Blog
Daily Devotion – April 29, 2012
04.30.12

 John 10: 11-18

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep.
12The hired hand, who is
not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves
the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for
the sheep.
14I am the good
shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
15just as the Father
knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring
them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one
shepherd.
17For this reason the
Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
18No one takes* it from me, but I
lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to
take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Reflection by Angela Gula

Last year during Lent, a group of us
would gather on a weekly basis for a Bible Study. During that period we spent a
lot of our time examining the Gospel of John and reflecting on recurring
themes—the contrast between light and darkness, the Pharisees lack of “knowing”
God despite being the most educated people in the Gospel, and the high
Christology of this Gospel (Jesus stating that he and the Father are one).
Spending so much time with these themes in the past I can’t help but look for
them in any passage I read from the Gospel of John.

My favorite theme was always the
Pharisees in part because I could somewhat relate to them and in part because I
found it humorous. The most educated people, the leaders, the know-it-alls,
needed things to be spelled out to them time and time again.

Chapter 10 begins with Jesus trying
to get the Pharisees to understand who he was by using figurative language. Not
a surprise to find that the Pharisees didn’t get what Jesus was trying to say,
so Jesus tried again, but this time, more directly. In verse 11 where today’s
devotion picks up, Jesus begins by blatantly stating “I am the good shepherd.”
Three verses later he states this again, clearly acknowledging that he is the
one that has come to care for his flock. That he will make the ultimate
sacrifice for his flock—lay down his life. 

Prayer:

Dear God, Thank you for being our steadfast shepherd—for watching over us,
protecting us and knowing us
.



Daily Devotion – April 27, 2012
04.27.12

 

1 John 3:19-22

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Reflection by Don Tawney

In this chapter it doesn’t take John long to get to talking about sinning.  He tells us not to sin, tells us to live right, and lets us know how we can tell if we are living right.  He is preaching at us.  I’ve had enough of being preached at, haven’t you?

Often when I read the Bible, I feel as if I am a child again, listening to what seems to me to be an agonizingly long speech by one of my parents telling me something “for my own good”.  Right…

There must be something beyond our mortal power of suppression that compels preachers, whether apostles, pastors, or parents to tell us what we’re doing wrong.  I know it can’t be suppressed because even though I swore I would never be like my parents, I find myself preaching to my kids.  Of course, I couch my ethical message in language that I would use as a guest parent expert on Oprah (if Oprah were still on), but I hear the unspoken response from my kids loud and clear:  “When is he going to shut up?!”

So, putting myself in John’s place, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is trying to help me.  I read the words and try to lower my guard—It doesn’t work the first 5 times.  Then, I settle on something he says that takes me beyond the words:  “…we set our hearts at rest in his presence…”  There you go, heart at rest.  I’ll go for that.  How do I get there?  Can I get there, and if I can will I ever make it?

Here is how I see the process of trying to get there.  If I sound preachy while explaining, well, I just can’t help it.

For me having a heart at rest that would give me confidence before God means I live my life, every moment of my life, in such a way that every act respects and strengthens the love I have for others and the love they have for me.  If I ever act, or even half-intentionally let myself slip into an act that I know down deep would be hurtful to those I love, then I will not have a heart at rest.  This is especially true when there is little to no possibility that the other person would ever even know about my act.  A wrong, something that would hurt another person if he or she knows or doesn’t know about it, creates emotional and spiritual distance.  It will fester.  Someday it will surface and there will be pain, and innocent ones will suffer.

What more can you ask for than to experience simultaneously the eternal joy of truly loving another person and being truly loved in return?  The only thing preventing God from answering the prayer for such a life is a heart not at rest.

 



Daily Devotion – April 26, 2012
04.26.12

 

1 John 3:18

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

The scripture addresses the readers as children; in essence we are placed in the same category as Jesus, the son of God. 

What a privilege—to be in God’s family!

 

Prayer:

Greatest Lord, we thank you every day for your love, your guidance, and your comfort.  Help us to share this love with everyone we encounter throughout our lives.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – April 25, 2012
04.25.12

April 25, 2012

Metaphysical Gravity

 

I John 3:16-24

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

 Little children, let us love, not in words or speech, but in truth and action.  Any by this we will know that we are from truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them.  And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.”

 

Reflection by Gabriela Mills

Buckminster Fuller was once quoted as saying, “Love is metaphysical gravity.”  Love, like gravity, grounds us, orients us, it brings us back to a place of centeredness.  What are we without love?  What would this world look like without gravity? 

 

Science tells us that a gravity-free earth would be somewhat chaotic.  A common scene depicted in Science Fiction films portrays outer space as a lucid, floating environment in which objects first collide and then bounce off each other and stream through the galaxy without true direction.  Astronauts, in this scene, are often shown as unable to discern up from down except for the ever important tether connected to their spaceship.  I must say that I agree with Buckminster Fuller; love is metaphysical gravity.

 

The writer of this passage reminds us that the supreme act of love was the sacrifice made by Jesus. We are reminded to love in our actions – not just in the words we speak.   Christ loved those around him by caring for them and acting the love that was in him.  Loving ‘each other into well being’ would be impossible if we were not first anchored in love ourselves.  Love, like gravity, gives us the ability to discern, it gives us the ability to move decidedly in the right direction.  Just as gravity orients everything on earth, this passage reminds us that love is the powerful, grounding force that orients us.  Without it we would be overwhelmed by mere emotion, floating recklessly from one self-absorbed thought to another.  When we act in love, however, the ground we walk on is always solid and we embody confidence.

 

The “boldness,” the confidence that the writer talks about is only available when we are grounded in love.  What a wonderful element of the life given to us by God!  Praise be to God!

 Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gift of love.  Help us to demonstrate our love in our actions, not merely our words.  Help us refrain from floating through self-absorbed self-pity and negativity, but always remain grounded in your love.

 

Amen



Daily Devotion – April 24, 2012
04.24.12

April 24, 2012

 

 

Psalm 23

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

my whole life long.

 

Reflection by Rev. Kimberleigh Buchanan

 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when reading the daily devotions, I skip over the Scripture text to get to the “real” devotion.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think.  It’s that passage.  So, what did so-and-so say about it?

 

Some passages, though, are meant to be savored.  Psalm 23 is one those texts.  So, here it is again.  Savor away…and experience all over again the deep, deep love of God.

 

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

 

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

 

he restores my soul.

 

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

my whole life long.

 

Prayer:

Good Shepherd, thank you for supplying my needs.  Thank you for restoring my soul.  Thank you for loving me and hoping for my wholeness.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – April 23, 2012
04.23.12

Acts 4:5-12

 

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders it has become the cornerstone.” There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

 

Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

I worked at a school once that had a principal, assistant principals, and then department chairs.  A new principal was hired and she spent her first few weeks having meetings with various groups of teachers.  During a private meeting with the new hire, she asked me about the leaders of the school.  I responded with the “company” line by reciting the hierarchy of leadership positions and who held them.  I then added, “but those aren’t really the teacher-leaders, they just hold the official positions.”  Have you ever worked or been in a situation like that?  The official leaders are not necessarily the ones who lead the people. 

 

In today’s scripture, that is exactly what was happening.  Peter and John are in the temple teaching and nurturing God’s people and the official religious leaders have a problem with this.  Do they have a monopoly on God’s grace?  I believe that this feeling of entitlement of leaders of religious institutions are alive and well in many of our nation’s churches, synagogues, and temples and it becomes hard to trust and grow spiritually in environments like that. 

 

This scripture reminds us that Jesus, who was rejected by these people, has now become the cornerstone – supporting all God’s kindom through many different mediums and people. 

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, thank you for all of the ways that you bring me closer to you.  You reveal salvation, faith, and love to me through people in my congregation, friends, co-workers, and strangers.  I know that God’s grace is for me, not because someone in charge of a church told me, but because you have shown me over and over again.  Thank you Lord for opening my eyes to all of your children’s teachings.  AMEN



Daily Devotion – April 22, 2012

 

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”   

Luke 24:44-48

Reflection by Rev. Kimberleigh Buchanan

Yesterday, I participated in a large group study of this passage.  The leader read the passage three times (the whole passage, beginning in v.36).  After each reading, she asked the group (about 20 of us) what struck us in the reading.

Now.  I had just finished (okay, almost finished) my sermon on the text.  I was pretty sure I knew all there was to know about this passage.  So, I decided to just sit back and listen.  I was interested to see which people would articulate which insights I already had gleaned though my own careful study.  

Right.

The people in that room saw SO MANY more things than I saw!  One person would say something and I would think–Oh, I wish I’d have thought of that!  Then someone else would say something and I would think–Man!  I wish my sermon weren’t already (almost) done!  That would have been a great direction to go with this passage!  And the person who wondered why Jesus put the burden of forgiveness on the victims?  I just wanted to sit down with him to talk some more about that idea.

So, here’s what I wonder…. I wonder if it’s not just coincidence that when Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” those first century disciples were gathered together in community?  In fact, maybe that’s the best way to unlock our minds and hearts to God’s word.

 


Prayer:

God, forgive me when I try to go it alone–whether it’s living my life, living my faith, or reading scripture.  Remind me that others often can help me see you and feel you and experience you much more readily than I can see, feel, and experience you on my own.  Thank you, God, for my friends.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – April 20, 2012
04.20.12

Psalm 4:1

Confident Plea for Help and Deliverance 

 A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
   You gave me room when I was in distress.
   Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne 

This is David calling to the Lord. He is asking to be heard, asking for his
intervention and support. This is a prayer for relief, for delivering him from
some calamity, uncertainty or even possible danger. When David intones, “O God
of my right!” (or righteous God), it is in direct reference to the faithfulness
with which God acts. This faithfulness is in full accordance with his
commitment to his people and with his status as the divine King. 

David also indicates that God has answered him before and he is asking for his grace, his
comfort and protection once again. “Be gracious to me,” (or be merciful) he
says, a plea for God’s understanding and acceptance. 

How many times have you called to the Lord? Asked for his help, his answer to your
prayer only to be left wondering whether he heard you in the silence of the
night as you kneel by or lie in bed? Are you there God? Can you hear me? Will
you answer me? There have been times when I have heard a quiet voice reassuring
me, comforting me, saying not to worry, not to fret, for he will intervene on
my behalf. He will take up my concerns. 

The voice will also prompt me to remember past times and past troubles and that a
solution unexpectedly revealed itself, and I found resolve and relief.  I say to myself, he did hear me in my moment
of need. Next time you lift up your prayer to him…listen. Listen for his
reassurance. Listen for his answer. Listen for his voice. 

Prayer: 

Dear God,  

As we lift up our prayers to you and ask for
relief, for an answer, hear us. Let us know that you are always there, no
matter what. That you will and always have answered our prayers.     Amen
 

 



Daily Devotion – April 19, 2012
04.19.12

April 19, 2012                                                                            

 Luke 24:41-42 

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have
you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

 

Reflection by Jim Kennedy 

A key feature of this verse is the note of surprise among the disciples that Jesus is raised.
Such surprise is important, because it shows that even Jesus’ own followers had
to be convinced of his resurrection. They were so overcome with the joy of his
resurrection that they did not, for some time, properly receive the evidence
that was before them; they thought the news too good to be true. 

And aren’t we like the disciples? We won’t believe what we sometimes see with our own eyes?

Once they came to believe that Jesus was with them, despite their continued amazement, they
become overjoyed. They hadn’t had time to register completely the miracle
before them before Jesus moved on to more practical matters, like dinner: “Do
you have anything here to eat?”

Is there significance to the fact that the risen Jesus asked for food? Accepting a piece
of fish to eat demonstrated to those who were disbelieving and still wondering
that Jesus was flesh and blood, and not an aberration, a figment of the
disciples imagination, or a ghost. After all, ghosts don’t require nourishment. 

And what kind of
broiled fish might they have given Jesus? Fish was a readily available source
of protein in the Holy Land and was cited
throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The Sea of
Galilee has been renowned for its fish from ancient times and
three types of fish were primarily sought by fishermen in antiquity. Sardines
were the staple product of the locals. Barbels were so known because of the
barbs at the corners of their mouths. 
The third type is called musht but is more popularly known as “St.
Peter’s Fish.” This fish has a long dorsal fin which looks like a comb and
can be up to 1.5 feet long and 3 or so pounds in weight. 

Imagine the fear of
those who were disbelieving and still wondering: Jesus asks for something to
eat and all they can give him is leftover broiled fish. So what might Jesus
have been given? This was the one passage in the Christian Scripture where it
was explicitly and specifically said that Jesus actually ate meat. Almost all
you ever heard of Jesus eating was bread and wine. Given the choice I guess
that Jesus was given St. Peter’s Fish. At least St. Peter was one of the twelve
apostles, and a fisherman, even though he confessed Jesus as the Messiah. 

Wasn’t it grand that the creator of the world, the generator of eternal life, was hungry and
needed to tuck in to some food offered to him by friends? Jesus ate a bit of
broiled fish, and wasn’t that the whole resurrection story in one simple image? 

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, I pray that when you ask for fish I may have plenty to give, perhaps with
some chips and vinegar. And I’ll keep the sardines to myself.



Daily Devotion – April 18, 2012
04.18.12

Luke 24:39b – 40 

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and
said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  They
were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them. ‘Why are you frightened, and
why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Look
at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.  Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have
flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 
And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
 

Reflection by Joyanna Wyne

Luke describes the reaction of the disciples when
they encounter the risen Lord.  Understandably,
they are afraid.  Jesus was dead, after
all, so this apparition must be a ghost. 
But then the “ghost” shows them his hands and feet, so they may see that
it really is Jesus. 

That, for me, sets up the paradox of “seeing
is believing.”  Jesus wants his disciples
to believe, because they can see him.  Yet
he also wants us to believe, even though we cannot
see him.  So how are we to believe? 

This, of course, is where faith comes in.  Since we cannot see Jesus with our eyes, we
must find other ways.  A mother sees him
when she holds her newborn child.  A
wronged person sees Jesus when he finds the courage to forgive.  A friend of mine, who’s in his forties, sees
Jesus when he tells me that having multiple sclerosis is a gift, because it
helps him to know what’s truly important in life.  Another friend sees Jesus when she is able to
spend time with her father, reminiscing and assuring him of her love, in the
days leading up to his death.    

Yes, “seeing is believing,” and there are many
ways to see.  How do you see Jesus?   

Prayer:  

Dear God, help us to open our eyes and our hearts.  May we see Jesus in acts of love, joy, hope,
comfort, forgiveness, and redemption, and may we be transformed so that others
may see Jesus in us.