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Daily Devotion – May 30, 2016
05.30.16

Galatians 1:10-12

 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne 

I’m on my fifth or sixth introductory paragraph and still stuck. I’ve been through the obvious, but haven’t hit upon the unobvious. That’s the one thing people in my business are perpetually tasked with doing. “Coming up with the unexpected.” 

So how does one answer the question? Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval? 

We’re human beings so it makes sense we would try to please people, our spouse, our boss, our best friend, the stranger you bumped into the other day but didn’t know what to say or do, so you extended your hand and a smile and 20 minutes later this person was no longer a stranger. 

Is God, in fact, a stranger? He is present in our lives every day. Or is He? Is the same true of Jesus? It seems with all of our day-to-day human encounters and responsibilities, where do we squeeze in a moment to ask God what we could do for Him or his Son today that would please them? 

I am guilty, no doubt, of either overlooking that question or maybe thinking about it for a minute, but a person or a task interrupts my thought and God takes a back seat. I’m sure the same has happened to you. 

So how do we create moments where we place God in the driver’s seat? I personally believe it’s the little things or gestures you share with people you know or those you meet for the first time. The smile you give a perfect stranger as they pass you on the street. Helping a colleague who’s overloaded with work. Listening to a friend. Reaching out to someone in need. Spending time with your teenage daughter or son. Each time we do this, we bring some light into their worlds. I call it the God Light. In effect, God’s love is being shared through you. Do enough of these little things and there is a cumulative effect. And all of a sudden, you’ll find God behind the wheel of your life.

 

Prayer: 

Dear God,

           May you be behind the wheel of my life.             Amen



Daily Devotion – May 28, 2016
Sight Singing
Vince Amlin

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Declare God’s glory among the nations, God’s marvelous works among all the peoples.” – Psalm 96:1, 3

A few weeks ago I chose an unfamiliar hymn to close worship. It turned out to be fairly impossible to sing. The congregation and I gave it our best shot, but the pianist, either by accident or in her mercy, stopped playing a verse early.

It’s painful singing a new song. Awkward. Embarrassing. A new song always goes up when we think it should go down, slows its pace just when we’re ready to get faster. It always contains a secret two-beat rest we fail to note at the outset, leaving us singing poorly and alone as everyone else listens in silence. A new song has none of the treasured lyrics or moving melodies that we love in our old songs.

Listen to any choir or congregation sight singing their way through new material, and you’ll wonder if the psalmist is a sadist to keep asking for new songs. You’ll be excused for wondering whether God might prefer a well-rehearsed old chestnut to all of our tuneless struggle.

But no, God desires a new song. Because the new song we’re attempting is a song of praise, a song of our God. And with every flubbed word and flat note we are not just learning another piece of music but being given another tiny piece of the mystery of God. 

And that’s worth embarrassing ourselves for.

Prayer:

 
Open my lips, God, and my mouth will declare your praise. If it’s not pretty give me the discipline to practice and the boldness to make mistakes until those new words of praise become a well-beloved lyric.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.



Daily Devotion – May 27, 2016
05.27.16

Luke 7: 6 – 10

6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

This scripture passage began yesterday with Lynne’s devotion describing a Roman centurion acknowledging Jesus’ ability to heal the centurion’s ill slave.  But today’s passage goes even further.  Not only does the centurion believe in Jesus’ power to heal, he believes that Jesus has the authority to do so, even from afar.

I admit that when I am ill, or destressed, and turn to the comfort Jesus can give, I often want it to come directly to me.  I find it hard to accept comfort from afar, or through someone else.  I want Christ present with me to heal my worries and fears.  I have to work hard to be open to that same comfort coming from a friend, a song, or a scripture reading.

Dear God,   

Please help me to be open to your loving comfort, no matter where it comes from.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – May 26, 2016
05.26.16

 

Luke 7:1-5

 

7After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’

 

Devotion by Lynne Buell

 

This scripture describes the faith the centurion and the Jewish elders had in Jesus—that Jesus would not turn them away when asked to heal a mere slave for a centurion—and instead, they pursued and made their request. It is apparent that the elders were very eager to express how worthy this centurion was and that he has been a supporter of the Jewish people.  Well, I did a little research about this scripture; because, honestly, I needed a little more to go on in order for me to ‘reflect’ on it.  I discovered that centurions had been a part of the Roman occupation in Judea and Galilee in the first century—sounds like they were enemies of the Roman people, huh?  And here, this centurion is shown in a positive way as other centurions were in the New Testament.  I’m sure it was a feeling of surprise and inspiration for Jesus to have this man admit and acknowledge Jesus’ God-given authority, including healing from a distance.   I think that’s really cool!

 

Prayer: 

Gracious God, my prayer is for the love you have for us to penetrate those who have turned away from faith. Amen.



Daily Devotion – May 25, 2016
05.25.16
Romans 5:35 (Revised English Bible)

 

“More than this: we even exult in our present sufferings, because we know that suffering is a source of endurance, endurance of approval, and approval of hope. Such hope is not fantasy; through the Holy Spirit God has given us, God’s love has flooded our hearts.”

 

Devotion by David Burns

 

I want to be clear that I am not a fan of suffering. I do not run toward it, nor enjoy it when it calls on me. I certainly do not wish it on anyone else. Yet, there it is. Some kind of suffering comes to each and everyone of us sometimes it comes in its most painful manifestations and sometimes it appears as simply reality being different than we want it to be.

 

As Paul illustrates in these verses and the ones that immediately precede them, suffering comes to us alongside and sometimes mixed together with pleasure and joy and delight. It takes no keen observer to note that our mortal lives contain joy and suffering, pleasure and pain.  Paul wants us to see that even our suffering carries the possibility of bearing us on towards wholeness in God.

 

As one of my friends recently told me, “Everything is medicine.” Even better is the way St. Ignatius talks about this in his First Principle and Foundation:
The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God’s life
to flow into us without limit.

 

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

 

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

 

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening God’s life in me.

 

While I hope “a deeper response to my life in God” primarily comes through times of grace and joy, I realize that it can also come through times of suffering. In fact, experience has taught me that most moves deeper for me in my spiritual life have come through times of suffering–suffering received, endured and transformed.

 

God, who is with us and for us in all the events of life, open our hearts and minds so that we may drink deeply and healthily from all the experiences of our lives. Help us to see that suffering is a sign of life, not a sign that you have abandoned us. And may every moment make us more aware of your presence and activity as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.


Daily Devotion – May 24, 2016
05.24.16

Romans 5: 1-2

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

God is love. God is mercy. God is forever reaching out to us.
With faith, we can accept God’s love. We seek God’s mercy. And we can grasp God’s loving hand.

Without faith, we question God’s love. We wonder why would God have mercy on us. And we wonder what conditions are attached to God’s extending hand.

With faith, we know God’s love. We accept God’s mercy. And we move God’s hand to another’s in need.

Without faith, we scorn God’s love. We ridicule God’s mercy. And we shun God’s gentle hand.

Prayer:

Dear God, please help me grow in faith. Amen.



Daily Devotion – May 23, 2016
05.23.16

Titles Fancy and Plain
Martin B. Copenhaver

“So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” – Luke 22:27

Recently I have been thinking about titles and their significance.

For instance, the official title for the Queen of England is, “Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith.”  Wow.  Try fitting that title on a business card.  Then again, if you are the Queen of England you probably don’t need a business card.

You don’t have to be a monarch to get an exalted title.  For example, fraternal organizations often use titles that are honorific.  If you ascend the ranks of the Elks, eventually you can receive the title Exalted Ruler.  Similarly, if you are a Shriner you can become The Grand Potentate.  Those are pretty fancy titles.

I once met General Wesley Clark, who had the title, “NATO Supreme Allied Commander.”  That’s quite a title.  Later, I said to my family, “You know, I’d love to have a job where you get to have the word ‘Supreme’ in your title.”

I was only kidding, of course.  I much prefer the titles given in church, which are considerably more modest.  Deacon means servant.  Pastor means shepherd.  Both are modest roles associated with service and labor.  And, of course, both are roles identified with Jesus.  He was a servant and a shepherd.

A deacon, while washing dishes after communion, said, “I feel like a glorified butler,” and I responded, “Exactly.”  And because Jesus was a servant, there is no higher honor.

Prayer
Jesus, please show me how I am called to serve today, and then please glorify that service through your spirit.


ABOUT THE AUTHORMartin B. Copenhaver is President of Andover Newton Theological School.  His newest book is Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian.

 



Daily Devotion – May 22, 2016
05.22.16

Proverbs 8:1-4

1.Does not Wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  2. On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3. beside the gates leading to the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:  4. “To you, O men, I call out: I raise my voice to all mankind.”

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

Wisdom, as Feminine companion to the Divine Spirit, here seeks human companionship. She calls to the young men, offering abundant and triumphant life. Yet, she does not promise to anyone a life of ease or convenience. A life dedicated to Wisdom, learning, and acquiring skill is anything but easy. Even when worldly blessings are absent, a life of seeking Wisdom offers peaceable relationships with others as well as inner tranquility.

Prayer –

For you, Blest Lady of the Golden Shield,

My plain words fail to glorify your deeds!

Accept, please, honors from my heart in verse

To you as eldest of Sky Father’s house.

You guide with clear discernment under fire.

Each century’s Odysseus may gain your sight

through warfare’s fog towards open city gates.

You guard each age’s Theseus through caves

dark filled with death, the very air infusing dread.

Thus, how you aid your loved ones through dire quests!

 



Daily Devotion – May 21, 2016

Acts 2:9-13

9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This must have been a chaotic and exciting experience. In my mind I imagine a festival atmosphere.  Jews from all over the known world had gathered to celebrate Pentecost, a harvest festival.  With so many visitors in town, I am sure Peter and his apostle friends thought it was a great opportunity to tell others about Jesus. Then when a bunch of them are gather together, this great wind blows through and tongues of fire appear, and suddenly everyone hears everyone talking in their own native language.  It must have been shocking, fantastic and confusing. Maybe it was even scary.  I suppose everyone didn’t share in the experience.  They must have thought everyone was crazy.  I think those people must have felt left out.  I know if I were one of the ones who was left out, I would be kind of angry and I’d want to criticize and make fun.

So where does this leave me today after reading this scripture? I think a lot of times in my life I dismiss the experiences of others because they don’t match mine.  Of course I tend to think I am right, they are wrong.  But I have learned that I can be so stuck in thinking I am right that I am simply not available to learn from others.  In my classroom today one of my students fell asleep and we couldn’t wake him.  He missed our cooking lesson which included making a root beer or orange float.  He was present in the room, but not available to share in our feast.  When he woke up and wanted some of the goodies, we had cleaned things up and there was no more ice cream to make a float.  He was very sad and angry.  I am sure he felt we should have saved some ice cream for him.  He acted out, which I expected.  I am not sure he got the point.  Sometimes it is not enough to show up, you have to pay attention, ask questions, be willing to get your hands dirty and deal with a little conflict.  If you don’t, you might get left out.

Prayer

Dear God, Open my eyes, my heart, and my hands. Help me to not be a passive bystander in my life and the lives of those I would help.  Amen



Daily Devotion – May 20, 2016
05.20.16