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Daily Devotion – September 30, 2016
09.30.16

Luke 14:15-24

The Parable of the Great Dinner

One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’

Reflection by Monty Wyne

Chattanooga has a number of homeless residents who have very little but the clothes on their backs and maybe a garbage bag or box filled with what few personal possessions they own. There are regulars, most of whom I know by name. Now, I haven’t invited all of them to my house for dinner, but I have certainly bought them food or given them money many times when they asked.

The majority of people, either residents or visitors, will pass these individuals by. Or they may exchange a few words with them, shake their heads “No” and move on. There is one man, he’s African American, who I have helped on several occasions. He has lost one of his legs and gets around in a motorized wheelchair. One evening as I was leaving the office I could see him crossing the street coming my way. I stopped and he asked nicely, “Can you spare anything tonight? If not, I understand.” He smiled and I thought for a split second, shake your head and keep going.

Instead, I reached in my back pocket, took out my wallet and handed him a $5 bill. I don’t think he was expecting that and he was so happy that he took my hand and thanked me enthusiastically for my generosity and handed me a t-shirt in return. I thanked him and we both went our separate ways.

I didn’t see him for a while and about a week-and-a-half-ago I headed out of the office to get some lunch. As I started down the street, I thought I heard someone saying “Monty. Hey, Monty.” I kept on walking but the voice got a little louder, “Hey Monty, Monty,” it echoed.

Finally, I stopped and turned around. There he was racing down the sidewalk in his wheelchair as fast as he could. I waited for him. His name is John. He asked me how I was and if I was having a good week. I noticed he was wearing a baseball cap with a big C on it and I asked if he was a Cub’s fan. He said no, he was a fan of the Cleveland Indians and then he recounted a trip he took to Cleveland to go a baseball game with his father and brother. I was happy that he had had that opportunity.

As we were wrapping up our discussion he looked at me and said, “What can I do for you today? Can I give you money? I have some extra.” I said, “No, he should keep that money for himself.” He persisted, “Let me buy your lunch.” I was grateful, but knew he had limited means so I thanked him. As we went to shake hands he said no because his were dirty. I took his hand anyway and shook it and we went our separate ways.

Here was a man with little but he wanted to share what little he had with me. I was moved. I had never had that happen to me in my entire life. And I am sure that all the poor that the wealthy man invited into his home to enjoy the food and drink he had prepared for his well-to-do friends who declined his invitation, had never had that happen in their entire lives. I can only imagine how they felt.

Jesus shared the parable of the “Great Dinner” with those who had an abundance. I shared mine with a man who had little, but the end result was the same. Benevolence is a wonderful thing no matter who does the giving.
Dear God…

Remind me of the “Parable of the Great Dinner” often for benevolence is something I should carry in my heart for the rest of my life.

Amen



Daily Devotion – September 29, 2016
09.29.16

37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38 The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” 46 And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:37-52

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I’ll never forget growing up in the Methodist church and how I had to be quiet every time I went into the sanctuary.  I was taught from a very young age to enter the sanctuary with reverence.  Needless to say, it never went over well with my parents when my brother and I decided to treat the sanctuary more like a playground than a place of worship.  After we were pulled out by our ears on more than one occasion, we were brought home and put in the den with my father where he would talk about military school if we didn’t behave when we were in church.  I learned somewhat quickly (it took a few more talks and ear pullings before I got the point) that to be in the sanctuary or in the presence of God meant to be quiet and reverent.  I learned to abide by this teaching.

One of the great experiences I had as a youth was a youth minister that worked hard on community outreach.  He had a gift for making sure that we didn’t just know those in our own youth group but those in others as well.  Youth from other churches would come and join us for meals and for our service.  Likewise, we would go to other churches and do the same.  One Sunday evening, he took us to the Church of Christ just a mile down the road from our church.  When we arrived, we went into church and I sat quietly.  What came after that was anything but quiet.  People danced, screamed, spoke in tongues, and fell on the floor all in the middle of the service.  The sweaty preacher never missed a beat except to wipe his forehead with his handkerchief once and awhile.  When I reflect back on that evening, I am always grateful that a snake was never pulled out of a box.  I am sure that would have sent me for the hills.

I was never so glad to leave a service after that evening.  All I knew to do was how to be quiet in church.  It was what I learned to believe God wanted from me.  To be or act any differently in church felt sinful.  I felt like I was disappointing God by not “behaving.”  If my dad was willing to send me to military school for acting up, I can’t imagine what God would have had in store for me.  I tend to imagine this is what the Pharisees were feeling when Jesus was confronting them with their legalism.  To go against what they had been taught and knew so well must have felt so wrong.  God’s wrath must have felt very real.

Jesus reminds them very sternly, however, that when they get too caught up in their rules they end up neglecting others.  While it is important to wash our hands before we eat, we should ensure first that all feel invited to the table.  It is so easy in churches to get caught up in the politics of power, administration, and even fight and argue about them and forget the reality that to be a part of the Christian life means to serve and love one another.  It means that sometimes the rules we have created have to be overlooked in order for the good of the other to be met.  It means that sometimes the rules must be let go of so that we can all be in communion with each other.  It means, for me, that sometimes the rules need to be broken so God can be experienced more fully.

Prayer:

Show us those places in our lives where have become too comfortable.  Show us those places where the rules keep us from opening ourselves up to the possibilities of love.  Remind us that while the rules create discipline and structure so that we can worship you, O Lord, they are not as great as your commandment to love. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – September 28, 2016
09.28.16

Luke 9:10-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

10 On their return the apostles told Jesus[a] all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.

12 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so and made them all sit down.16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

 

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

Don’t you love the confidence that Jesus had?  He didn’t doubt that the masses would be fed and nourished.  His faith gave him confidence.  What if we used our faith when facing difficult challenges?  We may not be able to take five loaves and two fish and feed five thousand people, but we can turn the impossible into possible with our faith.

I am very excited about the future of our church.  I know with our faith and commitment, we will be able to plan and build for future generations.  Sometimes I think about the early years of Pilgrimage.  I imagine the early members meeting in a bowling alley.  I wonder if they thought having the sanctuary we have today was possible.  I am deeply grateful for every member who generously gave money for our church building.  Without their contributions, we would still be meeting in the bowling alley.

Prayer:

Almighty God and Great Creator, thank you for the past members of Pilgrimage United Church of Christ.  Thank you for providing them the means to generously give so that we can worship in a beautiful and peaceful place of our own.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 27, 2016
09.27.16

Luke 5:27-32

After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him.

Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’

 

Devotion by Julia Shiver

There is something profound in breaking bread with one another.  It is no accident that all of our greatest holidays and life rituals revolve around sitting down together to share in a common meal.

One of the aspects of working in the prison ministry, Kairos, was sharing snacks and meals with the residents of the prison.  It went beyond the delight these women had in getting a special treat like pizza or BBQ, or even a piece of fresh fruit.  Something about sharing food in community makes us vulnerable so we present our most authentic selves.  It is hard to portray or act other than yourself while eating a hotdog!

 

Prayer:

Dear God, Thank you for the gift of breaking bread together.  That is when your son, Jesus, is most powerfully among us.  Help us always to see you in the breaking of bread.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 26, 2016
09.26.16

Genesis 15:1-5

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’

Devotion by Lynne Buell

Abram was considerably older when God came to him in a vision…somewhere around 85 as the story goes.  He had seen many years of conflict, compromise, and was rewarded with land, but Abram was experiencing a void; yet he remained faithful and devoted to God and followed the path he was told to take.

Fortunately for me, the Holy Spirit came to me before my 80s.  As many of you know, my faith journey began in August 2009 when I first walked through the doors of Pilgrimage UCC.  God didn’t come to me in a vision, but God worked with me through the Holy Spirit.  The void that I was experiencing for years had been filled.  Since then, when I am faced with conflict or pain, I turn to God to guide and protect me.  I don’t ask for anything beyond kind-heartedness, strength, and (occasionally) forgiveness; nevertheless, I have been rewarded with family, awesome friends, and a comfortable life.

Prayer:

Loving God, I am forever thankful for the love and the peace in my heart.  Amen.  

 



Daily Devotion – September 25, 2016
09.25.16

Genesis 1:31

 

God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

 

Devotion by David Burns

 

When we speak to one another of revelation, we speak of all the ways that God chooses to disclose God’s self to us.  When we talk of Special Revelation, we talk of all the “supernatural” ways God is revealed:  dreams, visions, scripture and Jesus.  When we talk about General Revelation, we talk of God being revealed to us in nature.

 

Genesis 1 is an over-the-top celebration of General Revelation!  Everything that is, from the stars and moons to the birds and trees to the human beings that roam the earth, bears the image and essence of God.  As Paul proclaims, “In God we live and move and have our being!”

 

I love knowing that when I long for a glimpse of or touch from God all I have to do is open my eyes.  All I have to do is un-stop my ears, take a deep breath, touch anything, eat something and I can have a first-hand experience of the living God.

 

I also love that this “very good” evaluation from God comes on the sixth day.  As we prepare to take our rest we can reflect on a week of activity and celebrate that we have lived and moved and had our being in God.  Even when we were too weary or too busy to be aware of it, we were playing in a world that God has named “very good!”  Happy Sunday!

 

Prayer:

 

Creative God, I thank you that you have not chosen to remain totally hidden from us.  I thank you that you com

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – September 24, 2016

Genesis 1:3-5

Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I wonder what it is that we associate light with good and darkness with bad. How many of us were afraid of the dark when we were children? Even as a senior citizen, when I wake up and it is in the middle of the night, I am disappointed that I have many hours of night still ahead of me and I hope I can fall asleep again. I’m happier when I can sleep through the night and when I awake, sunlight is there to greet me.

Are we afraid of the dark because of those horror movies from our past? Could it be because criminals like to conduct their crimes under the shroud of darkness? Maybe we like the light because of its warmth or it enhances our ability to see. Whatever the reason, I agree, light is good.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for making the light. Allow us to be a light for someone else. Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 23, 2016
09.23.16

Lightness of Being

John A. Nelson

 

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to God.”

And you forgave the guilt of my sin. – Psalm 32:3-5

 

He sat in the church study and described a conflict with his closest friend. Not the details of the conflict, which didn’t seem to interest him. He described the pain that he carried. And how it grew.

He and his friend were close. Their relationship was playful, emotionally rich, full of care. The friend had done something that hurt him. It wasn’t much: a careless word, a moment of neglect. A slight so slight he let it slide. But it rankled. The silence was a kind of fertilizer for the hurt; better than the richest compost. It grew.

He made the connection before I did: “That’s like sin, I suppose. A momentary lapse that grows until it affects the whole relationship.”

(How apt, I thought, that the psalmist added “Selah” right here, a word that probably means “pause,” as though to intensify the image of wasting away, groaning, heaviness as of summer heat.)

“What happened next?” I asked.

“I summoned all my resolve,” he said, “and one day when we walked through the park I told her, ‘I feel hurt and the hurt’s making me angry.'”

“She just took it in,” he said. “She said, ‘What I said was careless and hurtful. I’m sorry.'”

Now he paused. “I’ve can’t recall ever feeling such lightness before.”

It doesn’t always work that well. But healing can happen. You can be light again — the psalm says even God can be.

 

Prayer

Restoring God, grant me the fortitude to own up when I’ve caused hurt, the courage to tell when I’m hurting, the grace to give and receive forgiveness. May each part bring me closer to you. Amen.

 

About the Author
John A. Nelson is the Pastor of the Niantic Community Church (UCC/UMC) in Niantic, Connecticut.



Daily Devotion – September 22, 2016
09.22.16

 

Psalm 8:5-9

 

  1. You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

  1. You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

you put everything under his feet;

  1. all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
  2. The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

all that swim in the paths of the seas.

  1. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

It is unfortunate that this lovely, poetic Psalm has been appropriated by modern

theologians as a justification for human dominion over Nature.  Interestingly, this

Psalm begins by questioning the significance of humankind beneath the immense

grandeur of Nature, particularly the sky.  Considering that the ancient Hebrews made

their living primarily by herding livestock, this Psalm would more appropriately be

thought of as a pastoral poem, rather than a theology lesson.

 

Love Ballad:

 

On the green and flowering hillsides

watching sheep beneath my care,

I collect red, tender violets

for my Mistress grand and fair.

Merry days and merry making,

merrily played on my pipes.

Merry days and merry making,

for my Lady most Divine



Daily Devotion – September 21, 2016
09.21.16

Psalm 8:3-4

 

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established; 
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them?

Devotion by Anne Mooney

This is my favorite psalm.  It is part of one of my favorite songs to sing with a choir.  I am excited to share that the PUCC choir will be singing it soon:  The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.

Here is what I love about it.  It shuts down the clutter and clamor that often lives in my brain and immediately brings me to a place of calm contemplation.  The words convey to me just how marvelous and fantastic is God’s creation of the world and its universe.  I cannot begin to understand its wonders, yet the God who created it cares for me and you.  When I think of this, it is more than a comfort, it is peace. This psalm reminds me that God is all around me all the time in a myriad of ways.  I feel blessed to live in the abundance that exists in our world.

Prayer

Dear God,  Thank you for the many wonders of our world.  Your creation is so complex and varied, yet you look out for each of us.  May we not only be good stewards of the gift of your world and but also caring neighbors with each other.  Amen