Words of Hope
Words of Hope
Friday – January 14, 2022
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up…And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
…And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” …And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” …And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepersin Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
Words of Hope
Some people become discouraged when their Christian witness or action is met with minimal response or outright rejection. Afterwards, it seems natural that they feel inadequate for the task of being a follower of Jesus, and certainly not one who can proclaim divine love and forgiveness to others.
From the Gospels, we learn that Jesus’ message was met with a mixed response from the crowds who congregated around him. Some thought he was a great prophet, others said he might be the Messiah of Israel, but others scoffed at his words and refused his message. Even in his hometown of Nazareth, many people rejected his message. Some became so violent that they ran him out of town and tried to throw him over a cliff. However, Jesus continued to preach God’s message of welcome and forgiveness. Traveling to Capernaum, he performed miracles and preached. There the crowds received his message with amazement and joy. I’m sure that his disciples wondered how he could “keep the faith” and put his reputation and life on the line in town after town when he faced such a mixed response from the crowds. Later, when his disciples were sent in teams of two to go on preaching visits, Jesus gave them instructions which included how to carry on in the face of possible rejection.
Jesus taught them that “a disciple is not above the teacher” and cannot expect reaction to be better than the teacher. (Matthew 10:24) As we witness to God’s love and minister to others, we should anticipate a mixed response, just as that which Jesus experienced, but like Jesus’ example, we must persist in the witness for Christ patiently, always continuing onward with grace. We will be given divine strength and more opportunities to share your universal love as servants of God.
Loving God and teacher of all of us, may we always persist in the witness for Christ and graciously continue onward.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – January 13, 2022
Call it/one of the mercies/of the road: that we see it/only by stages/as it opens/before us, as it comes into/our keeping/step by/single step.
There is nothing/for it/but to go and by our going/take the vows the pilgrim takes:/
to be faithful to/the next step; to rely on more/than the map; to heed the signposts/of intuition and dream; to follow the star/that only you/will recognize.
Jan Richardson, “Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel”
Words of Hope
On the sixth day of Christmas, an ordinary walk unfolded into an epiphany. Checking on the plants in the backyard, I discovered that the squirrels had wreaked havoc with the pansies–chewing off blooms and tossing about plugs of purple and white and yellow so that they could stash their pecans. Tucking the pieces back in some semblance of a design, I sighed, knowing I’d probably have to repeat this task again soon.
Casting my eyes to a small bed now designated for bulbs, I was stunned to see that the vibrant green crowns of Easter lilies planted last year had broken through the earth. Tears rimmed my eyes. It was late December and my dearest friend of over 50 years had died on Christmas morning. So I needed the signpost of new life breaking through the winter ground. And I needed the promise I heard in my head, the assurance Jesus spoke to Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…. (John 11:25)
I believe in the signposts and the dreams and intuitions that guide our way–and the way that Grace, even in the midst of our deepest losses, comes to resurrect us.
Such a grace came to me twenty years ago this month when I set out on a journey “from a place/ [I had] known/toward the place/ [I] knew not” (Jan Richardson). At the invitation of Rev. Dr. Sharon Bezner, I began to write for the devotional ministry of the Cathedral of Hope while still grieving the death of my dearest partner. I could not have known how coming to words all these many years would foster healing, deeper understanding of myself and my faith, and the courage to speak more authentically, at times even prophetically. And it is my hope that this work has offered to readers moments of beauty, repeated affirmation of the unconditional love
of God, compassion for our broken selves, and an urgency for us all to get on the justice road, advocating for those on the margins.
Holy God, May I be faithful to the next step of the journey, heeding the signposts, following your guiding star. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – January 12, 2022
John 13: 35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Words of Hope
The thirteenth chapter of John tells the story of how Jesus prepared his disciples for his own death. He washed their feet, not because they were dirty, but to show that no one was more important than the other, not even Jesus! He was providing an example of the kind of love He would be expecting of each of us. In verse 35, Jesus spoke again of loving one another. He said that everyone would recognize us as followers of Jesus when they see how we love one another.
Note: People cannot see our feelings, but rather the evidence is in our actions. This is a little complicated. Sometimes we do not feel what we recognize as love. Out of our commitment to Christ, we do the loving thing. The feeling often follows! Sometimes we find ourselves acting out of habit rather than love. We excuse the behavior as being “only human,” as if God were blaming or shaming us. God does neither. Even so, we want to love better.
Perhaps we can start with the blaming and shaming behavior. In today’s world, this way of thinking is rampant. As a litigious society, we have perfected the art. Every news story wants to know who was at fault. Every political faction wants to point a finger at someone who “got it wrong”.
I once learned a valuable lesson regarding blame. On the first evening of a dance class, the instructor told us to decide now which of us would be at fault for each of the future classes. He said he did not want to hear, “He or She stepped on my toes or did not do that step right, etc.” Brilliant! On the way home, my husband and I decided we would choose up days of the week and employ that strategy for our whole relationship.
That was one of the most enlightening and useful lessons we ever learned. It changed the dynamics of our lives dramatically. One of us would start to blame or shame the other for something. The other would sweetly ask, “What day of the week is this? The appropriate partner would acknowledge that they were absolutely at fault, no matter what evidence could have been provided in their defense. His days were Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mine were Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sunday was Gods day, and would be blame free. I can’t tell you how many arguments this avoided, how much more peaceful our lives became. It taught us how silly, unnecessary, and destructive blame is. We can love better!
Dear God, You are the fountain of love from which our own love is fed. Let us be filled with your love so that it overflows to those who yearn to feel such a love. Let us face this New Year with new courage to love more, to love better than ever before. In the name of Jesus Christ, who showed us the way, we pray.
Carole Anne Sarah
Tuesday – January 11, 2022
Luke 15: 8-10
What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Words of Hope
Christmas is now behind us and I have somewhat of a rant. Every year, and often throughout the year, people refer to those who are miserly or greedy, who are seemingly inherently angry at life, who so not seem to care about others as a “Scrooge”. A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories. Not only have I read the story, but I have seen several enactments of it (including a one-man performance by Patrick Stewart). In the end Scrooge promises to “honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year”.
And if I read Luke correctly there would be joy in the presence of angels of God, if Scrooge were not a fictional character. The story of Scrooge is one of loss of humanity and redemption. Scrooge does not start out being as he is at the start of the story. We learn that from the ghost of Christmas past. He becomes so wrapped up in material success he loses his grip on the human and humane aspects of life. He loses his love, rejects his only family, is derided by all. His very soul seems lost. Only his nephew Fred sees the potential in him.
And yet, he changes. He learns, he grows, he is born again into the human family. He is the ultimate example of what Jesus came for – salvation from the hell Scrooge created for himself.
So, what is my rant? Why do we call someone a “Scrooge” when we think they do NOT honor Christmas? Isn’t Scrooge a reformed character? Shouldn’t he be a role model?
How often do we fail to acknowledge someone’s change in real life? How often are we suspicious when people grow and change? I remember when President Obama changed his stance on LGBTQIA issues. How many people said it was politically expedient? If we do not let people grow, their growth will be stunted. We have an obligation to nurture people and to acknowledge their growth and change.
So, call me Scrooge. It’s an honorable thing. It shows repentance, growth, humaneness, and humanity. (And by the way, same rant, different character; The Grinch).
Great Creator, remove our blinders so that we can see, acknowledge, support, and sustain the changes you have brought in our lives and the lives of those around us. Help us to see the good in all and to help bring change to those who need it.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
Monday – January 10, 2022
Judges 4:18 Jael went out to meet Sisera [an enemy of the Hebrews] and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him.
4:21 Jael picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
4:22 Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple–dead.. 5:24 “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
Word of Hope
“The women of the Bible lived timeless stories—by examining them, we can understand what it means to be a woman of faith. People unfamiliar with Scripture often assume that women play a small, secondary role in the Bible. But in fact, they were central figures in numerous Biblical tales. …” from “16 Women and Their Lessons for Today” Author: Shannon Bream Male church leaders and pastors have for years and years minimized the roles of women in our historical texts to keep women “in our place” in church. Our denomination has broken that pattern. I have had the honor of working with many women on their path toward ordination in the United Churches of Christ who have been excited to find that their call is considered valuable in our denomination. These women have not been called to as drastic a call as Jael, our Bible hero in the Judges passage. But their call breaks the glass ceiling for young ladies who will follow in their footsteps.
I have known many powerful female leaders in the fundamentalist churches of my past church life who were amazing preachers. Their candles were kept under the bushel of inferiority of women in the church. They could teach the children and lead women’s classes but were not allowed to preach a sermon in the pulpit! What a waste of their God given talent. Many were missionaries. Guess what! They could come back from the mission field and stand in that pulpit and “tell us about God’s work in a foreign country” but that same gifted minister to a foreign country was not worthy to stand in that same pulpit and “preach God’s word” to that same congregation! Ok, I have gone on my rant. I am past that now. I have found God’s people in the UCC who declare ALL who are called and follow through with our requirements for ordination may become ministers. I am always excited when I see Bible stories of imperfect people who are chosen to be God’s messengers. God used people with disabilities, with undesirable jobs, with speech impediments and many other things. That lets me know I do not have to be perfect to tell others about God. In fact, the best thing I can do is just tell my story. Tell how God has blessed me! Cathedral of Hope has been amazing to teach our children stories of women and their amazing work of God. The Sunday School classes are not just all about the men of the Bible. Our children learn a well-rounded view that whoever you are God can use you and your talents. ALL are welcome and acknowledged here!
God of all people, we thank you that women have always been valuable in your sight and in your plans. We thank you for all the valuable women who are ministers in your service.
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