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Daily Devotion – February 28, 2014
02.28.14

James 2:14-17 

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but
does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly
clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace,
be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what
good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

After 24 years of avoiding regular church service, why did I choose to join Pilgrimage United Church of Christ?  It is because of the verse above and the commitment of service to others that I witness every Sunday at PUCC.  When I tell my friends about my new church, I mention the MUST Ministries boxes at the front door.  What a statement of service to have donation boxes as the very first thing to see as you enter our church doors.  It is a reminder of how Jesus lived his life.  He served those with great needs.  Our church follows the example set by our brother, Jesus.  We feed those who are hungry.  We clothe those who are naked.  We give drink to those who are thirsty.  We visit those who are imprisoned.  We provide housing for those who are without homes.  And we advocate for equal rights for all.  So why did Ijoin PUCC?  It is the best example of Christian love and Christ-like actions that I have ever witnessed in a church. 

 

Prayer: 

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty, and Great Creator thank you for the members of Pilgrimage United Church of Christ and their passion to spread your love to all of humanity. Please continue to bless the Church and its members, so they may be able to continue your work here on Earth.  In the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – February 27, 2014
02.27.14

Leviticus 19:17-18 

 

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

The Scriptures of the Old Testament point
to the law of love taught by the Lord Jesus in the New Testament.
 Holiness and personal conduct based on the law of love are found in the
scripture for today; We are not to hate our brother or sister from our heart,
for that is the same as murder.  We are to reprove our countryman in love,
not in hate.  And we are to receive reproof in like manner.  David
said, “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil
upon the head; do not let my head refuse it.”  Ps.141.5.  This
matter of personal conduct shown to others in love is taught by God in the Old
Testament, which says we are to put away vengeance and put on brotherly love.
 And Jesus Christ gave the second greatest commandment: “You shall
love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 19:19

 

Prayer: 

Savior,
teach me, day by day, love’s sweet lesson to obey;  Sweeter lesson cannot
be, loving Him who first loved me.
     Amen    

 

(The prayer is from the hymn, Savior, Teach Me, Day by Day, written by Jane E. Leeson.)                    



Daily Devotion – February 26, 2014
02.26.14

Leviticus 19:16

 

You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

“Sticks and Stones” is an English language children’s rhyme.  It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured.  It is reported [1] to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an “old adage” in this form: 

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
 

The phrase also appeared in 1872, where it is presented as advice in Tappy’s Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, by Mrs. George Cupples. [2] The version used in that work runs: 

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
 

1.  ^ Gary Martin. “The Phrase Finder”. Retrieved September 22, 2012.  

2. Jump up ^ Cupples, Mrs. George [Ann Jane Dunn Douglas] (1872). Tappy’s Chicks: And Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature (1872). London: Strahan & Co. p. 78. 

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

 

Unfortunately, many groups of people seem intent upon claiming that certain words always hurt…no matter what context they are used. The name callers are trying to make themselves feel powerful. They know their verbal slings will have a significant effect upon a person or a group of people, and then their self-esteem rises at the expense of others’ pain. 

If we all thought, “If I get upset by someone calling me a name, then I am giving away my self-control and need to take a different approach,” the change in the world would be significantly better. 

Prayer: 

Loving God, show us  the way to have the courage to change their own lives for the better so that we can live together peacefully. Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 25, 2014
02.25.14

Leviticus 19:15

 

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but
judge your neighbor fairly.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock 

There are a lot of laws in Leviticus. It is where Moses starts spelling it all out for the Israelites. When I read Leviticus, I get overwhelmed not just by the number of laws, but by the scope of them. They cover not only worship and sacrifice, but also daily life; they span the whole social life of the people. A few of them, as we know, are pulled out of context and applied to people’s lives today. Here is a classic scene from the West Wing where President Bartlett confronts an ultra-conservative radio host who condemns gay folk based on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. When you watch it, you may be struck with how strange these regulations seem to us today. The link is http://youtu.be/S1-ip47WYWc (if the link doesn’t open correctly, just go to YouTube and search “The West Wing-Bible Lesson”). 

When I used to read Leviticus, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. In other words, I only saw the laws themselves and thought (in my fundamentalist Christian way) how awful it must have been to keep them all—followed by how LUCKY I am not to have to keep them all! Then my friend Alan talked to me about the ethic present in the Covenantal Laws. It isn’t really about not mixing fabric textures at all! Instead, the law is about taking care of others—foreigners, strangers, widows, children, the poor. Verse 2 of chapter 19 says, Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. The laws were for ritual purification and to guide how the people lived, but the spirit of these laws were about love.  Because God is love (1 John 4:16).  Be holy—love one another…because I…am love. 

Today’s verse is about being fair minded toward one’s neighbor. Not doing so is a perversion—a distorting—of justice. I’m not sure if it’s human nature or it’s something that humans learn, but it seems like we treat people differently depending on their station in life or socio-economic status, to use the more official-sounding term. Interestingly, this is one of the issues that is addressed in the New Testament (James 2:3).  Whether we are making decisions or assigning seats at the table, do we do so fairly, with love? Of all those laws in Leviticus (and Deuteronomy and Exodus and Numbers—there are a LOT of laws), Jesus names these two when he was asked what was the greatest commandment of the Law:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He goes on, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 37-40). Love is the commandments in a nutshell.  If we dare to believe in and hope for a better world—a just world free from poverty, hunger, wars, and inequality—then it’s pretty clear where we start.  As a more “cultural” prophet once sang, All you need is love. 

 



Daily Devotion – February 24, 2014
02.24.14
Leviticus 19:13-14
 

You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

My father was once a day laborer. He would stand at a street corner, and someone with a large truck would pick up the number of workers that were needed for the day. At the end of the day, the laborers would be dropped off and paid their agreed-to wages. One day, the driver was going to pay him less than the agreed-to wage. My dad took the keys right out of the truck and ran into his apartment building. The driver couldn’t tell one laborer from another and finally agreed to pay people what they were owed to get his truck keys back. That driver had sinned. He was trying to keep the wages of a laborer, my father. My father stood up for himself.  That man vowed never to hire my father again. But at the same time, my father vowed never to work for that man again, anyway. 

Soon, my dad realized that kind of work did not provide a secure future. So he moved to Chicago and got a factory job where he would work for more than thirty years.

Sometimes when we read scripture we may think, “Oh, that was written so long ago, how could it relate to me and my life?” But often, when I read scripture, if I just pause for a moment or two and contemplate the story being told, it does relate to me. 

And that’s the funny thing about stories. We each have one. And as we learn each others’ stories from church or school or work, we can see how someone else’s story relates to us and how we relate to each other. I think that’s why Jesus preached through the use of stories, because He wanted to relate to us and He wanted us to relate to Him. 

Don’t be shy about sharing your story. It may be the most important thing you can do.

 

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, Give me the courage to share my stories. In Jesus’ name I pray.



Daily Devotion – February 23, 2014
02.23.14

Leviticus 19:11-12

 

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your
God: I am the Lord.

 

Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

These verses in Leviticus 19 are explanations of the Ten Commandments.  Today’s verse is about stealing, dealing falsely, and lying.  Oh Boy!  As I read and re-read these two verses, I am humbled.  How often do I use God’s name in vain and tell white lies?  Too many to count (at least on the white lies part – I do deal with adolescent discipline as part of my job)!  I want to follow the moral code laid out to us in the Leviticus verses but sometimes it is so hard.  This is when I take a deep breath and remember the core of our Christian beliefs . . . Jesus died for our sins.  All we have to do is ask for forgiveness. 

 

Prayer: 

God, please forgive me for all of the times that I have not met your expectations.  I strive every day to be an honest and true Christian and I will continue to have high expectations for myself.  Thank you, God, for sending your son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  I pray today that I may live as Jesus did and that people will see my actions and know that I am a child of God.  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – February 22, 2014
02.22.14

Leviticus 19:9-10

 

9. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your
field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.

10. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have
fallen.  Leave them for the poor and
alien. I am the Lord your God.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

Chapter 19 of Leviticus presents an extensive list of commandments to the Jewish community of ancient times. The chapter includes four of the ‘ten commandments’ listed in Exodus 20:1-17, such as “Do not steal”, but also lists some rather arcane regulations such as “Do not wear clothing woven of two different kinds of material.” This chapter, and Leviticus as a whole, abounds with a motley assortment of laws which make no sense to the 21st-century reader.  Yet, verses 9 and 10 demonstrate how the ancient faith community made the equitable distribution of food a high priority. 

The present world stands in dire need for more people to act according to the spirit of generosity which shines throughout the Jewish Law. Globally, 842 million people are malnourished while hunger causes 45% of deaths among children under 5 years old(http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats).  As half of the world’s population lives in cities, suburbs, or slums, the opportunity for “gleaning” grain mandated by verse 9 seems impractical. Yet, the lack of technical guidance in directly addressing global inequity is offset by the humanitarian Spirit shining through the words in the Jewish law. Working towards the well-being of the poor and marginalized is a Divine commandment equal to or exceeding the widely-known Ten Commandments in importance. 

 

Prayer: 

Eternal Mother, how your generosity

And love surpass all human sense!

Your warm affection nourishes the hearts

Of all the lost, the hungry,
sorrow-worn,

Hurt, broken, and excluded people held

In your embrace. Those who persist in
toils

Of faith, hope, peace, and charity serve
you

As vessels of your Spirit’s truth.

Empower me to thus serve you and
humankind

By loving all unloved,  forgotten persons

To hold within your healing, filling
warmth.



Daily Devotion – February 21, 2014
02.21.14

 

Proverbs 16:23-24

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

 

Reflection by Diane Ingram

 

I’ve done a backward thing from what I usually do. Instead of sitting quietly to listen to a scripture passage to see what it will speak into the silence, I had the thought first, and then searched to find the scripture. A lot of people do this, I know, and I haven’t been exactly approving.  But in this case I knew fitting words would be there somewhere. The wisdom is too profound and too applicable for every day to be missing from the Bible. As it turns out, I had my choice among many verses.

 

This cherry picking of scripture was Jack’s fault. Jack is in his 60’s, and he lives in North Georgia.  A few years back he got terrible health news — he was going to die soon if he didn’t lose weight and start taking better care of himself. Motivated by fear, he began an intense program that ended last year with a walk across America, fundraising for Alzheimer’s disease research.

 

Part of his publicity has been a Facebook page. Recently, he posted there about CNN doing a segment on his change to a healthy lifestyle. In response, he got a post something like: “You should be watching FOX news. I do.” (I don’t remember the exact words; I went back and tried to find it and could not.)  My mind quickly pulled up its response (which I did not type):  Lady, what point are you trying to make?  Each of us has our buttons that are way too easy to push.

 

Yet, what has stayed with me was Jack’s simple response. It went something like this: “Hey [whatever her name was] —how are you? Love you.” He didn’t say that he did or did not watch a particular channel. He didn’t ignore the response, either. Instead, he came back with sweet, caring words.

 

I may have gotten this story all wrong, my memory being what it is, but I’m sure I’ve gotten the lesson right: Pleasant words are as an honeycomb.

 

Jack is a wise man, I think.

 

Prayer (Psalm 19:14):

 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

 



Daily Devotion – February 20, 2014
02.20.14

Matthew 5: 27-28

 

Concerning Adultery

 

‘You have heard that it was said,  “You
shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman
with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

 

This is a verse that has stirred
considerable controversy in its interpretation. Too many times, the verse is
taken literally, when one should take the time to analyze what Jesus really
means by these words. 

We know that Jesus was a reasonable man. He
is not a legalistic God. Readings from the New Testament confirm that He would
choose being merciful to people over judging them. We also know that God does
not condemn people for having emotions. He only condemns them for acts of the
will. Thus, thinking a woman is beautiful or sexually attractive are not acts
of the will but rather emotion. 

We are emotional beings. Life without
emotion would be dull indeed. We couldn’t express love or happiness or feel
passion for something we truly believe in. So what is the lesson, the takeaway
from all of this? I think it could best be expressed in one word—appropriate.
What is appropriate behavior and what isn’t? What is perceived as appropriate
behavior and what isn’t? 

In this world of constant connection via
smart phones and social media, of sexually explicit images and language, of
X-Rated and R-Rated movies and provocative clothing, it’s pretty difficult for men
or women not to lust after one another. But if you take a step back from it all
and look within your heart what does it say? How does it truly feel? There’s an
expression, “follow your heart.” I would add one thing to that familiar phrase,
“For in your heart, you will find truth.” 

 

Prayer:

 

Dear God, 

Despite the world around us, let us always
look for truth. Let us always look to you to find and reaffirm that truth. For
in truth, there is light. For in truth, there is hope for a better world. One
that is ruled by reason versus chaos. In your name we pray… 

Amen

 



Daily Devotion – February 19, 2014
02.19.14

Matthew 5:23-24

 

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

 

Reflection by Jim Kennedy

 

These verses describe the ritual of offering a sacrifice to God at the Temple. This was generally an animal such as a sheep. For the average believer the offering of a sacrifice at the Temple would have been a rare and important event. Common worshipers would not themselves ever place a gift on the altar, this was reserved for priests. What Jesus is believed to be saying is that even if in the middle of this process one realizes that there is a dispute with one’s brother or sister that it would be better in God’s eye to go and immediately try to resolve the dispute then to continue with the ritual.

 

The Pharisees taught that a sacrifice should not be interrupted. The Pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. They looked not at all to the internal state of the mind. If a person conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred they might have, they thought they were doing well.

 

Jesus taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right than to perform the outward act. The statements are far from unique to Jesus. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish commentaries it is asserted that worship without a moral life is useless.

 

If a person has gone so far as to bring their gift to the altar, and should remember that anyone had anything against them, it was their duty there to leave their offering and go and be reconciled. While a difference of this nature existed, their offering could not be acceptable. They were not to wait until the offended brother or sister should come to them; they were to go and seek the person out and be reconciled. So now the worship of God will not be acceptable, however well performed externally, until we are at peace with those that we have injured.

 

To reconcile oneself is to change thoroughly, to create positive change in both offended parties. It means to bring back together a relationship that was broken. Reconciliation requires understanding of three factors: pride, anger, and a person’s spirit.  Pride leads to anger and anger leads to cutting off one’s spirit.  Pride puts ourselves above others and we react in anger to anyone who does not respect or honor the exalted position in which we have placed ourselves.  Anger causes us to cut a person off in our spirits – we decide we do not need the people whom God has placed in our lives.

 

If you know someone is angry at you, then you are supposed to attempt to initiate reconciliation before offering your gift to God.  That would involve you going to that person and discussing the issue face to face.  Not only can individuals reconcile but nations of people can reconcile by face to face discussions. Maybe we should do more of that to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in other countries.

 

 

Prayer:

 

Dear Lord I pray that I may always leave my gifts at the altar until I have adequately reconciled my differences with another, for they are someone you placed in my life for a purpose.