February 2010

Read 1 John 1:5-9

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
           If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

from Pastor Rae Browning, First Christian Church, Cumberland, MD:

            As a child, I lived in a three story house with the bedrooms on the third floor. A dark, closed-in stairway led to the rooms. With my heart pounding, I’d climb the scary stairs and make my way into one of the rooms. Standing in the middle of the room, I would swing my arm above my head in circles searching for the only light which hung from the ceiling. Darkness loomed all around until, at last, I found the switch to turn on the light. Safe at last with the light on, my heart returned to its normal beat.

            Finding the light of Jesus is much the same way. In acknowledging sin, turning to Jesus, we are forgiven.  Darkness is lifted. Accepting Jesus turns on an everlasting light that diminishes the darkness even of death. 1 John 2:12 says, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”

Within our darkest night, you kindle a never-dying fire, O God.
Shine in my life, and into our world, through me.

Read Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.  Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’
 Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
the city that kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to it!
How often have I desired to gather your children together
 as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
and you were not willing!
 See, your house is left to you.
And I tell you, you will not see me
until the time comes when you say,
 ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

from Rev. Jamie Gump, Madison Avenue Christian Church, Huntington:

            What do you know about a mother’s love?  What will a mother do to protect and look after her children?  Anything and everything!  Jesus – God with us – wants us to know that that kind of love and refuge is ours to have.  Jerusalem was not willing to live in this closeness.  Just as children at times refuse, rebel, and run from a mother’s care, we, too, sometimes refuse the security God offers.  When you step away from God’s care, “your house is left to you,” meaning we are left with the life we’ve chosen.  Love allows us that freedom. 

            Neither God nor Mom can as effectively care for and nurture a runaway child.  But one thing is certain – the love never ends!  Both will wait – today, tomorrow, the third day, forever if need be – for the wandering one to return.  That is the good news!

Lord, may we remain close to you, and should we stray,
 may we know that you will always welcome us back into your arms.

Read Philippians 3:17 – 4:1

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.  For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.  Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
       But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

 from Rev. Rosetta Smith, United Disciples of Christ Church, Charleston:

It’s easy to fall into paths of wanting what one doesn’t need.  There are many paths to take and goals to reach, with our society enticing us with intoxicating offers and choices. We’re overworked, and wonder why we aren’t satisfied, while adding still more work. We run from one scheduled event to another, exhausting ourselves.  Every moment is filled with something, leaving us craving. The more we exert or spend, the emptier we become; it’s like trying to refill a cup of water with a hole in the bottom.  The season of Lent calls us to stop and get back on path! We can be transformed with comfort, love and peace growing within. Release! Reform! Be Resurrected! Christ is coming!  Stay on track, steady in God.

Steady us, O God, on your calling to give ourselves to the life which satisfies,
which we find only in communion with you through your Son Jesus Christ.

         Read Psalm 27

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
 though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
 to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek.
 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

from Rev. Richard Howard, First Christian Church, Morgantown:

            Where do you best experience God?  Is it a favorite physical place, such as a beach, or a mountain view, or even your own yard?  Do you find God in architecture, such as your local church’s sanctuary or a medieval cathedral?  Or maybe it’s a place in literature where you best experience God.  Psalm 27 is a passage of scripture that can transport us to a special place with God where we know that we are in a beautiful approximation with the divine.  “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  What a statement of confidence and trust in God!  There is nothing on earth or in the heavens that will separate us from God’s love.  These verses describe a relationship with God that is intimate and familiar. 

            In this Lenten time, let us proclaim as the psalmist proclaims, that the “One thing I ask of the LORD (is) to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.”

Loving God, as we journey from our brokenness to your wholeness,
 may you be our constant companion, protecting us on our way,
sharing your wisdom and your strength,
 and rejoicing always in our relationships with you and one another.

Read Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

         After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
         But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”    And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
         But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”  He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”  And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
         Then he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.”
But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
         He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.  And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.  As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
            When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.  On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…


from Rev. Sarah Webb, Wheeling, WV:

            How long is a reasonable time to wait for a promise to be fulfilled?  Abram and Sarai had more patience than most of us, but how long could they go on hoping?  Even the most ardent of dreams can dwindle with time.  Yet God is telling them to trust that barrenness was not to be their legacy.  A new future is being offered. 

            It takes courage to believe that our lives can change.  It takes daring to dream a new vision.  The familiar is so much more comfortable.  God offered Abram a legacy as numerous as the stars, but such an audacious dream requires hope.  Hope is the gift that frees us from the same old mire that has held us back.  As God’s beloved children, can we dare to choose hope?

Loving God, give us courageous hearts to trust in the future you offer.

Read Isaiah 55:1-13

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
 and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts;
 let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
 and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
 making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

from Rev. Steven Smith, United Disciples of Christ Church, Charleston:

            Can you imagine going to the store, whether it be the grocery, clothing, car, hardware or whatever kind of store you can think of, and walking away with whatever it is the store is selling with no cost to you?  What would you take: a month’s worth of groceries, a whole new wardrobe, a shiny Cadillac, or a new set of tools?  In hard economic times an invitation like this might very well be a welcomed one!  As abundant and as good as this may appear, however, it is only a matter of time before we are once again left unsatisfied.

            God speaks through Isaiah a word that the people of God might remember their covenantal relationship.  In every day and in every time, life apart from God always proves unsatisfying.  The word here is a promise, offered yet again, to take from God’s abundant store, to offer this hope to a world that looks to be satisfied in other places, and to listen, eat, delight, and to live in God’s abundant goodness.

God, I seek you in this day because in it you can be found. 
I call upon you because you are near, waiting to satisfy my desires.

 Read Psalm 91

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the LORD,
“My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
 the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

 from Rev. Del Parris, Lost Creek, WV:

            The 91st Psalm has always been problematic for me.  We all know that bad things do happen to good people.  No one is protected or sheltered from the illnesses, misfortunes, fears and suffering that are common to human life.  Yet, while serving 36 years in hospital chaplaincy, I witnessed many people finding in God a shelter and refuge, even in their suffering and grief.  They found that in some way God was there for them.  Some found healing and renewal; others found strength for facing their suffering and death.  It seems to me this is the Psalmist’s challenge:  to so trust God and to have such faith, that we can turn to him in such times ourselves. 

Lord, in this season of reflection, may I discover the trust and faith
that always bring me to you in times of trouble and challenge.

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