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2018 Daily Devotions

Daily Devotion Friday, January 19, 2018

Scripture

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

A Word of Hope

Fundamental to the Progressive Faith: What Would Jesus Do? 

Today is World Day of Migrants and Refugees. I have been pondering this commemorative day over the past several weeks in light of our distressing national immigration context:  1) 200,000 contributing Salvadorans in the U.S. soon to be deported and potentially separated from children and spouses, 2) undocumented persons sent back to countries where they fear for their lives, 3) 800,000 Dreamers living in limbo, and 4) our country’s leader denigrating refugees and immigrants from countries where the majority populations are people of color . . . among other things.  

What should the Christian response be to this sort of trend, rhetoric, and system that allows such injustice to occur? Never mind what laws of Caesar are in place. As Christ-followers, first we must ask, is what is happening in keeping with the Gospel?

When I find myself in questionable moral/ethical territory, my question to myself is: “What would Jesus do?”

You may have heard this question before and think it has origins in recent times and even that it comes out of the Evangelical movement.  IT DOES NOT.

It is a product of our own UCC’s progressive roots, propelled by what came to be known as the 19th century’s Social Gospel phenomenon. It also came to be a thorn in the side of the burgeoning Fundamentalist movement, which in the 1920s decried the Social Gospel, calling for a return to the “fundamentals” of the faith.  It was Modernist or Liberal churches that became known for their alignment with the Social Gospel and their commitment to social compassion.

Interestingly, it was a popular book that propelled all of this more than a century ago.  In His Steps, was written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, and was subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?" Sheldon's novel grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his Congregationalist church in Topeka, Kansas. (Remember that the Congregational Church is one of the founding denominations of the United Church of Christ.) Sheldon's theology was shaped by a commitment to Christian Socialism, and the ethos of Sheldon's approach to the Christian life was expressed in the phrase "What Would Jesus Do", with Jesus being a moral example as well as a Savior figure.  Sheldon's ideas coalesced with those espoused by prominent theologian of the day named Walter Rauschenbusch, who described his understanding of belief and Christian response to God’s grace as the Social Gospel. Indeed, Rauschenbusch acknowledged taking inspiration from Sheldon’s novel, and Sheldon himself identified his own theology with the Social Gospel.

Because of a mistake by the original publisher, the copyright for Sheldon's novel was never established and multiple publishers were able to print and sell the novel. This caused the novel to be easily affordable and it sold 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the top 50 bestselling novels ever, translated into 21 languages by 1935.

So, what would Jesus do in terms of welcoming the refugee, the homeless, the immigrant? What would Jesus do if he had knowledge that a refugee would be killed if sent back to a home country? What would Jesus do if he knew that forced deportation would deprive children of a breadwinner, the comfort of a father’s or mother’s love, and family chaos and heartache?  What would Jesus do if someone in need from another country presented himself or herself to him and asked for sanctuary?

The answer is found in what we know about the character and heart of Jesus. He mingled with people that his fellow Jews considered unclean, outcasts, and impossibly undesirable. He loved and welcomed all comers.  We also know that he rebuked those who were too exclusive and who ignored people in need.

Also notable: Jesus frequently singled out for special attention and compassion those considered the outcasts of society – lepers, prostitutes, Samaritans.  In fact, we when we read New Testament stories and come across those words, we can legitimately insert any of today’s so-called reviled classes of people to understand perfectly who Jesus accepts, champions, and loves without qualification! Likewise, wherever the stories talk disapprovingly about Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, we can insert the categories of today’s stubborn hate groups, demagogues, and self-righteous hypocrites and get a sense of the countercultural message that Jesus brings. Jesus’ love is not about society’s norms, it is about God’s norms.

Our society has lately become rather hysterical about immigrants and refugees.  The associated injustices that are occurring are too glaring to be ignored. For those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers, it is time to ask, what would Jesus do? If Jesus were here right now, what would Jesus’ response be and what would Jesus expect of us? I can imagine a variety of Jesus-inspired responses – from active prayer and offering comfort to refugees and immigrants to giving financial gifts and political action.

However, “doing nothing” as an answer to “What Would Jesus Do?” seems inadequate and unconscionable.  

Prayer for Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

God, no one is a stranger to you
And no one is ever far from your loving care.
In your kindness watch over migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,
Those separated from their loved ones,
Those who are lost
And those who have been exiled from their homes.
Bring them safely to the place where they long to be,
And help us always to show your kindness to strangers
And those in need.
We ask this through Christ our Savior,
Who too was a refugee and migrant
Who traveled to another land
Searching for a home.  Amen.

(Source: US Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Devotion Author

Patricia (Patsy) R. Bjorling, M.Div.

Daily Devotion Thursday, January 18, 2018

Scripture

 “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from God, who alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in the Lord at all times, O people; pour out your heart before God.  God is a refuge for us….” Psalm 62.5-8 (NRSV)

A Word of Hope

Today is Thesaurus day. The thesaurus will give many words for the same object, entity, or idea. I recall that my Daddy had eleven different names. I found it fascinating that he was called a different name dependent upon who was addressing him. My mother, my grandmother, his children, classmates, coworkers, friends, his siblings, and church members all called him a different name. I figured out it was totally depending upon the relationship he had with those particular individuals. My Daddy could have had an entry in the thesaurus! He was a son, a father, a husband, a sibling, and a friend sharing wisdom when people would call on him. Each of us has similar scenarios especially those of us that have multiple middle names.

I looked up the synonyms for the words God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. As you can see in the scriptures above, God has many descriptors which gave meaning to King David, the writer. Specifically, some synonyms for God are: Creator, Yahweh, Omnipotent, Jehovah, Abba, or Elohim. Additionally, synonyms for Jesus are Messiah, Savior, Christ, or Lord. Synonyms for the Holy Spirit are Comforter or Intercessor. In the movie “The Shack” the Holy Spirit’s name was “Sarayu”. In fact “the river and the wind are metaphors for the Holy Spirit” as shared verbally by William Paul Young in the series “Restoring the Shack”.

The variety of words to describe the essence of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has evolved over time both culturally and spiritually. Just like each of us is called a different name, everyone has their own experience and their own relationship with God. We should use the full spectrum of adjectives and metaphors to describe our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus so we can have meaning or clarity; emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

Prayer

Dear God: We are grateful that you give us an opportunity to call upon You in so many different ways. You are a critical part of our daily lives and calling on Your name in the good times and challenging times helps us to be closer to You. May it be so in the name of the Holy Trinity, we pray. Amen!

Devotion Author

Minister Winner Laws, Cathedral of Hope Member, TCU Brite Divinity Graduate

Daily Devotion Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Scripture

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”Matthew 19.13-15

A Word of Hope

Today is Kid Inventor’s Day, a day created not too long ago to acknowledge and the achievements of and encourage the youngest inventors.  Children are capable of imagining and then bringing their imaginings to fruition because they lack the “knowledge” that tells them that what they want to do is difficult or perhaps even perceived by adults to be impossible.  As children, we firmly believe that if we can think it, it can become real.  This is the root of the child-like spirit.

As an example, Braille, the tactile language used by the blind and visually impaired to access the written word was invented by a fifteen year old French teenager, Louis Braille, in 1824.  At age three he lost his sight as the result of an accident.  The invention of the Braille language, which is based on a modification of “night writing” created by Charles Barber for French soldiers, by this young boy has been a life changer for many people as it has brought literacy to the blind for nearly two hundred years.

Yes, Louis Braille had a personal stake in his invention, even with that, he had to believe that he had the potential to take groups of six dots, arrange them in various combinations, and, by so doing, create a tactile language that would allow translation of written words.  He had to believe that humans had the capacity to learn and use this language.  And, he had to believe that some mechanism could be created that would allow this language of embossed dots on heavy paper to be mass produced.  Louis Braille believed like the children that Jesus speaks of in the above passage from the Gospel of Luke.  His imaginings were unhindered; he saw possibility and brought it to life.

Louis Braille had faith in what he was doing, meaning that he believed in his ability to create and that his invention would work, though he had no empirical proof for either.  This is the kind of faith that Jesus speaks of when he says, ““Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

In the words of Christian songwriter and singer, 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.”

Prayer

Creator and parent of us all, help me to journey through this life with the eyes of a child, always focusing on the brightness of possibility rather than the darkness of defeat.  Amen

Devotion Author

Kris Baker, Order of St. Francis and St. Clare

Daily Devotion Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Scripture

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May Jesus make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God when Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

A Word of Hope

In this passage, Paul had sent Timothy to the Thessalonians, and Timothy brought news back to Paul of the Thessalonians’ faith and love. Paul writes to them about how he was encouraged by the news of the Thessalonians’ faith and love. It is apparent that Paul enjoyed being with the Thessalonians, that he enjoyed the comradery and the shared focus of deepening faith in Christ. Paul feels love for the Thessalonians, and encourages them to focus on loving one another and loving everyone else. He looks forward to seeing them in person sometime soon.

I help facilitate a three-day spiritual retreat called The Walk. During this retreat, participants focus on deepening their relationship with Christ, and on understanding the grace of God. It is an emotional weekend for all involved, and we form tight bonds with each other. This passage of scripture makes me think so much of my feelings toward other participants and facilitators of The Walk. I think about the times we shared during the retreat, and I look forward to future meetings with all involved. And the love I share with them helps me to open my heart to love others around me.

Prayer

Jesus, thank you for your amazing love. Help me to remember that each and every one of us is deserving of your love. I strive to open my heart, to pass your love along to all I encounter.

Devotion Author

Molly Sutton, Cathedral of Hope Member

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