Blog
Daily Devotion – January 31, 2015
01.31.15

Psalm 111

Praise for God’s Wonderful Works

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

 

Reflection by Geoff Heilhecker

We shout this out when good things happen or we feel the sense of answered prayers. It is amazing how three simple words in that order can stir such emotion in everyone.

Thanking for believing in God in and amongst those around you is the hardest part of having faith. Having the strength to trust in something greater and letting others see it is even harder when you have to believe at times in those around you and have the conviction of what you believe.

So believe and praise what it is that brings you joy, elation and comfort in times of sorrow. That is what God is for.

 

Prayer:

May we in the quite of this moment Praise the Lord so that we can all have our hearts full of loving and graciousness that might be in our day. Amen.



Daily Devotion – January 29, 2015
01.29.15

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in balances they go up; they are together lighter than air. Psalm 62:9

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

It is hard to digest the idea that those of low estate are but a breath and those of high estate are a delusion.  It is so easy for me to spend any time in a public space and see the discrepancies in the social order of the world.  I watch on news and see the injustices being committed on a daily basis.  I read in the newspaper how the powerful take advantage of the poor so easily and without regard.  In the healthcare setting where I work, those who receive care and those who don’t is obvious.   In my daily reality, there is a severe imbalance.  The world we live in is broken.

When I meditate on these words from the Psalms, I am moved into a place of hope, however.  The hope for me is that despite what I see and experience, there is a place where balance of life exist; where the problems and worries of this world are nothing more than a breath, and maybe, at times, a delusion I have committed myself to.  When I take the time to close my eyes, to feel my breath, and release the tension of the present moment, I can awaken to a new reality.

Here I see the beauty in the broken world.  I see those working hard for social justice.  I see the space in between the city buildings where nature still exist.  I feel the wind.  I taste the fruits of the earth, enjoy their sweetness, and know they are good.  I see the face of the other and I realize that we are all in this together.  I see how we are all connected so intimately to one another.  I hear the voices of love that I have muted.    In this reality, the Psalm comes alive for me: those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in balances they go up; they are together lighter than air.

Prayer:

When the realities of this world become too much to bear, help us to escape into your presence.  May we find refuge in the beauty of this world, so that the words of this Psalm may become reality for us all. Amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – January 28, 2015
01.28.15

Psalm 62:8

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

 

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

This scripture may seem like a “duh” statement. I mean, of course we should trust God at all times. Of course we should pour out our hearts to God. Of course God is our refuge. But….do we? Do we trust in God at ALL times? Do we POUR out our hearts to him? Do we really BELIEVE God is our refuge? Over the past year, I have trusted God more than I have throughout my lifetime. I have poured out my heart to God more than I have ever done. And I have experienced God as my refuge. All of these life-changing experiences happened because of my growth at Pilgrimage United Church of Christ. Because I was welcomed without judgment. Because fellow church members prayed for me. Because I heard at EVERY service that “God has loved you, loves you now, and will always love you.”

Prayer:

Dear Holy God and Great Creator, thank you for leading me to Pilgrimage. Thank you for our Pastor, staff, and dedicated volunteers who have created an environment where I am learning to trust you at all times, to pour out my heart to you, and to know you are my refuge. Amen.



Daily Devotion – January 27, 2015
01.27.15

Psalm 62: 6-7

6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my deliverance and my honour;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

 

Devotion by Julia Shiver

As I am reading this scripture to prepare this devotion, all I can think of is the rock I was marooned on last week. Chris and I were on a group kayak trip through the Florida Keys when I became separated from the group in choppy seas. My kayak started to fill with water, so I made it to a small rock island with three, small mangrove trees. I was unable to re-launch, so I settled into my kayak on my rock and prepared to wait.

I knew I was okay. I knew someone would come looking for me. It was cloudy and windy but not very cold and I had food and water. I was mostly worried about my poor husband who was probably freaking out. Four hours later, the Coast Guard came looking for me, calling me by name. I swam out to the ship where I was hauled aboard, wet, trembling, exhausted but glad to be off the water.

As Chris and I talked about it later, he and I shared that we were both doing a lot of praying and talking to God during those hours. And one member of this not particularly religious group even led everyone in prayer for my safe recovery. God is indeed my rock and my salvation.

 

Dear God, thank you for being so very present with me in my time of need. I was alone on an island in the sea, but I was never alone. Amen



Daily Devotion – January 26, 2015
01.26.15

Psalm 62:5

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.

Devotion by Lynne Buell

During the Adult Sunday school class yesterday, we discussed Walter Brueggemann’s argument that “the Psalms function as voices of faith in the life of a community of believers: referred to as “the seasons of life.””  (From ‘Journey through the Psalm’s by Denise Dombkowski Hopkins.)  Brueggemann (who is an ordained UCC minister currently residing in Cincinnati) refers to the seasons as “Orientation”, “Disorientation,” and “New Orientation.”  Funny that this scripture was the one on the schedule for me today.  Before writing my devotion, I read Psalm 62:1-5 so I could get a feel for what kind of Psalm it is. To me this part of the Psalm felt like the season of disorientation, or one of disorder, suffering, alienation.

Just like life, the journey through the Psalms is a journey of the life of faith. It takes us on a roller-coaster ride of contentment, uncertainty, and praise.  Our prayers to God usually depend on the season we’re in.  The good news is, if you find yourself in the ‘pit’ of life (the season of disorientation), remember this scripture because you will awaken with a feeling of renewal and once again energized by your life.  Thanks be to God.

 

Prayer:

Loving God, thank you for receiving our prayers of joy, pain, and praise during whatever season we happen to be in. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – January 24, 2015
01.24.15

Jonah 3:1-5,10

Conversion of Nineveh

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

What we do can please God. I’m not sure that God brings hardship onto those who do evil and goodness to those who bring love into the world. If so, why do bad things happen to good people?

But I do believe God is watching everyone. He is watching every choice that we make. And some things please Him. Many things we do must make Him weep.

When I watch the evening news and learn about the evil things people do unto others, I imagine God weeping. And that makes me sad. Why do we do things that not only hurt our fellow human beings, but they also hurt our loving Lord.

Why can’t we return God’s love with love? If we are all children of God, shouldn’t we love everyone? Wouldn’t that please God? When my children were younger, they used to fight quite a bit. It made me sad. I got tired of telling them to stop fighting. So with the wisdom of Solomon I told them to stay in their room and keep fighting until one of them couldn’t fight anymore. They immediately stopped and implored me that they didn’t want to hurt each other any more. That was the last time they had a real drag-out fight. You see I didn’t want them to stop fighting just because I told them to stop. I wanted them to stop fighting because they wanted to stop fighting. Somehow, they arrived at that conclusion.

I guess that’s what God is doing in a way. He is waiting for us to arrive at the conclusion that we want to stop fighting. Not just because that is His desire. He wants us to want peace as well. When will we want peace? When will mankind quit fighting?

Prayer:

Dear Lord, we pray and pray and pray for peace. And yet, we keep on fighting. With war and neglect and terror and abuse we bring must bring You to tears. Lead us to true and everlasting peace.  In Your name we pray.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – January 22, 2015
01.22.15

Psalm 139:13-18

13. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths in the depths of the earth,

16. your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me  were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18. Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  When I awake, I am still with you.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

Psalm 139 makes the All-present and Ever-present nature of the Divine Spirit a personal

experience. Not only does the Spirit permeate all existence (i.e., Divine Immanence), but has

the most detailed and intimate knowledge of the individual believer. Every second of a

believer’s life and every cell in his or her body is known and beloved by the Divine One.

Such a love resembles that which a parent feels for a child, yet is far greater, and accompanied

by intimate knowledge far transcending human capacity.

Although the parents and family I was born with are good and loving people, they can never

know me the way my Divine Mother does. I ought never to feel inferior, lonely, or unloved,

because it is true that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Meditation:

In starved-heart sorrows I would call

to you, Dear Mother of my life!

You hold me as I work day’s hours,

or lie beneath your healing night.

You know exactly what I need

as fears and hurts are bound to fade.



Daily Devotion – January 21, 2015
01.21.15

John 1:43-51

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ 46Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This passage tells us about Jesus’ calling of two of his disciples, Philip and Nathanael. I always find the calling of the disciples to be fascinating. Was it really so simple? A strange man just comes up and says, “Follow me,” and one by one the disciples follow him. Did they really just leave their lives and spend their days with Jesus? I can’t imagine I would have had the willingness to let go of my lifestyle and possibly even my home to follow an unknown person, no matter how charismatic he or she appeared to be.

This passage shows us that something about Jesus had a strong effect on people. Could they sense his divine nature? Philip believed Jesus was the one his people had been waiting for, the one the prophets has foretold, a Son of God. Philip was earnest and enthusiastic, too. He must have been an optimistic person. He encourages Nathanael to come with him to meet Jesus.

I personally, am more like Nathanael. I would have been suspicious and even a bit arrogant. I wouldn’t be inclined to believe a carpenter from a small town was anything all that great. But Philip’s enthusiasm would make me curious, as it probably made Nathanael, because he goes with Philip to meet Jesus.

When Nathanael arrives, Jesus makes an immediate impression on him according to the story. Now I am not sure if the story is literal truth, or if John, the writer, is merely trying to make a point about who Jesus was. The truth is it really doesn’t matter to me the exact details of what happened and if Jesus really saw Nathanael under a fig tree or not. I think the point for me is, do I see Jesus as someone special? Am I willing to follow his example and the way of my God like the disciples did? Am I willing to set aside my day to day life and focus on discovering and living out God’s will? It is a tough order and easier said than done. It may lead me into unexpected places and situations that bring challenges I never imagined. It may bring me great joy and love. I may learn how to love with unconditional acceptance. I may see beauty I would never have seen if I stayed safe in my home. The call of Jesus is a call to life and a call to love. Do I see his power and magnificence?   Am I willing to follow him?

 

Prayer:

Oh God, Following you often means walking into the unknown. I am unsure and not always willing. Help me recognize your brilliance so that I am willing to follow your way. Thank you. Amen

 



Daily Devotion – January 20, 2015
01.20.15

I Samuel 3: 1-10

 

Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

 

The story of Eli and Samuel is about nurturing a young child into faith. God calls on Samuel three times, but Samuel has no knowledge of God and therefore mistakenly thinks it is Eli calling on him. When Eli instructs Samuel on how he should respond to God, he receives his first lesson in faith.

 

Kim shared a heartwarming story with us in yesterday’s sermon. It was Howard’s story— a man who had little if any knowledge on how to raise children. Yet a neighborhood friend called on Howard to care for her son while she entered rehab. Howard was single and had other roommates. They all lived by their own schedules and came and went their own ways. How on earth would they care for 9-year old boy?

 

It was a real challenge at first, but the boy’s presence eventually brought everyone together and they became a family. Howard became an adult figure and a positive and affirming influence in the boy’s life, offering him stability and a sense of faith and trust in the absence of his mother.

 

Kim also asked us, “What children are we nurturing into faith?” That stopped me and made me think. I asked myself whom am I nurturing and how am I nurturing them? Am I telling them about church and the important role it can play in their lives? Am I sharing Bible verses and interpreting them? Am I teaching Sunday school?

 

And then I thought for a moment about something that had happened to me that Saturday night—something totally unexpected. I had gone to Starbucks for a coffee after practicing all day on the piano. I was tired, grumpy, and not in the mood for company. I just wanted a little pick-me-up and some quiet time to read. I walked into the store and I saw a rather large Hispanic family who had just walked in starting to fill many of the remaining seats. Quiet time, I thought to myself – good luck!

 

As I looked at one of the pub tables and chairs, I saw a young child trying to pull herself up in the chair so she could sit across from her brother. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t reach the seat. I smiled and walked over to her and asked if I could help her. I didn’t know if she spoke English and my Spanish is a little rusty. She looked at me, as her feet dangled several inches from the floor. I held out my arms and hands and walked over to her and gently lifted her into the seat. She smiled and as I turned to walk to the counter, her mother, who had just placed her order, looked at me with a smile that would warm any heart, grumpy or otherwise, and said, “Thank you.” It made my night.

 

As I thought about that experience, I recalled something that Kim often says during Sunday worship, “May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.” Well, by golly it was a small thing, but it was a Christian thing and I hope mom and child saw the face of Christ in me. And as I reflected on that thought, I realized that in a small way I had nurtured that child in faith.

 

Prayer: 

Dear God, 

Help me continue to share my faith with others and nurture them into faith with an open heart and a gentle soul.   Amen



Daily Devotion – January 19, 2015
01.19.15

1 Corinthians 6:15-20

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Devotion by Jim Kennedy

Overall I find this verse from Paul troubling. I checked my references and this verse is attributed to Paul and not one of the Paul “wanna bes”, so I guess it is actually Paul. Paul says that your bodies are members of Christ, that your body cannot be distinguished from the body of Jesus. You are one and the same and everything you do with your one-body Jesus also does. What a responsibility.

And imagine Jesus with a prostitute (“with” of course being in a different way than talking to the prostitute at a well). Who ever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her/him; the two shall be one flesh. But is this bad? Perhaps the prostitute is a person trying to find their way through the world. In this case is it wrong to become one flesh? Perhaps becoming one flesh helps the prostitute find a different way.

Now when Paul wrote shun fornication I think he went too far. Fornication is defined as consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other. I think that few would shun that these days, as long as the sex is knowingly and truly consensual. At the time 1 Corinthians was written unmarried people having sex was frowned upon (it was frowned upon here 50 years ago) so Paul’s writing simply reflected the morals of the time it was written (as so much of the Bible does).

What Paul was referring to was perhaps sexual immorality, the immorality of having sex with someone you’re not married to (if that is in fact immoral). But perhaps within the time frame that Paul was writing it was immoral, and all the translators and perpetrators of the Bible since Paul have decided to keep it immoral so they left 1 Corinthians 15-20 in the Bible and took something else out (called human-based “divine” editing).

But the leaders of society didn’t have to follow Paul’s advice. They did whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it. In the ancient world the leaders, who were mostly but not all male, had sex with just about anyone they wanted. They didn’t shun fornication; that was for the commoner who would listen to Paul. Leaders not shunning fornication would never happen in modern times (?).

And then Paul went and wrote that you are not your own and were bought with a price. But the price is wonderful; the price is that you get to glorify God in your body. No matter that you are being with a prostitute and fornicating, you glorify God in your body. I guess what that means is all that you do is OK, as long as it is a godly thing that you do, because you are one with the lord. Maybe the verse isn’t so bad.

Prayer

Dear Lord may I always do something that represents what you would do, for we are hopefully one and the same in mind and body.