Thought for the Day: As Paul listened to messengers who brought him a word from a distant church, he saw how easy it was for people to have a mistaken understanding of grace. Grace, in some circles, had become a self-congratulatory and self-inflating concept. Yet to suggest such a thing misses the glorification of Jesus, specifically from his arrest to his execution. It is not self-congratulatory or self-inflating, but self-giving and self-sacrificing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Cost of Discipleship, wrote about cheap grace as compared to costly grace. He was deeply concerned at how cheap grace, one that accepts all the benefits without acknowledging the responsibility, was a significant impediment to the church’s mission. He wrote:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal responsibility. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship – grace without the cross…
In today’s sermon, I reference Bonhoeffer and suggest how a growing understanding of the power and challenge of grace allows for us to better experience the Glory of God, the brilliance of God’s Light and Love.
Prayer: It is not all about me! You love me, God, with an amazing and unmerited love, yet I have come to realize how your love allows for me to see the value in every person. Suddenly, in your grace, I glimpse your glory and make room for it to live within me. There, deeply held within my heart, I can become an instrument through which your glory is shared with the world. Amen.
TODAY’S WORSHIP SERVICE
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Thought for the Day: Ava DuVernay is an American Filmmaker who said, “When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.” I not only agree with this idea, but I find her words to ring true in so many aspects of life. We as human beings are often looking for the swiftest way a meeting the minimum requirement for checking the box as completed, but doesn’t that communicate exactly how much we value it… or maybe I should say how little we valued it? When it came to love, Jesus did not set the bar low. In fact, he invited his followers to give the fullness of their lives to the work of love. Following Jesus should never be about checking boxes, but should be so deeply felt that we are willing to give the full measure of our existence to that life.
Prayer: Continue to inspire within me, O Lord, the self-giving and self-sacrificing love put on display in Jesus. It is a high calling, yet the one to which you have called us all. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: There are so many things missing from our lives right now, but among them are many of the rituals and practices of our faith. Oh sure, we are able to participate in modified ways, yet part of the meaning we find in the sacraments and liturgy of the church is found in the feeling that we are connected to something greater and older than ourselves. Prior to the pandemic, there was a noticeable increase, especially among younger people, when it came to a hunger for ancient customs and celebrations. It was rooted in feelings of isolation and historic disconnect. That was more than a year ago, and I believe the yearning has only intensified. The Apostle Paul provided some meaning to the practice of Baptism, suggesting it is a living act that mirrors the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can talk about dying and rising, passing away and rebirth, but there is something very real when we go under the water and rise from the water. It is experiential, giving tangible significance to the ideas we claim. Until we can fully participate in the sacraments and rituals of our faith, let us seek out other ways of finding that connection.
Prayer: Continue to provide experiences that teach and reinforce the faith, O Lord. Connect me, not only to what I claim to believe and value, but connect me to you and your love. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: I cannot begin to imagine the challenges that faced Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut. What is equally impressive is that she continued with the application process for the astronaut program after the 1986 Challenger accident. In September of 1992, she went into space on what was the 50th Shuttle mission. A number of years ago, I used a quote from Dr. Jemison as a guiding thought during a time of difficulty in the church I was serving. Dr. Jemison wrote, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” How often has a great idea, a new calling, a spiritual vision been halted or even squelched by those whose imagination is limited by fear of failure or fear of the unknown. I sort of think the author of the Proverb was encouraging the reader to take care of and nurture the heart, the source of creativity, inspiration, artistry and life itself. If we do not keep a vigilant watch over it, others might just steal its capacity to imagine and dream.
Prayer: Continue to lift and inspire our hearts and minds, O Lord, for we desire to dream your dream, to catch a glimpse of your vision. The world needs a bit more imagination and innovation that seeks to serve your mission of love. Amen.
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To Listen To The Devotional
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Thought for the Day: It is always important to remember who was hearing these words from the Gospel, and where they stood in history. Even the first audience of Matthew’s Gospel would have known of Jesus’ crucifixion. For their ears, Jesus wasn’t telling them to take the lead, to accept the way of the cross – the way of sacrificial love – as if they were to be the prototype. For those in the mid-80’s (50 years after Jesus’ death), they would have heard Jesus’ invitation with an emphasis on the word ‘followers’. To be a follower of Jesus required an individual to take up the cross because that was exactly what Jesus had done. Always remember that any sacrifice we make, or any follower might have made throughout the centuries, is but a response to the one whose love was so far-reaching, so extravagant, that it refused to reverse itself even in the face of death. Remember, follower means follower. We are only choosing to form ourselves after the extraordinary model of love we’ve encountered in Jesus.
Prayer: Again and again, we express gratitude for the love we’ve discovered in Jesus and the love we have met in those who follow him. O God whose love came to earth in human form, we are so thankful for all the amazing examples, guidance and encouragement we have received in our own attempt to following Jesus. In your grace, we will continue this journey. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: This is the first couple of verses from our Lenten scripture. Throughout the season of Lent, we will focus on John 12:20-29, and each week we will take a piece of it and explore its meaning within the larger theme: A Whole New Glory. Now the word “Greek” is another way of saying, “Outsider” or “Other.” For Jesus and his Jewish disciples, interaction with the Greeks would have been limited mostly to business or legal matters. There wasn’t much socializing, and even though Jesus had some encounters with Greeks (Gentiles), they were few as compared to his ministry among the Jews. Yet in this situation, these Greeks came seeking Jesus. It feels a little like the story of the Wisemen who were outsiders, but came seeking Jesus (as a child). So many times in ministry, I have heard a member of my congregation meet a first time visitor who did not, for whatever reason, fit the traditional kind of person who would visit our church. And the member said something like, “Why would they want to come here?” I don’t believe Jesus said, upon hearing how the Greeks wanted to talk with him, “Why would they want to talk to me?” The message of Jesus, the message of a love that is unconditional, redemptive and healing, is something insiders and outsiders and no-siders are seeking. It should never be our place to question why someone seeks Jesus. Our response should only be Joy.
Prayer: I honor whoever is moved by your love and mercy, O Lord, and I only pray that I may be an instrument in the facilitation of a growing relationship with the one who embodied those gifts to the world, Jesus Christ. Amen.
TODAY’S WORSHIP SERVICE
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Thought for the Day: What does it mean to seek the strength of the Lord? I assume it means to not only find the source of strength, but to also draw upon that strength when it is found. These words from 1 Chronicles are part of a worship song, of hymn of praise. It is uncertain whether the newly appointed song leader, Asaph, is singing or if David if teaching the song. Yet what’s clear is the seeking of the Lord’s strength is done within the worshipping community. So often people come to me requesting help, wanting to find spiritual strength for whatever they face. There are things we can provide one on one, but community appears to be one of the vehicles God uses for the delivery of strength. I am talking about relationships that have been developed and nurtured over time. Sitting in the pre-surgery waiting room, I have witnessed many times a group of friends, maybe members of the Sunday School class or another ministry group walk into the space. It changes the dynamic of the moment. These are often folks who have a rich history with the individual preparing for surgery and I just watch the temperament and spiritual disposition of the person change for the better. It is as if they are drawing upon the Lord’s strength contained within the community itself.
Prayer: Continue to provide me life-giving relationships where your strength is often stored, transported and shared. Lord, your living presence is most often made real in the community itself, a community based in your love. Thank you for that gift! Amen.
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Thought for the Day: A lot of folks are feeling done, exhausted, frustrated, angry, confused, cynical… and some are feeling all those emotions in the same moment. We all are waking to a new day, yet the source of the irritation yesterday remains very present in this new day. I guess this is where steadfast love and mercy that never ends can be so important. Such gifts stretch beyond whatever we are facing in the moment, and in connecting ourselves to the ceaseless love and mercy of God, we are connected to hope. It is a new day, and though there are still plenty of problems leftover from yesterday, the love and mercy of God meet us in this new day and instill within us a belief that a better tomorrow still awaits.
Prayer: Lord God, I may not see past the difficulties immediately before me, yet I trust you to guide me beyond these difficulties and into a fuller experience of love. Amen.
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Rev. Bruce Frogge