Words of Hope
Words of Hope
Friday – October 1, 2021
Psalm 26: 2 (The Voice)
Put me on trial and examine me, O Eternal One!
Search me through and through—from my deepest longings to every thought that crosses my mind.
A Word of Hope
I don’t know if you are like me, but I have had way too much time for self-reflection and introspection during these extended months of social isolation. Weird right? I mean, aren’t we supposed to devote time to understanding ourselves? Isn’t self-examination a healthy exercise? Maybe even rising to the level of a spiritual discipline. Indeed, in today’s lectionary reading the poet tells us in the 26th Psalm to examine our deepest longings and our most fleeting thoughts.
Well, I am over it. I am tired of the contemplation. It is getting excessive, self-indulgent. Navel-gazing may be the apt description. It is too easy to become the center of my own little universe. Previously I shared a popular meme that again comes to mind: “When the center of the universe is discovered, a lot of people will be surprised they are not it.” When we are so focused on ourselves it is difficult to pay attention to the suffering, needs, and dire circumstances of the world around us.
Don’t get me wrong: we should be self-aware. We should understand ourselves, our motivations, our dreams, and our purpose. To grow and change we have to be honest with ourselves. The honesty that comes from an unvarnished examination. Mystics have long practiced looking inward to find God. Indeed, the author of Psalm 139 (some traditions attribute it to Adam, not David) writes “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”
So, how do I strike the balance between self-awareness and self-centeredness? How do I meet my own needs while meeting the needs of the world around me? Here is my answer: I don’t know. I don’t, ok. I struggle with the push and pull every day. I stumble my way through.
The best I can do is live the poet’s advice in verse 3: Never lose sight of God’s love, keep in step, and never miss a beat.
God of my being. I am tired of looking at my belly button. Lift my eyes to the heavens.
Thursday – September 30, 2021
Modern English Version
But before faith came, we were imprisoned under the law, kept for the faith which was later to be revealed. So, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
You are all siblings of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham and Sarah’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Words of Hope
Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia has a central theme that is once again echoed in the verses for today’s devotion. Paul is concerned to ensure that everyone understood that a person is justified through faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. This theme repeats itself repeatedly and the writer, we assume Paul pays special attention to this fact because of the lens of his own journey and background toward faith in Jesus.
Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, was trained as a Pharisee, a teacher of the law! His whole experience of knowing God was by following the law of Torah, the Hebrew scriptures. He was a persecutor of those who were coming to know Jesus and it was only through his own rejection of Christ, and his conversion to the ways of Jesus that he was finally able to move beyond the ritualistic, some might say “God in a Box”.
Today, Christianity seems to be a bit like a religion filled with rules and regulations, more ritualistic that experiential. Sometimes it might feel like you are “going through the motions” rather than engaging in an encounter with the Divine God of love. Indeed, it is the encounter that takes God “out of the box” and places us into a dimension that is filled with hope and promise. It moves us from a “God out there”, to a “God within” that leads us to know Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. It is this living experience of God that should compel us to live our faith, rather than just believe.
I have sometimes been heard to say that if they could prove that Jesus did not die, did not rise again, was not the miracle-maker that I have come to know, I would still be a follower of Jesus because my faith is not bound in what He did, but who He was and remains to be, to me.
It is this reality that breathes life and hope and promise into my faith, not by the law but by the Spirit that blows as She will and makes a way when there seems to be no way. The Spirit who compels me to live as I say I believe – that I might truly echo the words of Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Today is National Love People Day and I would like to extend that to World Love People Day! May we be willing, as followers of Jesus or as “just decent human beings” find a way to demonstrate love today to whomever we meet along life’s journey.
May we be bold enough to affirm and demonstrate the greatest commandment of Jesus who teaches us to “Love God, Love People: All People.”
God of us all, hear our prayer this day as we deliver on the promise of Jesus who leads us to Love God, Love People: All People. Amen.
Rev Dr. Neil G Thomas
Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ
Wednesday – September 29, 2021
“Do not dream interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”
Words of Hope
I’m sure that you remember the Bible story of Joseph, the young and precious son of Jacob. Because of sibling jealousy, he had been sold into slavery by his brothers and carted off to Egypt where he was sold once again as a slave in the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s chief officers. There, he was given special duties which he faithfully performed.
How do you handle unexpected responsibilities in your life? Sometimes, in life’s transition periods, we have opportunities and responsibilities which are completely unplanned. How many of us make the most of them? Back to our story, yet another unwelcome surprise awaited Joseph. One day Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce the young and handsome Joseph to have sex with her. He refused to deviate from faithful service to his Egyptian master. So, the humiliated and aggrieved wife falsely claimed that he had tried to rape her. For her lie, he was placed in Pharaoh’s prison; where for more than two years, he still conducted himself honestly. Although he longed for release and did not understand why God might allow this injustice, he persisted in a faithful, God-fearing lifestyle. He trusted God would find a way.
God’s way for his release was derived from that steadfast adherence to a good and productive life, even in difficult circumstances. The Cupbearer and Baker of Pharaoh, who also had been imprisoned, were given dreams. When they asked Joseph if he knew of anyone who could interpret dreams, Joseph, as quoted in the passage above, said: “Do not dream interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” He was sure that the faithful God of his life would give him the correct interpretation. When the Cupbearer was released, he forgot about Joseph. It seemed that all hope of release was lost, but Joseph continued a God-fearing lifestyle waiting in prison for two years.
Then one day, Pharaoh also had a troubling dream which none of his counselors could interpret. The Cupbearer remembered Joseph and asked that he be released to respond to Pharaoh’s request. God gave the faithful Joseph the correct interpretation. Not only was Joseph released from prison, but he was made the chief counselor and second in command to Pharaoh; he became the Chief Steward of Egypt.
Because Joseph had been persistently faithful to God, even in difficult times, he was honored with a powerful political position and his wisdom saved Egypt and his father’s family from starvation during seven years of famine.
So, what does the story tell you about enduring transitional times of loss and uncertainty? We may not be offered a post in the State government that would allow us to clean up our present mess, but we can be assured God will always remain faithful to us regardless of any circumstances in our lives.
Always, even in difficult times, may we be persistent in living a faithful God -inspired lifestyle! Amen
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – September 28, 2021
1 John 2. 18-20
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
A Word of Hope
National Good Neighbor Day
Today’s reading was a very popular scripture in a church I regularly attended 45 years ago. Any Bible verse that made mention of the scary and world-ravaging Anti-Christ was an assured high attendance catalyst for any of the Prophesy Conferences that were continually held there. It also meant high bookstore sales of the ‘Left Behind’ series or the ‘Late Great Planet Earth’, because it was the last hour and we were cautiously advised to be spending the last minute of it cramming for that ultimate final exam: The Last Judgment.
Curiously, no mention was ever made of the facts that the urgency in the letter of 1 John’s last hour was 2,000 years ago, not next Tuesday, and that he was referring to the antichrist not as a slimy, but winsome young actor who was determined to rule the world, but as anyone who turned away from the teachings of Jesus.
Looking back, I recall that the world did not end 2.000 years ago, or 45 years ago either, and the planet Earth still has a plentiful supply of antichrists, regularly turning away from the precise and loving teachings of Jesus. I count myself among them from time to time whenever I am too stubborn or too lazy to take a little time to love my neighbor. Jesus’ Great Commandment on that subject can’t be repeated enough, because we seem to be consistently deaf to it. -Want to be certain you are not the AntiChrist? Then, love God with all your being and live that love by loving your neighbor as yourself.
Today is National Good Neighbor Day, one of those obscure mini-holidays of which few people are aware and almost no one ever observes. Whoever created the special day was not concerned with threats about the end of the world or being holier than all the backsliders in their lives, but they did come up with a pledge. It is worth repeating, too:
The “Good Neighbor” Pledge
I pledge to be the “good neighbor.” With the goal of becoming a more connected and caring community, I will be a person who lives with kindness and concern for my neighbor.
I’ll take the first step by connecting with neighbors and introduce myself. I will practice the “good neighbor mindset” to make connections, invitations, stay aware, and be available to my neighbors. Good neighbors make great neighborhoods.
Thank you that we do not have to be frightened into service to you and your eternal initiative of loving those around us as you have always loved us. Thank you for the plain-spoken and comforting message of Jesus. May I never forget that the whole world is my neighbor.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – September 27, 2021
1 John 4.16
We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whenever we abide in love, we abide in God, and God abides in us
A Word of Hope
Is love an action or is love a feeling? A good friend once told me when you love someone you quite literally love how they make you feel when you’re with them. I’ll stretch that to say, if you love a movie, it’s loving the feelings you have when you watch it. When you eat certain things we shall call comfort foods, we love how we feel when we’re eating them. But neither movies nor food actually love us back.
It stands to reason, the person you love may not feel the same way you do, but it’s kismet when there’s a strong match and the two of you are in sync, whether we’re talking friendship or marriage. Loving somebody just feels good all over, right?
We’ve all heard people say I don’t like religion or I’m not a Christian. I used to rush to defend myself if I disagreed, usually without much thinking or empathy. Where were they coming from, I wondered? Bad church experience? Greedy televangelists? Winding back my thinking, I hope that if I love Jesus, am I saying I love the way that thought makes me feel? Could be. But is it more literally true that I hope my love for Jesus (God) is what God feels for me, too?
Isn’t that the way this works? Is that Faith or is this more of a human mental construct? It’s an abstract concept, but we’re physical beings so how does God’s love for us work, anyway? I’ve come to think for myself that I get what I give. Perhaps grace is what I get without giving. Plenty of Grace all around me, as well. Yet, in another manner of thinking, I’ve learned to consider truly loving myself unconditionally, including my flaws, because that’s what make me who I am. It took a long time for me to love and appreciate myself. After all, I’ve been through a lot with “me.”
If I love myself, in such a way, could it be I find myself worthy of love? If the essence of God is love, is the feeling I’m getting from God living in me? So many questions and I’ll admit it’s abstract Faith. I’m not sure if I have any answers for you but for myself, I’ve created the most wonderful, perfect image of the living God. It’s difficult to interpret and navigate this expression of God because I know daily that question gets bigger and bigger. What is God? Does God love me? Am I capable of loving in a world that sometimes seems absent of God’s love and protection? These are tough questions, to say the least.
I stopped believing that aspect of the nature of God about God’s interceding in every minutia of Earth’s daily events. We see calamities all around us; wars, violence, injustice. Things that might look like the absence of love. But it’s not true. You are not just an expression of God’s love. YOU are that love. YOU take it with you and use it and bring to the lives around you. It’s compassion, it’s empathy, it’s action, it’s you. How does it feel to be loved? It feels the same as giving it and in time or an instant, that precious gift all comes back. You are the eyes, ears, arms, legs, and action of expressing God’s intent of love. If you’re without love today, charge your battery with some self-care. Love yourself first, then share it.
May I accept the miraculous grace of your love this day and be your love in the lives of those around me.
Charlie C. Rose
Order of St. Francis and Saint Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)