Monday May 20 2019

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Scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-15

Key verse: (15) For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Reflection: Jeremiah was a social critic and a spiritual guide who challenged God’s people to faithfulness in an anxious time. Remember that God had given the chosen Hebrew people a promised land and they had formed a nation with Jerusalem as their capital. They built a temple in Jerusalem that was the spiritual center of their faith. The land, the nation, and the temple all symbolized God’s presence with the people and assured them of God’s care for them.

Jeremiah preached around the time when Babylon conquered Jerusalem, reducing much of the city to rubble. Jeremiah wasn’t a popular prophet because he challenged the people for their lack of trust in God. In today’s passage, Jeremiah is in prison when he learns that his cousin Hanamel needs to sell land and is going to offer it to Jeremiah for purchase. This was called “redemption” when a relative bought back the land during a time of financial distress and kept the land in the family.

Buying land, when you know that Babylon is about to conquer your nation, doesn’t seem very smart. It’s like buying land right before it’s flooded by the construction of a new dam. It’s not a sound business decision. But Jeremiah bought the land as an act of faith. His purchase became a sign of his trust that God would one day restore the nation and return the land to the people. Jeremiah was willing to invest his money in an act of faith. A foolish real estate transaction became a sign of God’s future for the people.

As we begin this week, how will we live out our faith? How will we invest ourselves (yes, including our money!) in ways that reveal our trust in God? How will we invest our time and our energy this week? Maybe we are called to do something that looks foolish because we believe in a powerful God and a future of hope.

Prayer: O God, give me wisdom and courage today so that, as I face every decision, I will trust in you. Reveal opportunities to me when I can invest in your kingdom and in your promises for the future. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

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

Friday May 17 2019

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Scripture: John 12:9-19

Key verse: (19) “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

Reflection: Over the years, I have noticed a pattern in Jesus’ ministry, and that is that he always seems to be bringing life where there once was no life at all.  Just before this text, Jesus has gone to Mary’s house and raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead. That’s a life-from-death story if I’ve ever heard one.  But it is also a story about joy where there was once only sorrow, courage where there was once only fear, possibility where there once was only finality.  Because of Jesus, a man came to life!  That’s an amazing story!  It is so amazing, in fact, that according to John, it is the reason crowds gathered to wave palms as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  They wanted to catch a glimpse of the man who has the power to bring life.

Where have you seen Jesus at work in this way in the world, or in your own life?  When have you experienced renewal after a rut?  When have you been courageous when it would have been easier to slink away?  Who has helped you remember God’s love when you’ve felt utterly alone?  Have you ever experienced the joy that comes in the morning after a long night of grief?  What a miracle! Jesus’ ministry of life has touched you.

Take some time today to think about how you might share Jesus’ ministry of life with a hurting world.

Prayer: Dear God, you call us to life and life abundant.  Give me wisdom and boldness in sharing the gifts of life with others. 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].

Thursday May 16 2019

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Scripture: Jeremiah 31:1-14

Key verses: (13-14)

13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14  I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the LORD.

Reflection: Jeremiah writes to the Israelites living in exile with promises of God. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3). “The days are surly coming” Jeremiah says over and over again to those who feel lost. (Jeremiah 31:27, 31 38) The days are surely coming when I will turn your mourning into joy. Restoration for the people of God.

It is a promise offered to all of us. Restoration. Joy. Hope.

Take a deep breath and be present wherever you are. Hear the promise that God loves you with an everlasting love. Take another deep breath and know that surly the days are coming when there will be joy.

Joy. I wonder if we could transform our idea of joy as an expected experience or something you feel and hear as a lasting way of being in the presence of God. In the midst of exile. In the midst of despair. In the midst of the messiness of our days maybe we can experience a bit of joy because we are in the presence of God. Everyday. Everywhere.

Prayer: God, take away everything that inhibits me from living joy. With you. 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 May 15 2019

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Scripture: Luke 6:27-38

Key verse: (27) “But I say to you that listen…”

Reflection: This week’s gospel reading continues in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke.  The whole sermon is found in Luke 6:17-49.  Though it is similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew, there are some notable differences.  Most notable is the length.  The Sermon on the Mount is Matthew 5-7—three full chapters.  The Sermon on the Plain is only thirty-two verses, but those verses pack quite a punch.  The Sermon on the Plain is incredibly plain spoken.  Today’s portion illustrates this fact.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Matthew’s Jesus takes a few paragraphs to lay all that out.  In Luke, Jesus takes just one verse, making it plain and simple…and incredibly hard.

What are we to do with these commands of our Lord?  One option is to ignore them. Many do. Though by so doing, we would have to ask if Jesus really is our Lord. Another is to read them but not practice them in any meaningful way.  That may be worse than simply ignoring them.  Or we could listen to them.  Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen…”  What would it mean to be counted among the listeners?

Prayer: Open my soul, O Lord, to listen to what you say.  May your words become my actions.  When I fall short of your commands, may your grace sustain me in your love. 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 May 14 2019

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Scripture: Luke 6:12-26

Key verses: (20-21)

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21  “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

Reflection: I attended my son’s college graduation this past weekend. That sentence astounds me, as it seems we just dropped him off for his freshman year. The day before that, he was starting Kindergarten. Now, he is on the cusp of everything. With a job lined up already, he is excited about the future ahead, even with lots of transition in between now and then.

It was different for my husband and me to be sitting in Kenan football stadium on a Sunday morning, instead of in worship, where we usually are. We watched the thousands of students file into their seats, with family and friends applauding. It was a beautiful scene (even though to me, the color was a little too Carolina blue and not the prettier Duke blue shade…)

The graduation speaker was Jonathan Reckford, a one-time Executive Pastor, who is now the CEO of Habitat for Humanity. His address sounded a lot like a sermon to me, and one that I hope the graduates internalize. He asked them some good questions, including these:

  • What voices will you allow to speak into your life?
  • How will you define “rich?”
  • What are you uniquely wired to do?

Our faith asks us those same questions.

  • As followers of Jesus, we are called to let the voice of scripture, of Jesus, and of our faith tradition speak to us. Those are the words and instructions we are to learn, examine, and internalize as we let them guide our actions and our understanding of who we are as children of God.
  • Jesus flipped the idea of what “rich” meant, calling those who are hungry and poor “blessed” and asking pointed questions of those who were conventionally rich. We are to measure our lives by a richness that comes not from monetary treasures, but something much deeper.
  • We are all uniquely wired to be the selves God created us to be. Embracing that, and finding our calling in life, is a task that requires reevaluation over and over again. In this season of graduations and transitions, may we all take time to reflect on who we are, and who God is calling us to be.

Prayer: Lord, you are with me in every transition. Help me listen to you. Teach me what it means to be rich in the way you value. Show me who you have created me to be as your child, blessed to be a blessing. 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 May 13 2019

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Scripture: Colossians 1:1-14

Key verses: (3-4) “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, . . .”

Reflection: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be known for your faith in Jesus Christ and your love of others?  The members of the church in Colossae were such people.  They were good and faithful followers of Jesus following the teachings and example of the Apostle Paul.  It is obvious when you read this letter how pleased Paul is with them.  These first 14 verses in Paul’s letter are some of the most encouraging words he ever writes to any congregation.  There is much here to instruct us as we seek to grow in faith and become more loving people.  Think how powerful a witness we would make to others in the world around us if we lived out of the grace of God, filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, leading lives worthy of the Lord.  Everyone we came in contact with us would see God’s strength and light in us!

Over the course of my life, I have met people who lived up to this description. They are the kind of people who make you feel comfortable, accepted and cared for.  They are the kind of people who take an interest in your interests; who encourage you when you are down; and forgive you when you are wrong.  They are the kind of people who live out of the redemption and forgiveness they have received through Jesus Christ by serving others.  They are the saints we can aspire to become – with God’s help.

Prayer: Loving God, help us to live into our faith becoming the men and women you intend for us to be.  May we be strengthened by your presence in our lives.   Show us how to live joyfully in the light of your forgiveness and grace.  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 May 10 2019

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Scripture: 2 John 1-13

Key verse: (5) But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.

Reflection: Love one another. It’s one of the two central commands of our faith (love God and love neighbor). It sounds so simple but we know it quickly becomes complex.

This short letter is written to a “dear lady,” likely a church that is referred to with a feminine noun. The author reminds the dear lady (aka the members of the church) of a commandment that they’ve had since the beginning, the command to love one another. This isn’t a new-fangled idea or a trendy fad. This isn’t something the writer thought of on his own. Love one another.

Now, we know that Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. But I’m intrigued that, in this context, the writer is calling the members of the church to love one another. Sometimes that’s harder to do than loving our neighbors and our enemies!

We know the old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” and sometimes that’s true. The people we know the best, the people we are with the most – those are the people who drive us crazy sometimes. The church community can be like that. We can find ourselves annoyed with one another, we see each other’s flaws and we know each other’s mistakes, we become aware of the minor differences in opinion or perspective.

Let us love one another. Love the people in your congregation. What if you do something bold like sit with the person who annoys you? Or invite someone to lunch even though you know their mistakes? Or pray for the family that seems to be different from you? This Sunday, dear lady, you have an opportunity to love one another.

Prayer: O God, fill me with your love overflowing so that I am able to love the people around me. Give me loving eyes to see my brothers and sisters in faith. Guide me to love the members of my church family, my church’s leaders and teachers. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

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