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Daily Devotion – February 28, 2015
02.28.15

Genesis 17:15-16

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

This morning on my drive to work, I talked to God.  I thanked God for my life, all of the good, bad, and ugly in it.  I truly believe that I am a better person because of the challenges I faced and survived.  I talked to God about how I have accepted being childless.  My heart told me that God knew what was best for my life.  I said, “I may get sad sometimes and think about what life would be like with a child, but I know you have a plan for me.”  Maybe it was a coincidence that I prayed that message today, and then came home to write the daily devotion about Sarah becoming a mother.  I feel so much peace that I didn’t run away from this passage.  I am happy that I can write about Sarah’s blessing from God without jealously raging through my body.  I think God gave me this passage, so I would see how much peace I have in my life now.

Prayer:

Almighty God and Great Creator, thank you for giving us peace after a long challenge.  Thank you for speaking to us through your living word.  Thank you for loving us.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 27, 2015
02.27.15

 

Genesis 17:6-7

I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

My usual bible is The New Oxford Annotated New Revised Standard Version.  I liked the footnotes for this passage.  “Covenant is a term of relationship between a superior and an inferior party, the former ‘making’ or ‘establishing’ the bond…  Like the covenant with Noah, this is an everlasting covenant, one that lasts in perpetuity because it is grounded in the sovereign will of God, not in human behavior.”

While my 21st century sense of self-esteem may bristle at being on the “inferior” end of this covenant, or relationship, it also means that this bond starts with God and is a “forever” bond that nothing I do, or don’t do, can break.  Even more importantly, this bond is the one thing that I can give to my sons, my legacy, that won’t fade, rust, wear out, use up, or otherwise end.  I am exceedingly grateful for the everlasting covenant with our loving God.

Prayer:

By your grace make knowing, loving and obeying you my highest priority.  Amen.*

 

*  http://theprayercovenant.org/



Daily Devotion – February 26, 2015
02.26.15

Genesis 17:1-5

17When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.

Reflection by Lynne Buell

To be informed by God at the age of 99 that you will be the ‘father of many’ would make any man fall on his face.  But seriously, I didn’t look at this scripture as one of conception, but of one of the beginning of Christianity and God’s ongoing creation process.  This covenant extends to the present; we, as Christians, must carry on God’s quest for love, peace, and joy throughout the world.

Prayer:

Help us to show our praises to God in all that we do.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 24, 2015

Mark 1:12-13

The Temptation of Jesus

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I find this scripture to be so odd! The Spirit descends upon Jesus and immediately it drives Him out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan! There are many times that Jesus seeks refuge in solitude. But in this instance, He is alone to ward off Satan. Why doesn’t God or the Holy Spirit protect Jesus from Satan, and simply provide some alone time to organize His thoughts and come up with a game plan for ministering to everyone on Earth?

Jesus was made flesh and blood. He walked on Earth to live, to experience the joys and pains of human life. Perhaps He fought with Satan’s temptation to learn how to overcome it so He could teach others how to overcome Satan’s power.

Why is it that we have to go through pain and suffering? Have you heard of the expression, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger?” Perhaps we are thrown into the trials and tribulations of life to make us stronger? And when we turn to God during those times, our faith grows stronger too.

Perhaps in the same way, Jesus’ relationship with God grew stronger during those forty days as well. Huh, I never thought of the relationship between God and Jesus to be a dynamic relationship before. But perhaps their love for each other grew over time as well.

Prayer:

Dear God our Father, I’m glad you sent Jesus into the world. I’m glad that You love each other. I’m glad that you, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit love me as well. I don’t wish for tests in the wilderness, but if they come, I thank You for being there to help me through them. Amen.



Daily Devotion – February 23, 2015
02.24.15

Psalm 25:6-7

 

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,

for they have been from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

according to your steadfast love remember me,

for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

What a gift we have in our faith . . . the ability to ask forgiveness for our sins (transgressions) and have God forgive them. I’m not sure about you but I certainly have not lived a life without sin.

There have been times in my life when I have not been a good friend, a good neighbor, a good sister, a good daughter, a good partner, or a good co-worker. I could spend my life beating myself up for all of these times that I have not been a good Christian or I could try harder and harder to be a better person and ask forgiveness for my mistakes. I am thankful for the opportunity God gives us for reflection and improvement!

 

Prayer: 

God, at times when my human-ness gets in the way of my Christian-ness, thank you for allowing me to always do better and for forgiving me. AMEN.



Sermon: “Rainbow Connection” (Lent 1, 2/22/15)
02.23.15

God said to Noah, There’s gonna be a floody, floody…  the animals going into the ark by twosies, twosies and coming out by threesies, threesies… The rainbow in the sky.  God’s promise never to destroy the earth again.  It’s a familiar story, one just about everyone knows.

Do you ever wonder what was going on behind the scenes, below the deck?  What was it like to live on a boat in the rain with animals and odors and in-laws?  What was it like to be cooped up in a big wooden box for 6 months?  In short, what was it like to be Mrs. Noah?

Mrs. Noah Speaking: I suppose under the circumstances there’s really no point in complaining but really! Noah and I had just got accustomed to living alone and having some peace and quiet and fixing up the house the way we wanted it at last.

I brought up three boys, wiped their runny noses, changed their messy diapers, washed, sewed, cooked, saw to it that they had the proper advantages.  We got them safely married (though if I didn’t know it before I know it now; their wives leave a great deal to be desired).  We liked having them come to visit us on the proper holidays, bringing the babies, taking enough food home to feed them for a week, and Noah and I could go to bed in peace.

And now look what has happened!  Sometimes I think it would have been simpler to have drowned with everybody else- at least their troubles are over.  And here we are jammed in this Ark – why didn’t the Lord give Noah enough time to build a big enough ark if He wanted him to build one at all?  The animals take up almost all the room and Noah and I are crowded together with Shem, Ham and Japheth, their slovenly wives and noisy children, and nowhere to go for a moment’s peace.

Noah, of course, has hidden several elephant’s skins of wine somewhere, and when the rain and noise and confusion get too bad he goes down to the dirty hold with the beasts and gets drunk, sleeps it off on the dirty straw, and then comes up to bed smelling of armadillo dung and platypus pee.  

Not that I blame him . . . It’s my daughters-in-law who get me.  They insist on changing the beds every time I turn around.  They won’t use a towel more than once, and they’re always getting dressed up and throwing their dirty linen at me to wash, the washing is easy enough – we’ve plenty of water – But how do they expect me to get anything dry in all this rain?  I don’t mind doing the cooking, but they’re always coming out to the kitchen to fix little snacks with the excuse that it will help me: “You’re so good to us, Mother Noah, we’ll just do this for you,” and they never put anything away where it belongs.

They’ve lost one of my measuring cups and they never clean the stove and they’ve broken half of the best china that came down to us from Grandfather Seth. When the babies squall in the night, who gets up with them?  Not my daughters-in-law.  “Oh, Mother Noah’ll do it. She loves the babies so.”  Ham’s wife is always stirring up quarrels, playing people off against each other.  Shem’s wife who never does anything for anybody, manages to make me feel lazy and mean if I ask her to dry one dish.  Japheth’s wife is eyeing Shem and Ham; she’ll cause trouble; mark my words.

Today that silly dove Noah is so fond of came back with an olive twig on his beak. Maybe there’s hope that we’ll get out of this Ark after all.

We’ve landed! At last! Now we can get back to normal and have some peace and quiet and if I put something where it belongs it will stay there and I can clean up this mess and get some sleep at night and –  Noah! Noah! I miss the children!  (by Madeleine L’Engle)

Noah’s Ark.  A nice story…until you consider the details.  A boat packed with animals of every ilk makes for great artwork…but in reality, it makes for great work.  Eight family members on a small boat with animals sounds cozy…but the reality?  Not so much.

And what about the people who didn’t make it onto the boat, the ones who died in the flood?  Despite what the song said, everything did not turn out hunky dory for everyone in the story.  How could a loving God destroy everyone on earth except one family?  That’s where the details of this story get uncomfortable.  It’s the part of the story a recent novel addresses.

Re Jana, the daughter of the construction foreman hired to oversee the building of the ark, narrates In the Shadow of the Ark.  At several points, her father quarrels with Noah about the goodness of a God who would kill nearly the whole human race.  “How should I imagine this Unnameable god of yours?” he says at one point.  “Like an eternally raging hurricane?  But who can possibly stay angry for the length of time this plan is taking?”

“He is disappointed rather than angry,” [Noah] says.

“If disappointment drives him, he must make clear what he expects…there should be no doubt about what his wishes are.  Only then can he justify punishment.”

“Many things are so obvious they do not need rules.”

“Those with that sort of understanding are rare.  Many live in ignorance.  And what is learned now will soon be forgotten again.  What makes you confident your god will not do the same thing all over again in 500 years, to your children and your children’s children?  That he will not destroy your cities again and will not butcher your descendants?”

[Noah] says: “The Unnameable does not bear malice. He has only become tired of human kind. I have long discussions with Him, and I assure you, He does not act rashly. His spirit will not quarrel with us for eternity. Believe me, after this, there will be clear rules, commandments, and prohibitions that are so plain they will not need explanations.”

The foreman shakes his head.  “I do not ask for rules.  I ask for judgment, the understanding that makes it possible to deviate from the rules if the need arises.”

“That understanding too will come. With the passing of time. And with (hu)mankind’s maturing.”

“Is this then the time of beginning, the time of mistakes and trials?  To me it sounds more like the end time.  It seems to me that soon everything will be finished.”

“Let us say that a new time is coming.”

“A new time for whom?  For a handful of candidates?  That is reprehensible.”

“It is the crime that is reprehensible, not the punishment.”

“How can there be a question of crime for a people that does not have a system of justice?”  “Give this people a system of justice…and they would not become depraved.  No god would find it necessary to destroy them…. Talk your god around, appeal to his reason… Or is the Unnameable destroying us for your benefit?  So that you will be able to live in a better world?”   (Provoost, Anne.  In the Shadow of the Ark.  New York: Berkley Books, 2001 [translation, 2004], 218-19)

Hard questions…and, no doubt, questions many of us have asked of this story.  What are thoughtful people of faith, those who believe in a loving God, to make of such a story?

The first thing we do is read the story of Noah’s Ark as just that—a story.  Throughout history, people have used stories to help make sense of things that happen to them…things like massive floods.  The geologic record reveals many floods in antiquity.  Every culture that experienced a flood made up a story about it.  Why?  To have some control over it, right?  If we know what caused the flood, we can prevent the next one.

Our Judeo-Christian flood myth is no different.  Like other flood stories, the story of Noah’s Ark helped our ancestors to explain what was happening.  It gave them a feeling of control over a completely out-of-control event.  By calling the flood God’s punishment for their “wickedness,” they could avoid another flood by becoming more righteous.

The place where our story diverges from other flood myths is at the point of the rainbow.  Listen:  9“I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

The sign of the covenant is a “bow set in the sky,” which could be something like a constellation, but I like the traditional interpretation of a rainbow…because rainbows contain every color that exists.  Anything we see, the hue of any flower, the pigment of any person’s skin, the shade of any creature on earth—any color that exists is in the rainbow… which makes it the perfect symbol of the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood.  With the rainbow, God is saying, “My love and care extend to every living thing.”

…which begs the question:  If God’s protection and love are for everyone, shouldn’t ours be also?  I’m sure we all would answer yes to that question.  If such a flood threatened today, would we build an ark just for members of our own family or faith family?  No.  We wouldn’t think of it.  We’d agree with Re Jana, who said:  “To save (hu)mankind, you need a fleet, not a single vessel.  What sort of god carries all his eggs in one basket?”  (293)

Our ancestors in faith understood the first flood to be the judgment of an angry God. But based on how they ended the story—by expressing concern and love for all creatures and people—maybe they learned a little from retelling the story over the centuries.  Maybe they learned that judgment now rests, not in God’s hands, but  in ours.  Will we hire people to build the boat then close the door on them when the rains begin?

Or will we build a fleet?  Will we crowd all the animals and one very human family into a tiny boat?  Or will we build enough boats for all the construction workers and their families?  I’m pretty sure that today, we’d build a fleet…enough boats for everyone, enough vessels to save everyone.

And, because she liked it so well, we’d build one tiny boat for Mrs. Noah, her husband, her children…and the platypus.

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©  2012



Daily Devotion – February 22, 2015
02.22.15

 

Psalm 25:4-5

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

Faith is defined in both churches and in popular culture as believing in the existence of things

that fall outside the realm of day-to-day experience or scientific knowledge. Yet, many places

in scripture demonstrate faith as a committed way of living rather than a constrained way of

thinking. Here, the psalmist invokes the Divine Spirit for continued growth in the faith-walk.

This requires a personal awareness and/or personal seeking of the Divine Presence in one’s

life. By comparison, Psalm 119 emphasizes how living in accordance with scripture is crucial

to the faith-walk. Both an inner relationship with the Divine and an outer practice of written

teachings appear to be essential. Belief in miracles, original sin, or other strictures on thought

seem less important.

After my own period of extreme doubt and its accompanying depression, I learned the

importance of devoted love to Divine Mother, my personal Higher Power. Moreover, I began

committing myself daily to my Higher Power by love and service to other people. I still have

much learning and growth ahead of me, yet I do not fear encountering the same inner crises

caused by my former “belief” faith.

Hymn:

To you Sovereign Mother Divine

I surrender my body, heart, strength, and mind.

So this day I may carry your joy and your love

For all people beside this my path you entrust.

You’ve thus led and filled my needs

Through every breath I draw for life

You’ve thus led and filled my needs

With every step I take on this march.



Daily Devotion – February 21, 2015
02.21.15

Genesis 9:12-17

12God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

I must confess to a distrust of most promises. Experience has taught me that even the most loyal of friends or family will one day let me down. I admit to this character trait because I have a tendency to approach scripture with some skepticism. I am not one of those people who believes in the literal truth of the Bible, but I do believe in its Wisdom. So as I read these verses I pondered the deeper meaning behind the words. Rainbows are special. I love to see them. They seem magical to me and they remind me of God’s love and mystery. They get my attention and they seem to do this for others, too. I think whoever wrote down this story for us must have felt this way about rainbows, too. He or she must have felt that rainbows were a hopeful sign from God, a reminder from the creator that we are loved and cared for. Genesis says the promise of the rainbow is a promise to all living creatures, not just to humans. It is called a covenant, but it requires nothing from us other than to be, to live. Does God really promise we won’t be destroyed in a flood? I don’t know, but I believe that God, like a parent loves a child, loves all of Creation. I don’t understand the ways of God, but I trust that God watches over his (or her) handiwork and has plans to keep it around and that’s good enough for me.

 

Prayer:

Dear God, Thank you for creation. Thank you for reminders of your awesome imagination and power. Help us remember your love and constant presence. Amen

 



Loving Every Living Thing

by reallifepastor

I don’t get ISIS.  At all.  I can’t comprehend such disregard for the dignity of human life.  I can’t imagine the devastating impact on the victims of the atrocities ISIS is committing.  I don’t want to live in a world where people can do such horrific things to each other.

But that’s not something I get to choose. We do live in a world where people are tortured and killed, where girls are kidnapped from schools and forced into marriage or prostitution, where young people are radicalized and turned into killing machines.

What is a person of faith to do?

Yesterday, I listened in on a Carter Center webinar conversation addressing women’s rights. One of the women, Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, an international worker, said that, as an international community, we must learn to recognize and honor humanity’s rich diversity, we must learn to honor the dignity of every human being.

That’s the message of this week’s story from Genesis about the (rain)bow God places in the sky after Noah’s ark lands on Mt. Ararat. “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth,” God says in 9:16. God’s love and protection extend to all living creatures.

The atrocities happening around the globe are overwhelming. This seems so small, so simple…but perhaps the best thing I, as an individual, can do is to love all living things I encounter today with the same fierceness that God loves them. If I do that, and if you do that, and if a few other people do that, perhaps, just maybe, we’ll begin to make a difference.



Daily Devotion – February 20, 2015
02.20.15

James 1: 22-25

Hearing and Doing the Word

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Reflection by Monty Wyne

In this passage, James writes to the people who are facing a variety of trials. Through these trials, their trust in God is being tested, stretched. James wants to help his readers persevere through these difficult times in a way that their relationship with God deepens and grows. He knows that in the midst of struggles our view of God can become cloudy. We wonder if God is still present, questioning whether He is with us and if He is totally good. We often wonder how much He really cares for us, what our purpose is here on earth, even who we are.

I can relate to this passage. For I have turned a corner in life that has left me wondering about my life’s purpose. Has left me wondering about who I am and where I’m going? Has made me question whether or not I’m wasting precious years on meaningless tasks, on work that isn’t really fulfilling and isn’t really having a worthwhile impact on my immediate world or the world at large. I feel so alone in this struggle.

I have talked to God. I have asked Him for answers. I have waited for a sign, a response and nothing comes. But when I read, “my trust is being tested, stretched,” I have to ask just how far can it be stretched before one breaks or loses faith?

“Who am I,” I ask.  “What is my purpose?”

I’m waiting for an answer.

Prayer: 

Dear God,

Help me to understand my purpose and to live it hopefully and faithfully.  In Your name I pray.    Amen