Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
"See our city the way we do." A Detroit, Michigan, urban development group used that slogan to launch its vision for the city's future. But the project came to a sudden stop when members of the community noticed something missing in the campaign. African Americans make up a large majority of the city's population and workforce. Yet people of color were absent from the crowd of white faces that showed up on signs, banners, and billboards urging all to see the city as they did.
The countrymen of Jesus also had a blind spot in their vision for the future. As children of Abraham, they were primarily concerned about the future of Jewish people. They couldn't understand Jesus' concern for Samaritans, Roman soldiers, or anyone else who didn't share their family roots, rabbis, or temple worship.
I relate to the blind spots of Detroit and Jerusalem. I too tend to see only people whose life experience I understand. Yet God has a way of bringing about His unity amid our diversity. We're more alike than we realize.
Our God chose a desert nomad by the name of Abram to bring blessing to all the people of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus knows and loves everyone we don't yet know or love. Together we live by the grace and mercy of One who can help us see one another, our cities, and His kingdom-as He does.
Prayer for Today
Father in heaven, please open our eyes to people and hearts who are more like us than we are inclined to believe. Help us see our own need of You. Amen.
So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
-I Corinthians 12:25-27
God made us to belong, to be at our best as groups, families, tribes. Even the most introverted among us need those connections and relationships. And we seek out additional ones. We join clubs and organizations, groups, and even root for teams we are not even on. Most of us cheer for a college team we never played on or a professional team. And even those of us who eschew sports can be found cheering for Team USA every 2 years. And we do it with our country loyalty outside the sports arena. And when we talk about these loyalties, we say "we" and "our."
Our church serves the homeless.
We used to not have sporting events on Sunday in this country.
We beat Duke last weekend.
We need to support our troops and first responders.
It can be argued if a little girl in a cheerleading onesie or a middle aged man with painted chest helps a team win, but what is not up for debate is how much we feel a part of these greater causes and groups. And because of that, it's worth examining when we choose to be a "we" and when we separate ourselves. Are we a "we" as first responders during times of crisis and when first responders are attacked for discrimination? Are we a "we" with people of color in low income areas in need of food and housing and when they are killed at higher rates statistically in law enforcement encounters? Are we a "we" with Latinos when we send our mission teams to Central and South America and when men, women, and children face tear gas and separation when seeking asylum from the violence our own ancestors may have fled coming here?
This Christmas, we have to reflect on our "we" affiliations.
I encourage you to think about the people you personally struggle to hold in your "we" circle. Think about who it would make you most uncomfortable to add to your nativity, gathering to worship the baby. Politicians, police officers, migrants, kneeling football players, soldiers, and even your rival sports team should all have a place there. If we proclaim a Lord and Savior of all people, they must all be a part of our "we," and our "us."
Prayer for Today
Lord, open my eyes to a bigger manger with my friends, my family, my enemies, and everyone I need to love more. Amen.
When I went on my sabbatical the summer before last, I visited the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. I picked up their magazine which told the story of Martin Guitars -- founded in 1833. This is what it said:
There are ways in which its founding is like something from the storybooks: God-featuring Moravians, road-weary and navigating by the stars, arriving on Christmas Eve to find the city of Bethlehem - and later Nazareth. C.F. Martin, once a luthier's apprentice, making the exodus from Austria to New York City and then to Pennsylvania.... But if the morning news ever gets you low and lonesome over the worries and affairs of this world, do yourself a favor and follow a star to the old Moravian hill country of Pennsylvania. Slouch toward Bethlehem, Pa., and then Nazareth, Pa., and take a tour of a guitar factory where folks still whistle while they work. . .
As we begin the season of Advent, we may also feel "road-weary" or "low and lonesome over the affairs of this world."
If so, Advent invites us to symbolically "follow a star" toward Bethlehem - the original one where Jesus was born. It will not be a "factory where folks still whistle while they work" like Santa's workshop. Instead we will find a quiet stable and a child surrounded by those who adore him as the coming Savior who will one day set things right in our world. So, come this Sunday as we begin a new series of messages: "The Four Love Stories of Christmas."
I also want to invite you to join us every Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Small Dining Room across from The Great Hall for a discussion-oriented Bible Study in which we will look at these stories in more depth. And join us this and every Sunday at 10:00 a.m., also in the Small Dining Room, as Neal Kuhlhorst and I co-lead a discussion of "The History of Christianity." I think you will be glad you came!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, when we get "road-weary" of life, or "low and lonesome over the worries and affairs of this world" -- help us to remember that you love us. Help us to remember the story of you sending your Son, Jesus, in the form of a child to save our world and set things right. Thank you for the greatest love story - Christmas! We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
We are moving into the season of Advent this Sunday. There are many messages that we see and hear this time of year in the days leading up to Christmas. It is sometimes hard to tune out all of the excess. You may be already overwhelmed by all that will take place in the next 27 days. I would invite you into a new space this year, or maybe you have already found it.
What story do you have to tell? From your life so far, the lessons you have learned. The traditions or special moments that you spent with family members during the Advent and Christmas season. In our culture, lots of people are sharing stories on social media, through television, and other technology. I am going to invite you to share our story, the birth of Jesus Christ and its impact on your life and our world.
So how do we help children, youth, and adults in our community find themselves within the Christmas story? Find some time where you can look into the eyes of another person and invite them to share some of their story. Then share part of your story and how Jesus Christ has made an impact on it.
I believe we have the best story in the world to share. This Sunday, December 2, we will host a Family Advent Breakfast in the Great Hall at 10:00 a.m. Children, youth, and adults are invited to join us to learn and remember the season of Advent and its meaning in our lives.
Prayer for Today
I give thanks, Gracious God, for all of those people over two thousand years who have inspired others and played their part in passing on to generation after generation the living heritage of their faith. Especially I give thanks for those who lived their faith through difficulties and blessings. I pray that I may continue to grow in my faith and love through good times and bad. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
"I just wish things would go back to normal... go back to the way they use to be!" This is a common reaction to whenever we experience loss and yearn for what has become the old normal. This is the experience to which the Psalmist is speaking. The life transition that the experience of loss ushers into our lives is the journey to the new normal.
But what is normal? How do we define what is normal in life? One way that I have found helpful to define normal is through the 4 R's: routines, rituals, roles, and relationships. When we experience loss through death, an illness, or divorce each of these R's, routines, rituals, roles, and relationships, is affected and affected deeply for some time into the future. Loss creates changes in the 4 R's in many different ways.
Entering the holiday season any one of us who has experienced a loss understands how rituals such as Thanksgiving and Christmas activate our grief and a longing for the old normal. Rituals that once brought happiness, comfort, and joy become markers of who and what was lost and a possible sense of being lost and not knowing what to do. "I just wish things would go back to normal...go back to the way they use to be!"
If this describes you and you are wondering how to navigate the holidays I would like to invite you to attend Safe Harbor.Stephen Ministry is hosting a luncheon for folks who have experienced a death, loss due to illness, or divorce following worship this coming Sunday, December 2 in the Great Hall. We will share a meal and Neal will lead a discussion on how to cope with the various emotions that arise during the holiday season. As you journey toward your new normal it can be helpful to share your experience with others who are on a similar journey.
Click here for more information. If you will be joining me at Safe Harbor please RSVP to me at email@example.com by Friday, November 30.
Prayer for Today
Merciful God, keep us mindful that during the holiday season many among us are experiencing broken hearts due to loss. Pour your spirit upon those who are feeling lost, wishing they could go back to what once was and wonder how they will piece their lives back together so that they will feel your loving arms wrapped around them and experience the comfort of your love. Amen.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
As the holiday season arrives, so do many of our favorite traditions and gatherings. Last week, JCPC hosted our annual Giving Thanks dinner. The following day, the preschool had its Thanksgiving Feast. The parents come for a lunch and the children sing a few songs. As they finished singing and parents snapped pictures, the teachers asked parents to stay at their tables so their kids could come find them. And one boy shouted, "It's easy to find you guys!" to his folks.
We all giggled. But there's a reason it was so easy for him. They were close. He had kept his eyes on them the whole time. And they were there at the lunch because they love him. There's wisdom in that for all of us. Any one of those things would have been enough. And so they are for us. Through no effort or merit of our own, God is always close to us. And God is close because God loves us. All that remains is for us to keep our eyes on God so we can exclaim with the same joy and certainty of that little boy, "It's easy to find you!"
As we gather around tables this week and search for words to be thankful for what we have and have been given, the lives of those far away or no longer with us, remember to keep your eyes on the one who is near, near because of love. And just like that little boy, you'll have no trouble finding your way. And the feast will be waiting for you.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, thank you for my many blessings. Lord, you are always near. Near because you love me. Help me keep my eyes on you. Amen.
This coming Thursday, most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. Maybe we will also remember the very first Thanksgiving in this land of ours. Edward Winslow was one of the pilgrims present at that first thanksgiving, and his was the only eyewitness account which was written down. He described that celebration with the Native Americans in this way:
. . . amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, and many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, [not turkeys] which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. ("The First Thanksgiving, 1621," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com, 2010)
Now, if you know the history between the Native Americans and the pilgrims, it was not always this cordial. Both before and after this first Thanksgiving, there were terrible killings on both sides. But, for a few days, people from different cultures, who rightly or wrongly had great distrust of each other, sat down at a meal and enjoyed each other's fellowship. Winslow attributes this to "the goodness of God."
What does the coming kingdom of God look like? It looks like that! It looks like the first thanksgiving. That celebration seems to demonstrate the words found in scripture that say, "People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:29, NIV) I believe those words point forward through history to that time when we will all sit around a great table -- feasting in God's kingdom! So, when you gather around your Thanksgiving table this Thursday, let that meal remind you of what the coming kingdom of God looks like.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we are thankful for your many blessing in our lives. Help us, this Thanksgiving and every day of the year, to enjoy the fellowship of each of your children made in your image. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I continue to be grateful for the warm welcome that we received upon moving here. I am thankful for the constant support that this church family provides each week. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways that this cloud of witnesses has been caring for our son, Will. I am blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my faith with this community of believers.
I believe that thanksgiving is all about what God has done for us. Since faith is our response to God's presence in our lives, then expressions of thanks are at the heart of our spiritual lives. From a very early age, I learned the practice of showing gratitude and sharing thanks for others. My mother spent time each year at Christmas and my birthday teaching me to write thank you notes. Anytime that we received a gift, not long after opening it, we sat down at the kitchen table and wrote our "thank yous".
What would you write in your thank you note to God today? Over the past few hours, days, weeks or months, what are you thankful for?
Many of the Psalms provide prayers and songs of thanksgiving. I was reading Psalm 100 this morning and found it to be meaningful prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Amen.
Prayer for Today
Thanks be to you, Gracious God, for all the benefits which you have given me. O most merciful Redeemer, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving . . . for the Lord is the great God.
Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: "Thanks for being you." If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you're appreciated for your essence.
I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say "thank you" to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, "Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job." But most often, we can simply say, "Thank You, God, for being who You are."
That's what's behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." Thank You, God, for who You are-good and loving. And Psalm 7:17: "I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness." Thank You, God, for who You are-the holy One. And "Let us come before him with thanksgiving . . . for the Lord is the great God" (Psalm 95:2-3). Thank You, God, for who You are-the Almighty God of the universe.
Who God is. That's reason enough for us to stop what we're doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!
Prayer for Today
Thank You, dear God, for being who You are-the Almighty God who loves us and welcomes our love in return. Thank You for everything that makes You magnificent. We stand in awe of
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
-Luke 4:18-19/Isaiah 61:1-2
If you listen to the radio this time of year, you're likely to hear a lot of songs about what's on a kid's Christmas wish list. There's an Ann Murray Song "Christmas Wishes," and "My Grownup Christmas List," was first made a hit by Amy Grant. List-making, especially the kind from those latter two songs can be a spiritual practice. To prioritize and ponder and articulate can be deeply profound. Mary did it upon receiving the news of a baby and on receiving that baby.
At this time of year, a worthwhile spiritual practice is to make a list. What would Jesus place on his list? A read of the Christmas story and his ministry is a great place to start, and the prophets who foretell his coming. After all, if Jesus came to dwell among us, his story and the needs of his family and his people is certainly a good beginning.
His story begins with an unwed pregnant mother. What have we done to help mothers in crisis? His mother and father must travel for a census from an oppressive government. What have we done to help young families in need? What have we done to stand up to oppression? His family, through no fault of their own, find themselves without housing or a safe place to deliver a baby. What have we done to provide housing to those in desperate need? What have we done to make healthcare accessible to all of the most vulnerable? Then his family has to flee to another country to escape genocide. What have we done to welcome those fleeing violence to protect their children?
When you make your Christmas lists for wants and needs, I invite you to invest your time and money in the love and compassion we can show to the least of these. Pay attention to the news and to ways JCPC is reaching out, and join us at the Alternative Christmas Market November 25 and December 2 and 9 and our Mission Fair in January. Make your list with Christ's story as your shopping guide.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to make my list with the story of your Son ringing in my ears and heart. Amen.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.
- 2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV
Most of us have probably heard the saying, "finish what you started." We all know from experience how important it is -- not just to start something, but to see it to completion. Football players often hold up four fingers at the start of the fourth quarter of a game to remind fellow teammates that they need to finish the last quarter of the game strong, so they can have the best chance of winning. Or, what would it be like if a musical conductor led the orchestra all the way to the final, climatic chord of a famous symphony, but then decided not to play the ending? How frustrating would that be for all of the listeners, and probably most of the musicians, too? And how often do we see a runner striving to make it to the finish line of a marathon - giving all she or he has to finish the race?
93% -- that is the percentage of our "Joy of Giving' pledge goal that our church family has said they will contribute to God's work at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church in 2019. That response this soon in the campaign is the best we have had in a number of years! Thank you to everyone who pledged. We are almost there, but we need those who have yet to pledge to help us "finish the work" - to use Paul's words from the Bible verse above. We need you to help us complete the $850,000 pledge goal so we can make a life-changing difference in the lives of the children, youth, and adults in our church, in our community, and around the world.
Please make your pledge as soon as possible. Pledge cards are in the Welcome Center. You can also pledge online at the JCPC website: www.jcpcusa.org. Or, you can pledge on the JCPC app. I am so grateful for how God has blessed us and our church. Please help us to be a blessing to others!
Prayer for Today
Help us, Lord, to "finish the work" you started when you sent Jesus to save the world. Help each one of us to do our part. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
What does control mean for you? If you were to tell someone, "I have things under control", what would that look like? I often find myself trying to have a plan for everything. By planning ahead, things go more smoothly, right? Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in this mindset that I forget to leave some space to look and listen for the ways that God is at work.
Take a moment to consider these words from the gospel of Matthew, Look at the birds in the air. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. -Matthew 6:26
When you take a look around at God's creation and notice the ways that God takes care of things, it's amazing to see each and every detail. God reminded me of how we are cared for during our Women's Retreat earlier in the month. On Saturday morning, you could witness this beautiful masterpiece that God had painted on the porch outside the dining room at Amicalola Falls Lodge.
Max Lucado challenged me with some questions as I was taking some time to consider this passage of scripture.
"If God is able to place the stars in their sockets and suspend the sky like a curtain, do you think it is remotely possible that God is able to guide your life? If God is mighty enough to ignite the sun, could it be that he is mighty enough to light your path? If God cares enough about the planet Saturn to give it rings or Venus to make it sparkle, is there an outside chance that God cares enough about you to meet your needs?"
Enter into this day, trying to let God be in control. Notice the ways that God is taking care of you in each moment. I was equally grateful for the women on the retreat that journeyed together, prayed together, supported one another and laughed together. Who will you invite to join you on your journey?
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Open our eyes to the ways you are guiding us, lighting our path and caring for us each day. Help us to put our trust in you. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
My neighbor Tim has a figurine on his dashboard of a "wild thing" based on Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book Where the Wild Things Are.
Not long ago Tim was following me through traffic and made some abrupt moves to keep up. When we arrived, I asked, "Was that the 'wild thing' driving?"
The following Sunday I forgot my sermon notes at home. I "flew" out of the church to retrieve them, passing Tim along the way. When we met later, he joked, "Was that the wild thing driving?" We laughed, but his point hit home-I should have paid attention to the speed limit.
When the Bible describes what it means to live in a relationship with God, it encourages us to "offer every part of [ourselves]" to Him (Romans 6:13). I took Tim's response to me that day as a gentle reminder from God to yield my "lead foot," because I am to give all of myself to Him out of love.
The question of "who's driving?" applies to all of life. Do we let the "wild things" of our old sin nature drive us-like worry, fear, or self-will-or do we yield to God's loving Spirit and the grace that helps us grow?
Giving in to God is good for us. Scripture says that God's wisdom takes us down "pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17). Better to follow where He leads.
Prayer for Today
Loving Lord, thank You for the grace You give us to obey You, and the peace You give us as we stay near. Amen.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
A wise friend advised me to avoid using the words "you always" or "you never" in an argument-especially with my family. How easy it is to criticize others around us and to feel unloving toward those we love. But there is never any variation in God's enduring love for us all.
Psalm 145 overflows with the word all. "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (v. 9). "The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down" (vv. 13-14). "The Lord watches over all who love him" (v. 20).
A dozen times in this psalm we are reminded that God's love is without limit and favoritism. And the New Testament reveals that the greatest expression of it is seen in Jesus Christ: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Psalm 145 declares that "the Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them" (vv. 18-19).
God's love for us always endures, and it never fails!
Prayer for Today
Father in heaven, we are awed by Your love for us that never changes, never fails, and never ends. We praise You for demonstrating Your limitless love for us through Jesus our Savior and Lord.Amen.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
Tis the season. Now that Halloween has come and gone, stores, and commercials and even people are full-steam ahead for Christmas. I'm a big fan of Christmas myself. I love seeing family and attending parties and giving gifts. And, in addition to my stack of Christmas movies, I have a special weakness for any and every Christmas episode of any tv show ever made. So please don't think me a humbug when you read my next few sentences, and stick with me.
It's not Christmas yet. And I'm absolutely not ready for it in stores or Christmas music all over the radio. Whether you're secular or religious, I think there's a deeply important time between Halloween and Christmas and it's more important than ever. Thanksgiving. All things deserve a season. And this one is so incredibly necessary and holy. If you're a secular person, there's something vital about spending a full season, a few weeks, taking stock of all you have and how much, before the rush of the consumerism of "the holidays." And if you're a believer, it's even more vital to observe and give thanks for your many blessings before you enter a season of receiving presents and guests and invitations and ancient stories.
My prayer for us is that before we hang up the garlands and start wearing out our favorite Nat King Cole or Straight No Chaser album that we'll spend a real season of reflection and thanksgiving. Then we will be ready for a spiritually mature season of Advent and Christmas.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to see all my blessings and to give thanks. Thank you for all I have and all you give us each day. Help me to be grateful and be ready for the next season. Amen.
Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.
- Psalm 146:6, NIV
This morning someone passed along this tweet to me: "I have prayed and I have voted. That is the limit of my ability to affect this election. God's will be done." I assume anyone who prays prior to voting and ends his or her tweet "God's will be done" is a person of faith. So, what are the limits of our abilities to affect elections? How do we decide how to vote? And what do we expect or hope those elected will do once in office? Those are all questions that I think we as Christians should be thinking about again and again.
The Bible verse above from the book of Psalms conveys what I think is both great and realistic wisdom about what we should expect from those we elect to govern over us. This Sunday I am sharing a message in which we will go deeper to try to answer some of these questions I have raised using God's wisdom from Psalm 146 as our guide. I hope you will plan to be there. I realize you may be thinking, "Yes, but this is after the election." I know that, but I am pretty confident this will not be the last election we will ever have the chance in which to vote.
The words from Psalm 146 remind us that we should not put too much "trust in princes" or anyone who rules over us -- those whom the Psalmist says, "cannot save." In other words, there is a limit to what any political leader can do. Sometimes I think we look for a candidate who will "save" us. Only God can do that. Those who govern and lead others have incredibly important jobs. John Calvin thought of their jobs as a "calling" - like the calling we pastors have from God - only more important! I think Calvin knew that those who lead and govern make decisions that affect so many lives. But whether your candidates won or lost, as Christians we are told to pray for all of those who govern us. (1 Timothy 2:1-3, NIV) So, today - pray!
Prayer for Today
We thank you, Lord, that we live in a country in which we have the privilege of voting for those who will lead us. We pray for those who have served, who are presently serving, and who will serve. Give them wisdom, compassion, and courage to lead in such a way that enables us all to live in peace with everyone. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus - the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Amen.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I'm all ears, all eyes before you. Save me from my enemies, God- you're my only hope! Teach me how to live to please you, because you're my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland.
-Psalm 143, selected verses (The Message)
David's prayer was shared with me this morning and I'm grateful for these words on Election Day. Asking God for guidance and listening to God's loving voice go with me today. I have always heard that I can only control my own actions and cannot control the actions of others. What I was also reminded of is this morning studying Ephesians with our Senior Adult Bible Study group is that God has the power and God is in control. I am called to accept God's grace, be open to God's love and guidance and then live each day demonstrating that with my actions.
In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are God's workmanship. N.T. Wright reflects on this language, "This word sometimes has an artistic ring to it. It may be hinting that what God has done to us in King Jesus is a work of art, like a poem or sculpture... We are like a musical score and the music which we now have to play, is the genuine way of being human, laid out before us in God's gracious design, so that we can follow it."
How will you go into your day responding to these promises and prayers from two of God's followers?
Prayer for Today
Gracious Creator God, Open our hearts to your guidance and our hands to your work in this world. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Have you noticed how an inspirational quote can arrive in your life at the right time? This quote from L.R.Knost came visiting this week with a resonance that keeps humming in my soul.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
-L. R. Knost
Yesterday we celebrated All Saints' Sunday and as is our tradition, we read the names of our dearly departed friends followed by the ringing of a bell that resonated deep in our collective souls. Our resurrection faith believes that they have been mended and their suffering is ended in joyous life eternal. We who remember them do so with broken hearts, grief, and we seek our own mending.
To aid us in our mending journey our church offers a variety of intentional forms of pastoral care. Stephen ministers are prepared to walk along-side you in your bereavement and pastors are here to lend a listening ear. The brokenness of grief has a type of instinctive pulling back to it so whenever you are ready to reach out, we are here for you.
Brokenness at the holidays is perplexing and can be overwhelming. In order to provide care our Stephen ministry will sponsor Safe Harbor, Sunday, December 2 following the 11:00 a.m. worship service. This is a time to reflect and discuss the challenges of feeling broken during the holidays.
Later in the month on Thursday, December 20 Stephen Ministries from JCPC and JCUMC will host a worship service entitled The Longest Night. Worship provides a type of care experienced like no other. We celebrate Christmas with presents, gatherings, and merriment; however in the land of grief those seem to pale in comparison to our loss.
L.R. Knost states that the broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. While we actively grieve this can be difficult to comprehend; however, in worship we lift up our souls to the One, the Divine Thou/You who knows our grief, soothes our wounds and heals us in a one day at a time manner. In the darkness, our light joins with Christ's light and our healing takes another step through the darkness.
Prayer for Today
God of light, shine your mercy, hope, and divine healing into the dark brokenness of our souls, so that we will experience the courage to be healed in our brokenness through your love. Amen.
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.
-Song of Solomon 2:15
While talking on the phone with a friend who lives by the seaside, I expressed delight at hearing seagulls squawking. "Vile creatures," she responded, for to her they're a daily menace. As a Londoner, I feel the same way about foxes. I find them not cute animals but roaming creatures that leave smelly messes in their wake.
Foxes appear in the love poetry of the Song of Solomon, an Old Testament book that reveals the love between a husband and wife and, some commentators believe, between God and His people. The bride warns about little foxes, asking her bridegroom to catch them (2:15). For foxes, hungry for the vineyard's grapes, could tear the tender plants apart. As the bride looks forward to their married life together, she doesn't want vermin disturbing their covenant of love.
How can "foxes" disturb our relationship with God? For me, when I say "yes" to too many requests, I can become overwhelmed and unpleasant. Or when I witness relational conflict, I can be tempted to despair or anger. As I ask the Lord to limit the effect of these "foxes" - those I've let in through an open gate or those that have snuck in - I gain in trust of and love for God as I sense His loving presence and direction.
How about you? How can you seek God's help from anything keeping you from Him?
Prayer for Today
Lord God, You are powerful and You are good. Please protect my relationship with You, keeping out anything that would take my eyes off You. Amen.
The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I had the opportunity two days ago to attend the prayer vigil hosted by the Temple in downtown Atlanta for the victims of the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. Gray and I went to show our solidarity and support as people of faith. It was deeply moving. There were words offered by rabbis, pastors, imams, community leaders, the mayor, and the CEO of the Jewish business leader association in Atlanta. The latter had grown up in Squirrel Hill where the shooting took place.
He spoke of his personal grief. He is a father, and his daughter is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah three weeks away. He told her she would do well to make some additions to her speech in light of this recent event in Pittsburgh. Her response shocked him. His daughter, keenly aware of today's rapid news cycle and our ongoing apathy to these types of shootings said, "But will anyone still remember this by then?"
Brothers and sisters, her words are a challenge to us all. We owe the dead a deep responsibility of memory. This Sunday, we will remember our Saints who have died this year from our community of faith. It is important to remember and honor them. But when people have been killed, we owe them even more than memory. We owe to them the work of bettering this world so that no one else dies for the same reasons of hatred and cruelty, difficult access to mental healthcare or easy access to hate groups and weapons. The child's words are our challenge to listen to our great Rabbi, Christ, to pray and to work for a kingdom here on earth like it is in heaven.
Prayer for Today
Lord, as we pray, send your Spirit to make us doers of your word, ready to act justly and do the work of changing this world, and not just weeping with it. Amen.