Friday March 27 2020

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

Key verse: (31) Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Reflection: Chapter 13 of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church has been referred to as the “Love Chapter.” Paul is urging the church to seek the greater gift of life which is love. You might ask, “I thought Paul said all gifts are important. And now he is saying to seek something that is even greater. Are there superior gifts?”

You would be correct in saying that we all have spiritual gifts, unique and important gifts. “The most excellent way” Paul is referring to is a different focus of the gifts – love. Speaking in tongues may be regarded by the Corinthian community as one of the superior gifts. But, as Paul continues to say, if there is no love, it is nothing. Likewise, if you have been given the gift of prophesy and understand all the mysteries of life, even possessing faith that can move mountains, but you do not have love, it is nothing. Paul is not saying forfeit those spiritual gifts that have been given to you by the Spirit. Paul is grounding the church, and each and every spiritual gift, in love. If there is not love in what we do, or what we say, or how we act, then there is nothing.

I wonder how you are pursuing love today. I wonder how our response to the times at hand can be grounded in love.

Prayer: You taught us what love means, O God. Help us to seek the greatest gift of life which is love, personified in Jesus Christ. For it is in his name that we 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].

 

Thursday March 26 2020

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Key verses: (12-13)“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Reflection: This portion of the letter to Corinth is a prelude to the familiar love passage in 1 Corinthians 13. When we realize that we belong to Christ and are one body, we begin to discover what it truly means to love as Christ loves. The current pandemic is a great leveler. All of us are having to change our routines and adapt to new circumstances. No one is exempt. We are doing things differently and being tested by these changes. We have been given a wonderful opportunity to be unified in our mission to love by giving our gifts and resources away instead of hoarding them; taking time for each other by staying in touch; and reaching out to those who are on the verge of losing hope because of work or food insecurity.

In today’s text the Apostle Paul reminded the church that they belonged to one another. This was an important message then and it’s an important message now. Each of us has an important part to play. And, all these parts work together for the common good. Because COVID 19 has spread throughout the world affecting the health of people across the globe, we have discovered our common humanity and how connected we are in the global community. We need each other. Our first responders, medical personal, community and national leaders are on the front lines (thank God for them), and we, the body of Christ in the world, have been given the privilege to build up the body of Christ so that we might support the weak and suffering. We have a particular part to play. Working together we will get through this time of anxiety and uncertainty. Pray for our world and for all those who are grieving. Pray that we might discover new ways to share the love of Jesus Christ with those around us so that we might become a beacon of hope in a time of fear and despair.

Prayer: Merciful God, we turn to you for comfort and strength. Open our hearts to your love that we might share your message of hope with others. Help us adapt to the sudden changes in our lives. And, through it all, remind us that we are the body of Christ and we belong to you and each other. 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].

Wednesday March 25 2020

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Key verse: (7) To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Reflection: We are living in tumultuous times. Many of us are living with a great deal of anxiety and fear. The corona virus, the stock market, the presidential election – nothing seems calm right now.

When we find ourselves in this kind of situation, it’s tempting to focus on ourselves and our own families. That might mean we hoard supplies, buying up more toilet paper or hand sanitizer than we need.  That might mean we worry only about our personal investment portfolio and not about our neighbors who have lost their entire income stream. That might mean we take the call to provide social distance as an excuse to retreat into our own little world and not interact with others.

Paul wrote letters to the Christians in the city of Corinth because they were dealing with anxious conflicted times. They worried about who was most important and they judged others for being less worthy. Their own insecurities led them to be judgmental and selfish. They were tempted to focus on themselves.

In that tumultuous situation, Paul wrote about their gifts. He reminded them that each one has been given gifts by the Spirit that are intended to be used for the common good. Unlike birthday gifts or Christmas gifts, spiritual gifts aren’t intended for the enjoyment of the recipient. The Spirit gives us gifts to share with one another. The Spirit enables us to serve our neighbors. The Spirit connects us into one Body of Christ. Even if we are alone at home, we aren’t spiritually alone. We can make phone calls. We can make a donation. We can write a note. We have gifts to share.

Prayer: O God, show me how to share my gifts during this time. Give me tangible things to do to love my neighbors. When I tempted by selfishness, remind me of your abundant grace that enables me to be part of a faith family. 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].

Tuesday March 24 2020

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Scripture: Mark 8:1-10

Key verses: (1-8) In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Reflection: No tortilla’s, pita’s, hamburger rolls and not even the gluten free bread! NOTHING! Last night, there were barely crumbs on the shelves at Harris Teeter when I stopped by after being at the church. Our plan was for grilled cheese (or grilled peanut butter for me- I don’t eat Cheese!). Pasta it shall be because we are definitely not without food. We are without what we planned. Most of us are not hungry. If we dug into our pantry we would have enough to share with our neighbors.

I wonder if that was the miracle. Seven loaves were shared. Then the baskets were passed and people put in a little bit extra that they had. They shared. That is the miracle. Jesus invites us to love our neighbor and when we do, there is abundance. There is love and abundance.

One more thing from this text. Jesus doesn’t often share his feelings but here we see that he has compassion on the crowd. They have been with him for three days and they are hungry. They are his people and he feels compassion for them. Just because there is no bread at Harris Teeter doesn’t mean that we are hungry. It also doesn’t mean that we are NOT hungry. What are you hungry for? Know that Jesus has compassion for you today and always.

Prayer: God, may I trust love when it stares back at me, bringing light into a dark moment. Take away my anger at being unplanned and unscheduled. Help me to take a breath and just stop and feel. Feel and receive love when and where it is offered today. Guide me in my loving and sharing. I know I am able to love because you first loved me. 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].

 

 

 

Monday March 23 2020

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Scripture: Psalm 121

Reflection: Today’s devotional is based on Psalm 121. It’s in a video form. You can access it here or by clicking the image below.

Joe Video Devo Still

 

[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 20 2020

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Scripture: Genesis 47:1-26

Key verses: (5-6) “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land.”

Reflection: This morning in the midst of more news and uncertainty I was thinking about how there are not many events that are commonly shared world-wide. Often times what is a major event for one people or group has little or no importance to another. The time that we are in, however, is a world-wide experience; an experience I wish we didn’t have, but one none the less that we are all experiencing together.

In our scripture for today, there was a famine throughout all the land which caused Joseph’s family to enter into Egypt, a famine spreading far and wide known by many many people. Again, this is an experience that Joseph and his family could have done without, but it happened. And as we turn to scripture we see that even in the midst of terrible hardship God’s presence is made known. In fact, it is often in these times that we come to find just how big God is.

For Joseph’s family, there was no reason Pharaoh needed to welcome them in, care for them, and give them the best of the land. But through God’s grace and the kindness of Pharaoh, the family was welcomed and cared for during a difficult time. This was not God working through the Jews, but God working through an outsider. We see this again and again in the Bible (we just often forget!), where God works outside of the people who recognize God as God.

Over the next few days and weeks, I would encourage you to look for God’s work outside of the church walls. Notice where God’s love, mercy, grace, patience, hospitality, selflessness, and care are coming from. Yes, we as the church are extending these signs, but notice too just how big God is, notice how far reaching God’s care and provision are. And may you be at peace, knowing that this God, the God of all people and places cares for each and every one of us.

Prayer: Loving God, we give you thanks and praise for you are bigger than we can ever imagine or know. We thank you for the ways in which you have shown your love for us and all people. Empower us to continue to show your love in every corner of the earth. 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 March 19 2020

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Scripture: Genesis 46:1-7; 28-34

Key verse: (4) I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again

Reflection: The first seven verses of this chapter tells of Jacob taking his entire family to Egypt. Jacob left Canaan, leaving a place of resources, a place of family history, a place that would become the promised land, packed up everything and began the trek toward Egypt to reunite with Joseph. Although the thought of reunion livened his spirit, this must have been a hard decision.

In the past weeks we have seen series of hard decisions: public school closings, leagues and sporting events cancelled, businesses shut down, statewide and national advisories, among various relief efforts that must be taken into consideration. It may feel as if you have taken your entire household to a new place, working to find a new normal in the midst of the decisions being made.

Jacob, named Israel, heard from God one night in Beersheba. God said, “do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.” God continues, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt.” Let these words bring you comfort as we are being called into a new normal. Our God is a great and powerful God. God is a God above and beyond, and our God is a God of intimacy and presence. God went with Israel into Egypt, and God goes with us as we navigate the transitions in our life. God goes with us and will also bring us up again.

Prayer: Ever-present God, you walked with Israel into a new land, and you brought Israel back into the Promised Land. We give you thanks. Grant us peace of mind and the comfort of your presence as we navigate the newness and strangeness of each day. 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].