Wednesday January 9 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 46

Key verses: (1-3, 10)

1   God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2   Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3   though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

10  “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”

Reflection: In 2001 I was scheduled to preach as a guest at a church on September 16th. I had a sermon text picked out, and had made some notes about what I planned to say. On the Tuesday of that week, September 11th, the world turned upside down. I don’t remember what I had planned to say before then. But I remember what psalm I read on Sunday. It was this one: Psalm 46. I couldn’t think of another description in the Bible that spoke more closely to what it felt like to live through those first days. It felt like the earth was trembling, and everyone was afraid. Yet preachers stood in pulpits all over our country and said something like “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

The Psalmist is confident that God is in control, no matter the trouble at hand. War, rumors of war, upheavals large and small—none of it is outside of God’s ability to be our refuge and strength in the midst of it. The Psalm starts with loud trouble: shaking and roaring. It ends with the quiet reminder to be still, and know that God is God.

I wonder if we can hold onto this reminder all the time. Not just when nations are in an uproar, although that is frequent, even when it might not be apparent to us. I wonder if we can claim the sure and certain hope of God as refuge and strength in the middle of whatever troubles us on a smaller scale: family woes, worries about jobs, health, the future. Can you find the strength to be still, and trust that God is in charge?

Prayer: Lord, you are my refuge and strength, always. Help me to trust in you. Help me to be still and know that you are God, and I am not. And that is good news. 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].

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Tuesday January 8 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 27

Key verse: (1) “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

Reflection: In our psalm today, King David is celebrating his confidence in the LORD.  David spent a lot of time fighting enemies.  He writes about enemies all around him — armies camped outside ready to attack and internal fears within.  So, he reminds himself repeatedly who is the source of his confidence and trust.  This psalm contains a mix of affirmations and grateful praise to God, expressing both what David believes and what he hopes God will do for him.   This is what he affirms:

*The LORD is my light and my salvation; the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I fear?

*When I am surrounded by enemies I will be confident – because I know the LORD – I seek God, reflect on God, and inquire about the things of God

*The LORD is a refuge and the one who hears his prayers

*Teach me your way and show me the way to go

*Wait for the LORD; be strong, take courage

How might our lives be different if we prayed these affirmations found in this psalm When we are afraid it’s important to remember what we believe and who we believe in. Psalm 27 is one reminder. It assures us that we can turn to God on the brightest day or in the darkest night.  The LORD is with us.  This doesn’t mean we will be immune to fear.  Fear is a normal part of life.  But, it does mean that we will be grounded in and anchored to God who is greater than our fear.

Prayer: O Lord, help us be confident in prayer knowing that you hear us.  As we rely more and more on you, remind us that you are our light and refuge from all that challenges us.  May we continue to serve you faithfully.  Give us strength and courage to face the day.  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 7 2019

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Scripture: John 2:1-11

Key verse: (11) Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Reflection: This is the inaugural scene in Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of John. It’s an unusual miracle because no one is healed, no demons are exorcised, no hungry person is fed. Water becomes wine at a wedding celebration.

The wedding reception ran out of wine. For the bride and groom, this would have been a disgrace. It might have been seen as bad luck for their future. Run out of wine at your wedding and it might mean your marriage will always be lacking – lacking in love, lacking in peace, lacking in children. With his mother’s prompting, Jesus has the servants fill six purification jars with water.  Each jar would hold between 20 and 30 gallons. Somehow that water, almost 180 gallons of it, becomes wine!

John tells us that this is the first “sign” and reveals Jesus’ glory. Signs are clues that point to the identity of Jesus as both human and divine. Signs are places where heaven and earth intersect in the gospel story.

In the Old Testament, an abundance of wine was one of the many images for the joy of God’s new age (Amos 9:13-14, Joel 3:18, Jeremiah 31:12, Isaiah 25:6-10). This kind of abundance was lavish beyond all imagining. This is a story of transformation, giving us a clue that Jesus can transform ordinary things into extraordinary things. Jesus is the lavish extravagant gift from God to humanity. In him, the fullness of grace and truth overflow for the world (John 1:14) and he will transform our lives with abundant grace. How is God pouring out love on you that will overflow with abundance to touch all those around you?

Prayer: Great God, your grace is always an unexpected miracle. Fill us with the wine of new life, promised in the transforming power of Jesus Christ, who that we might share good news with the world. In Jesus’ name we 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 January 4 2019

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Scripture: Exodus 3:1-5

Reflection: Historically, I haven’t been much for making resolutions at the new year, probably because I am painfully aware of how hard it is to keep them.  But over the last few years, I’ve made a few that have turned into habits that have stuck. I have found that, when I can simplify my resolutions, I have a better chance of living them out.  A few years ago, when I was a new mom with a full-time job and looking for ways to simplify my schedule and reduce stress, my resolution was “do things that make sense”.  This helped me to think ahead and anticipate needs during the week, and then to be more organized about addressing them.  For example, if I knew I was going to be across town for one errand, I could tack on the one that was less urgent, but still nagged.  Last year, it was “take the time to express appreciation”.  I made this my resolution after realizing that while I admired so many things about my friends, family, and colleagues, I didn’t verbalize my admiration very much.  This was my way of reminding myself not just to think, but to act – to move from admiration to gratitude.

If the call of Moses commends any resolution to us here at the beginning of another new year, it might be “be interrupt-able”.  Notice what is happening in the story.  Moses is going about his normal week.  He has shown up on time and is checking things off his list.  And, all of a sudden, a sign of the presence of God appears.  We would do well to note that the story says, “When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…”.  If Moses had not stopped and turned to pay attention, he might have missed God right there in front of him, calling him to new life.

I wonder how often God tries to get our attention in the midst of our typical, busy weeks.  It may not be in the form of a burning bush, but could it be that God shows up in our lives and asks us to take a minute, put down whatever it is we are doing, and pay attention?  Perhaps it is a stranger who needs help when we are out rushing through our errands.  Perhaps it is a child who wants to show you a piece of “artwork” or to kick a ball when you feel your “to do” list growing.  Perhaps it is a phone call you “don’t have time” to take, but do anyway.  Perhaps, it is when we can stop rushing through our lives that we can perceive the ways God is trying to speak to us, to call us again to love each other the way that Christ has first loved us.

We live in a culture where busyness is seen as a status symbol.  Ours is a culture where rushing is a virtue, a sign of our importance.  But maybe God is calling us to “be interrupt-able” – which is to say, to be attentive to how God chooses to show up in our lives, even and especially when it isn’t on our agenda.

Prayer: Dear God, help me to trust you enough with my life to risk turning aside, like Moses, to see you at work in my life in unexpected ways. 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 January 3 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 107

Key verses: (1-2; 4-8; 12-15; 17-21; 26-28; 30-31; 43)

1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2   Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
those he redeemed from trouble

4   Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5   hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7   he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
8   Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

12  Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;
they fell down, with no one to help.
13  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
14  he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
15  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

17  Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18  they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20  he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
21  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

26  They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27  they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;

30  Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

43  Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Reflection: Scripture is a “living word that is not exhausted in an ancient situation nor does it require repetition of history to become valid again, but runs freely, challenging a new generation of believers to see a fresh correspondence between word and experience,” writes Leslie C. Allen in Psalms. Psalm 107 is a living, breathing text that challenges people both long ago and in the here and now.

We cry out to God through prayer in distress, and darkness and gloom, and anytime we need help. The refrain, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,” appears four times (vs. 6, 13, 19, and 28). We pray continuously in times of distress and darkness and gloom, as the Psalter did. Similarly, God responds with God’s steadfast love today as in the Psalters life. The refrain “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,” appears in response to each cry to the Lord (vs. 8, 15, 21, and 31). We pray to the Lord for help, and God responds with steadfast love. We are to thank God for this love.

The Psalter begins and ends with God’s steadfast love as a reminder of God’s everlasting love. Let us now give gratitude to God.

Prayer: Dear God, as we come to you in times of trouble, we thank you for your steadfast love, that existed with the Psalter and with us today. We ask you to continue this love in any times of trouble. 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].

Wednesday January 2 2019

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Scripture: John 6:35-42

Key verse: (35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Reflection: As we start a new year, food is probably the last thing you want to think about! I spent the holidays making food that was my grandmother’s, my sister’s, food from my childhood in New Orleans and food from my husband’s family in Baltimore. That was all on top of the traditional Christmas cookies, oyster crackers, candy canes and parties with amazing food. I wanted to pass on traditions to my children through the food they eat. Food has the power to bring joy or transport us to another time and place. It can comfort us just with the smell of something familiar. Food is also deeply biblical.

There is some deep theological meaning to the bread of life and we can spend some time unpacking it or we can just take Jesus for his word. Trust Jesus will provide.

I think he wanted us to just keep it all in perspective. Look at how Jesus used food to feed people who were hungry. Basic.  Jesus was found at parties and celebrations where there was food. He used food to show compassion.  Think about how much we worry about the perfect meal, what we will eat, how it will look to others or if my children will remember anything GOOD about my cooking!!! Jesus said, I am the bread of life. This is what is important. You will have food to eat…get some perspective.

It is a new year. A new opportunity to remember that everything is about Jesus.

Prayer: Loving God, prepare me this day to embrace your son more fully. 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].

 

 

Tuesday January 1 2019

 

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Scripture: Genesis 17:1-12a, 15-16

Key verses: (5, 15) “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations…As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.”

Reflection:  Happy New Year!  Today we flip the calendar to 2019.  In our culture, it’s a day of new beginnings, new resolutions, new you-name-it.  Of course, it doesn’t take long for the new to wear off.  According to studies, only 8% of people end up keeping their New Year’s resolutions.  Roughly half of us fall off the wagon by the end of January.  Perhaps this is because there really isn’t anything that new about a date on the calendar.  It does speak to our longing for new beginnings and fresh starts.  We long for something new, but the strength of our will, the power of our emotion, and the clarity of our intellect continues to produce the old in the power of the same old same old.

Today’s reading from Genesis offers something truly new.  We have a 99-year-old man and an 89-year-old woman who are childless whose names are changed to reflect the new thing God is going to do through them.  Abram, a name which means “exalted ancestor,” becomes Abraham, which means “Ancestor of a multitude.”  And Sarai is given a Hebrew name, Sarah, which means “princess.” Their name change reflects the truly new thing God is doing — giving them a baby.  Now THAT is something truly new!  That will change everything.

Theologian, Paul Tillich writes of new things and old things, “The new is not created out of the old, not out of the best of the old, but out of the death of the old.  It is not the old which creates the new.  That which creates the new is that which is beyond old and beyond new, the Eternal…The only way to discover something truly new, the new thing only God can bring, is to open ourselves to the God who is beyond this world.”  (From Paul Tillich’s sermon, “The New Being.”)

So this New Year’s Day, with Abraham and Sarah, may we open ourselves to the One who is beyond old and new, the Eternal, to see what new things God can bring in our lives, our relationships, and our world.

Prayer: You are the One who does new things, O Lord, for you are beyond the same old-same old.  Open my heart to welcome the new life only you can bring that I might live into the fullness of your will for my tomorrows.  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].