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Daily Devotion – November 29, 2014
11.29.14

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him.  Keeping their distance, they called out saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.  He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I was reading in the AJC on Thursday an article by Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, concerning giving thanks.  In the article he says,

Gratitude is the highest of virtues and a daily choice that ennobles the grateful person, ushering him or her beyond the dark and dreary cave of obsessive self-interest and anxiety about one’s own future into the bright sunlight of altruism and magnanimity in service to a future large enough for us all.  When we embrace thanksgiving as a way of life, we are happier, and the world is made better.

The truth is, the people most of us admire—those who have done the most to change the world for the better—honed their craft of transformation as practitioners of a deep and abiding gratitude for life, its interconnectedness and its great possibilities. (Warnock, “Service: True Way of Giving Thanks,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thursday, November 27, 2014, A22).

As with this scripture, Rev. Warnock eloquently describes gratitude as more than just saying thank you one day a year.  Rather, gratitude requires a transformation of our very being.  I am sure the nine lepers who did not return to give thanks to Jesus were thankful for the gift of mercy bestowed upon them.  We do not know why they continued on; maybe they were just doing what Jesus told them to do or maybe they were just happy not to be sick anymore.  Unlike the group, however, the one leper not only experienced the mercy of Jesus through the physical healing, but was changed within his soul as well.  His transformation urged him to return to Jesus and to give him thanks.  My sense is that he realized that because of what Jesus did for him his world would be changed forever.  And he was deeply grateful.

Warnock and Jesus both ask of our gratitude complete transformation; a transformation that will change the way we see ourselves and see the world.  Genuine thanksgiving will show us just how connected we all are.  It will teach us to dream what is possible.  It will call us to serve.  It will bring light to a darkened world.  It will alter our life forever.  Such a change compels us to return to the source from which we owe our very life.

Prayer:

May we experience healing in our life.  May we be grateful.  May our gratefulness change us so that our life will never be the same.   May our gratefulness return us to our redeemer.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 28, 2014
11.28.14

Luke 9:6 

So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake 

Have you witnessed God’s healing power? Modern medicine is quite impressive with vaccines, robotic surgery, and medicinal therapies, but what if your physician prescribed prayer? Would you follow his or her recommendation? Do you have as much faith in prayer as you do with today’s medical advances?

Yesterday, I witnessed God’s healing power at work in my father-in-law. While having a scan at Northside Hospital, my father-in-law coded blue. We nearly lost him on Thanksgiving Day. Although he is still on life support with a breathing machine working for his lungs, he has improved dramatically. The hospital Chaplain prayed with me, as I was the only family member present at the time. After many texts and emails were sent, dozens of friends and family members began praying.

So, was it prayer that healed my father-in-law or was it medical professionals, equipment, and medicine? Prior to praying with the Chaplain, the doctor instructed me to “call in the family.” Soon after our prayer, my father-in-law opened his eyes and became alert. It has been 24 hours, and his doctor is considering removing the breathing tube tomorrow.

So, you decide.

Prayer:  

Dear Heavenly Father, God Almighty, and Great Creator, please keep us mindful that you are the great healer. Please keep us mindful that you are in control of our lives. Thank you for your healing power. Thank you for loving us. In the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 27, 2014
11.27.14

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

Happy Thanksgiving!  This is the time of year when we are especially grateful for all the blessings God has given us.  But gratitude, as well as generosity, compassion, love, is a spiritual attribute I try to work on all year long.  I think of these things not so much as emotions that I feel, but attitudes that I act into being.  Even when I am not feeling generous, or grateful, or loving, I try to act like I feel that way; and then the emotion of generosity or gratitude or compassion or love washes over me.  I wish you all a safe, happy, and grateful Thanksgiving.

Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for all the blessings you have given me.  Please help me to act and feel grateful, generous, compassionate, and loving all year long.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – November 26, 2014
11.26.14

2 Corinthians 9:6

6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

We’re encouraged to give generously; whether it is donations of food or money, or if it is giving our ‘time’ by feeding the homeless or taking part in a worship service. We make our pledges each year so that we can ‘keep the lights on’ at Pilgrimage, and we volunteer our time and talents for the good of the church community.  One thing is for sure, Pilgrimage is a very generous community. 

Giving is a private, not a public decision. It is to be decided of one’s own heart, and the question of how much to give is a matter that each person must answer for himself.  Subsequently, the recipients benefit from generosity, but the givers will benefit as well. 

I like to view giving the way God gave; it was because he so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  

Prayer: 

Almighty God, I thank you for my life and everything you have bestowed upon me, this day and every day; that I am able to be a generous giver has filled me with gladness.  Amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – November 25, 2014
11.25.14

Psalm 65:5 

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,     

    God our Savior,

the hope of all the ends of the earth     

    and of the farthest seas…

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock 

Protest and Privilege 

Last night, we sat in front of the television and watched the announcement of the Grand Jury decision from Ferguson, Missouri. From the time the broadcast started, there was a split screen, one camera on the crowd and another on the DA who was reading the lengthy statement. For a while, we watched the people straining to hear what he was saying on their radios and phones. Then, when he got to the point and announced that the Grand Jury had voted not to indict the white policeman who shot Michael Brown, we watched the people process the information, at first in stunned silence. Then the protests started. Even as I write that, just like the camera crews, I realize I was expecting them to begin almost on cue. We were waiting. So, I watched them start up, then heat up, and Sarah tracked them all over the country on Twitter.

 

Then, at around 11:00, we called it a night.

 

That, friends, is one example of what is known as White Privilege. I had built my evening TV viewing around the press conference and coverage of the “event.” After about the second round of teargas had been shot into the crowd in Ferguson, Sarah looked up from the string of protests starting in every major U.S. city and said, “I think I’m just going to sit here in my white privilege.” I, caught up in the unfolding story, asked her what she meant. “I don’t HAVE a riot outside MY door.” I can be thick as mud sometimes.

 

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Ferguson is the 21st Century version of “Selma,” a cry for justice that in one word captures the collective voices of the disenfranchised. And last night, for me it was there for my viewing pleasure. A few weeks ago, Pastor Kim preached a sermon about it; I shook my head, wrung my hands, and felt sufficiently bad, but not bad enough to stay for the continued Sunday School discussion the following week. That’s part of my white privilege too: I can join up with a church committed to social justice and have the audacity to think that I’m “covered” just by signing the roll. When really, PUCC is a place for me to re-charge and build up my strength to go, to do, to live justice.  Thing is, I don’t really know specifics on how to do that, or maybe I do deep down, but the White Privilege is that little voice inside me that tells me that I don’t—or that activism can be terribly inconvenient.

 

I’ll tell you what I couldn’t look at last night, still couldn’t look at this morning when I was seeing all the posts on Facebook. I couldn’t look at the pictures of Michael Brown’s family in what I understand as pain at hearing the verdict. I do not get to share in that pain, don’t get to try to empathize and feel it. I don’t get to feel it because my White Privilege means I can conveniently shut the feelings off whenever I want to. And not just feelings—if I wanted to, at least until the awakening of the Just God, I could live my life for the most part without ever encountering injustice based on my race. I have for half a century, after all. In all likelihood, my son will not be shot by a policeman when he wears his hoodie or has his hands in his pockets. And if that ever happened, I would not be expected to be a stately presence on TV who represents all White mothers everywhere. So, to me, I don’t get to look upon my Black sisters’ and brothers’ anguish now, although, to me, I MUST hear what they are saying. It sounds to me a lot like what Jefferson said 200 years ago. Tremble, country, for God is just.

 

I’ll end by sharing a link to a blog post entitled, “12 Things That White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson.” Ferguson is now, like Selma was in the 60s, a complicated and contested issue. But if “doing” is what is needed, and I believe it is, then here is a “do-able” way to start. The link is

http://qz.com/250701/12-things-white-people-can-do-now-because-ferguson/.

 

Anti-racist activist Tim Wise (see www.TimWise.org) points out that racism hurts everyone, and that until White people understand that, we will not really become invested in living for a world that is just for everyone. This is a hard knowledge, not a warm fuzzy one. But in the end of this church year, where we have fallen short of the promise of peace on earth, good will toward all people, it is a realization we might—no, must—seek.

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – November 24, 2014
11.24.14

Psalm 65:4

Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I’ve always had a problem with religions that speak of a chosen people or a chosen race. To me, it means that God is selective. He provides and withholds His love based on some criteria. And if it is an innate characteristic with which we are born, then at birth some are already saved while others are already doomed.

The problem for me with this belief is that everyone can then be totally irresponsible. People can be filled with hate and greed. Actions, words and deeds have no matter with God. He will save those that are preordained to be saved, and He will thrash behind the gates of hell those He has pre-selected to exclude. People can behave as if there is no God, because nothing on Earth matters.

Then again, others may read this line of scripture to say that human beings should respond to God’s love in kind. That the chosen should be thankful and satisfied. And what if we are not? Then are we banished? If so, then we either earn our way into the kingdom of heaven or lose our ticket and denied access.

I’ve come to believe a different view of our relationship with God. It is my belief that God loves all. He doesn’t choose. He holds out his loving arms to everyone. Some of us are like grandchildren who live close to their grandparents. They run to give each other a welcoming hug, because they are familiar and accustomed to each others’ love. Others are like grandchildren who were born far away from their grandparents and are weary of who these elderly people are that are holding out their arms to them. But the grandparents offer their love, none the less. See, I think God is like the grandparents. They offer their love to all of their grandchildren. We are like the grandchildren. We choose whether or not to accept God’s love.

Why is this important to me? Because, you see, our actions, words and deeds do matter. Not because we earn our way into heaven. But because through these we are either choosing to believe in God or choosing to disbelieve. He is holding out his loving arms to all of us. It is up to us to respond. We are given free choice.

Prayer:

Dear Lord. I wrestle with scripture some times. I am not a Biblical scholar. In terms of the Bible, I’m not even an adolescent. I’m a mere child. But I believe I’m a child of God. I thank you for guiding me and teaching me and leading me to an ever greater understanding of your mysteries. I also thank you for holding out your loving arms to me. I choose to believe in you O’ Lord. I choose to believe your love is there for me, no matter who I am, what I may look like or who I may be. I hope that you see my life as an active response to your love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 21, 2014
11.21.14

 

Deuteronomy 8: 7-10

7For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This reading is perfect for this time of year. Thanksgiving is around the corner and I am reminded to be grateful for the many blessings in my life. I do indeed live in a good land that is abundant in resources. Never does a day go by with my belly feeling the ache of hunger. My days are full of loving relationships and fulfilling work. It is fitting that I stop and consider the ways God has made my life rich and full. I know that everyone’s life isn’t as gentle or as easy as mine and I pray that the world changes so that everyone knows the goodness of the God.

Prayer:

Dear God,
As Thanksgiving approaches we are reminded to be grateful for the gifts you give us. Our world is abundant and diverse. Thank you for your love and generosity. Amen

 



Daily Devotion – November 20, 2014
11.20.14

 

Matthew 25:41-46

 

 Judgment Day 

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

At first glance, it may seem obvious what we should take away from this passage. It is about charitable giving to those who are less fortunate than us. After all, giving can lead to transformative change in even our most selfish and unyielding attitudes. But this goes much deeper than generous tithing. This is about stretching ourselves to give of our time and our hearts. To make a genuine human exchange between you and those people others may look down on. Or does it go beyond that?

 

So often it is easier for us to limit the call of Christ to reach out to those who represent a certain demographic. We are stronger and they are weaker and we may not hesitate in thinking or reminding them of that. But what if these words ask us to reach out and welcome the stranger who is a CEO? Or what if we were to reach out to and visit the prisoner who hurt or possibly killed another? Or how about those who have deeply wounded us, even those individuals we may hate? These people need the hand of compassion and generosity as much as we do.*

 

When I look out on my world, I ask myself to whom have I extended my hand and my help lately? And if so, what have I done to comfort them, to better their situation or their position in life? There are those in this world who have devoted their entire lives to such sacrifice at the expense of their comfort, wealth or well-being. Thank God for those people and what drives them to selflessly do for others.

 

Next time you have a quiet moment think about those who have put others before themselves. What about Doctors Without Borders? The devoted missionaries who spend their lives helping others in foreign lands? The neighbor who cares for an elderly couple out of the goodness of her heart? The child who extends the hand of friendship to the class bully? “Yes,” I say, “What have we all done lately?”

 

Prayer: 

Dear God,

Let us welcome you into our hearts and with your love and guidance help us to help others so that they in turn can grow strong enough to extend their help to those in need.

Amen

* BGosden, “covered in the master’s dust,” Dec. 31, 2009

 



Daily Devotion – November 18, 2014
11.18.14

 

1 Peter 2:15-16

 

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

 

Reflection by Don Tawney, Sr. 

 

A Christian must attempt in all relationships, to conduct himself or herself so as to put to silence the unreasonable, if not wicked, reproaches of the most ignorant and foolish people.  Those who speak against Christianity and Christian people, those who say they want to get religion out of our national life, are ignorant and foolish.  The apostle Peter tells the Christians that they are free, but from what?  Not from the duty or obedience of God’s Law.  They were spiritually free from the bondage of sin and Satan.  They were not to use their freedom as an excuse to do wickedness.  They were not to neglect their duty toward God or their duty to be upright and to do right as citizens of the state.  We are to learn that all the servants of Christ are free men and women.  “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”-John 8:36.  It is the will of God for you and me to imitate Christ the best we can; This honors God.  This makes for a Christian community and nation.

 

Prayer: 

      Dear God, help me to imitate Your Son, Christ, the best I can; this honors You. 

                                                     Amen



Daily Devotion – November 17, 2014
11.17.14

Matthew 25:34-36

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

 

Devotion by Janet Derby

Sometimes the problems of the world can be overwhelming and we think that we cannot possibly make a difference. Or perhaps, we feel that we don’t often enough tell people about God’s love. This passage is a reminder that every day, in small ways, we can give back to God the blessings we have received.

Prayer:

God of All, thank you for the many gifts you have given us. Help me to always remember that I am blessed to be a blessing to others. Amen.