Tuesday – January 26, 2021
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. Those who love are born of God and know God; those who do not love, know not God, for God is love.”
A Word of Hope
This is a key verse in Christian spirituality for it designates a characteristic of anyone who genuinely seeks to please God. As Christians, we should be patterned after the nature of Jesus Christ who demonstrated divine love. We are supposed to mirror that holy love in all life activities. We cannot only live acts of love on Sunday morning while acting like an unloving devil the rest of the week. That’s obvious.
However, it is a difficult act to be loving in all situations. Love is an expression of goodness which is expressed in relationship with someone or something. It’s difficult to have or maintain a relationship with someone who is unloving towards you or those whom you love. We must realize that a lack of love is their choice, but it doesn’t change the fact that they, like you, are human. They are living within their own human strength or weakness, and as a human, they too are loved by God who always seeks their good. If it’s difficult for you to share a bond of love with them, God still continues to love each of you. And you, who have been “born of God and know God”, must honor God’s love in your life by reflecting that divine love to all that God loves, even the humanity in those who are unloving. This is a current life lesson for all of us.
“If God is for us, who is against us? Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship or distress… No, for in all such things, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.” (Romans 8:31-37) As Paul wrote these words to the young church at Rome, he was offering encouragement and instruction to them. In our present time, many people are suffering loss. Sometimes, it is manifested in the death of a loved one, loss of a job or opportunity for advancement. Paul encouraged those Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church when he reminded them that hardships happen to all, but hope must not be lost. Our greatest treasure, which is our loving relationship with Christ Jesus, cannot be taken away from us. “For nothing can separate us from Christ, for I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor rulers, nor things present or in the future, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Grant us Lord God, not to be overly anxious about the physical things of this earthly life, but to hold dear and love those spiritual gifts which are part of your loving providence for us. Even while we are
placed here among those earthly things which are passing away, help us to hold fast to your loving spiritual gifts which shall endure. We pray through Jesus’s name. Amen.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St Francis and St. Clar
Monday – January 25, 2021
John 20:29 MSG
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
A Word of Hope
The above verse from the Gospel of John is Jesus’s words to the Apostle Thomas, who is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas earned this title because he refused to believe in the resurrected Christ unless he himself could “see the nail marks in his (Jesus’s) hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side.” Let’s put ourselves in Thomas’s shoes for a moment. For whatever reason, Thomas was not with the other disciples when the resurrected Christ appeared. He hears the story from them. How likely would you be to believe that a man who had been crucified on a cross was again walking among the living without seeing it for yourself? Thomas had to believe, first of all, that resurrection was even possible and then that his fellow apostles were telling him a true story.
Today is Opposites Day. Is doubt the opposite of faith? Faith can be defined as a strong belief in something for which there is no quantifiable or measurable proof. Doubt casts questions about something that is proven to be truth. For me, faith and doubt are not opposites. Rather, the opposite of faith is truth and the opposite of doubt is belief. So, did Thomas’s doubt rest in faith or truth? Did he doubt the power of God to bring Jesus back to life or did he doubt the integrity of the humans closest to him? Or, maybe it was some of both.
Faith asks us to trust things that we have not seen. I assume that none of us has actually seen Jesus walking around with the marks of the crucifixion. This brings to mind the chorus of a song by Michael Card, “To hear with my heart, To see with my soul, To be guided by a hand I cannot hold, To trust in a way that I cannot see, That’s what faith must be.”
Thomas doubted the truth of what the other apostles told him, though once Jesus appeared to Thomas, he experienced proof of the resurrection. With this, Thomas moved to the other end of the doubt-belief continuum. He became a believer. His belief was based in truth rather than faith. Jesus’s words to Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” describe the faith that we hope to develop as mature Christians.
If we call ourselves people of faith, we must believe with our whole heart and mind that Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit are moving among us. Times of turmoil and pain may try to pull us toward doubt. If our faith remains strong, we are open to seeing that God is good then we are able to stay further away from doubt and rest in the security of faith and belief.
Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit, stir in me a faith that is strong enough to be guided by a hand I cannot hold and to trust in a Way that I cannot see.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – January 22, 2021
Ecclesiastes 3:11 Amplified Bible
“God has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. God has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God].”
A Word of Hope
When life turns dark and difficult, many people draw closer to God for help, solace, and peace. I know that’s often been my own experience. And if that is where you find yourself in these troubling times, I encourage you to cling to God and walk through this together.
In this season of life, however, I’ve often struggled to see, experience, or even believe. I wrestled with the idea of addressing my doubts here as it did not seem to be good, inspiring devotional material.
But, I can only surmise that if God seems remote and silent to me in these times, others among us must be experiencing the same. In fact, anyone who has followed the path of Christ for any length of time has walked through these hollow, frustrating times as well.
Rather than subvert these doubts and questions, it seems right for me to address them as an aspect of our experience in our walk with God
My questions and doubts stem primarily from my tendency to think, overthink, and think again about how the goodness of God and the presence of suffering can coexist.
A couple of days ago, I took another “denial day” during which I will not watch or listen to the news, doom-scroll through social media, or participate in group texts about Armageddon. It’s a temporary denial, but one I insist upon consistently to maintain some equilibrium. YouTube suggested a documentary about Beethoven would do me good and I complied. Twenty minutes in, the “Moonlight” Sonata began – a piece I’ve listened to hundreds of times before – and tears dropped from my eyes. As the famed neuroscientist Oliver Sacks described it, “Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
Once the Ninth (and final) Symphony with its “Ode to Joy” began, the passionate chorus cut through all the walls and tension I’d built around me over the last year. It bypassed my overactive mind, softened my rigid solar plexus, and opened my soul. My questions and doubts dropped away. Not because they were necessarily answered, but because I experienced what Beethoven called the “entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind, but which mankind cannot comprehend.”
The arts, and music in particular, work as a gateway to the Divine for me. I often experience God through them on that level where questions and doubts no longer seem relevant. Whether or not Beethoven or the arts do that for you, whether or not this has been a season of doubt and questioning in your life like it has in mine, the tumultuous and difficult events of late have left us all tired, worn, and in need of rest for our souls. I encourage you to seek out those avenues that you know relax your physical defenses and connect you to God. From that place, we find healing for our souls and reacquaint ourselves with the incomprehensible majesty and beauty of God.
Thursday – January 21, 2021
Mark 10: 46-52
…throwing off his cloak, [Bartimaeus] sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
A Word of Hope
Bartimaeus is so clear about what he needs from Jesus: to regain his sight, to see again. He has lived a lifetime with the impact of his blindness—which in his day could mean poverty, begging, scraping by just to live.
Though most of us have not experienced physical blindness, we are hampered by biases— “prejudices or pre-critical inclinations in favor of or against something.” These patterns of distortion prevent our ability to see what’s really there.
For example, we often think we see so clearly the faults and distortions of those opposing our political beliefs, religious tenets, or ideas about race, gender, and identity. And it is so easy to judge them harshly. THEY are the blind ones, not us. But our own “astigmatisms” distort the truth, their humanity, their sacredness as children of God. Moreover, our self-righteousness is a spiritual liability inhibiting our growth.
The series of podcasts called Learning How to See, from the Center for Action and Contemplation, helps provide a corrective lens to our biases. Led by the exceptional Brian McLaren, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, and Fr. Richard Rohr, the series presents a comprehensive list of common biases, and, through the leaders’ honest personal narratives and commentary, shows how damaging these misconceptions are in our lives. Moreover, the interactions of the three guides models respectful dialogue at a time when civility has been deeply damaged in our discourse.
McLaren presents the first two biases in the episode one.
1. Confirmation Bias: the human brain welcomes information that confirms what it already thinks and resists information that disturbs or contradicts what it already thinks.
2. Complexity Bias: the human brain prefers a simple lie to a complex truth.
All the facilitators acknowledged how both of these played a part in closing off doors to others at different times in their lives—and if we are honest, we can too.
At a time when schisms between us is abyss-wide in our country, exploring this podcast series can be a transformative experience. Even better, get a companion with whom you can process the work. https://cac.org/podcast/learning-how-to-see/
We might be more reluctant than Bartimaeus to encounter the healing of our vision, but with courage and commitment we can get on the Jerico road and follow Jesus on the way.
We confess that we don’t see well, Jesus. Help us get the log out of our own eye—and live into Epiphany light.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – January 20, 2021
1 Timothy 1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
A Word of Hope
Today, the Inauguration of the President, will for many, represent a day of new beginnings and opportunities. Our elected President will take an oath to serve and protect the Citizens, uphold the Constitution, and agree to refrain from personal gain.
While I am writing this devotional in advance, I have no idea of how this day will unfold. I have been taking Timothy’s advice and fervently praying for Peace. As Christians, we take an oath of sorts when we vow to follow the ways of Christ. Jesus asks that we “love our neighbor, practice unconditional love and be merciful to others.” That’s fairly easy as long as it’s not an inconvenience or a burden in some way. Its easy to say we “pledge” our love and it’s often difficult to make it a priority.
In the comic strip “Frank and Earnest”, Frank is in the court room standing in front of the judge who says to him, “it’s guilty or not guilty, you can’t plead “I gotta be me.” While this cartoon is humorous, it touches close to our current culture which often places the demands for “self” above the needs of humankind, integrity, and honor. Christ calls us to surrender to spirit, not manipulate outcomes for personal gain.
Timothy urges us to utilize prayer, the most powerful God-given tool, to change the lives of ourselves and others. Prayer cannot be explained and yet the Bible promises God will respond to our petitions.
On this inauguration day and thereafter, we may get excited and place our hopes in candidates with a “new spirit” of patriotism. I pray we always remember God has chosen us and is empowering us with the Holy Spirit to pray fervently for our nation, our leaders and especially our church.
Creator God, through the power of prayer we give you thanks and praise as we calmly rest in your promise! Amen
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