stranger, cares for the widow and the orphan. How does God do those things? In most ways, through the active participation of God’s people.

Today, may you find a balance between faith in God’s future despite you, and faith that God has a role for you in building that future. For you, and all God’s children.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know you hold the future. Help me grow in grace, trusting that you are at work for good. Help me be part of your mercy and love for others around me. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[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 March 18 2019

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Scripture: John 4:27-42

Key verses: (39-41) Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word.

Reflection: I love this story about the Samaritan woman.  She is the first evangelist for Jesus’ message. We aren’t even told her name, but because of her testimony many people came to Jesus and believed.  She was an outcast in her community.  Some scholars have been quick to label her as a person with low morals.  Many assume she was married 5 times; divorced 5 times and is currently living with someone out-of-wedlock.  However, at that time, a woman couldn’t initiate a divorce.  All her husbands may have died and with each marriage her worth as a person was diminished.  Since women were property, she became less valuable the more times she married.  But, without a man she wouldn’t have been able to survive very long in that culture.  The man she is living with could have been a son, brother, uncle or other kind-hearted male family member who was willing to take her in. Sadly, we often assume the worst about her reputation.  Circumstances – outside of her control – had put her in the position of being judged by others.  Jesus’ acceptance, then, became all the more powerful. It changed her life!  She had to go tell everyone.

When we have an encounter with Jesus in the places where we feel hurt and rejected, we can experience the same joy the Samaritan woman felt.  She was offered living water to satisfy her thirst.  Jesus makes the same offer to us.  And, when we accept his offer, he will use us to lead people to him so that they might know that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

Prayer: Merciful God, we give thanks for the living water you offer us.  We are grateful that even though you know everything about us, you still love us.  We give thanks that you know everything we have ever done – good or bad.  We are humbled by your abiding presence and understanding.  Be with us through every heartache and disappointment; free us from the things that are holding us back; and, help us share your love with 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].

Friday March 15 2019

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Scripture: Hebrews 4:11-16

Key verse: (15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

Reflection: The high priest was the chief religious leader in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The high priest was the only person who entered the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctum of the temple) on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for his own sin and the sin of all the people.

When the letter to the Hebrews was written, the author applied the role of the high priest to Jesus Christ. Jesus was the chief religious leader who was able to intercede between God and humanity to bring about atonement (notice that it is at-one-ment as we are received into right relationship with God).

In this season of Lent, we recognize that we depend on Jesus to be our Lord and our Savior. Jesus was fully human and fully God. He understood human struggle and knew the realities of human weakness. When we look to Jesus as our high priest, we aren’t longing for some distant spirit to help us but we are entrusting ourselves to a God-Human who knows what our lives are like. God isn’t far removed from us but, in Jesus, God chose to be human among us.

Prayer: God of gracious power and powerful grace, deepen our trust in you. Remind us of your love and care for us. Cleanse us of sin and transform us to live as your people. We pray this through our high priest, Jesus Christ our Lord. 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].