Blog
Daily Devotion – January 31, 2014
01.31.14

 

I Corinthians 1:10

Divisions in the Church

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,* by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Reflection by Geoff Heilhecker

 

We all argue and sometimes we are so determined to win whether we are right or wrong.  Sometimes we are so set on proving our point that we forget to listen to the other person. Arguing is exhausting and the results can sometimes cause great pain, and to what purpose?   What would happen if we all just stopped for a moment and listened to each other?  Maybe we could find common ground?  Let’s take that one step further and stop and listen to God.  Why not open our eyes, ears, and hearts to God’s will and be united in sharing God’s love, compassion, and vision for the world?

 

Dear Lord,

Please help us share in your love and vision for all of us so that we can make our lives, community and ultimately the world a better place.

Amen.



Daily Devotion – January 30, 2014
01.30.14

Psalm 27: 4-5

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:

to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of the Lord,

and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will set me high on a rock.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

When I ask for the Lord’s help, He has helped. I’m not certain that He

protects me from all trouble. But He guides me and allows me to get

through the trouble at hand. The troubles still find me. But with the

Lord’s help, I am clothed in the armor of love, and I am somewhat

protected to be able to better deal with challenges and problems.

Perhaps it is simply the quietness that envelops me when I pray, that

allows me to see things more calmly and clearly. But God does comfort

me when I ask for comfort. I hope you find comfort in the Lord as well.

 

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I thank you for the shelter you provide me when I am in

need. I thank you for listening to my prayers. I thank you for the

blessings of your love. In Jesus’ name I pray.



Daily Devotion – January 29, 2014
01.29.14

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.  

Matthew 4:18-22 

 

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

 

There was a time when this verse would bring up great irritation for me. It was just always too catchy (pardon the pun). Bumper stickers, T-shirts, hats, stickers on tackle boxes, portraits of men fishing with a plaque underneath that says, “fishers of men.” I have seen it tattooed on arms and heard many sermons that encourage those listening to go out, evangelize, and bring in the lost. Men’s groups have been started with fishers of men as their motto. It was all just too much.

 

If the verses used as a marketing tool was my only hang up with the verse, I think I could get beyond it but I get mostly stuck with the image that it portrays for me. I can’t help but imagine somebody sitting on the bank of a river baiting his/her hook, tossing it out, and then sitting back with a cold beer in his hand and waiting for something to bite. After many beers and hours later something bites only to have the fisher man pull the fish in and then watch it as it squirms and slowly dies. Some of my experiences with evangelism have been just that; baiting the hook and then watching the person be pulled in until life is slowly taken away for him. It’s not a great image for me, and I don’t believe this is what the story writers and Jesus was after.

 

I don’t know when I began to imagine something different for this passage; probably pieces of all by education coming together. I do know I have a different image for it. As I close my eyes this is what I see:

           

I see a big brown net. It is thick. It would have to be thick and heavy to hold the fish that were caught. It is round. The net has strings on it for the fishermen so they can grab hold of it and pull it back in the boat. Along with the strings, there are also rocks that are needed to help the net sink, otherwise it would just float. The netting is small and tight in order to catch the smaller fish, and thus increasing the drag of it. Then with 2, 3 or 4 men the net would be hoisted high enough so that it could be thrown as far out as possible. Of course, the net weighs at least hundred pounds and trying to get all the men in sync with the throw would mean they wouldn’t be able to throw it anymore than a few feet. Once in the water the net doesn’t sink instantly, so they have to wait. Once the net is fully submerged, the fishermen can begin pulling it in. Little by little they pull the weight of the net back to the boat, and find only an old sandal lost by another fisherman. With no fish on this attempt they go through the motions again-still no fish. Their work is slowed by rips in the net which require mending and more time. They do this over and over again from sun up until sun down. At the end of the day, if they are lucky, they end up with enough fish to make ends meet. They are exhausted and ready to retreat back to land. They wake the next morning to try again.

 

This image makes the passage real for me. I believe that Jesus had good reason to be looking for his followers at the Sea of Galilee. I believe that when he looked out and saw those men casting their nets into the sea over and over again and failing time after time, but never giving up, he saw qualities that would make great followers. I like to imagine he saw how brave, how strong, how persistent, and how hopeful they were. These were the type of people that would be able to struggle through the hardships and still persevere. These people were perfect for bringing light to the world.

 

The work of ushering in the kingdom of God is not easy. Many hardships and failures will have to be dealt with in order to see the work through completion. But just like those fishermen, Andrew, Peter, James and John, we must continue to try so that all can see and know the light of God’s kingdom. 

 

Prayer: 

Grant us courage, grant us strength, grant us perseverance, and grant us hope as we cast out our nets and become fishers of men.



Daily Devotion – January 28, 2014
01.28.14

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under
trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which
God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

I received an email message from a colleague who inquired about my health. 
I replied that I was recovering well from surgery.  She immediately sent me a response with James
1:12 as the message.    It was one of those moments when the perfect Bible verse was shared and truly lifted my spirit. 

We all have trials, but I made a mistake with a trial I had last spring. 
I did not remain steadfast.  I didn’t even believe God was on my side. 
My prayer had gone unanswered.  I felt abandoned.  When I started praying
for God’s help, I was led to Pilgrimage.  I began attending church for the first time in 24 years.  Week after week, I prayed and asked God to guide me and let me live the life he intended for me.   After six years of disappointment and
sadness, I began healing faster than I ever imagined. 

Eight weeks ago, I had major surgery, and believe me, that was quite a trial. 
Not only did I remain steadfast, but I truly believed God would not
abandon me.  Even in the operating room, I asked if we could pray before my surgery. 
Everyone in the room, including my surgeon who reached out and grabbed
my hand, prayed with me. 

So, indeed, blessed is the man (woman) who remains steadfast under trial. 
Blessed indeed.

 

Prayer:

“Heavenly Father, Almighty God, and Great
Creator please help us remember you are always available to us, and thus we
should always remain steadfast, even under trial.  Help us remember that your son faced trials
while on this earth.  Let us never forget
your light and everlasting love can overcome any trial we may face.  Amen.”



Daily Devotion – January 27, 2014
01.27.14

  

Psalm 27:10 

 

10  Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

The psalmist David is expressing his ultimate dependence on God at all times, when
all other help fails him, even the help of parents.  In what sense would a father and mother
forsake their child?  Many ways are possible, but the passing on of the parents is, in a sense, a forsaking…the
nearest and dearest in all the world having to leave to be with God.

 

When I was a young child, my parents were my whole world.  They cared for me
when I was sick, clothed me, fed me, and saw to my education.  Whatever I
needed, they were there to help the best way they could.  Though they are
gone, their faces and their voices are etched in my memory.

 

Now, I am to seek the face of Christ.  The hymn writer wrote “Oh, in love
look down upon me.  Let me see your face so sweet.”  Now I must
trust the Lord as much or more than I depended on and trusted my Mother and
Father.  God promises help and comfort.  He wants to be my heavenly
Father.

 

Prayer: 

Father in heaven, I pray for your grace to be true and faithful, because you are true
and faithful to me.
      Amen               



Daily Devotion – January 26, 2014
01.26.14

Psalm 27:8-9 

‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’

   Your face, Lord, do I seek.

9   Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,

   you who have been my help.

Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,

   O God of my salvation!

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

The way I am reading this scripture leaves me thinking that this person is afraid that God is turning away.  That is my take, anyway.  So as I reflect on this, ‘fear’ of being alone comes to mind.  I have been there, and I remember feeling like this following my divorce.  I wasn’t going to church then, and God was not who I was afraid of losing.  It took a great deal of time (we’re talking years) for me to realize that God was with me the entire time.  God never gave up on me.  Today as I sing “Total Praise” with the choir, I will dedicate this song to our Lord for whom I am ever so grateful. 

 

Prayer: 

You are truly an awesome God.  I will sing your praises throughout the rest of my life—not just today.  Amen.    

 



Daily Devotion – January 25, 2014
01.25.14

Psalms 27:6-7

 

Then my head will be exalted

    above the enemies who surround me;

at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;

    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;

    be merciful to me and answer me.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

Prayerbook of the Bible

 

In 1940 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote an 84-page meditation on the Psalms called Prayerbook of the Bible, in which he explains the importance of the Psalms for Christian prayer. I can’t think of Psalms now without thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote concerning them, “Along these lines the Holy Scriptures tell us that the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.” Actually, I’ve revised it a bit and say it as a prayer: “Lord, the first word and the last word of the day belong to You.” Saying this helps me re-focus—sometimes find focus because sometimes, left to my own devices, my thoughts go immediately every day to myself, my life, my plans, my trouble, my happiness. When the first and last thoughts of the day belong to God, my life—my day—is given context and perspective. This little phrase is a comforting guidepost for me. It really should have been all along, but it was not—until I met Bonhoeffer. 

Maybe you have heard of him. If not, you can access documentaries and a movie about his life on YouTube or Netflix. Documentary fanatic that I am, I was browsing them in Netflix one Sunday afternoon and came upon one about him by accident. I would like to say that I discovered this fellow through theological study, but no. I had run out of historical documentaries about Nazi Germany to watch. I’ve been reading Bonhoeffer ever since. His life is an example of how an ordinary human is capable of extraordinary acts in the face of oppression. That sounds trite as I write it, like a bumper sticker, so let me give you a brief biographical sketch. His life adds depth to his writing for me, just as his writing gives deeper meaning to his life, and between the two, I realize that we can be called upon at any time and place to do that which is right. I do not know how I would meet that challenge. 

If Dietrich Bonhoeffer had lived in any other place and time, he would have still been known as a brilliant theologian. His book Discipleship explains who Christians are; Life Together explains how we live. He was born in 1907 to a life of privilege. His father was a professor, and his mother came from an old and respected family. By the time he was 23 years old, he had written TWO dissertations In 1931 at the age of 25 he was a professor at the University of Berlin. Wow. He wanted very badly travel to India and study with Gandhi, but he never did. In 1932 Hitler happened instead. If Dietrich Bonhoeffer had taught and preached and turned a blind eye to the Nazis, he would likely have lived, married, had children, traveled, written great theological works, and died like old professors do. That is not what happened. Instead he took a stand that Christ, not the Fuhrer, was the head of the Church. It was his call of discipleship. 

He came to the U.S. twice. The first time was in 1930 on a teaching fellowship to Union Theological Seminary in NYC, where he first met African American Christians. He began teaching Sunday School at Harlem’s famous Abyssinian Baptist Church, and was moved by the “rapturous passion and vision” of the Black church. It is here that he found connections between religion and social justice and developed a love for Black spirituals—both of which he carried back with him to Germany. He shared both with the young seminarians he taught from 1935-1937.  I am glad Bonhoeffer has a U.S. connection. 

He returned here in June 1939 again at the invitation of Union Theological Seminary, as Hitler began invading Europe. But he soon regretted his decision, as he wrote Reinhold Niebuhr: “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.” He returned to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic before the war. 

From 1940 to 1943 he worked as part of the German resistance, helping Jewish people obtain papers to escape. He even knew about the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler (My Quaker friends cringe a little at this part). He was arrested in 1943 because of conflict between the SS and the Military Intelligence organization for which he worked. When the Nazis discovered his connections with the assassination conspirators—who had also worked where Bonhoeffer worked—he was hanged on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before American troops liberated the camp where he was imprisoned. 

Bonhoeffer continued his writing—and his ministry—from prison, living and talking Christ to prison guards. His friend, student, and biographer, Eberhard Bethge, recounted the words of the prison doctor who attended his execution, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” Where did he get this strength? Bonhoeffer knew that God heard his prayers because he prayed the Psalms regularly. 

From prison he had written his parents, “Before I go to sleep I repeat to myself the verses that I have learned during the day, and at 6 a.m. I like to read psalms and hymns, think of you all, and know that you are thinking of me.” The Psalms were central to his theology—and to his daily life. He began Prayerbook of the Bible with the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray!” Then he goes on, “At the request of the disciples, Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer… It is a great grace that God tells us how we can pray in the name of Jesus Christ.” He sums up a very important point about the Psalms: Jesus died on the cross with words from the Psalms on his lips (Ps 22:2, Ps 31:6). Bonhoeffer considered Psalms significant because in them we have an example of how God wishes us to approach God in prayer, praise, and professions of faith and trust. This significance is confirmed by Jesus—as His model to the disciples and in his final words on the Cross. I can’t help thinking they were among Bonhoeffer’s final words too. 

Try this:  read our verses above while thinking about the young preacher’s life, and his death, and his utter conviction that the Psalms are God’s words and when we pray them, we pray them with Jesus.

 

 



Daily Devotion – January 23, 2014
01.23.14

Psalm 27
Triumphant Song of Confidence

Of David.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid? 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

Darkness is scary.  I chaperoned a school field trip to the Dialogue in the Dark exhibit at Atlantic Station two years ago.  This experience is supposed to mirror what it is like to be blind.  The visitors move around different city scenes such as a grocery store, city block, etc. the whole time under the guidance of someone who is blind.  The experience was unnerving for me.  I was fearful of everything . . . Who was behind me? Who was in front of me? Was I going to fall?  How could I cross the street safely?  Throughout the 30 minute tour, I learned to listen for our guides directions and reach out for his arm in times of uncertainty, for he was the ‘expert’ on being blind and he took pride in being able to walk us through the exhibit safely.  The exercise was humbling.  

Today’s scripture can also be humbling.  When our life gets scary, dark, unknown; how do we handle the fear and uncertainty?  We need to fully acknowledge that even when we can’t see what is in front of us, God can.  When we don’t know if we can safely cross the next obstacle in our lives, God is with us.  God is our stronghold in life, we just need to accept God’s presence and allow God to guide us through even the scariest of times. Because God is the ‘expert’.

 

Prayer

God, I am grateful this morning for experiences that bring me back to you.  In times when things are dark and scary, I need the reminder that you are the resource for my light and my strength.  You bring me through moments of uncertainty with your grace and your love.  Thank you.  AMEN. 



Daily Devotion – January 22, 2014
01.22.14

Psalm 40:11-12 11.

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may
your love and truth always protect me. 12. For troubles without number surround
me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs
on my head, and my heart fails within me.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

As an adolescent, I weathered many emotional and
spiritual struggles.  I was dogged by a
sense of lostness, awkwardness, and confusing feelings in my friendships and
social interactions. Though I was popular within my peer group in high school,
my friendships with other boys left me unfulfilled while I felt an inexplicable
jealousy for the close friendships enjoyed between females.  My sense of lostness worsened throughout my early
twenties as I was overcome by such a sense of alienation from other people that
the world around me no longer seemed real.

Growing up Georgia in the 1990s, I lacked any
concept of how my transgender state of being could be the cause of my emotional
and social pain. I was only able to frame my experiences in theological terms,
where my feelings of “being lost” must have been a consequence of my sins.  Yet, as I educated myself about the role of
religion in social justice, I discovered a faith centered on the unconditional
love which moved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the thousands of other Civil
Rights activists of the 50s and 60s.  I
believe that Dr. King, as well as other Civil Rights leaders such as Rev. Dr.
Joseph Lowery, were moved by a deeply heartfelt sense that the Divine Spirit
overflows with love for all people. 
Divine Love has gradually become known to me as a gentle Mother
Goddess.  Each day, I grow increasingly
assured that I am precious to Goddess and that She intended for me to be
transgender.

For my renewed faith, in a Love Without Bound, I
have my own prayer-poem for times I struggle with a sense of low self-worth or
faltering self-confidence:

Prayer:

Eternal Mother, you breathe into all Your children,
loveliness, and majesty, And lift the outcast or unlikeable Creations into your
embrace with free Acceptance. Please restore my sense of worth As depths of
fear, self-doubt, and shame Engulf me. Heal my wounds left by the scourge Of
Dogma’s crowd-imposed self-hate; For I am your child, precious to your heart.
As much to others, you your worth impart.



Daily Devotion – January 21, 2014
01.21.14

Psalm 40:9-10

I have told the glad news of deliverance
   in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
   as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   from the great congregation.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

I have been hesitant to share my true feelings more than once during my lifetime; more than likely, an understatement since I spent years with a verbally abusive husband. During my faith journey, I became aware that the people that are talked about in the Bible have been afraid to share their feelings about Christ. It’s the same for many folks who live in certain countries at the present time. When I divorced the husband, I realized how many choices I had to make on my own which was scary at first. I began to grow, and eventually learned how to live a comfortable life on my own; and one day I found the path that led me to Pilgrimage.  I now praise our God and can recite this passage with joy, because I am free to love the Savior and my church without any reserve or hesitation.

Prayer:  

Loving God, I pray for guidance on matters at hand and ask that you clearly show me how to continue making choices with a spirit of joy and enthusiasm. Amen.