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Daily Devotion – March 29, 2014
03.29.14


John 9:13-23

 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been formerly blind.  Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight.  And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.  So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he know see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  But how he now sees we do not know, not do we know who opened his eyes.  Ask him; he is of age.  He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

 

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

 

My co-worker and I were talking this week about World Vision and their lackluster stance on gay and lesbians that work with them.  In case you are not familiar, World Vision was pressured from the conservative and evangelical Christians to stop allowing gay and lesbians to work for them.  In response, World Vision made an announcement that they would not take a stand on the issue but continue to allow gay and lesbians to work for them.  I have done a lot reflecting on this issue this week so it has been at the forefront of my mind.  When I read the scripture, I couldn’t help but think how well the message fit with this issue. 

 

The scripture talks about the blind man receiving sight from Christ.  This is followed by a paranoid and control freak group of religious leaders attacking the blind man and his family trying to manipulate and trick them into confessing that “work” or “healing” was done on the Sabbath by Jesus, and therefore make Jesus a sinner and not from God.  Instead of seeing the miracle for what it was their laws and fear got in the way.  They were more concerned with protecting those laws than actually reaching out to help those in need.  They didn’t allow the work of Christ to move them.  They just didn’t get it, which blinds them to what is really going on here. 

 

I fear many in the Christian community have become blind.  It is difficult for me to understand and comprehend the thought process of religious leaders of our time denying food and healthcare to somebody in need because the person next to them is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.  I don’t understand how they can read scriptures like this one and not see they have become the very ones Jesus struggled with.  The reality that people who call themselves Christian would walk away from a hungry person in need simply because they were working along somebody they thought was “sinful” is scary and truly unacceptable for anyone that calls themselves a Christian.  Is not the kingdom for all of us? And isn’t God’s love available to anyone anywhere.   

 

The good news of the gospel is that we are all loved by God, and as we say every Sunday no matter who we are and where we are on life’s journey we are loved by God.  The good news for the blind man was that Jesus didn’t stop to ask what his political or religious beliefs were.  He didn’t ask what his sexual orientation was.  He saw a man in need and helped him.  He didn’t deny the man what he needed because of who he was or where he was or what day it was.  The result of the interaction is restoration of sight to a man who had been blind since birth. 

 

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit still dwells among us.  I am glad to be a part of community that has enough vision to know that the gospel is for all and not just some or those who we decide who are worthy.  For me, this includes my church family and my Alliance of Baptist family.  Thank God for Jesus and thank God for people who are speaking up, those who see the importance of loving all.  I do pray that the temptation to be silent and turn away from confrontation, like the blind man’s parents, when it comes to issues of justice is not something I give in to.  We need the voice of all Christians to be heard not just those who think they are the spokespersons for all of Christendom.    

 

 

Prayer:

 

Give us the courage to love, God.  Convict those who would walk away from a hungry person because of some agenda they think protects the faith.  May our eyes be opened to those places we are blind so that we can see that you love us all not matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey.  Amen



Daily Devotion – March 28, 2014
03.28.14

Romans 12:12

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

 

When I searched online for a scripture about patience, I was so surprised to see the number of verses that speak about being patient.  I think God wanted me to use Romans 12:12, because it appeared first on the list, and it includes hope and prayer.  For it is only with hope and prayer that I am able to practice patience.  Even before the world of instant messaging and fiber-optic speed, I had a difficult time being patient.  Waiting is not one of my strengths.  With age comes wisdom, and I have learned that with hope and prayer, God will give strength, provide comfort, establish peace, heal wounds, and answer prayers.  With hope and prayer I have a level of patience that I never imagined I would have.  I practice hope and prayer, and therefore I have patience.

Prayer: 

Dear Heavenly Father, Almighty God, and Great Creator, thank you for giving us your holy scripture to find answers for living.  Thank you for showing us that hope and prayer are more powerful than any modern, high-speed gadget.  Thank you for loving me.  In the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 27, 2014
03.27.14

 

John 9:1-7 

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked
him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “Neither
this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the
works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we
must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While
I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying
this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the
man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this
word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

    
Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me.”  “We” means you and I working with the Holy Spirit of Jesus in us doing God’s will.  And what are these works Jesus did?  They are telling the Good News of Christ’s saving power that changes a sinner to a saint, pardons all our iniquities, and heals all our diseases.  When we read in the Bible how Jesus had pity for the broken and sick who wandered as stray sheep without a shepherd, we are called to have compassion for souls and offer healing for their bodies in the name of Jesus.  While God’s Holy Spirit indwells us, Jesus is in the world giving light and life. 

    
Jesus also tells us we are to do the works of God while time and opportunity allow.  We don’t have “all the time in the world” to do our task.  Our door of opportunity is open for a short time. After you have worked on your job for 35-40 years, and when you retire, it can seem just a day or two ago you hired in.  Jesus gives us warning; we are wise to listen to His words, to do as much good as we can, as long as we can, for whomever we can.

 

          Prayer:

                  Work, for the night is coming.

                  Fill brightest hours with labor.

                  Rest comes sure and soon.

                  Work, for the night is coming, when man’s work is done.

                                                                                  Amen

 

 (Prayer is from a hymn by Annie L. Coghill)           



Daily Devotion – March 26, 2014
03.26.14

John 4:27-28

 

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

 

Reflection by Kim Lofstrand 

I have just returned from the Pilgrimage’s 2nd Annual Women’s Spirituality Retreat in Dillard, GA. During this retreat, seventeen women spent time praying, learning, worshiping, singing, cooking, and laughing together.  I heard these women share their pain, their struggles, their faith journeys, and their questions.  By the end of the weekend, we were all transformed; we were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

I cannot imagine what Biblical times were like for anybody but especially women.  But despite the time period, Jesus gave women access to him and to his teachings.  Thank goodness!  The women I spent the weekend with were some of the most faithful people I have yet to meet in my life . . . I’m glad that Jesus saw this same quality in the woman in today’s scripture.  

Prayer: 

God, I am so thankful for Jesus and his equal access for women, the sick, the young, the old, etc.  Jesus saw that we are all your children and we all deserve your forgiveness and your love.  AMEN.

 



Daily Devotion – March 25, 2014
03.25.14

Genesis 3:1-7 

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock 

Forbidden Fruit 

For most of us, the story of Eve and the serpent is familiar. It is one of the first Bible stories we were taught as children. In the church were I grew up, we were taught that stories in the Old Testament were historical-that they were factual and could be located in time. After many years and a lot of studying (not to mention History Channel specials), I now read the Hebrew Scriptures differently. I see Genesis as a creation narrative similar to those of other Ancient Near East cultures that establishes and preserves their identity as a society. The creation-and later flood-stories build up to the central theme of the Hebrew Scriptures: the covenantal relationship between God and God’s people. So how might we read a story we know so well again for the first time? 

I consulted the Women’s Bible Commentary since the central (human) figure in the story is a woman. Here is how it sums up the episode:

In a wonderful tale about a trickster snake, a woman who believes it, and a rather passive, even comical man, biblical writers comment on the inevitability of reality as they perceived it, wistfully presenting an image of an easier, smoother life. Woman, the one who will house life within her, helps to generate this new, active, challenging life beyond Eden. (p. 31)

A trickster snake? A comical man? A pioneer woman who braves the original new frontier? Suddenly I am reading this story like the old Greek myths I used to read in 4th grade-or better yet, Aesop’s fables. I actually liked reading those fun, often playful tales. After reading them I did not feel like I-as a female-was the “second sex” because Eve ate the forbidden fruit. As I grew older, I learned that some faith traditions believe that because of Eve, Adam sinned the Original Sin, which doomed all of humanity. All this from fruit? It was hard, as a young woman, to be a big fan of Eve. Reading these verses again as inspired ancient cultural text, I’m not reading condemnation of Eve-even though the passage certainly reflects the male-oriented worldview of the ancient authors. Original Sin isn’t found here either; it wouldn’t be developed as doctrine until Augustine approached it with his own worldview in the 4th century.  The funny thing is, if you take sin out of it-where scholars of Hebrew Scriptures tell us it should never have been in the first place-it reads as a very different-very human-story. 

In the ancient mythology, the trickster was less powerful than the gods, yet had wits to transform situations, cause general mischief, and overturn the status quo. The trickster’s purpose was to shake things up. The serpent certainly shook things up. Look again at verse 4. “You won’t die,” he says. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Notice, the serpent does not lie to Eve. Now, I can’t stand snakes, even the cute green ones. That is probably because of the influence of this very passage when I was younger! But there must have been something about this snake. He was crafty; the woman quoted God’s words to him, so he put a different spin on them-one that appealed to her human nature. It was a spin that shook up the cosmos. 

In this story, Eve is the protagonist, and as the Women’s Bible Commentary points out, “This is an important point, as is the realization that to be the curious one, the seeker of knowledge, the tester of limits, is to be quintessentially human…” p. 31). This is not your grandma’s Eve. This Eve-my Eve-is human like me. She weighed her options, took a look around, saw a really good-looking tree, and ate some fruit. Her companion, who it should be noted had said not a word during the entire encounter with the serpent, ate the piece she gave him. And, she got what she asked for: knowledge. I’m thinking Eve hadn’t really thought through the possible consequences of her decision. But that, too, is human. Like me.



Daily Devotion – March 24, 2014
03.24.14

John 4:29-30

 

‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be  the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city  and were on their way to him.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

A nagging question that is mulled over by many Christians is “If  Jesus came back during our lifetime, would we recognize Him?”

 

We’re getting better at recognizing false prophets and false Messiahs. The  past few decades have been filled with men who have told others to give up  their wealth and families over to them. They have even committed mass suicide  when threatened by others. But Jesus didn’t do any of these things. He didn’t  take on multiple wives. He didn’t ask his disciples to give Him all of their  money. He didn’t ask anyone to kill themselves. Many of these false prophets  have exuded greed to the highest degree and that isn’t who Jesus was.

 

Back in college, I collided with a teammate while playing intramural  football. We were both knocked unconscious. Soon after, Jeff believed he was  Jesus. He grew his hair long, wore sandals and robes and quit going to class.  But none of us believed him. Nothing in his words or deeds led us to believe  he was the Messiah. I guess we were right because a few months later he  believed he was Ian Anderson and left school to catch up with his rock band,  Yes. The collision didn’t effect my brain, at least not that I’m aware of.

 

The odds of any of us being alive when the Messiah returns is very small.  Instead of debating whether or not we would recognize Him or not, perhaps a  more useful question would be, can we recognize the Holy Spirit when it is  present in us or in those around us? This is a more useful question because I  believe the Holy Spirit can be present at any time and in any place.

 

Like Jesus, I believe the Holy Spirit nudges us toward inclusion not  exclusion. It pushes us toward peace not war. It jabs us toward curiosity not  judgment. It whispers to us with kindness not meanness.

 

Can we step back from our busyness and recognize the Holy Spirit when it  is present? I know when I listen for it, it is often there.

 

Prayer:

 

Dear Jesus, if you should return in my midst, please help me to trust in  your presence. Help me to continue to recognize the Holy Spirit working in my  heart and in the hearts of those I meet. In your name I pray.



Daily Devotion – March 22, 2014
03.21.14
John 4:16-26 

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

 

This is one of my favorite passages.  It shows Jesus doing what, in my opinion, is the heart of his ministry.  He finds an ordinary woman, someone who is probably overlooked and disrespected by many, even herself.  He notices her, asks for her help, and then talks to her.  He teaches her and he reveals his true self to her. 

Everyone is important to Jesus.  We are all worthy of attention. We are all useful. We are all called to service and worship.  It didn’t matter to Jesus that this woman wasn’t a Jew or that she clearly did not live a life of integrity.  She was valuable enough that Jesus took the time to speak to her.  He challenged her, too.  He challenged her as he challenges us, to live with honesty and to recognize that the choices we make in our day to day lives influence our spiritual connection to the Divine spirit.

 

Prayer

Dear God, Help me to remember that the way I live is a reflection of my connection with you.  Help me to live a life that is a testimony of your love and your glory.



Daily Devotion – March 21, 2014

John 4:16-26

 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This is one of my favorite passages.  It shows Jesus doing what, in my opinion, is the heart of his ministry.  He finds an ordinary woman, someone who is probably overlooked and disrespected by many, even herself.  He notices her, asks for her help, and then talks to her.  He teaches her and he reveals his true self to her. 

Everyone is important to Jesus.  We are all worthy of attention. We are all useful. We are all called to service and worship.  It didn’t matter to Jesus that this woman wasn’t a Jew or that she clearly did not live a life of integrity.  She was valuable enough that Jesus took the time to speak to her.  He challenged her, too.  He challenged her as he challenges us, to live with honesty and to recognize that the choices we make in our day to day lives influence our spiritual connection to the Divine spirit.

Prayer

Dear God, Help me to remember that the way I live is a reflection of my connection with you.  Help me to live a life that is a testimony of your love and your glory.



Daily Devotion – March 20, 2014
03.20.14

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

John 4:7-15

 Devotion by Janet Derby

I love to go hiking. Too often, however, I find that I will head off on an unplanned hike or what I think will be a short one without bringing a water bottle. Yet I have discovered something interesting – if I am hiking near water, even if I can only hear the sound of the water nearby, I have more energy for the hike and I am less inclined to need an actual drink. There seems to be something more life-giving about water than physical thirst.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman (it really annoys me that she is not named) carry on a fascinating conversation on different levels about the need for water. She focuses on the physical need – even to the extent of not wanting to have to come to the well to draw it. He is trying to help her understand that our needs go much deeper than that – that if we fulfill our spiritual needs we will not have to be so concerned about surface issues.

Prayer

Life-giving God, help me to focus not on my physical concerns, but rather on my deeper needs. Let me experience a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. Amen. 



Daily Devotion – March 19, 2014
03.19.14

John 4:5-6

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

Devotion by Jim Kennedy

 Jesus had just finished baptizing more people then John the Baptist. It wasn’t really Jesus who did this but his disciples. Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee but he had to take a detour through Samaria.

In Samaria he happened upon a plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob is described in the Hebrew Scripture, the Talmud, the Christian Scripture, the Qur’an, and Baha’i scripture as the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant. That’s quite a resume.

Jacob was the ancestor of the tribes of Israel which were named after his descendants. The biblical account of the life of Jacob is early on in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. Joseph was the 11th of Jacob’s 12 sons, and Rachel’s firstborn, and was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. But he rose to become the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh.

So that was some plot of land in Samaria that Jesus came upon. Do you think Jesus knew the plot of land from his reading of Hebrew Scripture? Do you think there was a historical marker on the site saying this was a plot of land given to Joseph by his father Jacob? Do you think there was a stand nearby selling t-shirts and coffee mugs saying this was the plot of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph?

And Jacob’s well was there. And it had been there a long time. Wells were meaningful in the deserts of Israel. There were no streams in the desert so the only place to get water was the ground (so called groundwater). A well could be a reliable source of water in the absence of streams. And here Jesus found the well belonging to the famous Jacob.

Jesus was tried from his journey and he was sitting by the well. I was always told that Jesus never got tired, that he always had the energy to do what needed to be done. But here he was tired and sitting. And it was only the middle of the day. Is there anything that a tired Jesus could do with a well or its water that would make an impression on someone?   

Prayer

Dear Lord I pray that I may always use the water of those who have made a covenant with you to refresh me from my long journey.