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Daily Devotion – June 30, 2017
06.30.17

Act 2: 45

…they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne

This passage asks a lot of our faith and our belief in God and Jesus. I have run this thought through my mind all week and wondered if I was even capable of writing about it. (Believe me, I have asked for divine intervention.) Giving up our worldly goods and possessions in the name of the Lord to provide for the needs of the poor and needy…is a tall order.

But as I contemplate the meaning behind these words I am reminded of my many encounters with those homeless souls I meet on the streets of Chattanooga. My heart and my money go out to a number of them. I listen to their stories, some of which are moving and true and others that ring false and hollow. As I listen to them, I look into their eyes trying to find that glimmer of sincerity, indicating that their plea is genuine and they’re not trying con me.

You’ve heard me mention John before, but he is the one person I believe, I have faith in and it’s not because he’s missing a leg or that he’s in a wheel chair. It’s because John is honest, straight up with me. There’s something about his soul, his heart and John is the only homeless person I’ve ever given money to and got two dollars back because he only needed three. He’s also the only one that ever offered to buy me lunch. So where am I going with all of this.

I’d like to think that the passage is a reminder to be thankful for the many gifts we have and that in our abundance we have the greatest gift of all and that’s to give back. To help those who are less fortunate. To put a smile on their face and a meal at their table, wherever that table may be, and to send them on their way with God’s blessing and the feeling that you have touched them and through you so has God.

 

Prayer

Dear God…

Thank you for the many gifts you have given us. Let us always be willing to share our gifts with those who are less fortunate.   Amen

 

 



Daily Devotion – June 28, 2017
06.29.17

Acts 2:43New International Version (NIV)

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

 

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

I think I spend too much time waiting on big, flashy neon signs from God like, “Open for Holy Business,” or “Seek Here.”  Although our God is a mighty God, I think our God is a simple God, too.  I think God sends us simple signs performed by simple people.  I need to spend more time recognizing those than looking for neon messages.

 

Prayer: Almighty God, please keep my soul simple.  Please keep my heart simple.  God, please help me see your simple signs of love and mercy.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – June 27, 2017
06.27.17

Acts 2:42

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

 

Devotion by Chris Shiver

Does this really mean that these early believers did nothing else?  If they were going to survive long-term then still someone had to produce the food, someone had to cook it, someone had to care for their living spaces, someone had to raise the children, etc.  I know when I first became a Christian there was a strong desire to be really focused on worship and fellowship activities, but I was also still a provider for a family with small children.  I think what this really means is that for those who had just found a real connection to God through Jesus, there was a desire to put as much focus on that relationship as possible.  Like I have learned, and am still learning, they too probably had to discover how to find the right balance and the right ways to both worship God and also to still survive in a harsh world.  I think what it really means is changing from a primarily worldly view focused on acquiring things, or status, or to achieving “success”, to a view more centered on God and other people.

 

My Prayer:

Jesus, I pray that I will start and end each day focused on you, and in during the rest of the day make sure you are a part of everything I choose to do.   Amen.



Sermon: “Stalking Our Calling” (Matthew 10:28-39) [6/25/17]
06.26.17

Weasels are wild.  As wild creatures, weasels do what nature has designed them to do–they hunt prey.  Here’s how they do it.  Disclaimer–this will be momentarily icky, but stay with me.  The point will be well-made.  I promise.  Here’s how nature has designed weasels to kill their prey–they bite them (rabbits, mice, birds) on the neck and don’t let go until they’ve dragged the carcass back to their nest.

In an essay titled, “Living Like Weasels,” Annie Dillard tells of a man “who shot an eagle out of the sky.  The man examined the eagle and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat.  The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won.”  There’s no telling how long that skull had been dangling from the eagle’s throat.

Image result for weasels pictures

Dillard finds in the weasel’s single-minded focus inspiration for her own life.  “We can live any way we want,” she writes.  “People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience–even of silence–by choice.  The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse.”

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure,” she says, “to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.  Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part.”  (Dillard, Annie.  “Living Like Weasels,” Teaching a Stone to Talk:  Expeditions and Encounters, 65-70.)

Stalk our calling…now there’s an image.  What in your life have you dug your teeth into completely, single-mindedly?  Into what have we as a community dug our metaphorical teeth?

This summer, we’re looking at ways to build a stronger community here at Pilgrimage in four areas of our community’s life:  spiritual, vocational, financial, and facility.  Today, we begin our reflections on our vocational life.

We don’t often talk about a community’s vocation, at least not among Protestant churches.  Catholic religious communities do, though.  Monks in those communities have their own individual vocations or callings.  But the communities also have vocations.  For Jesuits, it’s scholarship.  For Benedictines, it’s hospitality.  For other orders it’s hospital ministries, or ministries with the poor.  The order of Fr. Gabe at St. Anne’s Church is committed to ecumenism… which is why he welcomed me, a Protestant clergywoman, to receive communion at Bob Donahue’s memorial service.  A community’s vocation gives it focus.  The community then uses that focus to guide its efforts to act the world into wellbeing in Jesus’ name.

So.  What is our community’s vocation?  On what one thing are we focused?  What one “necessity” guides us as we seek to act the world into wellbeing in Jesus’ name?  To what mission have we grabbed on so tightly that even death cannot part us from it?

I invite you to write down your answer to that question.  This is a gut-reaction kind of thing.  What is our Pilgrimage community’s one-thing?  To what one thing are we called as a community of Jesus’ followers?  Don’t think about it.  Just write.  As soon as you’re done, pass it to the center aisles and the ushers will take them up.  Then I’ll read them.  [2 min. of silence]  

Are you ready to hear the responses?  If they’re all the same, then good news!  The sermon will be done!  If they’re not all the same, we’ll need to spend a little more time with it.  Ready?  (Read responses.)  Hmm.  No early lunch for us, I’m afraid.  ��

How do we figure this out?  How do we become clearer about our community’s vocation?  What will it take to “stalk our calling?”

Today’s Gospel lesson might help us.  Or not.  This is one of those passages that gives you whiplash on the first reading.  Don’t fear those who can destroy the body; do fear the one who can destroy body and soul–that’s God, right?  But then it says NOT to be afraid, that God knows intimately every sparrow that falls to the ground.  God knows the number of hairs on every person’s head—a count that changes daily for some of us.  Others of us, I see, have graciously given God a rest from all that counting.  I’m sure God thanks you.

We’re way more valuable than sparrows, Jesus tells us.  Then immediately, Jesus says if we acknowledge him on earth, God will acknowledge us in heaven.  What joy!  On the other hand, if we don’t acknowledge Jesus on earth, God won’t acknowledge us in heaven.  Gulp.  Jesus hasn’t come to bring peace on earth?  Really?   And what about this hating the family business?  Was that a real thing, or was Jesus just projecting his own family issues onto the disciples?  (It happens. :-/ )  We’re of more value than sparrows and yet, if we don’t take up the cross, we aren’t worthy of Jesus?  And the most confusing part–how can we lose our lives by finding them or find them by losing them?

See what I mean by “whiplash?”  Is this passage supposed to comfort us, challenge us, or confuse us?  What insight, if any, might it lend our work of stalking our community’s calling?

This passage raises enough questions for us to be answering them until the cows come home.  Why must we love God more than family?  If God is a God of grace and love, what is all this talk of unworthiness?  And the most pressing question of all:  Did the heavenly accounting department have to restructure after Propecia came on the market?  J

In the few minutes we have left, I invite us to focus on only one line from this passage, the one that talks about taking up our cross and following Jesus…

Was Jesus calling on his disciples to take up literal crosses?  Was he calling them to live in such a way that the powers that be would take action to silence them?  Does taking up our cross mean to become literal martyrs, to give our flesh-and-blood lives for the sake of the Gospel?  Some certainly have taken this verse to mean exactly that.  Books are filled with stories of people who gave their lives for the sake of others in Jesus’ name—Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Are we all called to put our literal lives on the line like these people did?

If we focus only on the flesh-and-blood of this passage, I fear we’ll miss the larger point Jesus is trying to make.  Like he says earlier in the passage—don’t fear those who can destroy your body.  Rather fear the one who has dominion over both body and soul.  God isn’t concerned only with physical reality.  God is interested in the entire package—body and soul.  It’s true that others have the power to destroy our bodies, but no one can take our spirits without us handing them over.

So when Jesus implores us to “take up our cross,” he’s telling us to “stalk our calling,” to latch onto it with such ferocity that not even death can separate us from it.

Why take up our cross?  Why stalk our calling?  Because living out our calling, our vocation, clinging to it with a weasel’s intensity, is the best means we have of finding our lives.  Martin Luther King, Jr.—who knew early on that his calling likely would get him killed—said this:  “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer died fully alive.  A doctor at Flossenburg, where Bonhoeffer was executed for his role in a plot to kill Adolph Hitler wrote this about Dietrich’s final minutes.

“On the morning of that day between five and six o’clock the prisoners…were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of the court martial read out to them.  Through a half-open door … I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God.  I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.  At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer, then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed.  His death ensued after a few seconds.  In the almost 50 years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”  (Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, K10076)

I’m not suggesting by telling Bonhoeffer’s story—or the weasel’s—that we are called to actual martyrdom.  I do think, though, that we have much to learn from their examples, especially from their single-minded commitment to their callings, callings from which even death could not part them.

To what one thing is this community called?  Of what one mission are we so certain, we’ll sink our teeth into it and not let go?  What one thing will guide us as we seek to act the world into wellbeing in Jesus’ name?

(Silence)

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

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2017



Daily Devotion – June 26, 2017

Matthew 10:40-42

40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

 

Devotion by Lynne Buell

Matthew is recalling Jesus’ instructions to the first disciples as he speaks to his own group of disciples a few generations later.  While this scripture refers mostly to ‘rewards;’ however, my thoughts wandered to the word ‘welcoming.’

In the ancient days, travelers had to depend on the hospitality of others.  It seems that Matthew was letting his community of disciples know how they could be treated on their journey and what to expect—acceptance or rejection.  This would be a daunting thought for me.  As a child, I used to hide behind my mother’s skirt whenever anyone came to our home.  I wouldn’t leave my dad’s side when he took me with him to see my grandfather or my aunts.  Eventually I grew out of that…I had too…because when I turned 4, my brother came along, and 14 months later, my sister was born.  My parents were busy with two little ones and couldn’t cater to my shyness.

While my fear of belonging eventually improved when I began to go to high school, I still had difficulty with self-confidence.  Jump ahead to 2009 when I walked through the doors of Pilgrimage.  That Sunday was a turning point in my life.  During Pastor Kim’s sermon yesterday, I reflected on that day as did everyone else on their first day at Pilgrimage.  She asked the congregation to write down what we thought Pilgrimage’s focus is on and then she read the responses.  Not surprisingly, we wrote words like love, acceptance, service, and welcoming all—no matter who we are.  I thought it was very cool to learn that we were all on the same page.

So, what would happen to the church, our church, if people stopped coming to worship with us on their own volition and decided to wait for someone to bring God’s Word to them in the comfort of their homes?  As a welcoming worship family, could we overcome the fear of possible rejection if we had to go from house to house to invite them to join our community?

Prayer:

Loving God, help us (me) to overcome the fear of rejection and to be able to reach out to folks who need to fill a void in their lives.  Help us to find the right words to assure others that we are a welcoming and loving community and to give us a chance.  Amen.  

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – June 24, 2017
06.24.17

Matthew 10: 37-39

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I get the first sentence. We should love Jesus more than our own families. As family members become more distant and less loving, it is easy to obey Jesus’ advice here.

But, I wonder what is meant by “those who find their life will lose it”. Perhaps, by studying the next part, what He means may be revealed. “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” So those who sacrifice and maybe even be persecuted for following Jesus, shall find eternal life in heaven. This is a repeated theme in the Bible. Going back then, if one doesn’t sacrifice, but seeks a material life, he/she will lose it. I take that as if we seek material rewards, our spirit will die. When we become obsessed with piling possessions, we will lose sight of the true meaning of life, we will become prisoners to our accumulating wealth, and we will become poor in spirit.

It is so easy to get caught up in the material world. Advertisements feed us thoughts of happiness built on objects. Even drinking a Coke is equated with opening happiness. So we are taught that happiness and a fulfilling life comes from a filling full life. But Jesus has another way. He tells us getting isn’t from getting but from giving. It means even turning away from family if they come between us and our Lord. It is a radical way of looking at the world. It was radical then. It still is today.

 

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to reduce my material abundance and seek an abundance in You. In Your name, I pray. Amen.



Daily Devotion – June 22, 2017
06.22.17

Psalm 86:3-7

 

  1. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
  2. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
  3. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.
  4. Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
  5. In the day of my trouble I will call to you for you will answer me.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

The writers/singers of the Psalms bespeak their intimacy and dependency upon the Divine Presence throughout the entire day. In contrast with our unbalanced, spiritually-impoverished present day, the ancient Hebrews seemed to maintain an awareness of their God at nearly every moment. As their ancestors, Moses and Abraham, the most faithful of the Israelites cultivated a lifelong, personal commitment to their Divine Protector. The ancestors of Abraham, in turn, were the Sumerians. Though the Sumerian culture and religion have been extinct for thousands of years, recently-excavated clay tablets testify to their sense of intimacy with the Divine through their principal Goddess.

 

 

Hymn to Inanna, Sumerian Goddess of Love, 1900 B.C.

At the end of the day, the Radiant Star, the Great Light that fills the sky,

The Lady of the Evening appears in the heavens.

The people in all the lands lift their eyes to her.

The men purify themselves; the women cleanse themselves.

The ox in his yoke lows to her.

The sheep stir up the dust in their fold.

All the living creatures of the steppe,

The four-footed creatures of the high steppe,

The lush gardens and orchards, the green reeds and trees,

The fish of the deep and the birds in the heavens—

My Lady makes them all hurry to their sleeping places



Daily Devotion – 6-21-17
06.21.17

Matthew 10:28-31

28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

When I was a child I used to say a good night prayer that had the words, “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  This prayer scared me because I realized that I could die.  I missed the point about God taking and keeping my soul.  Years later, I was talking to my sister about this prayer and I mentioned how it frightened me.  I was surprised to hear that she found this prayer a comfort.  I think it was the first time I fully understood that I could change how I think about things.

People in general tend to fear for their lives.  Today so many terrorists randomly kill others in places where people thought they were safe.  The news is continually reminding us that there are those who would kill our bodies.  In this scripture passage, Jesus reminds us that while other people have the power to kill our bodies, they cannot kill our souls.  Only God can do that.  Then Jesus reminds us that God is not out to harm us.  God watches out for and cares for all of creation, even lowly sparrows.  If God knows the number of hairs on our heads, what do we really have to fear?  We are more than our bodies.  We have souls that are the true essence of who we are.  Our souls will go on to live in God’s kingdom.

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for sending us Jesus to remind us that we are under your care.  Help us not be afraid to live to glorify you.   Amen

 



Daily Devotion – June 20, 2017
Written by Richard Floyd

But Moses said to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”Numbers 11:29

The people of God have always wrestled with the question of where God’s Spirit is at work. In Numbers 11 we hear a strange story that raises this very question.

Moses had gathered seventy of the elders around the tent of meeting. God took some of the spirit from Moses, and put it on these seventy and they prophesied. But there were two men, Eldad and Medad, who missed the memo and remained in the camp. Still, the spirit came upon them and they prophesied in the camp.

But a young man ran to tattle on them, and Joshua, who was Moses’s assistant told Moses to stop them. This is when Moses rebuked Joshua.

There is a similar story in the Gospels, when the disciples complained to Jesus that some strangers were casting out demons in his name, and he should stop them. Jesus, like Moses, said to let them be.

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and proud to be one. Still, the “Reverend” before my name doesn’t mean that I am wiser or more spiritual than anybody else. In fact, one of the things I had to learn in my ministry was that sometimes when I was at a meeting stuck for the right word or idea, if I just shut up, there was someone at the table at that moment wiser than I.

In this season of Pentecost we do well to recall that God’s Spirit is not our instrument, and the Spirit’s gifts are not under the control of the church. The Spirit of God operates out of God’s own radical freedom. When we are truly wise we keep an eye out for it!

Prayer

Draw us in the Spirit’s tether, O God, so that we may be responding to what you are doing in our midst.

 

About the Author
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.


Daily Devotion – June 19, 2017
06.19.17

Matthew 10:24-25

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

Devotion by Jim Kennedy

These verses are from a section of Mathew Chapter 10 titled Coming Persecutions. The first verse in this section of chapter is “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” The next verse goes on about how they are to behave among the wolves. Hence the name Coming Persecutions.

Jesus warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures. Jesus foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith. He tells them what they should suffer, and from whom. Thus Jesus had dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost.

The disciples of Jesus were hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin was sought, and they need the serpent’s wisdom. The disciples of Jesus must have thought more about how to do well than how to speak well. In case of great peril, the disciples of Jesus had to go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. When God called us to speak for God we may depend on God to teach us what to say.

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master, but it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. The disciple and slave cannot be different than the teacher and master but they can be like the teacher and master, in other words their equals. This was something taught by Jesus throughout his preaching.

Beelzebub (aka Beelzebul) is a name derived from a Philistine god and later adopted by Abrahamic religions as a given name to a winged demon. In theological sources, predominately Christian, Beelzebub is another name for the devil similar to Satan. Beelzebub is known by believers as one of the seven princes of Hell, according to Catholic views in terms of demonology.

Beelzebub is commonly described as placed high in Hell’s hierarchy. According to the stories of a 16th-century occultist Beelzebub led a successful revolt against the Devil and is the chief lieutenant of Lucifer. A 17th-century exorcist placed Beelzebub among the three most prominent fallen angels, the other two being Lucifer and Leviathan.

So obviously people didn’t want to be called the master of the house of Beelzebul and they defiantly wanted to malign those of Beelzebul’s household. That’s committing to maligning the three most prominent fallen angels, surly a task that would please God and help the people in their coming persecutions.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray that I may continue to malign those of the household of Beelzebul and thereby stay equal to the teacher and the master.