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Daily Devotion – April 30, 2017
04.30.17

Psalm 116: 1-2

I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

When I speak to God at night in prayer, I wonder at times if He truly hears me? When one thinks of all those he listens to in a day or a night, how on earth can He find the time to listen to me personally? He’s a very busy individual.

Yet, there are times when I pray to Him, when the night is quiet and I feel everyone has gone to bed, while the light on my nightstand still burns brightly, that He has inclined an ear to me. He’s taken the time to listen to my wish, my need or my concern and He may ponder it.

I may not think about what I asked Him during the day that follows because I am busy with work or the daily tasks that are required of all of us. Yet, somewhere in my subconscious lurks a reminder of the moment we shared in the stillness of night. I am reminded that I should share that thought with Him in this evening’s prayer so He will know it weighs heavily upon my mind.

I prayed for my daughter when she traveled to Stockholm and asked Him to watch over her and return her safely to our shores. I would ask every night without fail; and lo and behold, she has returned safely, despite the fact she almost missed her return flight because she overslept.

I thanked God for watching over her and for watching over all those other daughters or sons who were traveling overseas. And I too know that I will call on Him as long as I live and somehow even though I may not feel His presence or sense that He is in the room with me while I pray, that He has heard me.

 

Prayer:

Dear God…

Thank you for listening.



Daily Devotion – April 29, 2017
04.29.17

And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.  And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:33-35

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Easter Sunday has become a strange time for me over the past several years.  It always seems everyone is so happy when Easter Sunday morning comes because we get to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Me, however, I’ve seemed to be in a different place over the past few years.  It just seems the more I take a reflective approach to the week leading up to Easter Sunday the less prepared I am to celebrate.  It all seems to come too fast.  Thursday we are feasting, Friday we are mourning and then Sunday we are celebrating.  If only life was that easy and predictable.

I can’t imagine after losing a teacher and a close companion being ready to celebrate three days after their death.  I believe I would need more time to understand what life would exactly be like now.  This passage finds the two men in a similar position.  The story opens with two men on the road to Emmaus.  On their seven mile journey, they were talking when Jesus appeared to them.   Jesus plays innocent and the men were amazed that he did not know what had happened.  After explaining it to Jesus, the two men invited him to eat with them.  As they sat down to eat he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.  In an instant their eyes were opened because they had finally realized that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.

I’ve been given myself more time after Easter to reflect on Holy Week and Christ’s death with questions like what it means and do I truly believe it.  I don’t know when I will be ready to fully celebrate the resurrection but I am thankful for the bread and the wine which remind me every time I take it that Christ did indeed rise from the dead.  I also take into comfort those moments in life that show me that out of death life is born.  For when I do this what once seemed impossible becomes endlessly possible.  Despair is turned into hope and from death comes resurrection.   With each day I know that I have an opportunity to begin anew and to be given a reason to celebrate a little more.

Prayer:

Be patient with me Lord as I continue to make sense of the death of Christ.  Teach me to make resurrection more than a story but an experience in my life.  Show me that out of despair hope can come and from the impossible endless possibilities.  Help me so that I may come to celebrate fully the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – April 28, 2017
04.28.17
Safe Arrival
Written by Molly Baskette

“Where can I go from Your spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me fast.” – Psalm 139:7-10

I confess I have a terrible fear of flying. Fear makes me mean, and years ago, my husband suggested ever-so-gently that our marriage might not outlast the honeymoon to Mexico if I didn’t get professional help for my phobia.

It might seem counterintuitive that a Christian minister—or a Christian of any stripe—would be afraid to fly. Don’t we know that flying is the safest form of travel? And aren’t we supposed to have dealt with irrational fears and a propensity to worry, simply because Jesus told us to?

And, because planes sometimes do come down: well, isn’t Going to Glory something we are supposed to look forward to?

But that assumes I’m afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of falling. I, who once made a Ferris wheel operator stop the ride to let me off (and then blamed the 10-year-old I was with for the disruption), cannot bear the thought of being far from earth.

I like being married to my husband, so I got professional help. It helped. Here are a couple of the tricks in my fear-of-flying arsenal now:

  • Read Psalm 139 in its entirety as soon as I board. Though written down perhaps 3,000 years ago, it is tailor- made for white-knuckled flyers. How did the Psalmists know?
  • Clutch and smell a lavender stress ball.
  • Put on bubblegum pop if we encounter turbulence—and dance along with the bumps.

One more of the things that has helped the most is this book by a former anxious flyer, especially her line to this effect: “As you get ready to take off, imagine yourself at your destination. Whatever has happened during the flight, you have arrived safely. If you could just know for certain now what you will know then, you will have spared yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering.”

Whatever you are afraid of in this life—spider, clowns, falling, dying—this wisdom applies.  All of us will arrive at our final destination, perhaps a little bumped and even bruised, but safely home with God. So: why bother worrying?

Prayer

God of heaven and earth and everything in between, 36,000 feet feels like everything to us, but it’s nothing to You. Be with us in our ascending and descending, in our beginnings and our endings, and give us, amidst our fears, an underlying certainty that You are with us and all will be well. Amen.

About the Author
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.


Daily Devotion – April 27, 2017
04.27.17

 

Luke 24:25-27

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.  Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”  Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

Devotion by Chris Shiver

When Jesus was on earth, his teachings indicated that the Jewish scholars and leaders, and through them the people, had become so caught up in trying to parse the exact meaning of every word of scripture that they had become unable to understand the true meaning of what God was trying to tell them – that he wanted to be in a loving caring relationship with them.  Jesus was there to breathe new life into that relationship, but the Jewish people had become so blind to the meaning of the scriptures that they were unable to recognize that he was their Messiah.  But when Jesus himself spoke the words of scripture to those who had opened their hearts to him the truth was revealed.

When I became a Christian as an adult I also had to learn, with the help of others, how to look past the words of scripture and hear what God was actually saying about how to live in relationship with God and other people.  Now when I really take the time to listen when I read, I can hear the voice of Jesus revealing what the words of the Bible really mean.

 

My Prayer:

Lord, I ask that each time I read the Bible that you continue to reveal what it really is trying to tell me now.   And let me share this with others by studying with them, sharing what you have revealed to me, and listening to what you are saying through them.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – April 26, 2017
04.26.17

Luke 24:17-24

And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’

Reflection by Lynne Buell

Cleopas and his unnamed companion were so distraught, they didn’t recognize Jesus when He joined them on their journey.  They couldn’t believe this man had not heard of Jesus’ death because it was really big news!

Present day news is hard to get away from—whether we want to or not.  With social media at our fingertips and countless news stations blasting the airwaves, not to mention social conversations, one can hardly ignore all the various opinions associated with a given event or topic.

I had to chuckle after reading this scripture because I couldn’t help but sense that Jesus was having fun with the men, and it was clear that his gentle teasing puzzled Cleopas and his friend to no end.  This is what I love about Jesus.  The take away in this event is that we should not be so wrapped up in our sorrows to not see that our Lord and Savior are with us ALL the time.  Hard as it may seem sometimes, know that you are truly loved and will always be taken care of.

 

Prayers:

Loving God, help us to share the Good News by demonstrating compassion and kind-heartedness to all.  Amen.   



Daily Devotion – April 25, 2017
04.25.17

Luke 24:13-16

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

 

Devotion by David Burns

One of the things that seems to be true in this life is that you tend to see that for which you are looking.  Or, maybe better, you tend to see what you are on the lookout for.  My friend tells the story of taking his kids to the grocery store one day and upon arriving, turned to them and asked them how many “For Sale” signs they had seen on the way.  They said, “Zero.”  On the way home he challenged them to be on the lookout for the signs and count how many they saw.  Nineteen in all.

The disciples on their way to Emmaus that day were not yet primed to expect to see or bump into Jesus.  The entirely solid reality they were swimming in was the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.  They couldn’t recognize Jesus because they were not expecting to see him.

This is not the case today.  People have been telling stories about bumping into Jesus for 2000 years now.  We have had our own experiences of the risen Christ.  And still, we are prone to forget.  My invitation to all of us this day is to walk through our hours on the lookout for the risen Christ.  It may be in conversation with a stranger or an old friend, or in the text of some scripture that is sacred, or in the intersection of a memory and a present encounter, or in the sharing of some bread and wine.  It is a true delight to notice the presence of the divine one among us.

Open our eyes, Lord.  We want to see Jesus.  Amen.

 

 



Daily Devotion – April 22, 2017
04.22.17
Psalm 16:5-8
5. Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8. I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,I will not be shaken.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner
My heart is still in a place of sadness. Yet, I have two sources of comfort. Every evening I come home to my wonderful, witty, and kindhearted wife, Monica. Meanwhile, every minute of every hour, I feel the Divine Feminine Presence within my life. King David and the Israelites had their Divine Father, Yahweh. He was/is their “portion and their cup.” Monica and I are set apart from the rest of humanity as Transgender, thus setting our “boundary lines in pleasant places.” It feels proper and right that Divine Mother is our inheritance, regardless of the gainsaying of evangelists and other dogmatists.

Meditation and Praise:
The wheat straw stubble pricks my feet;
My heart hurts for you Goddess my Beloved!
Beyond the work-a-day field’s edge,
your apple orchard calls to me!
I walk the rows of leafy, flowered limbs
in longing for you Goddess my Beloved!
Praise to you, Great Lady my Dear Love!
My whole being I give up to thee!

 



Daily Devotion – April 21, 2017
04.21.17

John 20:24-25

 

Jesus and Thomas

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

Despair.  Have you ever felt a loss so deep you thought you’d never crawl out from under the blanket of pain covering your heart? Have you felt like your life couldn’t possibly recover from the aloneness you are feeling?  I know I did when my marriage broke up and my husband moved out.  It felt like everyone could see my shame at not being able to keep my family together.  Pain was all I could identify with.  I think Thomas must have felt this way after Jesus’ crucifixion, as did all the disciples.  But he missed seeing Jesus when he appeared to the disciples after rising from the dead.  When I think about this I compare it to how it sometimes is hard for me to feel that my own father is dead.  For many years, he lived far away from me.  So now that he has passed away, it is easy for me to imagine he is still back at home in Florida, not gone from this world.  Without experiencing the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas’ mind may simply not have been able to comprehend the miracle.  After all, he was overwhelmed with grief.

I don’t fault Thomas for his doubt.  I know my own mind has and continues to play tricks on me.  What I do know is God’s grace and power are too wonderful and magnificent for me to understand.  Jesus’ resurrection is a mystery.  God is a mystery, but God is also good and I take comfort in that.

 

 

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for the Easter story.  Thank you for the disciples and their humanness.  We are grateful for the gift of grace you offer.  It feels good to know that in our doubts, grief, and humanness we can still experience the resurrection.  Amen

 



Daily Devotion – April 20, 2017
04.20.17

Both-And, not Either-Or

Written by John Nelson

 

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” … Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” – John 12:1-5, 7-8

 

At Bible Study, a wise fellow in our church shared what he learned from another wise teacher. Put a question to twenty people in a room, and you’ll get twenty opinions (or more). Talk through those, discuss and listen, and they’ll settle into a few groupings of opinions. Talk some more, and the number of opinions will likely reduce further. Until there are two, which are in opposition.

 

It’s the opposition that is most needed, most desirable. The creative tension gives a stable foundation.

 

In one church, a painful rift developed between church members who wanted to use scarce funds to spruce up the church’s fellowship hall, which was showing its age, and those members who wanted the funds to go directly to needy persons. This was not a creative tension: it was divisive and bitter. I still recall the pastor preaching about it. He didn’t say what should be done with the funds. He identified that there were, at the moment, two kinds of people in the church: people of pilgrimage, with a calling to go to unknown places of service, and people of blessing, with a calling to give hospitality. What I remember mostly was how much love and respect he witnessed, for both. And that neither can be entirely faithful, without the other.

 

Prayer

God of grace beyond measure or price, grant me the capacity to pour out care when the occasion is right, until my jar is drained. Grant me the tenacity to save and strategize, that your care may reach further still. Teach me to love, in every good way.

 

About the Author

John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of Church on the Hill, UCC, in Lenox, Massachusetts.



Daily Devotion – April 19, 2017
04.19.17

Acts 10:34-35

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

 

Devotion by Jim Kennedy

Saint Peter was also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, or Simōn. According to the Christian Scriptures he was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and a leader of the early Christian Great Church. Hippolytus of Rome, a 3rd-century theologian, gave him the title of “Apostle of the Apostles”. Peter was ordained by Jesus in the “Rock of My Church” dialogue in Matthew Chapter 16, verse 18. He is traditionally counted as the first Bishop of Rome (pope) and by Eastern Christian tradition also as the first Patriarch of Antioch. The ancient Christian churches all venerate Peter as a major saint and as founder of the Church of Antioch and the Roman Church.

Chapter 10 of the Book of Acts of the Apostles is titled Peter and Cornelius. Cornelius in the Bible was a centurion, a commander in the Italian Regiment of the Roman military. He lived in Caesarea. His story in Acts Chapter 10 is important because it was in Cornelius’s household that God publicly opened the doors of the church to the Gentile world. The apostle Peter was present to see it happen, just as he had been a witness to the opening of the doors to the Samaritans and the Jews.

Despite being a Roman, Cornelius was a worshipper of God, a Jewish proselyte known and respected by the Jewish community. Cornelius was a devout man who regularly prayed and gave to charity. One afternoon, while Cornelius was praying, he saw a vision of an angel of God, who told him that God had heard his prayers. The angel told Cornelius to find Peter, who was staying in Joppa at the house of Simon. Cornelius immediately sent two of his servants and a devout soldier to Joppa to find Peter and bring him back.

When Peter entered Cornelius’s home, the centurion fell at Peter’s feet in reverence, but Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up . . . I am only a man myself”. Peter then reminded Cornelius that it was against Jewish law for Peter to be associating with Gentiles. However, Peter explained, God had shown him in a vision not to call any person common or unclean. Peter understood that the animals in his vision were symbolic of the Gentiles, to whom God was preparing to give the gospel. Cornelius then told Peter about the angel who had told him to seek out Peter. Both Peter and Cornelius saw that God had acted to bring them together.

And then Peter told them all that he understood that God shows no partiality, that God said not to call any person common or unclean. That all would be acceptable to God who fears God and does what is right. This was good in that Peter was essentially saying that all people, no matter how common and unclean, could have access to God’s love as long as they feared God did what was right by God. It actually wasn’t a bad deal. No matter who you were or what you had done God would love you. Now where have I heard that before?

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord I pray that I may continue to fear you and do what you consider to be right so that I may continue to have access to your love. And when I mess up and don’t fear you and don’t do what you consider to be right you will still love me, so we tell the residents in the correctional institution.