Friday – September 27, 2019
“O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.” Psalm 8:1
A Word of Hope
I stepped out for a breath of fresh air to enjoy the peaceful serenity of the dusk. As I’m sitting on the porch outside my house I start to notice many mosquitoes flying around me. In a moment I will be covered in little bites which on my skin become itchy red bumps. I decide to risk it. If I am to step out into the world, then I may be bitten. Soon it doesn’t matter anymore because as soon as I look up I’m immediately captured by a vision so pure that I become transfixed in it.
The sun and the moon are sharing the sky in opposite positions: the moon to the west and the sun setting in the east. Clouds are covering the moon. As I look at it I start to notice the many dragonflies flying over head. Birds are resting on the treetops. The leaves, grass, and vines cover the Earth in green skin. The arms, legs, and feet are green. The hair is a sea of blues and yellows. Brown bark from the trees resembles wise sages who have learned how to simply be.
As if keeping a promise the itching from the mosquito bites tear at my serenity. My ankles are red and my nails begin to bring salvation to the itching. Why did I come out here? It wasn’t for the mosquitoes. This dance is but a metaphor for life. -The beauty and the bite. Life increased, and then decreased. Despite the mosquitoes this was a good way to spend my evening.
Lord, hear me. You have shown me that there will be times when I’m not enjoying my experience. Nevertheless a baby is not born unless the mother suffers for it. New flowers do not spring up unless old flowers die and leave their seeds behind. One cannot swim in the ocean without feeling the cold. Dear Lord, teach us to dance. Show me that living is worth the pain that comes with it. What could I ever see if I never left my home? Sure there was discomfort from the itching, but my heart is jumping for joy over the vision… over the experience.
Thursday – September 26, 2019
The body is a unit, though it is comprised of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So, it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 1 C12.13
A Word of Hope
In this time of fanaticism, racism and all other isms described or contemplated, the division it creates is in and of itself the ultimate form of extremism and exclusion .
Jesus describes our physical body as being whole. The eye, the hand, the organs and all other parts, no matter how insignificant or dynamic, all depend on each other to function and be whole. This metaphor translates into life as we are members, one of another, living in the same world, breathing the same air, with bodies and minds that function through the same divine design for all humankind.
Each person on this planet, no matter how seemingly irrelevant they are to individual agendas, are just as important as those we deem relevant. The eye cannot say to the ear, hand, or all the vital organs, “I have no need of you.” The fact is, they all work in tandem with a mutual dependence on all parts of the organism. So is it, in the Church of God.
Great Biblical scholars, church builders, and remarkable ministers are all doubtless and undeniably of great importance, filling a large place in the eyes of many. So does the one who picked the grapes that make the juice for communion. The person behind the scenes who sacrifices their time to help others, and those who speak boldly for the rights of all humankind, no matter the cost, often go unnoticed!
The conscious aware who truly follow Christs inclusive teachings recognize and know full well that their own work would fall to pieces were it not for the unnoticed work of others who may be less known to fame.
Creator God, let us remember all humankind make up the whole of life. Open our hearts to embrace each other, so we can build the bridge together and unite the whole world.
Wednesday – September 25, 2019
The power of life and death is in the tongue. Proverbs 18:21
Word of Hope
Religion is often a toxin for those struggling under suicidal feelings. I want to speak with nuance here—I do not think religion is bad as I’m a deeply religious person. Religion is a place where people find hope, power, identity, love, and direction. The problem is that when someone is becoming dangerously suicidal, the hope, power, identity, and direction religion offers is simply not enough. I can’t express this strongly enough: religion is insufficient to overcome lethal suicidal feelings.
One of the weaknesses of religion is its tendency to want to have answers for everything, to be all-encompassing. Because of that, those of us who are religious, when we collide with a powerful limitation like suicidalness, feel like our religion should be able to explain to us what it is and then use that understanding to help us overcome it. This is so dangerously, tragically mistaken. How might religion frame suicidal feelings (without using psychology and counseling theory)? As a lack of being loved well enough? As a lack of trusting God? As an inability to see how much God loves you? As the consequence of sin? As a sin itself? And what does religion have to offer the one dying under suicidal feelings? Prayer? Scripture? A candle? God? A pastor’s conversation a few times? Magick? A small group? All of these can be incredibly powerful, but none of these should ever be considered enough. None of these should ever be considered what a person needs when they are in danger of dying from suicide. Get them to a professional, ideally one who has been referred to you by someone you trust a lot.
How we talk about suicide has tremendous power, even the power of life and death. The bad news is that when we talk about suicide as something that religion can explain or heal, we guide people to death. But the good news is that when we talk about suicidal feelings as something religion cannot overcome by itself, as something that unashamedly requires professional therapeutic, medical help, then we guide people towards life.
I want to be a part of a Christianity that gives life to those in danger of suicide by talking about suicide in ways that do not judge it, that do not suggest we should just have power over it without help, and that do not excessively involve religion in understanding it or working through it. Humble religion saves suicidal people.
God of words, God of life, give us ways of speaking about suicide; of thinking about suicide, that empower us to help others. May we talk about suicide only in ways that encourage people to get help that can actually make a difference. May we never suggest someone is weak because of their suicidal feelings, or that their needs are only more faith or prayer. Make us a people safe and good, of-life, for those who struggle under the weight of suicidal feelings. Amen.
Tuesday – September 24, 2019
the Lord, O heavenly
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 God makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as Ruler forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to God’s people!
May the Lord bless God’s people with peace!
A Word of Hope
Like many other Psalms in the Hebrew Scriptures, we hear that God is greater than the enemies of the Hebrew people whom he blesses with peace. It is obvious to most theologians that this repetition is not accidental. In fact, God is saying to us repeatedly that we will be protected against those who would wish us harm and that while tough times may be experienced, peace will ultimately be ours for our faithfulness. We know that David struggled both with enemies in the region and the demons that taunted his soul. He prayed that his enemies would be destroyed and that he would experience peace politically and personally.
After thousands of years, what could be the possible message for us in today’s so-called “modern era?”
Each of us, if invited, could name those persons, situations, diseases that we consider “enemies.” We pray for relief; we fast for relief and some even tithe for relief believing that our peace will somehow arrive from the outside of ourselves, awarded by a grateful God. We all experience, from time to time, the hurts imposed by selfish, misguided and small individuals who act as bullies in normal and abnormal social, work, or church settings. Unfortunately, we tend to catalog each hurt and place it in a suitcase that we drag along the path of our life’s journey. It really slows us down. It does not honor the God of love.
Realize that the peace we all yearn for comes not from outside ourselves but from within, where me make a home for God to dwell – that God teaches us how to deflect the spears and arrows of others, to love our enemies by forgiving them for each attack. As we mature, we leave the hurts stowed away in our hearts along the way. We name them and discard them knowing that we need to pack lighter for the road to leave room for the love of God.
Holy One! Help us to see the Majesty of God even at those times in our life that we may feel overwhelmed by the storm. Teach us that our forgiveness of others removes their ability to intimidate us. We pray for our “enemies” and pray that we do not become the enemies of others. It is your peace that we seek. Be with us today and all days.
We make this prayer in your many names, O God! AMEN!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – September 23, 2019
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John,and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisonersstand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus [is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:1-12 (NRSV)
A Word of Hope
This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible because it is full of hope. Earlier stories about Peter do not predict that he would become a “Hero of the Faith”. Prior to the Crucifixion, he denied Christ, not once, but three times!
Now we find Peter teamed up with John, drawing huge crowds as they bring Jesus’ message to all the people of Judea. Furthermore, miracles are still being performed in the name of Jesus, just as they were when Jesus was doing the preaching.
The rulers and church leaders thought they were done with Jesus when they crucified Him. Now they’ve got Peter and John attracting a crowd of five thousand people, many becoming followers of Jesus. Once again, they thought to quell this uncomfortable movement. They arrested John and Peter.
Surprisingly, when they confronted the apostles, it is Peter who responds first, and with great boldness. The difference in this Peter now is astonishing. This time Peter, being made bold by the Holy Spirit, calls their attention to a man who has been healed. He steadfastly proclaims that this is the work of Jesus Christ. He leaves no room for doubt that the message of Christ is still compelling. There are thousands of citizens who are believing in this radically inclusive notion that salvation and healing are available to all who ask in the name of Jesus!
The rulers warned Peter and John that they must stop spreading this message. Of course the Disciples did not quit. We know, because the message of Christ has reached across time and space to include us. I will never cease to be amazed by the experience of being able to leave all my shortcomings, all my insecurities at the feet of Jesus and claim the comfort and freedom of salvation. I also know that my lack of self-confidence and history of past failures can keep me from being present to the needs of others. Like Peter and the other Disciples, I am most effective when I invite Jesus to live through me, when I consciously depend on the Holy Spirit to guide me. Even today, miracles abound. It is ok to ask for them, and to participate in making them happen.
Loving and faithful God, You have been so good to me. I thank you for the abundant blessings that have filled my life. I, in turn, want to dedicate my life to your service. I ask that you fill me with your love and grace so that I might bring those gifts to all I encounter. Put me in the places where I will meet those who need what I have to offer. Help me to find the words and resources to be your eyes, ears, hands and feet in this world. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I am empowered to respond to others as you would. I am yours. I love you. I long to be used by you. Amen
Carole Ann Sarah
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)