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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 11, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Common Daily Lectionary: Luke 23: 56b-24:12

Text:  “Why do you look for the living among dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (v. 5b)

I have officiated at nearly 1000 funerals and graveside services during my ministry. That is a lot of sorrow, a lot of tears, and a lot of empty places at dinner tables. Without exception, every family has been very kind and gracious to me. At the service I remind the worshipers of the women’s story when they went to the tomb on that first Easter. Today text are the words spoken by  the “two men in dazzling clothes” who stood beside them. Their next words to the women were, “Remember how”.

Remember how …

The greatest legacy that we leave behind as we pass from this Reality into the Next Reality is the memories, the stories that we leave in our wake, the ones that begin with, “Remember how”, or when, or where.

I believe that we create memories every day, either consciously or unconsciously. I believe that more often than not the memories that “stick” come about serendipitously, totally unplanned. I believe that when we wake up each morning we have some power to decide whether we are going to serve God by serving others or serving ourselves, whether we will live large or small lives.

I don’t know a lot because I am rather simple, but I do know that I have officiated at too many funerals to take any day or any one for granted. I know that each day and each moment and each person is a gift and a wonder. Therefore, I am thankful more often than not. How about you?

Lord, teach me to number my days so that I can gain a heart of wisdom, true wisdom. Amen.  (based on Psalm 90, verse 12)

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 10, 2017

Devotional Reading: Luke 23: 44-56a

Text: Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. (vs. 50-51a)

“Good and righteous”. The words stopped me cold. That is what happens when you read a passage “devotionally”. I pondered those three words for several minutes, mulling them over in my mind and considering my own life and decisions.

Then I read further and saw that Joseph did not agree with “their plan and action.” He went against the crowd! He didn’t “go along to get along”. And what is even more amazing is that he didn’t make a big deal about it. He simply went and did the right thing.

His example reminds me of a biography I read of the Quaker abolitionist, John Woolman. He was a quiet man, a tailor by trade. He was also widely travelled and a welcomed guest in the homes of all he met. He was recognized as a man of impeccable character. One time he was invited into the home of a slaveowner. Seeing the slaves in the role of “finely tailored servants”, he didn’t make a big scene. He just quietly left, totally unnoticed. When the host realized that Woolman was gone, he felt a deep sense of shame for having offended such a great man. It was said that Woolman was more effective in abolishing slavery in New England than any law because he changed hearts and minds.

Joseph of Arimathea did the right thing, even though it was not the popular thing. I hope that I get better at doing that. How about you?

Lord, help me to recognize and do the right thing, even if it is the unpopular thing. Remind me that I serve the Master and am called to do His will. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Acts 9: 1-9

Text: Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heave heaven flashed around him. (v. 3)

The Scots say that there are “thin places” in this world; places where heaven and earth touch. I believe that there are such places. Often they have been sanctified by generations of prayer.

I also believe that there are mystical experiences; times when we are touched by the Eternal in a very special and inexplicable way. I have had two. I seldom share them because they are simply too holy. But Kweisi Mfume, previously known as Frizzell Gerald Gray, wrote of his mystical experience in his autobiography No Free Ride. In the briefest of moments, out of the clear blue, his life was forever changed. His name change symbolized  a new beginning, a new life. I shared his story with a group of teens in a residential treatment center. It gave them pause and a new vocabulary.

Today’s reading is about Saul’s mystical experience. Over the years I have learned four things about such experiences. They come when you least expect it. They cannot be wished for or manufactured. They change your life for the better. Finally, they can only be validated within a community of faith.

In following Jesus there is no such thing as a Lone Ranger.  God created in plurality. Jesus called individuals into a community. We find ourselves, our true selves, only when we are in communion with others. We cannot go it alone. Nor were we ever meant to.

Lord, guide me to the community in which I can be my true self; the community that will challenge me and help me grow, that will challenge me to use my talents to glorify You. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 3, 2017

Devotional Reading: Luke 22: 52-62

Text: …but Peter was following at a distance. (vs. 54b)

I once read that the problem with many Christians is that they have been inoculated with the faith; they have been exposed to Christianity just enough not to catch a full-blown case. I refer to these people as “cultural Christians”. In either case, we follow Jesus up to a point; up to the point of finding Jesus hard.

In that way we are a lot like Peter, following Jesus from a distance. When getting too close to Jesus is uncomfortable, we back away. We keep silent in the face of jokes that denigrate others, let alone abuse them. We look the other way and pretend that we do not see the injustice in our midst.  We hope that someone else will do something because we are afraid to do anything. We use prayer as a shield against involvement. In a thousand and one different ways, like Peter, we deny Jesus.

The story of Peter does not end with his following at a distance. Jesus knew that Peter’s faith was weak or less than mature, to be kind. He came to Peter again after the Resurrection. He continues to come to us again and again, always calling, always encouraging and always prodding through the circumstances of our lives to become stronger disciples.

Lord, do not give up on me even when I give up on You. Let me hear Your Voice continually in my faith journey until at the very end I hear your whisper saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for July 1, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 22: 39-51

Test; Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from ye; yet not my will but yours be done. (vs. 42, bold is writer’s emphasis)

Many of you are familiar with the ACTS prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. In teaching new people to take Jesus seriously I add an additional S; Submission. Submission is the most difficult part of the prayer.

It is relatively easy to offer petitions of Adoration to God, especially when we consider the blessings, both great and small, that we have received in a given day or in our lifetime. Confession is a bit harder because, especially in our culture today, we do not like to admit that we did something wrong. We see confession of guilt or error as a sign of weakness. But, if we remember Paul’s insight into the human condition, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Confession becomes a bit easier. Thanksgiving, like Adoration is easy if we just take the time to count our blessings, as the old hymn says, “one by one.” And we are experts at Supplication. We’ve been doing it from childhood and became embolden upon Santa’s knee when he asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” Yes, we are experts at these four petitions.

But Submission, well that is another story. This is the hardest petition because we are asking God to do His will even at our expense. And yet, Submission is at the very heart of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden before His crucifixion.“If it be possible,” He prayed, “let this cup pass from my lips; but not My will but Thy will be done.” 

Can you trust in the Goodness of God even if you do not get what you pray for? Can you trust in God’s Grace even if your dreams, plans and desires go unfulfilled? This is the true test of discipleship, of taking Jesus seriously? It is to pray at Jesus prayed, “not My will but Thy will be done.”

I do not know if your can or can not but I do know this, I continue to struggle. And in the struggle, I’m getting a little better.

Lord, despite all of my wishes and prayers, not my will buy Thy will be done. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 28, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 22: 14-23

Text: Then the disciples began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would betray Jesus. (v. 23)

I learned a long time ago not to say in a judgmental tone, “I’d never do that!” or “That’s the one thing that I’d avoid!” God, you see, has a deliciously humbling sense of humor that always places me in a position of doing that which I say I wouldn’t do or wish to avoid.

Today’s reading is from Jesus’ “Last Supper” with the disciples. He breaks the bread and lifts the cup before telling the 12 that one of them will betray Him. They begin to ask each other who it is. I can imagine the scene. Can’t you?

The most fascinating thing about this story is that none of the disciples don’t know who it is! In other words, each of them was capable of betrayal! No one were sure of either their faith or their loyalty!

I believe that that is true of us, too. Each one of us can betray Jesus in a thousand little way by the things that we say or think, do or fail to do. We can be very poor reflections of the Master.

When we become so confident of our ability to follow the teachings of Jesus we need to remember to be a little humble–or very humble, for that matter. After all, we have a lot to be humble about!

Lord God, give me a humble heart and a teachable spirit. You are the Creator and I am but the creature. May I always remember that distinction. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June, 26, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 21: 29-36

Text: Guard your hearts lest you be weighed down with busy work and worry. (v. 34)

Often someone I am asked if I’ve had a “busy” day. My standard reply is “Yes, but I’m just not sure if it was productive!” Frankly, that statement is truer than I wish to admit. We can become so busy with the “urgent” matters of life that we neglect the truly “important” things.

Jesus cautioned His disciples to learn a lesson from nature. When they saw leaves sprout they knew that summer was near. We recognize the changing of seasons by what is going on around us in nature. How is it that we miscalculate the changing seasons of life?

The Master went on to tell His disciples to “be alert” and to pray for strength so that they could avoid getting sucked into dancing to other people’s tunes or fall into the trap of being unproductive.

I find it helpful to begin the day with a time of prayer, asking for God’s guidance in all of the day’s planning and decisions.  Then I ask myself throughout the day if what I am about to do is the best use of the limited time that God has given to me.  This is not an effective tool, but it does help me recognize life’s traps.

Lord God, throughout today, help me to avoid the water-weight of “busyness” so that I may focus on the truly important things of this life. Amen.