Prayerscapes is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church in WV and the Christian Church in PA.  It is made possible for your free use because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund,  for which we all give thanks.

Read Matthew 17:1-9

I’m not a fan of secrets, except maybe keeping a gift secret, because I really enjoy seeing someone’s surprise when the gift is opened.  Too often secrets are used as a way to exclude – to say “we’re in and you’re not.” Christianity isn’t like that.  Christianity is about inclusion, community, sharing and inviting – not about exclusion and secrets.  Which makes today’s scripture story seem kind of odd to me.

After the Transfiguration, Jesus says to Peter, James and John, “Don’t tell anybody.”  Too often we act as if Jesus has told us, “Don’t tell anybody.”  How silent we are about our faith?  When’s the last time you shared your faith with someone, or told someone about Jesus, or spoke about God’s unconditional, ever-lasting, completely overwhelming love?  Have you told anyone lately about your faith, about God, about Jesus?

It’s no longer a secret.  The resurrection has taken place.  Jesus lives.  The story is complete.  Well, not quite complete.  When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he gave them, and us, this instruction, “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all I have taught you” (Matt 28:19).  No more secrets.  Tell everybody!  Tell everybody!

Lord, open our mouths to share your love story.

Jamie Gump

Madison Avenue Christian Church, Huntington, WV

Advertisements

Thursday, Dec. 1         Read Luke 1:5-25

from Jamie Gump, Madison Avenue Christian Church, Huntington, WV:

Zechariah.  Life-long believer, probably even on the cradle roll of his synagogue.  Forever in service to the Lord, faithfully obedient the Law.  Now a priest.  And he doesn’t believe in answered prayer.  Well, that may be a bit harsh.  An angel (he’s not sure) appears to him and says that his prayer has been heard.  “What prayer?” he wonders.  “You and your wife will have a child.”  And he thought, “As old as I am, I quit praying that prayer long ago.”  The angel talks of their coming child who will be great in the sight of the Lord.  Zechariah isn’t buying it.  So the angel says that he will not be able to speak until it comes true.  It does.  And Zechariah’s first words are words of praise (v64).

So, what does it take to believe in answered prayer?  Why pray if we don’t believe that it could be answered?  What about all our long-unanswered prayers?  Would we be able to handle them being answered now?  How long are we willing to wait for an answer?  How do we respond to answered prayer?  How do we know when an angel is talking to us?  Lots of faith questions from an often quickly-scanned passage on the periphery of the Christmas story.

Lord, we believe.  Help our unbelief.  Amen.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

from Jamie Gump, Huntington Madison Avenue Christian Church

Re-created (made new), reconciled (reconnected), forgiven (not judged by our wrongs), trusted (given responsibility), made ambassadors (representatives of Christ) – Wow!  Such an expanded description in such a short passage.  A description of us – of you, me, all of us.  Can we accept this portrayal of who we are?  Who we are called to be? Can we accept the gifts of pure renewal, holy connection, and loving mercy?  I hope and pray we can.  And can we, will we, accept the call from God that we be reliable emissaries of the Good News who bring people together with one another and help connect them with God through Jesus Christ?  It is my hope and prayer that we will.  The gifts and the calling go together.  The gifts necessary to fulfill our calling.  The calling our thanksgiving for the gifts.

Lord, help us to accept both the gifts and the challenge

from the One who has the plan for this world.

Read Galatians 3:23—4:7

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

What a joy! We have been adopted! Time for a party.   Wait… You didn’t know that you’ve been adopted or were even in a place to be adopted? Well, it’s true. Through Christ and through faith, you have become a child of God. A rightful member of God’s family. Even better, this family of God has no division or hierarchy among the children. We are all equal. None are better than others. No one is lesser. No slave or free separations. No male or female divisions. No “she doesn’t believe the same as I do” exclusions. No “he isn’t as faithful as I am” rejections. No “cradle-roll” favoritisms. All belonging to Christ through faith are the same. Equal and full heirs to God’s love. Equal and full heirs to God’s grace.   Equal in all ways in God’s eyes. What a joy! So now are you ready to party?

Lord, help us to accept each other as you have accepted us.  Help us to learn more about being in relationship with you by listening to, and learning from the God-relationship stories of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry
As Advent brings new hope and anticipation to the life of our communities and homes, the annual opportunity for support of regional ministries lies before us.  As you prayerfully consider how to respond to this important appeal in your congregation, you are encouraged to think of the many lives touched through our ministries here.  How many youth have life-building and life-changing experiences at camps and retreats? How many congregations are strengthened by the care we receive in the ministerial search process and other consultations with regional ministers? How many ways do we now have to help grow leaders, both lay and clergy, for more effective ministry?
Your support of Christ’s work here in the West Virginia Region will be gratefully received and carefully used to strengthen all of our life together.  We give thanks for you in this season of newborn faith and deeper hope!

      You can give online, and your congregation will receive credit for your gift in mission giving reporting for the annual Yearbook and Directory.  Just visit our secure site.

Read Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

 

from Rev. Jamie Gump

Madison Avenue Christian Church, Huntington

The grace of God has appeared, Love has appeared, in the form of Jesus the Christ, bringing salvation to all. Salvation to all. To you, to me, to all. Not just to me and those who think like me. Not just to you and those who believe like you believe. To all. Salvation to all!

Why to all? So that by living in this love, in this grace, in this salvation, all may be transformed, changed into people who live with discipline, honor, morals – excited about doing good deeds under Godly guidance. Salvation has come to all so that God’s realm may come – here on earth just as it is in heaven.

In this season, we look forward to celebrating the arrival of the One who brought us the grace of God. We pray earnestly that we might live more fully in the grace that is ours.

Help me, O God, to know that your amazing grace

of which I sing, is grace you have given for all! Amen.

Read Exodus 17.1-7

                From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”  But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

                 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”  The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.  He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

 

From Rev. Jamie Gump, Madison Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Huntington

Test and Quarrel – that’s what Moses named the place where the Lord provided water from a rock during the wilderness journey following the Exodus.  It’s because the people were squabbling with their leaders and challenging God.  Isn’t it hard to believe the people of God would do that?  It’s not, is it?  For we do the same when we face challenges or difficulties in faith and in life.  Frustration causes us to place blame, to wonder where God is, to wish to go back to a better time, whatever.    We do this in our towns, states, nation, and yes, even in our congregations.  Like the Israelites, we ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?”  Then we receive water from a rock and our thirst is quenched.

 

Gracious God, our questioning comes in spite of the endless blessings we receive from you.

Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.

Third Sunday of Advent: Dec. 15     

Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

 

from Jamie Gump, Madison Avenue Christian Church, Huntington

“Well, isn’t that special?” says the Church Lady, Dana Carvey’s spoof of a holier-than-thou Christian on Saturday Night Live.   But she doesn’t really mean it.  Her words are full of sarcasm and condescension, for she’s sure that she is superior.          Jesus says sincerely of John the Baptizer that there has not been a greater human being.  Is this because of his willingness to be a messenger to prepare the way for Christ?  Seems so.  And yet Jesus finishes by saying that in the realm of heaven the least shall be greater than John.

In God’s community, the last will be first.  In God’s fellowship, greatness is not earned.  In God’s communion, greatness comes in our being in relationship with God.  I hear Jesus saying, “Well, ain’t you special!”  And he means it.  You are special to God.

Lord, thank you for the specialness

of living in relationship with you.

__________________________________

We are grateful for your support of Disciples Mission Fund,

the Annual Fund of the Christian Church in West Virginia,

and the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry,

all of which makes this project possible.

Visit http://www.wvdisciples.org

for other publications and information about our ministries.

© 2013  Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.

All rights reserved.  These devotions may be copied  or linked for non-profit distribution with attribution to the authors and the copyright notice above.