November 30, 2019
(Saturdays during Advent will have a guest writer from the congregation)
Guest Writer: Rev. Katelin Jordan
Scripture: Isaiah 2:5
Come, house of Jacob, let us walk by the light of the Lord.
The season of Advent is an opportunity and challenge to live in darkness, waiting for the light that will come. We are waiting, always waiting, knowing that the light of Christ will come, but that it isn’t quite here yet. So often, we want to rush right into the light. We focus on the light of Christmas morning, forgetting that we must embrace the darkness of where we are now, to learn how to live in the waiting, and to find our light.
I have struggled with my health the past year. I have gone through countless procedures, tests, appointments, surgeries, recoveries, and therapies. But going through all of this has taught me how to find light in this darkness. I have learned how to laugh and embrace joy amidst terrible pain and uncertainty. I have learned how to give myself grace and forgiveness when I must cancel plans and say no to something that is being asked of me. I have learned how to ask for and accept help. I have learned how to embrace the darkness that is pain and, in doing so, have found the most beautiful light and love in the people around me who continue to walk this path with me, my family, my friends, and my church.
My faith in a God who loves me when I want to give up and who shares in my joy when I pick myself back up again is my light. Learning to accept that, while I may be in a time of darkness, there is light all around me on this journey is how I get up every morning and find the goodness and love in every day. And the love that I have been given by others is a constant reminder to me that I am also called to Live the Love First Life and all that entails as well.
This journey is hard. A time of Advent darkness always is. But in learning how to pause, and live in that dark journey, we are given the chance to see the light all around us! I like to think that, in all of the fear, pain, and uncertainty that Mary and Joseph must have felt on their journey to Bethlehem, there must have been light there too, even if just in the movement of the babe in Mary’s womb.
It is my prayer for all of us that we learn to live in our dark times, knowing that it is in those times that the light shines brightest of all.
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November 29, 2019
Scripture: Proverbs 24:27
Get your outside work done; make preparations in the field; then you can build your house.
Thought for the Day: How you get things done and the order you get things done might be just as important as what you hope to get done. In fact, the choices we make around the how and the order determine the outcome. We are impatient and compulsive creatures. Now there is nothing wrong with some good restlessness that pushes us forward, but if it is an attitude of “I want it now,” it will too often produce something other than what we wanted to produce. As we approach one of the most magnificent, joyful and fun times of the year, let us be mindful that it is Advent, not Christmas. Advent is the weeks of preparation before Christmas. Let us make good use of this time, recognizing that how we move toward Christmas and the order in which we do things on our way to Christmas will have a significant impact on what Christmas is for us. I hope to see you in worship on Sunday as we begin our Advent Theme from Isaiah the Prophet, “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Prayer: It’s Advent, Lord. It is Advent! Let me say it again, It is Advent. Let it be a time when I take seriously all that is required to make sure that when I arrive at Christmas Day that I actually arrive at the birth of Jesus. Amen.
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November 28, 2010
Scripture: 1st Chronicles 29:12-13
Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.
Thought for the Day: The author, Henry Van Dyke, wrote: “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” For all we have received, let us make sure we follow the path presented by Van Dyke and make it to Thanksgiving, not so much the holiday but the impulse to express the inward feeling of gratitude.
Prayer: For all that I have received, O God, I am more than thankful. I commit myself to the work of seeing the emotion I feel expressed in true acts of thanksgiving that positively impact the world around me. Amen.
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November 27, 2019
Scripture: Psalm 106:1-3
Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise? Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.
Thought for the Day: It is said that a true optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day. I’m generally an optimist, though I probably would not take the leap into a new diet on Turkey Day. Though because I am an optimist, I believe in a day when we will move from charity to justice, from simply feeding the hungry to eliminating hunger. Notice how the author of this prayerful Psalm ties together thankfulness and acting justly. No one can equal the enduring love of God, and trying to do so with words of praise will always fall short. Instead, we are asked to express our gratitude in acts of justice. On this Thanksgiving Eve, I express appreciation for all those who have given to good charities in hopes of feeding the hungry. Let us make sure our charity is tied to an ongoing work for justice in the world, a justice that transforms the systems that create poverty in the first place.
Prayer: Happy are those, O God, who give bread to the hungry today while working to bring an end to hunger tomorrow. Amen.
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November 26, 2019
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Thanks
Thought for the Day: Is “giving thanks” an afterthought for Paul? The phrase “along with” might create that perception, but I read it as a way of suggesting how our prayers and petitions should always have thanks alongside them. Gratitude is more than the words, “Thank you!” Gratitude is an attitude that shapes ones consciousness. It was the 19th century pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, who wrote: “The unthankful heart discovers no; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” Prayer that has gratitude woven into it creates a capacity to see the good, the blessings, the presence of God. It does not dismiss or invite us into denial when it comes to pain, injustice or grief. If anything, an attitude of gratitude allows us to face and deal with whatever might come our way.
Prayer: In the busyness of life, I too often forget to be thankful; I too often allow myself to think I am above gratitude; I too often claim incorrectly that I deserve everything I receive. Redirect my spirit, Lord God, that I might see the plethora of gifts that are offered to me. Amen.
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November 25, 2019
Prayer for the Week:
Guest Author: Rev. Hannah Fitch
God of the harvest, whose love and nurturing is embedded in every good thing, we celebrate all that You have revealed to us.
In the light of each morning
You reveal the hope of a new day.
In the laughter we share among friends
You reveal contagious joy.
In the newborn baby
You reveal the wonder of creation.
In the evening colors of the setting sun
You remind us to take time to rest.
In the stars of the night sky
You reveal limitless mystery.
It is so easy for us to be blind to the bounty that surrounds us. Where we see nothingness you show us abundance. Where we see hopelessness you reveal opportunity. When we are alone, there you are. Give us eyes to see what You see in us and in our lives. Give us a heart to share your love with all those around us – known and unknown. Amen.
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November 24, 2019
Scripture: Romans 7:24
I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse?
Thought for the Day: Can I be honest? I have always loved this passage! The old King James Version has Paul referring to himself as Wretched. Now when I say I like it, it’s not because I believe we should have a negative self image. Absolutely not! Christianity has gone through periods where it has enjoyed self-flagellation. Important side note, flagellation is different from flatulation (as in, flatulence). That was one embarrassing moment in my ministry where a word came out of my mouth before I knew it was out. Back to my point, there have been Christ Followers who believed that self-harm, either to connect with Christ’s sacrifice or as a way of punishing oneself, was important to the life of faith. It’s ok, even important, to keep the ego in check. There have been a few times when I got knocked off my high horse, and though it hurt, it was probably a good. But there is nothing in scripture that would encourage us to intentionally hurt ourselves for the sake of hurting ourselves. Yes, Christ-following requires sacrifice that might include suffering, even death for some. But such sacrifice is done with the intention of love for the other and love for the self. The great saints didn’t injure themselves, but because of their unconditional Christ-like love, the world pushed back. If we are really living the Jesus-life, we don’t need to beat ourselves up. The world will probably do a pretty good job of it.
Prayer: Keep me doing the work of love, O Giver of the Christ. Keep me focused, even when others and society push back. Let the love you have for me allow me to celebrate a love of both self and neighbor. Amen.
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November 23, 2019
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 1:4
I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus.
Thought for the Day: Is Paul suggesting that he gives thanks for these other human beings because of God’s grace given to them? Is that a prerequisite for gratitude to God? Do I need some sort of confirmation of God’s grace residing within someone before I can say, “Thank you, God, for this person”? I do not believe that was Paul’s intention, but at first glance, it sure appears that way. Have you ever wanted to say something and before it actually came out of your mouth, you thought, “Wow! This is going to be brilliant!” And then once it actually formed in words and in a sentence structure, you had to step back and say, “Wow! That sure wasn’t as brilliant as I thought it might be.” Paul wasn’t speaking, but writing without an eraser or the capacity to hit the delete key. Now there are some who would claim that Paul was writing word for word what God was putting into his mind. That’s not my concept of scripture, and even language like inspired does not mean without error or even without the potential for confusion. I believe Paul was inspired, awe-struck by the grace of God that he encountered in Jesus. He was a changed human being, but he was still full of mistakes. In Romans 7, Paul writes: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Now I can’t even begin to guess how a first century reader understood the words from 1st Corinthians, specifically in their original Greek. It might have been crystal clear, but for me, I find its imperfection to be refreshing. I think Paul would have been thankful for them simply because they were created in the image of God; because Jesus loved everyone; because of the grace that filled Paul’s heart. If given the chance to clarify, he might have rolled his eyes and said, “Of course I give thanks for them and every human being!” I sure wish we had the capacity to ask Paul for some clarification, but without it, I have to trust and read into scripture the fullness of God’s grace that manifests itself in a love that is relentless and reckless in its capacity to embrace all of creation. And so in this case, I give Paul the benefit of the doubt.
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt, especially in those moments when my intentions were good but I clearly did not communicate what I desired to communicate. May I show such grace to others. Amen.
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November 22, 2019
The flesh of your communal thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being must be eaten on the day you offer it; you cannot save any of it until morning.
Thought for the Day: As we think toward Thanksgiving, and our Thanksgiving Meals, it is good to know that the Bible discourages leftovers. We need to clean up every dish, making sure there is not a morsel of meat left on the bone. This peace offering, or offering for well-being, was the only one where the family making the offering would receive a majority of the meat, while the priests would only take a small portion of this offering. Like so much of Leviticus, we simply do not know why they did some of the things they did. It was probably understood by those in that context, but time and culture has caused us to miss the meaning. But there are those who suggest that the command to not “save any of it until morning” was an encouragement, if not an outright expectation that they would share the meal with others. It is one thing to announce, “I am at peace with God,” and something very different to be at peace with family and the community around us. When we break bread and share a meal with others, there is an opportunity to live into and embody the spirit of reconciliation and shalom.
Prayer: It was centuries ago when things were very different, yet there is still truth being told. Provide me an awareness of your Gospel of Transformative Grace, O God, that is too often hidden in the rituals of an ancient culture. I so often become consumed with a custom I cannot fully understand, and miss all together your grace being delivered into the world. Amen.
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November 21, 2019
Mid-Week Prayer: Turkey and stuffing, creamy casseroles and sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and apple crisp – so many many marvelous traditions and memories expressed in the food we share at this time of the year. O God of the Harvest, I desire for the food that passes over my lips to be tied to the gratitude that is expressed by my lips. You are the Great Provider, but there are so many individuals who participate with your vision of abundance and the sharing of that abundance. From the farmers to the transportation to those who process and prepare the foods to those who bring it to the table, I am deeply grateful. Help my attitude that can so easily look past all the other human beings who take part in the work to feed the world. May I keep any arrogance in check so as never to miss the multitude of hands that have graciously made my life and my table so full. Amen.
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