Christian, devotion, Luke, Gospel of, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for June 22, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 20: 41-21:4

Text: (Jesus said), “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them” (v.4)

In considering a call to a particular church someone asked me, “If this church didn’t have their building, would they still be a church?” The question behind the question was simple: “Does this congregation worship the edifice more than the Savior?”

The story of the “widow’s mite” in today’s reading is really about misplaced spiritual loyalties. Jesus had just criticized the teachers in the Jerusalem Temple for being in love with their positions of honor and privilege and being keepers of the Temple at the expense of fulfilling their true purpose. They were so in love with the status quo that they willingly and knowingly took advantage of the poorest among them, like the poor widow.

On a different occasion Jesus told His disciples that no one can serve two masters. We can only have one North Star, one guiding principle, one ultimate loyalty. We have to be careful not to confuse our positions or possessions with the One who owns all things and in Whose Hands all positions are ultimately held.

Lord, give me a wise heart and a discerning mind, lest I lose sight of you and the things that are really important in this world. Amen. 

Standard
Christian, devotion, faith, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 21, 2017

Devotional  Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Acts 2: 1-21

Text: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (v. 4)

I took Latin in high school. Wags have said of Latin, “Latin killed the Romans and it nearly killed me!” I can relate. I’ve never been very good at foreign languages. Some of this has to do with the fact that I am a stutter. But, I am also not very good at rote memorization.

I believe that today’s devotional reading challenges us to tell the story of God’s unconditional infinite love in such a way that others can understand and experience it. It means that we have to be creative “as the Spirit” gives us the ability. It means that we have to get to know the other person, learn their language and present in a way that they understand.

Music is a powerful vehicle for sharing the story of God’s love. Traditional hymns speak to some while more contemporary songs speak to others. Some learn visually, others learn aurally, still others learn verbally or physically. No one way or combination of ways is better than another.

Our call, as serious followers of Jesus, is speak in such a way that Jesus is known.

Lord, let your Spirit guide my words and actions today so that everything I do and say will glorify you. Amen,.

Standard
Christian, devotion, faith, Luke, Gospel of, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 20, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 20: 19-26

Text: So (the scribes) asked (Jesus), “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth” (v. 21)

My father used to tell me that if someone will lie for you, they will also lie against you. For the longest time I never understood what that meant, but he was giving me a lesson on character.

There is a related “truism” that wise clergy tell their younger colleagues. “The people who meet you at the train station are also the ones who will carry your bags to the station when you leave.” Be cautious of people who build you up, especially at the expense of others.

In today’s devotional reading Jesus understood these two nuggets of wisdom very well. He saw through the question put to him. It was like a mousetrap baited with the finest cheese. Their intention was not honorable. Seeing them for who they really were, Jesus side-stepped the trap. “Show me a coin.”

People set all kinds of traps for us to fall into in order to discredit or compromise us. Sometimes they do this knowingly and sometimes they just can’t help themselves. Jesus understood this. He told His disciples to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing because the tendency is as old as human history; as old as the serpent in the Garden, David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah.

Our challenge as followers of Jesus is not to reach for the “shiny object” but to keep our focus on the footsteps of the Master.

Lord God, give me a heart of wisdom. Do not let me focus on the temptations around me. Keep me faithful in following You. Amen.

Standard
Christian, devotion, faith, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 19, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Acts 1: 1-14

Text: (The disciples asked Him) “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (vss. 6-8)

I recently completed a four mile “race”. I put “race” in quotation marks because I am far from competitive. For me, it is not a “race” but an act of self-discipline.

I participate in this event nearly every year and I tell people that last 5,280 feet are a real challenge! The only way that I can get to the end is to constantly tell myself not to quit and simply take one more step.

I believe that that is what a life of discipleship is like: taking one more step, going one more day. The disciples asked the Risen Lord if He was about to restore Israel’s kingdom.  They didn’t yet understand that the restoration of Israel’s kingdom was not on God’s agenda. Rather, God was going to do a new thing; you know, a new wine and new wineskins sort of thing.

Jesus answered their question saying that we don’t need to know what God is doing next. But, and this was a very big “but”, strength will be given as it is needed. In John’s gospel Jesus said that followers of Jesus would be given a “helper”, the Holy Spirit.

What was for the disciples to know, though, and for us to know, is that we are called to tell others of God’s saving love, and how our lives are different because we take Jesus seriously. We are to be constant witnesses in word and deed until we cross the finish line from this Reality into the Next.

Lord, give me the strength that I need to face the challenges of today. Use me as You will to do Your work. Amen. 

Standard
Christian, devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for June 18, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 18: 1-14

Text:  At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (v. 1)

The question of “greatness” and “greatest” is raised time and again by the disciples. At some level we all want to be “the greatest”, “the best”, “exceptional.” And, we are, in the sight of God. But that is not what the disciples were asking in our reading.

I once read that competition brings out the best in products but the worst in people. The old Faustian myth of “selling your soul” to the devil is as relevant today as it was then. What is the price that we are willing to pay for greatness? Neglect our loves ones, the one to whom we committed our lives? Are we willing to cheat? Take advantage of another person? Look for loopholes? You know, that not everything that is legal is necessarily ethical or moral. How much of your soul are you willing to sell?

Jesus answered the disciples’ question by saying in part that anyone who causes a weaker person to stumble or to fall can never be great–at least not in the eyes of God. Because you see, since the days of Cain and Able, God has heard the blood of Able crying out from the ground. God sees the evil and that we and the evil that resides in the human heart. God knows.

Like the Prodigal Father in Luke’s gospel, God is waiting for us to “come to ourselves”, recover our senses and remember Whose we are. And God is ready to forgive. But first you have to ask yourself, “How much of my soul am I willing to sell to be great?”

God, give me a wise mind. Make me answer truthfully the Faustian question? And give me the strength I need to be faithful to You. Amen.

Standard
Christian, devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for June 17, 2017

Devotional Reading for the Day from the Daily Common Lectionary: II Corinthians 13: 1-13

Text: Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (v. 11)

Nothing is more destructive to the Kingdom of God than a “church fight.” As a matter of fact, Jesus prayed that those who would take Him seriously would be united as “He and the Father were one”. Today’s reading is the third time that the apostle Paul wrote to a conflicted Corinthian community with an appeal to their “better angels”.

There is an African proverb that says that when elephants fight, the grass that gets trampled. When people see a church conflict they wonder “where’s the love”, and say to themselves that “If this is what following Jesus is about, count me out!”

All of this is not to say that there should never be disagreements. That is impossible. I’ve often said that the corollary to Jesus’ promise to be present wherever two or three are gathered in His name, is “wherever two or three are gathered you not only have Jesus but you will have conflict.” Conflict in and of itself is not bad. It just is. Conflict can be constructive or destructive.  Destructive conflict tears down and divides. Constructive conflict builds up and strengthens. As followers of Jesus we need to be united in Purpose–doing His work in this world and Pure in our motives–not for our glory but for His. A third element in our life together is that of Peace.

But there is a difference between being a Peace Keeper and a Peace Maker. Peace Keepers want to “paper” over disagreements. They want to avoid conflict at any cost. But this never really works out in the end as people who feel ignored, unheard or unvalued either drift away or unite in destructive behavior. Peace Makers know that we can disagree and still be respectful. They know that through prayer and fasting that we seek the will of God. They know that there is a time for open discussion and a time to make a decision. And they know that when a decision has been reached, we need to trust the Providence of God and get on with the Kingdom’s mission. They don’t second guess, “I-told-you-so” or sabotage.

May God’s love and peace be with you in your life together. Amen.

 

Standard
Christian, devotion, Easter, Luke, Gospel of, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 16, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: 19: 41-48

Text: As (Jesus) came near and saw the city, He wept over it. (vs. 41)

Sometimes the only thing that you can do is cry. There’s nothing else to do. You’ve done your best. You’ve invested all of yourself that you can or are willing to give and things just don’t turn around. People don’t change. Situations don’t change. It seems as if you’ve made no difference.

Whenever I feel like this I take comfort in knowing that Jesus cried. He cried at the death of His friend Lazarus. He cried when looked over the city of Jerusalem. He wept because they would not see the reality before their eyes. They never could. After all, they stoned the prophets and sank deeper and deeper into corruption. I imagine that He doubted they would ever change. And it saddened Him. I suspect that God still cries over Jerusalem.

“Tears may tarry for the night”, we read in Psalms, “but Joy comes in the morning.” (30:5) The joy of Easter is the joy of a new beginning, the joy that our story is not yet finished, that the “fat lady” hasn’t sung!

I believe that God weeps when He sees what we do to each other and to the world over which we have been made stewards or trustees. Yet, God is faithful, even when we are not. God’s Purposes cannot be thwarted. God’s will, will be done on earth as well as in heaven.

Lord God, give me a heart like Yours. And when my heart aches lead me into action. Let my tears give me strength, a rededication and personal healing. Amen.

 

Standard