Monday – July 26, 2021
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
A Word of Hope
Today’s Scripture reading is written by the Apostle Paul to some of his favorite people: the church of Philippi. Basically, it is a Thank You note for a financial contribution to help him continue his ministry. We may look at it and consider the content pleasant, but pretty light -weight as the Apostle describes his take on contentment, but the Philippians knew the whole story.
Paul was sitting in prison with his life in the balance, a victim of corruption both by the leaders of the establishments of Rome and a dominant toxic faith system; there on false charges, as usual. Paul, the perpetual teacher, doesn’t waste any time whining about his dire situation, but chooses to use it as an opportunity to share a short lesson on contentment.
Somewhere in the middle of the note, after he offers his sincere gratitude and is careful not to give the impression that God had fallen short of being sufficient for his needs, Paul assures them that he had not been impatient or discontented as he waited for the funds. He wants them to know they are appreciated. As a payback, he combines his thanks with this valuable lesson on the secret for contentment. He concludes by declaring. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That is his lesson. That is contentment.
How many of us can say that today? Contentment does not come easily to most of us. We are an impatient society, but that doesn’t mean that the Church of Philippi was more patient than we are. Paul just let them know that, regardless of their wants verses needs ratio, things could be worse. Now, we have not only Paul’s circumstance as an object lesson behind us, but also over a year of hardships brought on by pandemic isolation. Of course, it isn’t over yet, but when I think of the worst of those days, I look around me and can honestly say that, compatitively, I truly am contented. How about you?
When we feel the pressure, the unexpected surprises, and the despair that life can deliver to us, may our mantra always be, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – July 23, 2021
Prayer attributed to St. Francis:
“Lord, make us an instrument of your peace…” prayer which is attributed to St. Francis
A Word of Hope
My personal meditations of each week are often based on the Prayer of St. Francis. Although this prayer reflects the teaching and lifestyle of Francis, these are not his words; hence, we say it is “attributed” to him. Actually, the author is unknown. It appeared in an Italian religious publication near the end of the First World War and quickly circulated throughout France. It is sometimes called a prayer for peace.
Usually, it is written in the second person plural (“let us”). I often modify it so that its meaning is expressed more personally (I, you, me). If we desire to be instruments of God in this world, each of us individually (you and me) must commit ourselves to that task. And the field of our action starts with our most immediate personal contacts, our daily life interactions. So, let’s meditate on this prayer as if it is speaking directly to you and me.
In praying these words It often helps our concentration to speak them aloud: “O God, may I be an instrument of your peace.” Our current world order is certainly a place where peace is like a starved orphan in the corner of most countries and a missing part in the lives of many people. Today, there are dominant and active forces which act to disrupt individual and societal peace. This phrase from the prayer points out the fact that peace comes from God!
Human ego and fear tender war against the expression of that divine peace. God’s desire for the creation always has centered on peace and harmony among all of the elements of creation. Because of our strong conflicting psychological drives, it seems almost impossible for humans to create peace with each other. It’s only when we borrow from divine peace that we can generate peace among each other.
By that I mean, it’s only when you and I project God’s loving peace into our social interactions that we can share true peace. God alone seems to be the origin and well-spring of true peace. The daily challenge is: will we (you and I) carry God’s peace into the lives of other humans? It’s a matter of our choice! We must desire to become peace-makers with God’s help. God allows each of us to take this sweet balm of divine peace and, by our words and actions, heal the wounds and fears of others. O God, may I be your instrument to share your divine peace with all those in my life this day.
Lord God, may I receive the words of this prayer as your wisdom. Plant them deeply into my soul; grow my devotion to you and change me to become a voice of peace in all of my human interactions. Amen.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – July 22, 2021
Is the Bible the word of God? What does that statement mean to you? Did God dictate the scriptures to a roomful of ancient stenographers? Did God enter the minds of special individuals and inspire automatic writing? Was God the ultimate inspiration of prayerful writers who used that inspiration to write in their own words? Do we give the Bible a literal reading, a metaphoric reading, or an historic reading?
After 30+ years of studying the Bible, both randomly and focused, in my own mind, I’ve decided that it deserves a liberal understanding instead of a literal understanding. In the literary field of Bible apologetics, there are likely thousands upon thousands of Bible interpretations. I’ve read only a few. If we add to that the number of people who have picked up and read any of the Bible through the lenses of their own lives, we could count those as interpretations as well.
I started this journey believing that I had to take the Bible’s many books at face value, of which I’ve usually been told in the past should be literal. I attended a church for years that taught the Bible should have a natural reading; some parts as poetry, others as history, other parts as the law for all generations. That worked for a while for me, but I found myself seeing a lot more of it as poetic than they did. They saw the first chapter of Genesis, the Creation Story, as history. I saw it as Hebrew poetry. You can guess this opened the door for all kinds of conclusions they saw as misinterpretation particularly concerning the Hebrew and Greek laws of the day which taken from a liberal point of view would mean it’s OK to cut off somebody’s hand or take an eye of someone who’s wronged to you. How about killing disobedient children of selling your daughter into slavery to pay off a debt? That’s just not part of any religion I would ever follow.
Other manifestations of odd religious beliefs came out of the second creation story that contradicts the order of the events in the first story, but interpreted by that particular church as just a few added details to clarify the first story. There are in fact so many confusing and conflicting stories.
Somewhere in the middle of those 30+ years of Bible study, I was introduced to progressive theology, which respects the inspiration of God, but allows us to ask questions and to respect the times and places of the ancient writers. What did the Bible mean to these original readers? How do those same words speak to us? I began to understand that this less inflexible interpretation of the ancient words not only keeps the Bible alive, but also keeps it relevant. To me, it keeps it real!
Thank you for the years of interpretations that have kept your words vital to so many generations. Inspire us to examine the scriptures as Jesus and to ask the right questions.
Wednesday – July 21, 2021
And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.
A Word of Hope
Imagine a crowd of people equivalent to loan sharks, hippies, and other radical kinds, sitting together, listening to Jesus, and then inviting him to eat with them. Well, this really bothered the Pharisees, and they confronted him asking how he could, as Jesus, even be seen with these folks much less dine with them.
The Pharisees were a strict group that upheld literal authority of the Word. They believed they had commonality with Jesus and expected him to join “their” club and uphold “their” disdain for societal outcasts. So, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep.
I have read and heard this parable often and for the first time I was particularly struck by the fact Jesus picked up the lost sheep and carried it home on his shoulders. I was so touched by Jesus’ compassion as I envisioned him carrying it back to safety.
What if we changed the parable from lost sheep to a neighbor’s house on fire? Would we leave the comfort of our own home to help our neighbor in need, even if that neighbor were not in our color, religious or political group? Would we have the courage to carry that neighbor on our shoulders offering safety in our own personal fold?
As Christians, Christ leaves us with examples of servant living. We are asked to reach outside our circle of family and friends to those who are hungry, hopeless, or lost. Christ’s example of radical inclusiveness means laying aside prejudice, politics, and pride to help others in need.
I have reached across boundaries to help others and have been carried across rough terrain when my own burdens were too heavy. When we reach out, Christ will always give us courage and the strength to show up for others, even when it looks like there is no way out.
Creator God, as we share in community with each other, let us remember to gently carry the sheep who get separated, safely home to our loving magnificent flock. In Jesus name, Amen.
Tuesday – July 20, 2021
“I will sing your praises forever.”
A Word of Hope
Perhaps a more realistic way to repeat this Psalm is to say, “I will sing your praises whenever I am able.” We may intend to sing forever, but life happens, and we are faced with obstacles to overcome, with reasons for faith to guide us so that we will not give up hope. The human condition may present us with more of a JOB model and not that of King David as found in Psalm 61.
As I prepare this devotional, I am sitting alone in my office at my desk reflecting upon the “things” that have impacted my life over recent months. While I am aware of the beautiful weather that God provided today as I traveled to the Cathedral of Hope for a Sunday Service, I am also aware that I traveled with a friend and not my wife. She has been gone now for almost three months. Life will never be the same. I still love her beyond words and am sure I will wake up soon from the terrible dream of her suffering and death. While the support I have received from my church community has been extraordinary and for which I will always be grateful, I am challenged to sing God’s praises – at least right now.
I find God in the little tings. I am amazed at the beautiful fish in the large bowel swimming happily in circles eating the food I just gently placed on the water’s surface. I am struck by the intricate and fragile blossoms of Sharon’s favorite white orchids that she loved to life week and week. Out the window I note how often I take for granted the marvelous evening sky filled with stars whose shining light began its journey to us light years ago so that I can enjoy the twinkle tonight! With open eyes and with the eyes of faith, I can see the gifts that God has shared with me that I otherwise take for granted. I am reminded again to sing praises considering my personal devastation and grief.
Take a moment out of your busy day and focus on those “things” that are around you. What do you see? A smiling face of a colleague, cold water from the fountain in the hallway, air-conditioning on a hot Dallas day, a baby crying, a youngster laughing, a car’s horn, the fragrance of pizza from the corner shop. Your list could be longer and different. God has blessed us with so much and such a variety, we could create a long list if we only SEE with the gift of internal eyesight God has also given to us… even during personal challenges during which we are tempted to derail ourselves on our life’s journey.
Holy One! Allow us to be reminded of the gift of your presence and the expressions of generosity given to us each day. Help us be grateful for all that you have created for us and to not treat nature without the proper stewardship it deserves. Let us never take it for granted!
Help us to keep our eyes open and to give praise to you each day! Especially help us on those days that we feel sad or overwhelmed as we live life as well as we can.
We make this prayer in your many names, O God! AMEN!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)