When thinking of sacrifice, there are extraordinary occurrences that grab people’s attention. They are the acts of which headlines are made – Stranger Runs Into Burning Building; Soldier Carries Fellow Soldier To Safety; Teenager Saves Drowning Child. So gripping are these happenings, the lawyers in the movie-making industry seek to get the story rights from these new found heroes.
There is another form of sacrifice rarely captured in the moment as it seldom registers even in the awareness of the recipient. It is often extricated from our memories only years later as we find ourselves in a place where we have a more comprehensive view of life’s landscape. What we see tends not to be a single attention grabbing event so much as a stream of self-giving that simply was. It was woven into our lives without us noticing, leaving us with a sense of expectation, even entitlement. And then one day we find ourselves in another stage of life, and we realize all that we were given through someone else’s sacrifice. It may not come all at once, but more like a series of aha moments where the mystical haze of all that we have received disappears and we perceive what has gone into its creation. It’s like the proverbial sausage-making, something much messier and more exhausting than previously imagined.
For me, it wasn’t a single aha moment but a journey of awareness and awakening to all that I was given, and so much of it was from the hand and heart of my mother. In my younger years, there were plenty of Thank Yous, but these expressions of gratitude were more etiquette and upbringing than cognitive appreciation of what all had been required behind the scenes. Even to this day, and even with the experience of raising a child myself, I cannot fully fathom the fullness of my mother’s sacrifices made for me and my siblings. She was a single mother raising four children, much of those early years under the shadow of her grief, yet I grew up oblivious to the years of sleepless nights, financial stress and general worry. A way seemed to be made even when there did not appear to be a way. That way did not just occur, but found its way into existence because of my mother’s sacrifice, a sacrifice rooted in her love and faith and sense of responsibility. I am certain I will go to my grave never fully grasping all that I was given, and all that was required to make what was given happen.
I guess gratitude is something forever increasing and developing from the original words, “Thank You,” that were more custom and expectation when actually spoken. On this 90th anniversary of my mother’s birth, I wish to once again say, “Thank you,” for the unfathomable self-giving of which I was one of its recipients. Tomorrow, the gratitude will probably be even more aware and awe-struck as something in my own life will help divulge something previously beyond my capacity to recognize. Just a guess, but it will only continue to grow in the years to come.
Thank you, mom, for all you have done for me – especially the stuff I will never know, yet I am a better person because of it. Love you!
TODAY’S WORSHIP SERVICE
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Thought for the Day: The Call to Worship this Sunday echos the opening words of this Psalm. The emphasis will be upon the word “whole,” as everything else sort of depends upon that word. The rest of the Psalm describes how God gives the divine fullness to the world, or what might be described as God’s whole heart. When, by faith, one begins to glimpse the heart of God as displayed in the love of Christ, the response is not, “I might get around to giving a little back to God a week from Tuesday.” There are moments in life when the breath-taking character of something forever changes a person. When you fall in love with someone, you do not say, “I would like to give you 32% of my heart while still giving 68% to something else.” I do not believe that will sweep anyone off his/her feet. And so when the great and majestic work of unconditional love is made real, it is nearly impossible to believe the ways of God deserve only a portion of our hearts.
Prayer: May this day provide me an opportunity, O God, to reflect on what part of my heart has yet to be given to you. What part of my life or priorities, my values or ethics remain mine and only mine? Give me the courage to acknowledge where work is still needed. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: This past week, I learned that Rev. Paul A. Crow, Jr. had died. For more than two decades Paul served as president of the Council on Christian Unity. He was a force in the ecumenical movement here in the United States and around the world. During my graduate school days and early ministry, he was a rockstar for those of us interested in ecumenical engagement. Though naive in my own thinking about how easy it would be for all denominations to come together and sing Kumbaya, Paul helped me understand the real challenges while always pointing to the beauty within the diverse Christian tradition. Today, I give thanks for Paul Crow.
Prayer: For all the Saints who have challenged us to greater faithfulness, I give you thanks, Lord God. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Ellen Burstyn, the great actress of TV, film and stage, is a deeply spiritual person. She wrote,
What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
Many people shy away from being alone because they feel so lonely, yet for a person of faith, solitude is not loneliness. In fact, it is often removing oneself from the blinding chaos of everyday life so that we can see just how un-alone we are. Even Jesus went to the mountain by himself to pray, yet the simple act of prayer made it clear that he was not alone.
Prayer: Provide me the courage to find some quiet time, all by myself, where I am reminded that I am not ever by myself. Your love, O God, has you nearby whether I acknowledge you or not. Amen.
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From the Devotional:
TO LISTEN TO THE DEVOTIONAL
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Thought for the Day: In one of his sermons, St. Augustine wrote: “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” I have been reading these words over and over again and wrestling with them. Faith is so often depicted as nothing more than a ticket to heaven that requires only a few magical words. This approach demeans the Biblical understanding of faith and diminishes the sacrificial power of the cross. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it cheap grace. Am I suggesting works righteousness, the dreaded Protestant heresy? Maybe? Sort of? Yet at the same time, my faith depends entirely on grace. Faith allows me to imagine the Kingdom of God given to creation through grace, even though I cannot yet see it in the world. At the same time, this faith invites me to live into that image of the Kingdom, and suddenly it is manifesting itself in tangible ways in the world.
Prayer: Give me a faith that clings to the idea that kindness and love and mercy can exist in this world. I need your help, Gracious God, as the antitheses of these holy attributes often seem to be more prevalent. May I never lose hope. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Yesterday, the Cypress Creek Christian Church Leadership Team met for a Virtual Retreat. It was very different from previous years, but it was good to see folks on Zoom. An amazing group of people! During the meeting, I planned to reference these words from Galatians, but like so often happens I got stuck on something else. I am so easily distracted these days, yet my intention was to acknowledge the weariness that I am feeling and most everyone else is feeling. We are weary of many aspects of life right now, yet we must continue doing what is right. Not to sound too dramatic, but Jesus didn’t get through the arrest and the beatings and say, “Never mind, I’m out of here.” He must have been weary, yet his faithfulness to the calling of love remained unfazed. We are not being asked to go to the cross, but we are being invited to wear masks, to be overly cautious about gathering in groups and to continue in the belief that God is working in this moment. We need to do what is right, and not what feels good or what our weariness wants us to do. We might be weary, but it does not mean we are weary in the specific area of doing what is right.
Prayer: We do not face this moment or any moment alone. You are forever present, Lord God, and you provide us spiritual fortitude even when we are feeling a bit weary. Continue to inspire within us a passion to do what is right. Amen.
TODAY’S WORSHIP SERVICE
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Thought for the Day: Have you ever invited anyone to come and see the amazing things God is doing? Have you ever extended an invitation for an individual to experience the amazing love of God? In our current world, it is a bit more challenging as you’re not too sure where to go. The traditional go-to places are not as available as they once were, but I have been intrigued at what some of the Cypress Creek folks have been doing. People have been forwarding the sermons, devotionals and other digital content to friends across the country. Many of them have been intentional with what they have forwarded, sending it only if there was a specific connecting point… being able to say, “I thought about you when I heard the closing illustration of the sermon.” I don’t want to make it sound as if it has been hundreds, but since the pandemic started, I have received dozens of emails and Facebook Messages from people who have never been on the property of Cypress Creek Christian Church, but an old college friend forwarded the sermon and they just wanted to tell me how much it meant. When the church becomes overly focused on getting people in the chairs of the sanctuary it forgets the real task which is spreading the Gospel, sharing the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
Prayer: Let us be a beckoning light, an inviting example of your grace, O God. Wherever we go, let us be about the task of sharing the Good News. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: What does it mean for us to pray that God’s kingdom comes to earth in such a way that it is a perfect reflection of heaven? The scholar N.T. Wright says that the Lord’s Prayer:
“…is, in fact, a prayer for the kingdom of God to become fully present; not for God’s people to be snatched away from earth to heaven, but for the glory and beauty of heaven to be turned into earthly reality as well.”
Do you look around and think to yourself, “We’ve got a lot of work to do”? I will be talking about this in my sermon Sunday, yet I do not want to give the impression it is easy. It must begin with us as individual members of the faith community, and that beginning place requires spiritual practices that embed the characteristics of the Kingdom into our lives. We cannot pretend the Kingdom of God is going to become fully present in this world if we continue to live as if we do not have any knowledge of the Kingdom.
Prayer: May the Kingdom made real in the life of Jesus continue to manifest itself more fully through my life and the life of your church, Merciful God. You set the stage in Jesus and invite us to continue the work. Amen.
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Rev. Bruce Frogge