Friday – July 5, 2019
“This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving: simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.” 2 Corinthians 8:5 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
Today’s assigned reading (be sure to read the whole section to get the full story: 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 7) has me in a snit. I know Paul’s intentions may be good. And his purpose and motives are well placed. But the idea of asking faithful followers facing dire financial “pressure” (the word Paul uses) to give money they can ill afford rubs me the wrong way.
I say that being one of those (maybe rare) church-goers who appreciates a heart-felt offering call. I am moved to hear how my financial gifts are doing good. And I really appreciate it when the call makes guests comfortable by letting them know they are not expected to give. But I cannot remember hearing a supportive word said to those who may be facing tough financial challenges, letting them know they are welcome to not give, that they are full members of the community even if they are not able to put a dime in the offering plate. Let alone, going further by making sure our siblings know they can call on us if they need financial help.
As followers of Jesus, generosity is not just about money but it is about generosity of spirit. We can be generous not just with our money but in liberally sharing our understanding and support to those facing tough financial times. One of Jesus’s life illustrations makes clear in the story of the widow’s offering that we can be financially generous but miserly in giving of ourselves. Face it, when recognizing donors we tend to downplay those who are not able to give as much. And for many of us, all we can give is our time and talents – gifts surely as worthy of recognition as cash.
This is a tough discussion to have. After all, we could not do all we do as a community of faith without the generosity of those able to give financial support and folks who can give sometimes need a little nudge of recognition. Most of us can give more to help others. But let’s remember that because all are welcome, some in our midst are struggling financially and may need a reminder that they are cared for too.
In the end, I hope the praise Paul heaps on the church in Corinth applies to us: “. . . you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us . . .” -And I’ll add, “you’re generous with your resources and caring spirit.”
Dear God of my being. May I be aware today of those close around me who need my help and are doing the best they can financially.
Thursday – July 4, 2019
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
A Word of Hope
While the nation celebrates the Fourth of July—in part recognizing our country’s independence from British rule, let us take a moment to reflect on a greater freedom—the freedom we have in the Holy Spirit.
In the gospel of John, prior to the
scripture above, Jesus has been reviewing key teachings before his final life
exam: love one another, keep my commandments–and assuring the disciples that
he would not leave them “orphaned.” So the coming of the Holy Spirit is crucial
in freeing the disciples from their crippling fear after Jesus’ death and leading
them into the world to witness to the Good News, to heal and bring wholeness in
She does the same for us, helping free us from our fear, our cramped ego-driven lives, our addictions, our entitlement, the oppressive “isms”—or whatever limits us from living a life in Christ. Barbara Brown Taylor confirms that we know the presence of the Spirit when we sense a new beginning.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit advocates for us. While there could be various manifestations of this advocacy, we might recognize Spirit in those times we are engaged in fierce “prosecution” against ourselves. When we finally pause from the accusations, we “hear” a word, a still small voice, a scripture, a reminder that loving ourselves, treating ourselves with compassion is a cornerstone of the great commandment. So She brings comfort, mercy, grace and a larger frame of reference.
The enlightenment and freedom of a larger truth might also come in a meeting where we have been doggedly adhering to our particular viewpoint, and gradually, almost beyond logic, we sense a shift, a letting go, a movement into a perspective more advantageous to the whole group or church body. This movement might come as well to release us from unforgiveness into a greater place of grace-giving with a partner or a friend with whom we have been at odds. According to Taylor, the Holy Spirit often offers people a way back into relationship.
She continues, “Whenever two plus two does not equal four but five –whenever you find yourself speaking with eloquence you know you do not have, or offering forgiveness you had not meant to offer –whenever you find yourself taking risks you thought you did not have the courage to take or reaching out to someone you had intended to walk away from –you can be pretty sure that you are learning about the gospel of the Holy Spirit.”
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, breathe new life into our willing souls. Bring the presence of our living Lord and renew our lives and make us whole. Amen. (Keith and Krysten Getty, adapted)
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – July 3, 2019
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Creator speaking through you.” Matthew 10:16-20
A Word of Hope
In the calendar of silly things to celebrate and observe, today is Stay Out Of The Sun Day. I chuckled a bit as I read this and was reminded of God’s uncanny sense of humor that I should be writing today’s devotion. As a person with albinism, every day is stay out of the sun day for me! During this time of year when most people are sporting sleeveless tops and tans, I am pale and in long sleeves. This can make me feel like a sheep among the wolves, a target for those who lack knowledge and tolerance. I suspect that at one time or another, we have all felt like a defenseless sheep. Difference, difference of any kind, whether it be skin too light or too dark, who we love, or how we express our faith in God, attracts the predator; it also becomes the cross that we as Christians pick up and carry daily.
Now that I am in my second half of life, I am relatively immune to the teasing and insults surrounding having albinism, but I still have problems when people attack my faith and my God, when I am confronted with people who say that God doesn’t claim and love those who believe, live, or are different from their norms. It is not difference of opinion that bothers me; it is the placing of God in a tiny little box, basically creating a small God that they feel like they can understand. Being faced all too often with these attitudes can feel like being consumed by the hot summer sun, which, if we don’t protect ourselves, damages our skin and can cause cancer. Being constantly exposed to the harmful attitudes of those who have created an image of such a tiny God damages our spirit.
“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Creator speaking through you.” In these words, we are given “spiritual sunscreen,” protection from the wolves.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.” John 10: 11-15
Shepherd of us all, keep me safe as I encounter the wolves in the world. Give me a faith that trusts you to guide my words and actions and protect my soul from the intolerance that plagues our world. Help me never to forget that I am one of your beloved sheep. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – July 2, 2019
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
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 Scripture, 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 – July 1, 2019
“I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15.11
A Word of Hope- Joy as Spiritual Discipline
On the night before his trial and ultimate suffering, Jesus said the words quoted above. He was actually experiencing joy at a time of his life when most of us would have been feeling the lowest ebb of despair. Far too often, we confuse happiness with true joy.
Happiness is a feeling we experience when things are going our way, like good weather on the upcoming 4th of July weekend. Joy is more difficult to define. It’s one of those paradoxes of the spiritual life; entirely compatible with danger, persecution, failure and sorrow. It is a lot like that Shalom definition of peace that the Jews speak about: not simply an absence of conflict, but a state of being which includes health, wholeness, and completion.
Joy is that “peace that surpasses understanding” that Paul told the Philippians about. It makes no sense if we look at it through the lens of our natural understanding. Joy is not an emotion. Desmond Tutu, when asked about how he kept a joyful attitude throughout his considerable persecutions, he said: “I’ve read the end of the Book- We win.”
But, how can we experience joy in the face of the sufferings children imprisoned at our borders and other atrocities that those around us face daily? The easy way out is to simply ignore the misery of others and create a personal escapism that amounts to a false “happiness.” But, Kathleen Norris says that “a true saint is a person who faces life without anesthesia”- We must be fully conscious of the stresses of the world around us, but always remember what happened when Jesus touched people- even with dirt and spit- he was actually healing the deepest wounds of their souls.
If the point of Jesus’ ministry was to heal a lot of people, he didn’t do a very good job. The joy comes in realizing that he was instructing us on how to do the same. His job is our job now, both in the doing and the teaching. If we perform those duties well, there will always be others to carry on those healings after us. Knowing that can truly make our joy complete.
Teach me the sublime discipline of joy.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)