Friday – April 16, 2021
That night at supper table the stranger took the loaf of bread, and he blessed it, broke it and gave it to each of them. Immediately, their eyes were opened to recognize him as their beloved Master Jesus! With that recognition, Jesus disappeared from in front of them.
A Word of Hope
On Easter Sunday this year, many of our church members took the opportunity to worship together in the same space for the first time in over a year. Though socially distance and with excellent safety precautions in place, it was a Resurrection Sunday to truly celebrate!
People celebrate Easter for many reasons. The ancient pagans celebrated this time of new birth for earth’s plants and animals. It marked a new beginning and refreshment for their lives after a long cold winter. Early Christians added to this tradition their remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection and their promise of new and eternal life with him in heaven.
That hope broke loose the chains of the old and opened new prospects for growth in their spiritual lives. In the little town where I grew up, Easter was such a time. Added to those thoughts of celebration was the possibility of a new suit and shoes to wear to church for my brother and me. For our mom it was a new hat and for our dad, it probably meant a leaner wallet to pay for all of it.
The family would assemble at someone’s house and a dinner with far too much food was always gorged down by happy celebrants. Easter was anticipated and celebrated with great joy. No one wanted to miss Easter. We are still in the Season of Eastertide. What does Easter mean to you? That’s a really important question to ask oneself and get a good solid answer. Does its meaning seem to be a superficial celebration, or is it an opportunity to reflect on the hope and joy of relationship with God now and forever?
Does it encourage you to plunge deeper into a spiritual journey with guidance of the Holy Spirit? Does it confirm and strengthen your desire to live a more vibrant life following the teachings of Jesus? Meditate about this for a few minutes before you begin today’s activities. How will it change what you do and say around others? Will these thoughts improve your Christian witness to the world?
My God, I come before you in this moment of quiet. I want to be fully present to you so that you can speak to my soul and enlighten my mind. Motivate my hands and feet into ministry which honors you, and in all things that I do and all that I am, may you be glorified and manifested into this world. May your presence which is expressed through my life become a blessing to others. Amen.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – April 15, 2021
1 Corinthians 3.6
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
A Word of Hope
Guts are such an incredible thing, aren’t they? Deep in our physical guts are our intestines which contains the recipe for about 70% of our immune system, digesting our food, and oddly, among other things, to somehow give us a response helping us make quicker decisions often faster than our brains can keep up with. According to healthline.com “Your gut may not be a literal voice, but its functions communicate in a form of code.”
We’ve all heard the phrase “go with your gut!” or “gut feeling” and oddly enough, the last few days have proven to me in different circumstances that my own gut feelings were more often than not, correct. I wished I had listened to them in every occurrence, because I wasted precious time second guessing my instinct. What about you? How many times have you kicked yourself for having dismissed your first, best gut feeling? You probably did that an hour ago.
In the popular Star Wars movie series, various characters have been known to say “I have a bad feeling about this.” I’m no stranger to the Force. To me, it’s just another designation of that person of the Trinity we call the Holy Spirit, the internal Eternal who comforts and guides us. But even with that knowledge, I’m second-guessing myself on why it is so difficult to listen to my overriding gut instincts.
Going back to something I said earlier, I don’t think it’s really true that our emotional “gut feeling” is something happening outside of our thinking. I believe our brains are wired with so many millions upon millions of learned behavior that our spirit and our brains are working together to quietly inform us about situations which may be eluding us at the moment. Our brains and spirituality, reason and emotion, all work hand in hand. One is never working without the other.
I invite you today to stop for a minute or two and reflect on some past situations in which your gut feeling was instructing you, particularly those times when you ignored it. What can you learn from these choices? Once again, we are faced with the conundrum of deciding whether we are physical bodies with a spirit or spiritual bodies living inside of matter. I’m not denying that there is safety within reason; safety does matter. We must learn why those strong, instinctive gut feelings are there to begin with.
Are they a force of habit which we have conditioned ourselves to ignore first? Perhaps that gut Force is informing us to live a better life; taking into account everything we have learned up to that very moment. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to form a better habit of listening intently, replacing the negative with the positive.
I’ll start by saying, I’ve got a very good feeling about this. What is your still, small voice telling you?
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Wednesday – April 14, 2021
Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection, [whose] wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
Word of Hope
So, what is it that the Sadducees are really worried about in this passage? Are they truly concerned about who is married to whom after the resurrection? Likely not. Their purpose in asking this question is not the hope of a definitive answer, but rather to try to trip up Jesus with “the rules.”
The rules for levirate marriage as outlined in the Book of Deuteronomy were intended to insure care for a widow, to simplify matters of inheritance, and to continue the family lineage of the deceased. Taken at face value, the purpose of the rule makes sense. The Sadducees, however, weren’t concerned with any of this. They were challenging the notion of life after death, the conflict between the Old Testament rules and the preaching of Jesus. As might be expected, Jesus called their bluff.
As a child, I was a rule follower because I was told that rules were intended to make my life, and the life of those around me, safer and better. As an adult, I find myself more like the Sadducees, questioning rules and those who create them. It is not my ideas about the need for rules that has changed; rather, it is my growing skepticism surrounding the intent of those who make rules that has changed. Many rules now seem to be created not with the goal of protecting and bettering the lives of all human beings. Instead, they seem to be enacted with the sole purpose of furthering division and injustice amongst people, making the powerful more powerful and the marginalized even more marginalized.
Sometimes we have a responsibility to challenge rules, to ask the probing questions, to be like the Sadducees. But, just like those making the rules, we need to be honest in our intent. Like the child who believed that rules were intended for good, as adults, our challenges to rules also must be intended for the greater good. When this line is unclear, turn to Jesus in prayer. If our hearts are not pure, the message, “you are badly mistaken” will likely be delivered.
God of the Living, I pray that I have the strength, courage, and wisdom to live my life each day by the rule that is yours, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” May these words be my impetus for both following and questioning the rules made by human minds. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – April 13, 2021
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
[Preparation: Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again. One more time. Place yourself gently in the presence of your God]
Word of Hope
This passage reveals one of the more dramatic examples of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The people of Jerusalem following that most eventful weekend that saw the execution of Jesus of Nazareth were now hearing from his apostles. These timid and generally uneducated men where loudly proclaiming Jesus as Messiah and Lord and in multiple languages so that everyone within earshot could understand.
The people thought that the disciples of Jesus were drunk, and Peter simply countered that it was early in the morning and not typical behavior! He was “drunk” in the power of the Spirit that gave him courage and confidence and life-altering joy that he and the others had seen the
One that they had last seen on Golgotha last Friday. How would you react if your saw a friend who dies in a car crash on Friday and then he visited with you in the flesh on Sunday?
The Apostles were shocked and inspired in the same way but even greater since it was with the power of God. There would be time enough for fear and disagreement later, but not on this special day when they were on fire with courage and hope and love and faith in the Risen Lord.
O Holy One! We find you in others and the events of our lives and through prayer. Our reflection upon Scripture is also an occasion to find you, to hear you and to rejoice in all that you are to us. Help us to be ever mindful of your presence with us and allow us to proclaim it as boldly as the Apostles did so many years ago. Let others be amazed by our faith and our proclamations and our joy that you are among us each day now and forever.
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again.]
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – April 12, 2021
Exodus 14:21-22 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 10:19 So the Lord shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt.
Word of Hope
Big Wind Day is observed each year in the United States on April 12th. National Big Wind Day commemorates the recording of the highest natural wind gust measured on the Earth’s surface. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded winds at 231 miles per hour.
I spent my Junior & Senior high years in Lamesa, Texas. We have really big wind there, but not 231 mph unless it is a tornado! Every outfit had a headscarf as part of normal wear. Usually, our wind was full of sand, especially when there were not crops growing in the cotton fields.
I am not a fan of big wind. But God uses the wind as needed and for good, like in the Exodus scriptures above. We do not always see the purpose of things in nature in our wisdom. Things are purged so new things can grow. Floods dry out because of winds. We don’t usually enjoy the removal of dead leaves from our trees because it messes up our yards.
Nature is an amazing balance of elements. God controls them. However, humans cause the balance to be unbalanced by our bad habits and trash and thoughtlessness.
Doing self-checkout recently at Lowes I was encouraged to see a sign saying to not place my items in a bag if it was not necessary! I was so grateful to see that sign. I had hoped Dallas would stick to the ban on plastic bags it tried several years ago. But it did not last.
We must learn how to be good stewards of our Earth. I hope you all are good at recycling. I hope you take your reusable bags to the grocery store. Those are the least things we can do. We need to learn all we can do to help preserve the Earth. It is not ours to use up. A part of Christian stewardship is to learn and do all we can to produce less waste.
The United Churches of Christ encourage congregations to intentionally reflect upon God in relationship to caring for creation. They advocate for environmental justice. As we work for racial justice, we must not also forget our responsibility to care for our environment as well.
God of the Wonderful Earth our home, Thank you for its beauty and comfort. Help us be mindful to help preserve the Earth. May your blowing wind remind us to each do our part to keep pollution of waterways and byways clean. Help us leave our Earth a better place for our families to come.
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