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Daily Devotion – August 29, 2015
08.29.15

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Romans 16:17-18

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I have been learning a lot this summer about community, in particular, the struggles involved in creating community. I tend to be idealistic in nature. I like to imagine things like what the perfect world would look like, or the perfect family, or the perfect job, or the perfect church. While each of these images of perfection differs in the setting they exist in, the main characteristics of perfection are the same: control, order, and never, ever any conflict. By putting the characteristics of perfection on a pedestal, I can use them as a measuring stick for how I believe others should act to see if they can live up to my ideal world of perfection. When my ideals are not lived up to, then I abandoned that which has disappointed me and have a good reason in my mind to do it.

I make this confession because I am aware of this obstacle in my life that keeps me from fully engaging community, especially the church community. I am not alone with this, I know it. I have sat alongside many people that have tricked themselves into believing that just because things aren’t exactly the way they want them, they have an excuse to leave whatever community they are a part of whether that be church or another community. This obstacle is divisive, causing us to forget about the love available to us all that will guide us when the struggle becomes real.

Love that overcomes obstacles requires work, mindfulness, engagement, and constant growth. Love is not an ideal we create then expect others to live up to it. It’s about finding a way. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about reconciliation. It’s about hope. In order to achieve those things listed in Romans 12, like harmony, patience in tribulation, rejoicing in hope, and peace we will have to allow love to open our hearts, so that we can overcome the obstacles that stand in our way.   Without love, we would all walk away, turn our backs, and continue looking for that ideal place.

Prayer:

God of love, open our hearts to your love. Teach us to trust in love within our communities. Give us the courage to follow that love even when the struggle is difficult to bear. May we know that love is the path to harmony, patience, rejoicing, hope, and peace. Be with us on this journey. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – August 28, 2015
08.28.15

Romans 16: 3-4 (NKJV)

“3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

I had to research these scriptures. I read where interpreters place weight on the fact that the wife was mentioned before her husband. This was not typical in biblical times (and not even in contemporary times). The interpreters surmised that Priscilla converted from Judaism to Christianity, but her husband had not yet converted, thus elevating her in status.

It makes me frown to think that Christians were elevated in societal structures. I believe that when we elevate our beliefs over others, we open the door for discrimination. I like to think that Paul mentioned the wife first because he recognized her value to the Church. Perhaps he didn’t concentrate on whether she was male or female, but that she was devoted to sharing God’s word and love with others.

Prayer:

Almighty God of Creation, open our hearts to accept anyone who needs to hear your Word and feel your Love. Keep our heart open to others who believe differently than we do, and keep us from discriminating against them. Amen.



Daily Devotion – August 27, 2015
08.27.15

 

Romans 16: 1-2

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

 

Devotion by Julia Shiver

 

The role of church deacon is as old as the Christian church itself. It has come to mean different things in different theologies and traditions, but at its heart it is a position of service. One etymology suggests it as “through the dust,” as a servant or messenger would do, hustling through the dust to serve the master. And even at the beginnings of the church, and from Paul himself, the term applies to women as well as men.

Several weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my Aunt Joan at Central UCC. She was a long-time choir member and deacon, as well as being Chair of Deacons for many years. I was very aware of the deacons of that church as they prepared everything for the service and reception afterward. They brought water to those family members standing in the long receiving line; they refreshed the food; and cleaned up afterward, all quietly and without notice. It was a very comforting feeling to be taken care of at such a time. Of course, I have served in the same way at Pilgrimage when we have lost someone, so it was heart-warming to see it from the other side. I felt part of a great community of servants, stretching back to the founding of our church.

 

Dear God,

Thank you for letting me serve the members of our church family in your name.   Amen.



Daily Devotion – August 26, 2015
08.26.15

Philippians 4:10-13

 

10I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

I share Paul’s happiness as I read this scripture. After listening to the morning news…both local and beyond…I needed something to uplift my spirits. Oh, and along with a toasted bacon and (home grown) tomato breakfast sandwich, I’m ready to get on with the day with a more cheerful frame of mind.

 

It’s true, though. I do have just enough to live a comfortable life. And I’m able to share my gifts with our community. I can’t stop the crime or war by myself, but at least I can do what I can to contribute to the well-being of my family, my friends, and my church.

 

It is no ‘secret’ that my faith in God and my ability to listen to and follow the direction I must go is the reason for this contented life.

 

Prayer: 

Lead me in your truth, and teach me,   

 for you are the God of my salvation;    

for you I wait all day long.  –Psalm 25:5  

 



Daily Devotion – August 25, 2015
08.25.15

Psalm 25:16-20

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,     for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 Relieve the troubles of my heart     and free me from my anguish. 18 Look on my affliction and my distress     and take away all my sins. 19 See how numerous are my enemies     and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;     do not let me be put to shame,     for I take refuge in you.

 

Devotion by Don Tawney Sr.

 

When you are lonely in your affliction, your friends are few, and enemies are seemingly many, your cry to God is “O God, the troubles of my heart are greater than I have strength and endurance to make it any further without your help.”  The Psalm writer, David, had servants and soldiers to obey his orders, but they could not help him with the troubles he was having.  His persecutors without were many, however he was suffering in his heart, possibly because he sent the husband of Bathsheba to war where he could not survive, so he could have Uriah’s wife.  So his prayer is for God to turn in compassion to him and look upon his sorry condition, his sins, and forgive him.  We can have earthly friends’ help and sincere prayers, but still experience loneliness and fear because the matter is between the soul and God; and when our prayer for deliverance is that of David’s prayer, “Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I trust in Thee”, we will have the joy and peace God has for us.  Even when his outward troubles lay heavily upon David, and his persecutors against him (Christ had His persecutors fighting His church) were strong, David won the most important battle; that of being forgiven of sin, and given a pure heart.

 

Prayer:

 

Dear God,                                 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me;

And lead me in the everlasting way.”

                                                       Amen



Daily Devotion – August 24, 2015

Romans 15:5-6

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

What is wrong with us? We recently learned that in Korea there are two categories of Christian: Catholic and Protestant. But here in the United States, we have splintered into dozens of different denominations. And even some denominations have individual churches peeling away from their national bodies. And new churches are sprouting up that are totally independent of all other churches. With such delineation of faith, can we glorify God with one voice?

We readily criticize nations that are ethnocentric, meaning they think they are better than all of the others. Yet, don’t church denominations think the same? After all, if one wasn’t better than all of the others, why not merge with another denomination?

Jesus was not an exclusionary. He didn’t turn anyone away. Lepers and prostitutes, tax collectors and church elders were all welcome. Isn’t that being asked of us all? To come together as one?

 

Prayer:

Dear God. We seem to be caught up in a spiral of division and separateness. Help us to see that you led the way by inviting everyone. Let us all praise God as one. Amen.



Sermon: “Community To-Done List” (8/23/15)

Has anyone been dreading today’s sermon–I mean more than usual?  I sure was.  After dealing with that loooong to-do list in Romans 12:9-12 last week, I really didn’t want to add 12 more items to the list.

Happily, before writing this sermon on Romans 12, I read it.  In light of this summer of “growing deeper into community,” I quickly realized that Romans 12 contains not so much a “to-do” list, as a “to-done” list.  It lists, not things we need to do, but things we already do.  Listen.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In a world where attention spans are gnat-sized and where “friending”–or “unfriending”–takes only a single key-stroke, growing deeper into community is among the most counter-cultural things we can do.  And this summer we’ve done it!

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

As soon as I got the idea for this summer’s theme, I asked Allen if we could have the handbells play.  Handbells are the best example I know of community effort, of everyone having his or her own function.  And if someone doesn’t play his or her note, the whole piece gets off track.  (Handbell demonstration)

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;

Example:  Ryan Durkee’s vision of those picnic tables.  He envisioned us getting outside more for community building activities.  Ta-da!  7

Ministry, in ministering;

One word:  Deacons.

The teacher, in teaching;

Miss Janet and everyone else who worked in Vacation Bible School.

The exhorter, in exhortation;

I guess that’s me.

The giver, in generosity;

That’s definitely you all.  When you learned that we were running behind on the Mission Spending Plan, you stepped up to the plate…and how!

The leader, in diligence;  

Many thanks to Joyanna, Duke, and Dana, who ably have led us as President and/or VP.

The compassionate, in cheerfulness.

That would be every last one of you.

Let love be genuine;

Y’all are the loving-est people I ever met!

Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

We’ve got that:  Last week we chose to listen to only one sermon instead of 11!

Love one another with mutual affection;

Too many examples to name.

Outdo one another in showing honor. 

 Okay.  So sometimes we might go a little overboard on this.  A case in point.  Last week, I recognized choir members at 10:00.  When I said they hadn’t sung all summer long, the congregation erupted into applause.  Isn’t it customary for someone to do something before you clap for them?  I’m just saying…

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  

A detailed description of our prayer time, don’t you think?

Contribute to the needs of the saints;

We do that with our special offerings—One Great Hour of Sharing and Neighbors In Need.  We haven’t taken any special offerings this summer—except for the Deacons Fund–but Neighbors in Need is coming up in a couple of months.

Extend hospitality to strangers.

Family Promise.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

We haven’t experienced persecution as a community.  I suspect, though, that many people in our congregation have experienced persecution outside this place–the persecution of discrimination, of humiliation, of bullying.  For those who have experienced that kind of persecution, I’m sure being part of this community gives them the strength and courage they need to “bless and not curse” their persecutors.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Joys and concerns every week!

Live in harmony with one another;

Here’s the thing about harmony—it doesn’t happen unless people are singing different notes.  Community isn’t about group-think, about everyone saying and doing the same things and never having any conflict.  Harmony requires diversity.  And how beautiful that diversity is!  How beautiful our diversity here at Pilgrimage is.

Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;

Haughty is naughty.  Never!

Do not claim to be wiser than you are.

 If anything, we could learn to better trust the wisdom we do have.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  

 If I were Paul’s editor–and I often wish I were–I’d tell him to rework this sentence.  It’s clunky, isn’t it?  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Grammar and writing-style aside, Paul’s intent is clear–living peaceably with all is hard work.  And living peaceably with all requires the participation of all.  “So far as it depends on you”….You do your part.  Others will have to do theirs.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves…No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink…’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In these final verses, we hear Paul’s word to a persecuted people.  As a community, we can only imagine the kind of persecution he’s talking about.  Our calling as a faith community that does not experience persecution is to stand with those who do experience it.

Folks from our community did that twice last Sunday.  Early in the afternoon, nine of us attended an event at Temple Kol Emeth to mark the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Leo Frank.  We did so to stand in solidarity with one who was wrongly accused then murdered by a lynch mob.  Later last Sunday afternoon, four other folks from Pilgrimage attended the premier of a documentary called Unconditional, which illustrates the plight of homeless LGBTQ teenagers.  It was another way of standing in solidarity with those who experience persecution.

After 3 months of trying to grow deeper into community together, it’s heartening to read this quintessential passage on Christian community and find our community in nearly every verse.  On your bulletin cover is a label with a phrase from Romans 12.  The invitation is to do something with that phrase this next week—act it out, offer thanks for the way it’s done in this community, draw a picture of it.  Anything to engage what’s listed.

It’s been heartening to find the Pilgrimage community in every verse of Romans 12, but ultimately, growing deeper into community isn’t an end in itself, but a means to an end.  The end of Christian community is reaching outside this community to share the good news of God’s love with others.  As much fun as we’ve had this summer, as much as we’ve learned about and practiced growing deeper into community, the point of it all has been to strengthen this community so that we can share God’s love with the larger community.

We already do that in many ways.  And I’m sure we’ll come up with many other ways.  Beginning today, we’ll have a little assistance.

IMG_0240

Let me say from the get-go, this is a fund-raiser.  Our new PUCC magnets cost $10 apiece.  This isn’t a plug for you to buy one…though if you are so inclined.  J  I want to speak about the magnets in more symbolic terms.

Think of it as taking everything you’ve learned about and experienced of community in this place and sharing it with everyone you meet.  The magnet will stick to your car; but the love of this place, that will stick to you.  Just as people in a parking lot might see this magnet and, curious about what PUCC means, step closer to read the fine print, as you take the love of this place with you, may people lean in to get a closer look and learn what this love is all about.

Just as the fine print shows others how to get to our website, we have the opportunity to share with them how we have experienced God’s love in this place….which is the whole point.

Pilgrimage United Church of Christ, we’ve done a great job this summer of growing deeper into this community.  Now it’s time turn our energies toward growing out into the larger community.  Because there are folks who are aching to hear the good news that God’s love is for them….and after the summer we’ve had, we can tell them all about it!

As we sing together our community hymn, four folks are going to give us a “hand” in finishing our beautiful community banner.

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

Kimberleigh Buchanan  (c) 2015



Daily Devotion – August 22, 2015
08.22.15

 

Romans 15:2

2. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

We live in a society of opinions and the obsession with being right. Individuals and communities too often lose focus on generosity and service to others. Too many Christian hurches stray from the Christ-Spirit of selfless service to others. Too many churches require

correct thinking in accordance with a list of theological beliefs. Worse yet, a few churches require adherence to some heartless, worldly political ideology. Creeds, doctrines, and the name one uses for the Divine Spirit should be trivial compared to the lived-out truth of

selflessness. My personal commitment to the Divine Feminine and preference for Goddess rather than God may appear “pagan” to some. However, my devotion to Divine Mother is a lifelong effort to center myself on the needs of others rather than myself. I thus hope to

courageously live out Divine unconditional love even if it turns out to be falsehood.

Prayer –

Eternal Mother, how your generosity

And love surpass all human sense!

Your warm affection nourishes the hearts

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

Hurt, broken, and excluded people held

In your embrace. Those who persist in toils

Of faith, hope, peace, and charity serve you

As vessels of your Spirit’s truth.

Empower me to thus serve you and humankind

By loving all unloved, forgotten persons

To hold within your healing, filling warmth.

 



Daily Devotion – August 21, 2015
08.21.15

Romans 14:20-21

20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat;21it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

 

I teach students who have special needs. Many of them have autism, but not all of them do. All of them do have challenging behaviors and this is why they are in my very special class. I have one student who is extremely creative and witty. He makes me laugh every day, but he also makes my day, and the day of his classmates difficult. This is because he loves nothing better than finding the one thing someone dislikes and using it to get a reaction. Then he laughs like the devil, further persecuting the intended victim. One part of me want to admire (and laugh) at his creativity and the other part wants to shout in anger at his seeming meanness. Then there is the issue of calming his poor raging classmate who actually wants to inflict harm on the witty bully. Sigh! It destroys my carefully designed classroom and my clever lesson plans. Now I am stuck separating boys and trying to keep the peace in hopes someone will be able to learn what I hope to be able to teach.

 

I imagine God must feel like this about us, but on a much bigger scale. So many times our actions antagonize and intimidate others. Our world is not peaceful. In Romans, Paul tells us that while anything God creates is clean, if someone, anyone, anywhere imagines it is not, we would be better examples to go along with them to keep the peace and not cause that person to have a setback. Like my boys find it challenging to learn when they are agitated, our friends, neighbors, and even our enemies will find it hard to live in peace if they are scared, threatened, or irritated. If we want to live like Christ, we should do our best to allow others to be where they are in their personal journeys. A person’s path to God is made smooth with love and peace, not fear and turmoil. While taking a stand to show we no longer believe in traditions that seem archaic or unreasonable may seem like a good idea, when we try to force our ideas and practices on others we are not demonstrating unconditional love and acceptance. We are contributing to another person’s

 

Prayer

Dear God, Sometimes I think I have things all figured out and that others need to have the benefit of my enlightened ideas. Help me realize that forcing my way on others can seem intimidating and unkind. Help me be patient and loving. Help me act others into well being with kindness, courtesy, and respect for our differences. I am grateful for your wisdom. Amen



Daily Devotion – August 20, 2015
08.20.15

Mark 1: 21-22

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Devotion by Don Tawney, Sr.

Christ taught and performed all of His miracles with the authority given by God the Father. He said that all the things He did, was what the Father was doing. Christ knew the mind of God and was commissioned to declare it. When Jesus gave a command to unclean spirits to leave people, they went out from them. His command is an order, not a suggestion. When feeding the 4,000 people, He directed the people to sit down on the ground, took seven loaves of bread, and having given thanks, broke them and gave them to the disciples to serve to the people. He ordered the fish to be served as well.

Another ‘Divine ought’ given to us by Jesus is a new commandment, that we are to love one another, as He has loved us, that we also love one another-John 13.34. Still another command we are to obey is “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart”. Deut. 6.5,6. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”-Matt. 28.18. I should be astonished beyond words that Jesus Christ has authority over everything and every living soul.

Prayer:

Dear God, I thank You for loving and saving my soul. I want Your ‘Divine Ought’ to rule my heart.

Amen