Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

We are preparing in most of our churches to enter into a solemn night of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life that has been given to us in the offering of Christ to his people in the upper room.  In doing so, we are taking our places in a tremendous chain of the tradition that cannot be let go of.

Plenty of people have died tragic or untimely deaths, and plenty of memorials have been established to help keep the memory alive in the life of the world.  But in this action of gathering to take, bless, break, and give the bread and the cup of Christ, Paul says we are handing on what the Lord has given to us.  And precious, indeed, is the memorial!  In it, Jesus tells us, we are receiving his body and his blood – the new covenant given for all who would receive it.  And Paul affirms that it is in these actions that we do indeed show forth Christ’s death for all who would see it, and do so looking forward to his coming again – pointing us all toward a feast over which Christ himself will preside, a feast which will have no end.

Every hunger of every human life is filled at this ongoing memorial, which we hand on now to new generations in the Eucharist we celebrate tomorrow and on every occasion when we gather in Christ’s presence.  He is, indeed, there in our midst.  “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast…” and keep it always, filled with the memory and sweet fragrance of its first Celebrant.

As we remember and give thanks for your love in Jesus Christ, O God, we offer ourselves anew as his people.  Now fill us with his life.

David Chafin

United Christian Church, Coal Center, PA

Consultant to the Regional Minister

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Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

While the story of Ezekiel’s vision in the valley of dry bones gathers up the story of a suffering and nearly-dead community, it may have a personal dimension to offer people like us.  When our resources are dried up beyond any hope, like the totally barren and wind-blown bones of a long-decayed army, the Spirit of God can still bring things together.  There is hope even beyond this present hopelessness, light beyond this day of darkness.  God still brings forth new life where death has reigned; nothing is lost or forgotten!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(Annie J. Flint, Public Domain)

David Chafin

United Christian Church, Coal Center, PA

Consultant to the Regional Minister

Thursday, Jan. 5         Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister and Vice President, and Pastor of United Christian Church, California, PA:

It is amazing how desperately the people of God, once given a royal ruler, looked to see that king exalted above the other kings of earth. They would have their nation raised up as a beacon for the rest of the world to honor, even as God had promised that they would have such honors by the very nature of God being their Sovereign and Lord.  Yet the psalmist is wise to point out, for Israel and for us, that the nature of the one who rules with justice, compassion, and mercy for the most vulnerable of the land – and not with favor for the most powerful or wealthy – will be the one who brings honor.  That ruler who models himself or herself after the Sovereign Lord is the one worth watching, worth lifting up, worth honoring.  So it is with the nation.  So might it be, in these days of great change, for even us…God’s people in a strange time, in a strange land, and looking into an unknown future.  May we seek the best, lead with our best, offer our best to God and to the nations.

Be our one true Lord, O God.  Guide us, and all those around us, to follow the example of your leadership – which gently leads, which lovingly heals, which upholds the weak, which saves the suffering.  Make us your people, and our world your world. Amen.

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region  Gifts received by Jan. 6 will be credited to your congregation for 2016 in Yearbook Reporting.

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve      Read Luke 2:1-20

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister and Vice President, and Pastor of United Christian Church, California, PA:

On the Judean hillsides so long ago, a strange and wondrous vision came to light for the least likely candidates in one of the world’s most difficult times and places. A new hope had been born, God’s love poured into this troubled world. All that the Christchild would become, all that he would do for us, was yet to be seen, but surely, myriads of angels were heralding a new beginning for God’s children – all of them, all of us.

On this holy night, in these troubling times and fearful circumstances, he is born again to us and to our world. But the proclamation long ago was passed from angelic hands into feeble hands like yours and mine. God has entrusted the gospel of peace and the declaration of joy to our world into the care of Christ’s people, the Church. So raise your voices high this night, and sing with the saints and angels, “Glory to God! Peace on earth!” And may the song of life-made-new never die away from our lips or fade from our newly-reborn hearts!

With thanks and praise, we raise our hearts and voices to you, O God, for Salvation is born for us this night. Glory to you, O God, now and in your church and world forever!

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

Read Hebrews 12:1-3

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

Sometimes I get tired – tired of not knowing what’s next, tired of knowing too well what’s next, tired of tedious projects, tired of keeping up appearances, even tired of the race that is my life. Yet the encouraging words of the writer here point me toward that “great cloud of witnesses,” the un-numbered multitudes who have gone before me, and the advice to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of [my] faith…” with his enduring example of perseverance.

But the vision of that throng of our ancestors in faith, the saints now at rest, is offered up to us by the author after having noted at the end of a litany some of their names that “they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” (11:40)

Wow! The weariness I may be complaining of needs to be corrected, not only with an eye toward the persevering Christ who endured it all for us, but also with this image tucked within our hearts: The whole People of God – those saints that we may at best take note of once a year – are incomplete, imperfect, unfinished without me, without you, together joining in the race. In fact, it could well be that “the sin that clings so closely” is simply our focus on our own self-interests, the hurdles we that annoy us in the race.

May our impatience, exhaustion, and exasperation be put into a new perspective – the scene of All Saints who, without our taking our places in the race, are incomplete – and may their faithful examples move us to go on.

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,

fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

and win with them the victor’s crown of gold…

Read 1 John 3:1-3

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

I’m told by my mother that, when I was about five years old, she ran into a friend who told her that she had passed me walking in our neighborhood, and knowing fully who I was, asked me for my name. The answer I gave her, I am told, was “I am Tom Chafin’s son.” Apparently, that was just delightful to both of the ladies.

But how often do we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of God? Many of us have been told this all of our lives, but how often, when asked, would we reply that our identity is fully vested in God?

It is said that every morning the reformer Martin Luther would touch his brow and remind himself, “Martin, you are baptized.” Do it now – claim your identity. Touch your brow, marked by the waters of baptism. Truly, we have our identity, just like Christ our brother, as a child of God.

Remind us today, O Lord, of who we are,

and of Whose we are in Christ Jesus.

Read Psalm 27

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

No matter what our physical condition – and I often am reminded that being thin isn’t necessarily a great sign of vigorous health – as a culture we seem to have a “wait problem.” It’s easier said than done to find joy while living in a holding pattern. We easily become fearful when we don’t have the answers, as though God were holding back from us. We not only become impatient, but often grow weary or even desert the cause.

But surely God, our light and our salvation, can give us courage that will free us from this fear of unknowing. I often have to remind myself of God’s faithfulness by taking a look at all the other good things that God has given, recounting the blessings of days past, in order to lift my eyes enough to the One who will surely lead me from this time of unknowing toward the brightness of God’s very best. So I preach myself this sermon once again, and remind myself to tend to my own “wait problem.” I’ll share it with you: Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage.

Give us courage to wait for you, O Lord,

and to find our failing strength renewed in you.