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Daily Devotion – November 29, 2015
11.30.15

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendant of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Malachi 3:1-4

 

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Well it’s the season of advent; the time of the year when we get ready for the coming of the Christ child once again. The malls are full of lights, color and music designed to put you the holiday spirit of giving. Most of our homes and yards are decorated with the symbols and signs of the season. Even the anxiety of the arrival of Christmas morning is beginning to build. My children are already counting down the days. For Christians, this time of the year is usually festive as we happily welcome the new Christ child into our lives, offering us the promise of peace, hope, love and joy into our longing lives. This promise of new life should give us plenty of reason to sing and celebrate.

Unfortunately, however, Malachi seemed to miss the memo. His prophecy is not on board with the familiar excitement that is often present in the Advent season. Instead, his prophecy and words about the coming messenger are full of judgment rather than peace, hope, joy and love. He tells those listening that no one can endure the days that are coming because the messenger will come and cleanse the evil from the earth. He will refine and purify all descendants of Levi until they are like gold and silver.

Malachi’s message is not one of excitement but of dread and warning for the road ahead. True, the day will come when our offerings will be pleasing to God but, according to Malachi, much pain and suffering will have to be endured before we can get there. For Malachi, the message of God with us, Emmanuel, is not the image of an innocent baby laying a manager but as one who comes into our midst to destroy the evil in us and in the world, and to draw us out of death into life. In order to get the promised peace, hope, love, and joy that will give us life we will have to endure hardship. We will have to continue to wait.

Prayer:

Be with us, O Lord. Be with us as we endure through the pain and suffering. Be with us as we endure a world full of evil and hate. We wait patiently for you to refine us so that all evil can be wiped from us and from this world. We ask this of you so that we can one day experience what it truly means to be full of your peace, hope, joy and love. Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 27, 2015
11.27.15

Luke 21: 29-33

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

We, as individuals, and as a society, are not good at waiting. Thanksgiving is barely over. The frig is still full of leftovers. A lot of us are enjoying the mass hysteria that is Black Friday. And some people started before the turkey was finished.

Christmas is exciting, fun. Friends, family, gifts, good food, fun music, bright lights – what’s not to love? But when we skip directly from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we end up missing the important part – the waiting, taking time in the stillness to prepare for the coming of Christ’s birth. Yes, we get to do this every year; maybe next year we will get it right and take time to honor the waiting, the advent.

I would like to spend the next four weeks like this Christmas is the only Christmas I will ever experience. I want to savor it, enjoy the anticipation, welcome the inner stillness, and prepare myself for the coming of the Christ Child. Please join me.

 

Dear God, please help me to find your peace in all the distractions of the season so I am fully present to see the birth of your son, our Savior. Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 26, 2015
11.26.15

Philippians 4:6 

6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

Refection by Lynne Buell

 

Pastor Kim’s sermon last Sunday was just what I needed to hear.  And judging by comments I heard from others within the congregation, I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.  The time I used to waste worrying about stuff cannot be recovered, but I am thankful that the past 5 years at Pilgrimage taught me enough about having enough faith in God so that I can soak up the wonderful world around me.

 

I’m thankful for my friends and family, for my life, and for the assurance that God will always be with me during the good times and the bad.

 

“Do your best, be yourself; then don’t worry—be happy” was the icing on the cake when I heard this phrase last week.  I think they’re great words to remember and live by.

 

Prayer: 

Thank you gracious God for the many blessings that surround me.  My prayer is for peace and contentment throughout the world.  Amen.   

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – November 25, 2015
11.25.15

Romans 1:8-12

 

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, 10 asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

 

Devotion by Don Tawney Sr.

 

This was a prayer of thanksgiving for Christian friends; some friends he possibly was acquainted with.  Some he was not acquainted with.  Many of the Roman Christians, Paul had not met; yet he could heartily rejoice in their gifts and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Acts 28:15 on his journey to Rome, Paul, nearing his destination, met some Roman Christians.  He thanked God for them, and took courage.  Paul thanked God for them all, for their faith was going forth to the whole world.  Apparently before Paul met them, he heard great commendations of the Christians at Rome.  They had “obtained a good report through faith.”-Hebrews 11.2.  Though Paul had not met many of the Christians at Rome, he said, “I thank God for all of you.”  Today we know there are faithful followers of Christ all over the world.  We can thank God for their gifts and light of their lives due to the Gospel.

 

Paul wrote, “I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you.” vs. 11.  It is refreshing to be with other believers, and to know there are others who are in the faith, who pray to, and serve the same God as you do.  I grew up in a good, hard-working family.  Yet we did not profess Christianity or attend church meetings.  Fortunately, I did become a believer and was saved.  In a few years, my brother was saved and it caused me to be very thankful he did become a Christian; It was encouraging to know we had a kinship of Spirit, as well as being my natural brother.

 

 

Prayer:

 

Dear God, Thank You for the kinship of all believers.  We will see souls in heaven we have never met on earth, and we will see our loved ones there, forever. Amen  



Daily Devotion – November 24, 2015
11.24.15

Psalm 29.11:

May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

This prayer for strength can be taken in many ways. Strength over others? Strength to stand up against oppression and evil? Strength to overcome life’s obstacles?
A few days ago, extremists rained deadly violence against everyday people in Paris. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. How does the cycle stop?

This bible verse gives us an answer. Give people strength so that in that strength, people can be blessed with peace. I don’t believe God creates evil or violence or murder. People, following Satan’s whisperings, unleash evil against fellow man.

Indeed, what a blessing it would be if all of mankind could live in peace with each other. Imagine if instead of spending money on weapons of hatred, we would no longer have to worry about such things, and all of that could go towards healthcare, education, clean water, affordable housing. Instead of building armies of soldiers, the world could build armies of nurses and teachers and engineers and builders. What a blessing peace could be!

If we accept that God has already provided us all with peace, and that humankind sets aside peace with hatred, then it isn’t God that needs to change, it is humankind.
During each Sunday service at Pilgrimage, we sing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. The song ends with, “and let it begin with me.” Contemplate what the answer may be the next time we sing that song in church. How can we create a blessed world of peace?

 

Prayer

Dear God. Oh what a blessing peace can be! Help me take advantage of every opportunity to bring more peace into the world and less hatred. Amen.



Daily Devotion – November 23, 2015
11.23.15

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;    teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me,    for you are the God of my salvation;    for you I wait all day long. 

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

Waiting . . . something I personally don’t do very well. While I was in Namibia serving in the Peace Corps, I learned the beauty of filling my mind while waiting. Everyone in Africa seems to take their time at any task and the locals loving call this “African time.” As a Westerner, I was first completely irritated by the fact that no one did anything quickly. Meals were slow, appointments were never on time, teachers rarely made it to their classes on time, everything seemed to be done on a casual and relaxed time frame. Me . . . well I wanted everything done quickly! However, like many things during my time there, I realized that I was the one that needed to change – not them. So I began to appreciate the quiet waiting and daydreaming.

 

As Advent arrives and we are asked to wait for the birth of a very special baby, this text is so appropriate. We must learn to be patient and trust in God’s time in our lives. We know that eventually, Jesus will be born but how many other things do we worry over when all we need to do is hold fast and wait?

 

Prayer:

 

Thank you God for the opportunity this season to experience the joy of anticipation. Your love for us knows no bounds as we prepare our hearts and our homes for your ceaseless love. AMEN.

 



Daily Devotion – November 22, 2015
Psalm 102:15

 

1. Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
2. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
3. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
4. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
5. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.
Reflection by Darlene Wagner
The season of Advent has begun. As of today, I do not yet feel the hope and joy characteristic of Advent season. I continue to struggle with grief; hence, I recount the lamentation theme of Psalm 102. When my grandmother passed away four months ago, I had to serve as the strong shoulder as my mother, sisters, and cousin wept. Recently, as I organized for Transgender Day of Remembrance, I had to remain emotionally stable during the memorial service and for the week of activities leading up to it. I’ve carried much grief over the preceeding months with no opportunity to cry or mourn on a deep, emotional level. Yet, my Goddess Mother has blessed me with a gift for song. Through song, I seek to engage my detached emotional core.

 

A Keening Hymn -
Heal your hurts Dear Sister
Let Love’s arms wipe ‘way your tears!
Safe from brutemen’s
anger,
Take your rest on soft, sweet shores!
Rest from pain My Lover
May your soul’s fire never fade!
Safe from war and terror,
Sleep and dream in grassy glades!
Rest at home, Good Stranger
Please forgive my cold, blind eye!
Safe from cold and hunger,
Make your bed for this long night!

 



Sermon: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (11/22/15)

(“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”)  Does anyone else find that song annoying?  A life-long worrier, I’m annoyed when people tell me not to worry.  Any worriers out there?  Does telling you not to worry help you not to worry?  If you’re like me, when I’m worried and someone tells me not to worry, then I just start worrying about being a worrier.

And please don’t order me to be happy.  I’ll be happy when I’m good and well ready to be happy!  Tell you what.  You worry about your happiness and I’ll worry about mine…. because, apparently, I’m very good at worrying!

A quick look at the news and you’ll see PLENTY to worry about–Paris, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Mali, hunger, thirst, poverty, ecological devastation, ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, racial tensions, discrimination…not to mention trying to make ends meet, trying to stay healthy, trying to raise thoughtful, caring children in a world gone mad.

I’m going to write a new song.  “Be worried!  Be terrified!  The world is a scary place!”

What was Jesus thinking telling those folks 2,000 years ago not to worry?  The world must have been a safer, less frightening place back then.

Except that it wasn’t.  The people Jesus taught were oppressed by a ruthless, militaristic regime, they were exploited by their own religious leaders, and they lived every day with the threat of arbitrary imprisonment or execution.  I suspect people—especially Jewish people—in 1st century Palestine had even more to worry about than we do.

So, why does Jesus tell them NOT to worry?

This might sound strange, but maybe Jesus tells his followers not to worry because they were oppressed, exploited, and living under the threat of arbitrary punishment and execution.  Jesus’ whole thing was showing people how to establish God’s kindom “here on earth as it is in heaven”—a place where the hungry are fed and the thirsty are given drink, where strangers are welcomed and the naked are clothed, where the sick are cared-for and the imprisoned are visited.  How were Jesus’ followers going to do any of that if they were off in a corner somewhere wringing their hands?

The Greek word for “worry” is merimna, literally– “a part, as opposed to the whole,” or “divided into parts.”  You might even say to worry is to “go to pieces”–because you feel pulled apart in different directions.  A worried person is a distracted person, a person who can’t see the whole picture.  (http://biblehub.com/greek/3309.htm)

…Like me this past Thursday night.  Eight hundred people of many faiths gathered for a Thanksgiving Celebration at Temple Kol Emeth.  Our theme for the night was “Teach Your Children Well about Other Religions.”  As part of the planning committee, I enlisted our interfaith success story for the evening.  Pamela Perkins Carn, Coordinator for Interfaith Children’s Movement, had agreed to speak.  She was supposed to arrive between 5:00 and 5:15.  By 6:25, she still wasn’t there.  The program started at 7:00 p.m.

I confess, I was worried.  Here I’d talked the planning committee into inviting Pamela and she wasn’t there!  Completely panicked, I found Hal, chair of the planning committee, and told him Pamela was a no-show.  Hal looked me in the eyes and said, “I appreciate the worry.  Really, I do.  But what are we going to do?  Can you talk about the organization?”  Can I talk about Interfaith Children’s Movement to 800 people with only 30 minutes to prepare?  Yeah.  That didn’t help my anxiety at all.

Still worried, I found a quiet corner, pulled out my phone, and read everything I could on the ICM website.  Happily, Pamela arrived about 6:40, a victim of terrible Atlanta traffic.  (There’s a redundancy if I’ve ever heard one.)  As soon as she arrived, my anxiety dissipated.

In truth, before Hal’s “I appreciate the worry, but what are we going to do?” comment, I wasn’t aware of how anxious I was.  When Hal—ever so gently—pointed it out to me, I saw how much my anxiety was causing me to miss:  greeting several friends, enjoying the drumming  and other music, deciding what to do if Pamela didn’t show up….I was missing it all because I was worried.  Because I was able to focus only on one thing, I wasn’t able to see the whole picture of this beautiful gathering with our neighbors of other faiths.  Thank goodness Hal did see the whole picture and that he helped me see it, too.

That’s what worry does.  It distracts us.  It divides us.  It pulls us apart into pieces.  Worried people are fragmented people; they’re so focused on one thing (or a million tiny things), they can’t see the whole picture.  Jesus knew that fulfilling God’s hopes for the world was going to take undistracted, 100% committed followers who could see the whole picture…so he told them not to worry.  He said it, not to annoy them, but to empower them, to help them pull themselves back together so they could commit themselves fully to the vital work of establishing God’s kindom here on earth.

But how do you do that?  How do you stop worrying?  Anxiety is a powerful force.  It feeds on itself.  It grows exponentially and really fast.  How do you interrupt the worry process?  How do you get refocused on the larger picture?

Medication can help. J  Jesus offers another way.  “Look at the birds of the air,” he says.  “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet God feeds them…. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”  How do we stop worrying?  One way is by paying attention to the natural world.

Allen and I live with two inhabitants of the natural world (that we know of).  Here’s what I’ve observed:  Gracie and Dayo are 100% cats.  It’s true that Gracie likes to play catch and Dayo has been known to bark or chirp on occasion, but they are cats through and through.  When they sleep, they sleep.  When they eat, they eat.  When you throw an object, they run for it.  When you dangle a string, they bat at it.  Gracie will bat at a dangling string even when I can tell she doesn’t want to.  She never wins that fight with herself.  As a cat, she’s born to bat at dangling strings.  So she does.

I wonder if that’s why immersing ourselves in nature is so calming—because every other created thing besides human beings is simply itself.  Every animal, every bug, every sparrow, every lily…every created thing does what it was created to do, is what it was created to be.  It doesn’t worry about what it has or hasn’t accomplished.  It doesn’t try to keep up with purebreds or the show dogs.  It doesn’t worry about whether guest speakers are going to show up or not.  And, despite all those cute “I was a bad puppy” photos on Facebook, non-human creatures don’t worry about their reputations.  They are simply themselves.

Could it be that what makes us most anxious is trying to be something or someone we are not created to be?  Is that why Jesus invites worriers to contemplate the natural world?  To remind us that the most anxiety-reducing, the holiest thing we ever can do is simply to be ourselves?

When talking about what gets her through difficult days, a speaker at Friday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event said this:  “When I get anxious, the only thing that helps is to remember who I am.”  Perhaps that’s what Jesus is saying, too.  Don’t be anxious about your life, don’t try to be someone you’re not.  Simply be who you are.

Do you know the source of the words “Don’t worry, be happy?”  They come from 20th century Indian mystic Meher Baba.  “He often used the expression “Don’t worry, be happy” when cabling his followers in the West.”  (Wikipedia)  Sometimes he’d use this longer version:  “Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you.

Meher Baba was, of course, referring to himself.  When I imagine the words to be spoken by Jesus, I find that I’m no longer annoyed by Bobby McFerrin’s song, but actually find great comfort in it.  “Do your best.  Be your best self.  Be who I created you to be.  THEN don’t worry.  Be happy in my love.  I will help you.”

What better words to take with us as we gather with extended family this Thanksgiving week?  (What?  Your anxiety doesn’t go up when you’re with extended family?  When you’re traveling long distances in the car with grumpy children?  When you’re sitting still on the interstate hours on end because of all the traffic?)  When things get worrisome for you this coming week, remember those words as if they were spoken by Jesus:  “Do your best.  Be yourself.  Then don’t worry.  Be happy in my love.  I will help you.”

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

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2015



StillSpeaking Writers in Atlanta on Tues, Dec 3

Join the UCC’s StillSpeaking Writer’s Group for an evening of reading and conversation with some of your favorite Daily Devotional writers and members of the StillSpeaking Writers Group.  Click on the link below for details about this event:

 

Stillspeaking Writers Group in Atlanta



Daily Devotion – November 21, 2015
11.21.15

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

Jeremiah’s people were not in a good place when he shares these words from God with them.  They had been threatened by the Assyrians to the north and the Egyptians to the south.  Eventually, they were overpowered and exiled to Egypt.  Times were hard, but here comes Jeremiah with some reassurance.  God has promised that they will continue and from within them will come a righteous Branch to bring forth justice.

I think these words were meant to bring a bit of hope and reassurance in a time of insecurity and uncertainty.  Judah could look forward to a time of safety.  Heaven would someday come to their rescue.  But for the time being, they had to wait.

As we draw close to the season of Advent, these words remind us that we, like the house of Judah, are waiting.  We are waiting for Jesus to come.  Some of us are waiting and hoping that Jesus will bring us safety and peace.  Others are waiting for Jesus to show us how to live.  Still others are waiting for Jesus to teach us how to love.  And of course, there are people who are waiting for Jesus to be a ruler or fight for justice for those who are persecuted.  We all are waiting and hoping for better times.

I don’t know about you, but I am waiting for a baby.  I am waiting for the hope that comes with a newborn child.  I am waiting for all the possibilities an infant brings.  I am hopeful God’s imagination is bigger than mine…and more positive.  I am waiting for the joy of a new life.

 

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for this time of waiting.  It is a time for me to look within and search my soul.  I need to consider what it is I stand for and if I am willing to step out in faith.  Help me be patient as I wait.  Help me use this time to learn to trust you and your promises.  Amen